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It is not as difficult to record electronic drums as you think. There are many ways to record performance and sound in a module, record a midi performance, or the first record the audio with Audacity and use any digital video camera to record video and merge both in Windows movie maker or similar software.
Electronic drum kits make recording far easier than their acoustic counterparts. They do not require microphones, nor does the recording room matter. You can even use a single channel MIDI interface to begin. So, if you are looking to record electronic drums, here is everything you need to know.
How to Record Electronic Drums in 3 Ways
#1. Record the Performance and Sound Directly from the Module
The easiest approach is to record electronic drums directly from the module. This method lets you select the instruments and edit them to the desired sound. Afterward, you can record your performance as an audio track.
The interface for recording electronic drums will vary from model to model. For instance, some modules will let you create a mono track, which enables you to layer all the sounds into one audio file. Some modules can record drums and cymbals in stereo, which places the sounds on individual channels.
You have three primary options when recording on a module: use a multi-track recorder, an analog mixer, or DAW software. If you opt for a multi-recording, 10 to 12 tracks are preferable, while 8 tracks are the bare minimum. Remember, the 1 track (or 2 tracks) for the vocalist and guitarist will not work for the drums.
When it comes to analog mixers, the most important thing to know is that they receive and combine inputs and send them to output jacks. Mixers will differ based on how you choose to navigate them. That includes setting the levels, gain, and equalization, as well as any other additional features.
The organization is critically important when using a mixer. You will want to connect each individual piece of equipment, starting with the main speakers, then the monitor speakers, microphones, instruments, and payback devices in that order. Once you set the levels, you can turn on everything.
Lastly, you can use DAW software or an equivalent system. DAW software gives music producers the ability to record, edit, and create audio files. Like the multi-track recording system, it enables recording across individual channels.
2. Record a MIDI Performance and Add Drum Sounds Later
Another option is to record a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) performance. This approach allows the drum performance to record on your computer as MIDI data, though there is no actual sound from the module. Instead, you can edit the data after the fact to create the idealized audio performance.
When making a MIDI performance, you can edit any sections as you see fit. For instance, you can rearrange notes to synch the drums or cymbals with the rest of the performance. You can also quantize each note to match the tempo of the track.
The versatility of MIDI has made it a popular audio production software for many years. All you need is a computer, a USB or MIDI-to-USB interface, and audio drum software. You may also use a MIDI drum module to replace the USB or MIDI-to-USB interface.
After turning on the computer, connect the drum or MIDI drum module, and launch the drum recording software. Next, set up the recording software to map the MIDI notes to the ideal sound. This step will vary based on your goals, as well as the software you use.
When you begin recording, you can view your drums on the software’s MIDI track. You should see discrete notes that correspond with each strike of the cymbals or drums. After recording, you can go back and alter the arrangement as necessary.
Recording a MIDI performance is ideal for several reasons. The approach requires minimal effort and is very straightforward. There is also no need to mess with mapping. If you are satisfied with the quality of the sound, you can record it directly to your computer.
3. Via Software
Triggering software is your third option when recording electronic drums. This approach is more complicated because it involves mapping the trigger notes that correspond to the drum pads and cymbals. If both components use the MIDI drum-note standard, you can proceed immediately.
However, many people find the MIDI drum-note standard to be too simple. Because of that, it may not adequately capture the ideal and expressive drum performance you want. That is why many drummers opt for custom drum maps, which enables superior nuance and expression.
Re-mapping via software is possible in two ways. You can re-map based on the factory setting within the plug-in. Many electronic drum kits also come with the ability to save the custom map.
If you cannot re-map a plug-in, many DAWs have MIDI plug-ins that offer the same capabilities. Here, you can transpose the notes one-by-one. For instance, Logic offers MIDI transforming and mapping in real-time. Simultaneously, the plug-in can adapt from a chord trigger application.
The trade-off here is time for precision. Sometimes mapping a drum sound to an electronic note is not one-for-one. High-end drum plug-ins often have more complex triggering mechanisms. Therefore, an e-drum kit can trigger multiple snare sounds for a single drum, depending on where you strike it.
Less intricate e-drum kits will likely produce a single note, regardless of whether you hit in the center or on the rim. The same goes for if you hit the panel at different velocities. If you plan on recording electronic drums via software, these nuances are worth investigating before committing to a purchase.
How do I Connect my Drum Machine to My Computer
It is rather easy to connect your electronic drums to a computer. If you are using a drum module, you can connect the device via a USB cable. That is because the drum set acts as an audio interface. Once you put the USB into place, you can install any necessary drivers. After that, you will be good to go.
Drum modules that have audio outputs will require audio cables. The cables transfer the audio signals so that your computer can interpret and produce the sound. Similar to USBs, they connect the e-drum kit and the computer.
Finally, MIDI performances allow for the capture of digital notes from the drum kit. This experience is entirely different than recording from the drum module. The digital information from MIDI then triggers drum samples and synths on the audio software. Note that some kits allow you to record audio and MIDI via USB at the same time.
There is no single way to go about recording electronic drums. The best solution is the one that works for you. As a rule of thumb, you have three options: multi-track recording, an analog mixer, or DAW software.
Recording directly from the module is preferable for people that want a straightforward approach. MIDI also requires little effort and circumvents the need for mapping. Experienced drummers, however, will likely want to use triggering software, which provides a great deal of control over the drum sound and expression.