Want to record drums but don’t want all the hassle? An electronic drum set might be the perfect solution! They’re quiet, compact, and you have tons of sounds available.
I’m going to cover everything you need to get started with electronic drums. So if you want to skip the headache and start tracking, you’re in the right place! Read on to learn how to record electronic drums.
Recording Electronic Drums
If you have an electronic drum set and you love the preset sounds, that’s great! Recording will be super easy for you.
First, you’ll need a DAW and an audio interface. Otherwise you won’t be able to record anything.
Your electronic drums should have an XLR or ¼” output. Figure out which one your drums have and use the corresponding cable to hook it up to the interface.
Once that’s done, open a new audio track and check the volume on it. You want the loudest parts to be quieter than -6dB.
Now you know how to record electronic drums. Easy!
There’s also another way we can record electronic drums. You can also use your drums to record MIDI instead of audio.
Each time you hit a drum, it’ll be converted into a MIDI note. MIDI notes can be used to trigger any electronic samples in your DAW.
You can easily swap out drum samples after recording to figure out what matches the song.
Connecting Your Drums To MIDI
There are a couple of ways to connect your electric drums to your computer.
First, check to see if your drum kit has a USB output. If it does, then you can usually plug that right into your computer with no need for an audio interface.
If your kit doesn’t have a USB port, you’ll need to use MIDI cables and connect them to a midi interface.
Many audio interfaces already have MIDI connections. So before you buy a midi interface, check if you already have one.
Once your drums and computer are talking to each other, open a new software Instrument track (this may be named differently in your DAW) and arm it for recording.
Make sure you’ve got a drum instrument loaded on the channel!
Then, you’ll need to make sure your drum set is mapped to the correct MIDI notes. The way this works depends on your gear.
Your best bet is to google “MIDI mapping in (insert your DAW’s name)” or “MIDI mapping with (insert your drum kit’s name).”
Drum samples are the actual sounds you hear when you play the electric drums. These samples are usually short recordings of real drums and a lot of times they’re recorded in top-level pro studios.
You can get incredible drums anywhere you’re recording. This is a lifesaver if you can’t record acoustic drums or your room doesn’t sound all that good.
If you’re using a Mac, Garageband has tons of built-in drum kits that sound great. The same goes for Logic Pro X. These are the same kits with more advanced controls.
If you don’t use those DAWs, no problem!
Most any DAW will have the ability to load up a sample pack and play them back for you. Since this is different for every DAW, I can’t possibly go over how for each piece of software, but a quick search should get you set up.
If you don’t have any samples that come with your DAW here are a few free options to get you started.
My new favorite free drum samples are Drummic’a from Sennheiser and Neumann. Stephen Slate Drums Free is another great option for nice modern rock drum sounds.
I’ve compiled a complete list of the best drum VSTs on the market right now – that are loaded with incredible sounds.
Think about what you need most before buying anything. Samples that sound great for metal might sound terrible on a pop or hip hop track.
I recommend you use free packs to get the hang of things first. Then, once you’re comfortable recording MIDI drums, upgrading makes sense.
If you’re recording the audio from your drum set, you can edit the performance by doing multiple takes and picking the best moments from each one.
If you’re recording MIDI you can “fix” the performance to make it play perfectly on the beat.
This is a process called quantizing. Quantization moves the MIDI notes so they’re perfectly in time.
It’s very powerful, but it tends to sound unrealistic. So your best bet is to keep recording until you get a really solid take that doesn’t need quantizing. While using MIDI, you can also add new hits that weren’t in the recording originally.
Let’s say you play through a whole song and you miss one or two snare hits in the last chorus. You don’t have to start over!
Simply open up the track’s piano roll and add a midi note where the snare was supposed to be. But be careful!
When you add MIDI notes in by hand, they usually have the same “velocity.” Velocity is how loud the samples are played back.
Real drummers don’t play each note at the same exact volume. So you’ll want to make sure the velocity of each drum hit is different.
Recording Electronic Drums Summary
And there you have it! With the information from this guide you now know if an electronic drum set is right for you and now you know how to record electronic drums.
This guest blog was written by Garrett Smart from Musician On A Mission. Garrett is a session and touring drummer for a number of artists based in Northern California. Be sure to check out Musician On A Mission to learn all about songwriting, recording and mixing!