How do I connect my drum machine to my computer?

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Contents

Syncing Drum Machines
Syncing Drum Machines

You will get a lot of information about this on the internet, which may seem good, but most of the information is pure junk.

I came about some information that stated one needs to buy an external amplifier to record electronic drums. They said this was necessary for creating the sound.

I find such information quite misleading, and those who don’t know may just use it because that is all they have.

Well, in this article, I will try giving the best way of doing this. You don’t have to buy things you don’t really need because someone told you so.

In another article, they say recording e-drums is very hard. How could that be when you already know how to play drums?

There are many ways this, whether you are recording performance and sound in a module, as a midi performance, or begin with recording the sound in a DAW. You can never go wrong if you have the right information.

And the best part is, record electronic drums make recording very easy, compared to acoustics ones. You don’t need microphones, nor a specific recording room. You can even start with a single MIDI cable interface and make good music in the end.

Let’s dive right in then.

How to connect your drum machine to a computer?

Connect Drum Machine To A Computer
Connect Drum Machine To A Computer

There are a few options available for this. But you will need to choose only one.

My favorite is using a combination of audio and MIDI track since it gives more freedom to change and play around with my tunes later.

One thing likable about e-drums is the flexibility they offer. It is very easy to connect them and record music from the comfort of your house.

There are two main options, audio recording, and MIDI cable recording. you’ll need three main approaches to this effect:

  • Audio through MIDI
  • Audio through interface
  • MIDI recording

There is another option, which I will not be touching here. It involves simply connecting the audio output of your electronic drums module to either the ‘line in’ or mic input on your system. But this option is not worth recording because the sound quality is very poor, especially when using the microphone input.

For this to work, you’ll need a ¼” or 1/8″ adapter. And if you go with the mic in, be sure to keep the volume of your record electronic drums module low. Otherwise, you will hate the sound.

Recording directly via USB

Recording Directly Via Usb
Recording Directly Via Usb

Your electronic drums module works like a module, especially if you have those high-end options from Roland. It has all the pads and cymbals, which makes it easy to connect. It is this module that creates the sounds as the pads and cymbals act as triggers.  

And the best part is, the drum module acts as an audio interface. This means you can connect it directly to your device, and you are good at this.

When recording connecting the MIDI cable, your device will not have a MIDI interface, which will provide MIDI In/Out channels so you can connect your record electronic drums module.

I am assuming that you already have DAW on your computer, which we should have begun with. You can assign the MIDI device to your tracks or virtual instruments in your DAW.

Understand that doing this allows you to do only a few things, which include:

  • Programming beats on the drum module and sending the control signal to a ‘virtual’ drum system in the DAW. Thus, you will be outputting sound from your device and not the drum module.
  • Program beats in a ‘virtual’ drum modules in the DAW and passes the signals to the drum system. In this case, you will be output audio on the real drum module.

And if you wish to record the drum machine’s actual drum sounds, you will have to connect its audio output, and not the MIDI out to the system using normal audio cable ¼” jacks. Or you can also use a normal headphone connector from the electronic drums modules directly to the line-in of your device.

But stated above, you won’t get the best sound quality due to latency.

It is better to invest in a good MIDI audio interface. This means you won’t have to struggle with issues of latency in the recording. This is if you have an old version of an electronic drums module that does not come with these features.

A universal serial bus connection is the easiest and most convenient way for beginners. But it has its limitations. You can avoid them by using other means recorded below.

I will combine the steps for a connection with the second procedure below. Just ignore the parts about the audio interface.

Recording audio output from your drum module through an audio interface

Some of the drum machines on the market do not have the ability to transfer audio via USB to your computer. It is normal from the older models and versions. In this case, you can follow the steps discussed in the following section.

The drum module should have a headphone output for easy monitoring of your performance. They also feature audio outputs that can be used for live recording during a performance.

You will need

There as a few items you will need for this to works;

– Computer

Luckily you don’t need to have a fancy computer to record audio. An average PC with necessary requirements should do just fine.

Professional producers may need high-end computers. But if you are just starting out, consider something affordable.

– A recording software

When buying drums to your computer, make sure the specifications and operating systems, and also make sure that they are compatible with many recording software.

There are lots of free software such as Audacity ( for Windows, Mac, Linux) or Garageband (Mac), you can begin with. You may already have your favorite free tool installed.

Or, you can go for a professional DAW like  Ableton Live, Logic Pro XSteinberg Cubase, and many others. These have the best features to give you service beyond your expectation.

– Audio interface

An audio interface is one of the most important hardware requirements for this task. It is required to transmit audio outputs from your electronic drum kit to digital signals that the system can interpret.

In other words, it is the audio link between your drum kit and your device.

Audio interfaces are connected to your PC using a connection cable. The installer, their driver, is not hard and can be done within seconds. The audio signal from the interface can be easily picked up and recorded through your software.

Before you buy an audio interface, check the requirements and features to ensure it is compatible with your computer’s operating system version. For instance, there are those who can only work with Windows 8.1 and later versions. It must also meet other system requirements of the audio interface.

It would be better if you invested a bit of money in a decent audio interface. There are a lot of low budget options, but they can break or cause bad static sounds in your recording.

My favorite audio interfaces are the Focusrite Scarlett 1i2 (3rd Gen) audio interface. Audio interfaces by this brand are normally very good, and their audio quality at their price point is remarkable. Besides, it is one of the most popular interfaces on the market, featuring superb built quality. The records are nice too, and it comes with two inputs and two outputs.

– Audio cables

Check the back of your drum kit. You will see general instructions under the directions, which should be good for a majority of situations.

But it may be a good idea to double-check the manual of your drum module, or go on the manufacturer’s website, just to be sure you have the right information.

You may see two ¼” phone jack on outputs for the Left and Right. This means you will need to buy a 1/4″ TS (tip-sleeve) cables. They should connect to both out outputs on your drum module interface.

Suppose the drum system only has one single stereo output. In that case, you are looking for a TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) cable because the cables can support stereo signals, whereas TS signals only support mono signals.

Consider also if your module has only one 1/8-inch output, like the one on the earphone slots. In this case, you need 1/8″ into ¼” TRS cable. Or you can use an adapter from 1/8″ to ¼.”

Steps for connecting and recording with your drum instrument.

  1. Turn your system on. Ensure, it connected to a reliable source of power,
  2. Connect the audio outputs from your drum module to the audio interface’s inputs using the audio cables. Increase the gain or volume knob on the gateway track to allow easy passage of audio signal.
  3. Now you are ready to connect to your computer using your MIDI USB cable. The USB output makes this very easy.
  4. Open the recording plugin on your device.
  5. Your recording software comes with instructions that you will follow to record the audio. DAW software usually has multiple projects in one project. Just pick an audio track and select the name of your audio connection as the audio in for the track. Now ‘arm ‘the track and hit the record button and start. The directions may be different from different software, but they don’t go very far.
  6. Now start playing your drums. You will see a visual representation of audio waves indication it’s recording from your drum module.

Recording many tracks

Some drum machines only come with one pair of stereo outputs, especially the lower end ones. But if you get the higher ones, chances are they have many different jacks with the ability to multi-track record your audio using USB MIDI.

Recording drums using MIDI

Recording Electronic Drums
Recording Electronic Drums

This approach is quite different from the ones mentioned above, but it is the best approach. Recording MIDI lets us capture the digital notes from the drum pads and cymbals as you play. This digital information can then be used to trigger drum samples or drum synths or the audio plugin of your PC.

Sounds complicated, right?

Well, it’s not. MIDI is a widely used element in electronic music instruments, which has been around for decades. It is supported by many audio production software.

If you want loads of flexibility on your drum sounds, or freedom to change and rework your tracks, this option could be what you are looking for.

Requirements

As stated above, these methods are not as complicated as it sounds. As long as you have all the requirements, it will not take long to get what you want.

You need the following:

A computer

You don’t need anything complicated either. Just check to ensure it has drums to your computer.

A USB cable/ MIDI-to-USB interface

This depends on your drum system. If it includes a USB output that supports MIDI transfer, you are in luck. You will only need a USB cable to connect your – common with Roland V-Drums.

If it comes with standard MIDI output, you will need a MIDI-to-USB converter or interface. This will enable you to transmit the MIDI information digitally to your gadget. But they are not very cheap, which means you will need a good budget. A good alternative is a Scarlett 2i4 audio connection, as mentioned earlier, which includes MIDI capability. You could connect midi cables from your drum module to the interface.

And in case you have a drum instrument that does not support external in MIDI options, it could be time to get a better one. There are lots of good options out there.

A virtual drum software/ a good DAW

The market is full of great software applications and VSTs. Some of the top ones include Addictive Drum 2 and Toontrack EZDrummer 2. They are both top products; hence, they should give you great service. They can be run as standalone applications, or used in as plugins within the recording software.

Addictive Drums 2 is my favorite. It features a wonderful MIDI mapping section that automatically helps the user map to many different models of electronic drums. It also allows for the creation of custom mappings.

Many DAWs already include their own drum tracks, which makes it easy to map to the MIDI input on your e-drum.

For those working on a budget, there are lots of function free drum VTSs.

This means you don’t need to spend a fortune buying high-end VTSs with features you may not need. They are especially good for beginners.

Steps for connection

  • Begin by turning on your device. Also, ensure it is connected to a good source of power.
  • For those with drum machines, or electronic drum sets that do not support midi, connect to the module that supports these features.
  • Connect the MIDI output of your drum system or module into the computer using a MIDI-to-USB cable, or MIDI interface, or using a USB-to-USB cable according to your module supports.
  • Open the DAW plugin on your system and follow the recording instructions to map the MIDI notes into the sound you desire. These instructions and procedures vary widely depending on the software you are using.
  • Click on record
  • Begin drumming and view the drums on a MIDI track DAW. The recording will look different from an audio recording. It appears like a set of discrete notes that correspond to the drums you will be hitting.
  • Once you have played enough, try tweaking or changing the around your MIDI track. For instance, the DAW may have the ability to quantize your MIDI notes, which aligns your notes to a grid, and can change the grid size. For example, use quarter notes and sixteenth notes, among many others. Such changes can keep your notes in time.

Which option is good for you?

A Lot Of Options
A Lot Of Options

Recording audio output or MIDI to your system can be a wonderful option. They both come with various pros and cons. Consider the following:

Recording Audio from the drum

This option is perfect for recording practice sessions because of minimal effort requirements. It is very easy to follow this procedure. Using this option means you simply record the audio signal directly from the module. No need to work around MID mappings on your DAW. Also, you get exactly what you hear. It is great if you are satisfied with the internal sounds of your electronic drum module; this option allows you to record directly to your comp in their original form.

But this option comes with its share of negatives too. There are not many drum modules with more than just the stereo outputs. For this reason, it becomes hard to separate audio signals of the drums into various tracks on your device. This may not be an issue in recording practice or doing rough demos. But if you are looking to process and mix your different drum sounds, you will need to do better. And since what you hear is what you get, there is nothing much you can do if you are not happy with the drum machine’s internal sounds. It is also difficult to swap out the individual sounds of drums if you are using stereo out.

Recording MIDI on computer

This option comes with more flexibility for sounds. You can alter the samples or drum synths on your computer after recording. There is even more flexibility for your drum tracks. One can rearrange the or automatically quantized to keep them in time. It offers better mixing too, as many of the drum machines have stereo outputs.

The biggest disadvantage of this option is MIDI mapping. It is not complex, but it can be a bit tedious. If your focus is simply looking for a recording of what may come from your drum module, this option may be too much. You will also be required to buy another module or drum machine if the one you have does not support MIDI outputs.

How do I connect my Yamaha DTX drum to my computer?

Connecting the Yamaha DTX drum to a computer is very easy. You can follow the procedures discussed above, or in summary:

  • You will need a system installed with and audio recording software, a USB 2.0 cable, extenders (for making the wires longer).
  • Connect the square looking end to the square input at the back of your DTX module.
  • Now connect the USB port end to the computer.
  • Now your DTX drums are connected to the computer using a MIDI.
  • Open your computer, and you will see the DTX on the computer, and they are ready to use it.

After connecting the module, make sure you have all the pads connected. Having a drum connected to your computer allows you to do several things, including playing games.

With a DAW software, you can record your drums easily. It gives you great flexibility to do everything you need for incredible sounds.

How do you use an electronic drum as a MIDI controller?

This is very easy. First, you will need to get your hands on a quality electronic drum set. Let’s say you have a Roland TD9KX2. In this case, you will need a computer and a VST software – Superior Drummer 2.0 is among the top recommendations. You will also need DAW, like Reaper, and several hardware.

You will need a MIDI interface to send MIDI signals from the drum kit to the computer. And if you are playing live, consider getting low latency (sub 10ms), an excellent audio interface is necessary. Consider Avid mbox or similar other options.

If you already have the audio interface, simply buy a MIDI-to-USB interface and use it to connect to the computer. Your e-drum set now works as a MIDI interface.

How do I connect my Roland TD 11 to my computer?

For this, you will need the Roland TD 11, a computer installed with a quality DAW software, and a USB MIDI cable.

Simply connect one end of the USB cable to the Roland TD 11 and the other to your computer. The computer in port is located on the TD’s top panel, and it should not take you long to connect.

Conclusions

The technological advancement in the music industry is quite impressive. Electronic drums are easy to record using a computer and DAW software. I hope this guide helps you understand the easy connection

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