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Thread: Recording electronic drums help

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    Recording electronic drums help

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    Newbie here, I知 not sure which section is most appropriate for this, so here I am.

    I知 a solo recording artist using GarageBand on a MacBook. It痴 not practical in my current living situation to have a real drum kit, so I知 looking to go digital but I知 not really sure where to start. I want the sound to be as close as possible to the real thing and need something more than just loops and automatic fills.

    From what I致e been able to research so far, it seems that a drum machine would be my best option but there seems to be a pretty wide range of choices depending on functionality.

    I have guitar and bass down, I知 essentially trying to be my own drummer without having a physical drum kit. Do I go with a drum machine, and if so, what features should be my main priority? Is it relatively easy to just plug in and play/record through garage band?

    Any and all advice would be much appreciated! Thank you!

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    The first thing "we" need to know is if you have an audio interface? If you do, make and model please.

    If not they are legion but there are a few things that mark some out for your attention as you have a specific requirement, drums. Look for an AI that has at least two microphone inputs* and if possible two more line inputs (they will be specified as inputs 1/2 and 3/4). You also, IMO really want an AI with MIDI ports.

    Interfaces usually come with a bundled "lite" software recording package (often have to dld it these days) and one that would I am sure suit you is Cubase. Pretty sure there are "drums" in the bundled version but you do get a subsidised upgrade to a better one.

    Check reviews and look for comments about "latency". You want it low, it is the delay twixt hitting a key or pad then hearing the sound. Good AIs, properly setup will have such low latency that you won't notice the delay. Native Instruments AIs have really low latency and come with Cubase and other sample software to download.

    So, you have your interface and have drums software (in Cubase say) setup, you now need some way to trigger the sounds. Can be done from a PC/mac keyboard but some form of dedicated "MIDI" controller will be infinitely easier to use. Again, controller "whack pads" are all over the shop.

    *these will also accept line level inputs, a synth say and have a suitably high impedance (DI) input(s) for passive electric guitar.

    Dave.

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    Drum machines, seem to be something different now. Most people nowadays use 'drum machines' that are virtual instruments in their DAWs. They are like any other synth or sampler - you can play them by tapping the rhythms on a velocity sensitive keyboard, or pads, or entering notes on a grid and then copying and pasting - whichever works for your style of music. I know how to play the drums, but am not a drummer - so I do kick and snare in one pass, then go back and put in the high hats, then the toms, then anything else. Remembering the drummer's rule on quantity of limbs at any one time. It's easy to have a great drum track impossible for a real drummer to play, and trust me - they notice! As for grooves and the subtle stuff, I'm not your man.

    Most products like Cubase come with a drum VSTi - I rather like the Cubase one because I've bought extra kits for it - and now there are far, far too many sounds I can choose from. My Kontakt package also has drum kits, but Cubase Groove Agent still gets my vote. You also have choices of one key = one drum, or using pre-programmed and tweaked patterns that may not have occurred to you. Sounds wise - you get to use the kits, but if you like kick drum from one, but not the snare, you can make up your own kits from the bits. If you buy a stand alone drum module - then the constraints are there, but maybe that's what you want, a common or garden repeated loop? Computers seem to be the way of the music world now.

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    I do have an interface, it is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. So since essentially any MIDI controller will suffice, does that mean the software would be the most important factor, as far as quality drum kits?

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    Absolutely. Some are sample based and can be very realistic, others are synthesised and again, can be really good. There are loads and loads of drums vstis. Finding the best for you can be hard. Electro pop from the 80s is ve different from some of the others. The number of Roland drum machine samples used in the popular drum machines of the time surprises me, 700 and 900 series have loads of similar but different t versions.

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    Just recorded an album where I programmed all the drums via midi and used an old 90's drum module. This is basically a drum machine being run via midi. I had the midi / drum module synced to the recording so I could fine tune the drum program as the song developed. When I had finished programming I transferred each drum machine sound one at a time to tracks in the DAW. This way I could treat the individual sounds rater than rely on the drum machine left right mix. I replaced the cymbals with real cymbal that I played and recorded with mics. Also the drum sounds I used from the module were selected to be straight sounds not over produced so I could add compression and reverb to it later, like a real recorded drum.

    Played this to a drummer the other day and they said who played the drums? No one so far has picked out that it was a 1990's drum module and not a real drummer. Realistic drums can be had from a drum machine, but it's all in the programming and the selected sounds.

    Alan

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    "I do have an interface, it is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4"
    Would not have been in my list but, a fine interface in many respects. Does at least have MIDI ports!

    The bundled software is Ableton IIRC? Not first choice for MIDI work but you can download a trial of Cubase and if that boggles you, try Reaper.

    The 214 is also not in the top bracket for low latency AFASIK but then I don't have one, others might like to comment? A quick and dirty test would be to setup a program like Modartt's Pianoteq and see what the lag is between hitting a key on the on screen kbd and hearing the sound. Yes! I know! NOT drums but I don't know of a free-to-try drum program that is anything like as easy to setup and good sounding as Pianoteq!

    If the latency is unacceptable things CAN be tried.

    Dave.

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