Acoustic drum recording is considered by many people to be an art form. Finding a balance between equipment, knowledge, patience and money that works for your project is a skill that comes with experience and time.
Being a collection of various percussion instruments, a drum kit requires different types of microphones and positioning to make one cohesive drum kit sound. Capturing a great performance is even more difficult when you’re also the one recording the drums, but there are ways to minimize your work flow and maximize your performance!
Contributed by Simon Ayton for Roland Corporation Australia
Enter Electronic Drums…
Recording electronic drums is simple when compared to recording acoustic drums.
You can record almost anywhere, the kit will fit quickly into a recording space and with unlimited sound and performance possibilities, your options for creativity are increased dramatically.
When recording V-Drums, you can forget about tuning, muffling, microphone positioning, preamplifiers, specially designed studios, noise problems and studio hire fees, allowing you to relax, focus on the music and just play.
V-Drums are ideal for recording yourself, because their simplicity means you can focus on your actual performance, safe in the knowledge that every note will be captured perfectly. Sound decisions can always be decided later.
The aim of this V-Drums recording masterclass article series is to break down and simplify the process of recording electronic drums. You will be able to achieve great results, with just basic connections and knowledge.
Recording the TD-50 series V-Drums
Roland’s flagship V-Drums kit is a joy to record, with all options open to you.
For connection and recording options, there are ten audio outputs along with conventional MIDI IN/OUT and USB Audio/MIDI. But which recording method should you use?
See our MIDI versus Audio article for information on recording audio and MIDI.
Let’s jump right into combined MIDI and audio recording with the TD-50, as it offers the most flexibility and ultimately, the best sound for your final mix.
Recording MIDI and Audio
There are essentially two recording methods to use with your TD-50 kit.
Method 1: Combined Audio and MIDI
Using the USB MIDI/Audio port alone, you can record both the MIDI performance and multiple tracks of audio at the same time. You can even hear a four channel playback from the recording software while tracking, using the TD-50’s 10×4 drivers. This is very useful, as the backing track you are playing to, along with the click, each have their own controls on the front panel of the TD-50.
Here’s how a track of MIDI and a single stereo audio track will typically look in a sequencing program or DAW (digital audio workstation).
This first method of recording MIDI and stereo audio together is useful when capturing a live performance with a band, to give you instant audio playback when the module is no longer available. This method also offers editing options later, using the MIDI data and any other sound source.
Method 2: Recording MIDI
Many musicians find this second method, of capturing a MIDI performance and then adding audio later, to be an excellent procedure for studio work.
It offers both creativity in the recording process and the best control over the final sound mix.
Here are the typical steps for the second method:
- Record your MIDI performance into your sequencing program.
- Playback and edit the note performance.
- Choose and tweak your ideal sounds either from your sound module or plug-in sound library.
- Record the resultant external audio into one or more tracks.
- Utilize any audio effects such as EQ, compression or reverb.
- Mix the audio as a final stereo file for release.
The big advantage of working this way is that you can leave sound choices until later and just concentrate on the performance.
- Alter each note of your performance if you make a mistake or remove notes completely if you overplay. Quantize MIDI to correct timing issues. You can even change a straight feel to a swung feel for a completely new performance.
- MIDI recording uses very little space compared to audio, so you can continue recording as many takes as you like without using vital hard drive space.
- Leave sound choices until the final mix, once you have recorded other instrument parts to make sure that they all blend together well.
- Alternate versions of the mix can be achieved simply by changing the drum sounds for each mix. You can decide later which to use, or even cut between them. For example, you may want to choose different kit sounds for the verses and choruses!
- Everything is possible by recording MIDI first and audio last.
Recording Multi-Channel Audio
Once you’ve edited the MIDI performance and chosen sounds, it’s time to record the performance as audio back into the software. Here, it will be combined with other audio tracks for a finished song.
Recording the audio signal can be achieved with the TD-50’s ten channels plugged into an audio interface, via the analog master outputs, the direct outs, or digitally via the TD-50’s built-in USB port. The USB port is capable of ten channel audio at sample and bit rates up to 96kHz at 24bit.
This technique of recording drum sounds onto separate tracks is the way to go if you want to edit, EQ, add effects or compress the sounds in the mix. It also makes it easy to output the recorded tracks into separate channels of an external mixer, or to send the tracks to someone else to remix.
When recording via the balanced, analog outputs, you will need an audio interface such as the UA-1010 or UA-1610. In this case, the outputs are pre-routed for you as labelled on the rear panel of the TD-50.
The TD-50 is already configured for multi-channel audio as follows:
Track 1 = mono = Kick – Direct out 1
Track 2 = mono = Snare – Direct out 2
Track 3 = mono = HH – Direct out 3
Track 4 = mono = Ride – Direct out 4
Track 5 = stereo = Toms Left and Right – Direct outs 5&6
Track 6 = stereo = Cymbals Left and Right – Direct outs 7&8
Track 7 = stereo = Ambience/Reverb/FX – Master Left and Right