How to Record Electronic Drums to Your Computer

recording electronic drum set
I’ve recorded electronic drums many times using different techniques for both professional productions and practice sessions.

There is a lot of junk information out there about how to do this. For example, I’ve read a guide online stating that you need to buy an external amplifier in order to record your e-drums, claiming that this is what “creates the sounds”, which is completely wrong.

In this article, I’m going to tell you in simple terms how to record from your electronic drum set to your computer.

One of the biggest benefits of electronic drums over acoustic kits is their ability to be quickly and easily recorded with minimal hassle.

You have a few options available to do this, though you don’t have to choose only one. I recommend using a combination of audio and MIDI as it can give you the most freedom to change and play around with your tracks later.

Start by reading our infographic below. We’ll dive deeper into these steps after.

how to record electronic drum infographic
Feel free to share or re-post this infographic. Though please point back to this page when doing so.

There’s also a 4th Option which I haven’t explained in detail here. This is to simply connect the audio output of your drums to either the ‘line in’ or microphone input on your computer (if either of these are present on your computer). However, the sound quality of these can be very poor, particularly the microphone input option. To do so you will need a 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter, and if you’re using the microphone input then make sure to keep the source volume of your electronic drum set low, otherwise the quality will likely be terrible!

Option 1) Recording the audio output directly from your drum module via USB

All of the pads and cymbals on your electronic drum set are routed to your drum module (or drum brain as it’s also referred to). The drum module is actually what creates the sounds, as the pads and cymbals are just used to trigger these.

Check your drum module. Some pretty modest modules such as the Roland TD-11 actually act as their very own audio interface. This means that you can simply connect your drum module to your computer via a USB cable, install the necessary drivers, and away you go.

To do this, follow the steps in Option 2, but skip the parts about the audio interface and audio cables.

Option 2) Recording the audio output from your drum module via an audio interface

If your drum module does not have the ability to transfer audio via USB to your computer then follow the steps below.

Drum modules generally include a headphone output so you can easily monitor your practice and performance, but they also generally feature audio outputs that you can used for recording and live performances.

What you will need

The items you will need for this are a computer, recording software (free software will do fine), an audio interface, and audio cables.

1) A computer (Windows, Max, Linux)

You do not need anything fancy to record audio to a computer. A very average computer should do fine, just make sure that it meets the system requirements for the audio interface that you’re planning to buy.

2) Recording software on your computer

You can use either free audio software such as Audacity (Windows/Mac/Linux) or Garageband (Mac). You might already have one of these already installed on your computer.

If you have a professional DAW (Digital audio workstations) such as Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live, etc, then these will all work great.

There are also a bunch of good free DAWs to choose from.

3) An audio interface

An audio interface is required to transmit the audio outputs from your electronic drum kit to a digital signal that can be interpreted to your computer.

Audio interfaces usually connect to your computer by USB. Drivers for these are usually very easy to install. The audio signal from the audio interface can then be easily recognized and recorded to your software.

Before buying an audio interface, ensure that it is compatible with your computer’s specific operating system version (e.g. Windows 8.1) and that it meets any other system requirements of the audio interface.

I recommend investing a bit of money in a decent audio interface. Very low budget ones can break easily or cause annoying static sounds in your recording.

I use the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface and it works really nicely for me. It is a very popular interface and its build quality is superb. It records very nicely and has 2 inputs and 4 outputs. It also includes midi inputs and outputs which can be really useful (more on that later).

If you have a lower budget you can also consider the Focusrite 2i2. Though it only has 2 outputs and does not have midi in and out. If you’re just planning to use your interface for basic purposes such as recording your electronic drums then the 2i2 would suit your needs.

4) Audio cables

TS Audio Cable – Standard Instrument/Guitar Cable (Mono signal)

Check the output connections on the back of your drum modules. The below directions are general instructions that should work for the majority of situations. However, if you’re in doubt then check the manual of your drum module or look at the manufacturers website for more information.

If you see two 1/4 phone jack outputs (like that ones you plug into a guitar or other electronic instrument) for Left and Right then get two 1/4 inch TS (tip-sleeve) cables and connect both of these from your module to your interface.

If your drum module only has one single stereo output then you should use a TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) cable as these cables can support stereo signals, whereas TS signals only support mono signals.

TRS Audio Cable – Supports Stereo Signal

Additionally, if your module only has one 1/8 inch output (the same size as earphone slots on your phone or laptop) then you may need a 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch TRS cable or an adapter from 1/8 to 1/4 inch.

Step by step instructions for recording audio from your drum module

  1. Turn on your computer!
  2. Use the audio cable(s) to connect the audio outputs from your electronic drum kit module to the inputs of your audio interface. Turn up the gain or volume knob on your audio interface track to ensure that an audio signal will be passed through.
  3. Connect the USB output from your audio interface to the USB input on your computer.
  4. Launch the recording software application on your computer.
  5. Follow your audio software’s directions to record audio. DAW software usually consists of multiple tracks in one project. You simply need to select an audio track, select your audio interface’s name as the audio input for the track, ‘arm’ the track for recording, and then click the record button. The directions might differ slightly, but it’s usually very similar to this.
  6. Start drumming. You will usually see visual representations of audio waves shown for the audio recording. This will be a clear indication that you’re successfully recording an audio signal from your drum module.

Bonus – Multi-track recording
Lower end electronic drum modules usually just have a pair of stereo outputs. However, some higher end drum modules contain either many different output jacks or the ability to multi-track record your audio via USB. This is great news for those that want to have a lot more freedom later.

Troubleshooting

Are you having issues with your recordings, check out the possible solutions below:

Issue – The audio interface is not being recognized by my computer

  • If you’re using a Windows computer, check to ensure that the recommended drivers are being successfully installed.
    • Do any messages pop up stating that drivers have not been successfully installed?
    • Check the manufacturer’s website of your audio interface for information and advise on any drivers that might need to be installed.
  • Is the audio interface compatible with your computer and OS? Read the manual or check the box to find out
  • The USB cable connecting the audio interface to the computer might be damaged.
  • The USB slot on your computer might be broken. Try another one if possible.
  • If all fails, sometimes simply turning the computer off and on actually solves the problem!
  • It’s possible that the audio interface is malfunctioning. Try connecting the audio interface to another computer if you can.

Issue – I’m getting hiss or static noises in my recording

  • This can easily occur on cheaper audio interfaces that cannot handle high input volumes. Try to lower the volume of the input on your audio interface and see if you can get a reasonable signal without sacrificing audio quality.
  • Try to listen to the audio signal on your electronic drum set to ensure that the hiss is not coming directly from the drum module.
  • Hiss can also be a result of electrical signals interfering with your recording. If you’re using a laptop with a working battery, plus out the AC power from the laptop.
  • Hiss can be produced internally in your laptop or through other peripherals. If you have other devices connected to your computer, such as hard-drives or USB midi inputs, remove these to check if it makes a difference.

Issue – I’m getting latency or lag in my audio recording
This means that there can be a gap in time between when you hit a pad to when the signal is received and processed by your computer. This can be annoying.

  • If you’re listening to the audio output from your computer while it’s recording then try to hook a set of headphones to the headphone output (if available) on your drum module. You can then listen to the audio recording through this without latency. If you’re recording to a song, you might need to drag and adjust the recording back in the track to adjust for the lag.
  • Check the manufacturers website or manual for your audio interface for troubleshooting tips on dealing with latency.
  • If you’re using a Windows machine, try to configure the computer for working with audio. Windows is very capable of processing audio, but by default it’s not always prioritized. You can use the following guide, which goes through some steps on how to improve the audio processing performance on your Windows computer.

Best_Electronic_Drum_Pads

Option 3) Record your drumming using MIDI

This is an entirely different approach to recording from your electronic drum set. Recording MIDI allows us to capture the digital notes from the drum pads and cymbals as you’re playing them, this digital information can then be used to trigger drum samples or drum synths on audio software on your computer.

It might sound complicated but it’s not. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is very heavily used in electronic musical instruments for decades and is very widely supported by audio production software.

This can be a great option if you want loads of flexibility on our drum sounds and/or freedom to change or rework your drum track.

What you will need

1) A Computer

As with recording audio, nothing too powerful is required.

2) Depending on the module of your drum moduleA USB Cable OR A MIDI-to-USB Interface OR A MIDI Drum Module: Check the back of your electronic drum module.

  • USB Type A to USB Type B (The same as many standard printer cables)

    If your drum module includes a USB output that supports MIDI transfer (similar to that of a standard printer cable – often USB Type A to USB Type B cable) then you’re in luck. All you need is a USB cable to connect this to your computer. These are very common in Roland V-Drums for example.

  • If it includes a standard MIDI output then you will need a MIDI-to-USB converter or interface to be able to digitally transmit the MIDI information to you computer.These are very cheap to get your hands on.Alternatively, the Scarlet 2i4 audio interface that I previously mentioned also includes MIDI capability. Therefore you could connect midi cables from your drum module to that interface.
  • MIDI to USB Converter – A cheap and easy option

    If your drum module does not support external MIDI options then you would need to get your hands on a better drum module or a separate MIDI drum module.Though this is not ideal, as it requires the highest cost and most amount of work.

3) Audio drum recording software or a good DAW (Digital audio workstation)

There are a wide variety of drum software and VSTs around. Toontrack EZdrummer or Addictive Drums are great paid examples. Also, many DAWs already include their own drum racks that you can map to the MIDI inputted from your electronic drum set.

Check out the following list of good free drum VSTs.

Step by step

  1. Turn on your computer
  2. If your electronic drum set module does not support midi then take out all of the drum and cymbal pad inputs from the drum module and insert them into the inputs of your MIDI Drum module.
  3. Connect the MIDI output from your drum module OR MIDI Drum module to your computer.
  4. Launch your drum recording software or DAW.
  5. Follow the instructions of your recording software to map the MIDI notes to your desired sounds. This can vary a lot depending on what software you’re using, so I’m link to a set of good resources depending on your approach.
  6. Press record.
  7. Start playing your drums. If you’re viewing your drums on a MIDI track in a DAW, then the recording will look very different to an audio recording. It will show up a set of discrete notes that correspond to exactly when you’re hitting your drums.
  8. After playing, you can tweak or change around your MIDI track. For example, DAWs generally include the ability to quantize your MIDI notes, which align your notes to a grid (you can usually change the size of the grid, e.g. quarter notes, sixteenth notes, etc). This can alter your drum notes to stay in time.

Pros and Cons of Recording Audio vs Recording MIDI

Recording the audio output from your module or recording the MIDI to your computer can both be great options. However, both have their pros and cons.

Recording Audio from your module:

Pros:

  • Great for recording practice sessions as it requires minimal effort.
  • Very easy to do. Using this approach you simply record the audio signal from your drum module. It does not require messing with MIDI mappings on your DAW software
  • What you hear is what you get. If you’re happy with the internal sounds of your electronic drum set then you can record them directly to your computer as-is.

Cons:

  • Most electronic drum modules only include stereo outputs. That means that you cannot separate the audio signals of your drums into different tracks on your computer. This is generally not a problem for recording practice or doing rough demos. However, it can be an issue if you really want to process and mix your different drum sounds. Please note, that some higher end drum modules, such as Roland TR-20, include many more outputs. If the drum pads and cymbals on your e-drum kit connect to your drum modules via 1/4 inch audio cables then you could easily swap out your current module for a higher end one.
  • What you hear is what you get. If you’re not happy with the internal sounds of your electronic drum set then you might not be happy with the finished recording. It can be difficult to swap out the individual sounds of the drums if you’re using a stereo output. Even if you do, it will require manually midi mapping, or tweaking of automated MIDI recognition on your digital audio workstation.

Recording MIDI to your computer

Pros:

  • More flexibility for your sound. You can change the samples or drum synths on your computer later on.
  • More flexibility for your drum tracks. MIDI notes can be re-arranged or automatically quantized to stay in time.
  • Better mixing. As stated previously, most drum modules only have stereo outputs. When recording MIDI, you can process the sounds of each drum hit differently, e.g. through music mixing techniques such as EQ, compression, reverb, misc effects, etc.

Cons

  • MIDI mapping. This is not overly complicated, but it can get a bit tedious if you’re trying to do anything too complex.
  • If you’re simply looking for a recording of what’s coming out of your drum module, then this approach can be a bit overkill.
  • If your drum module does not support MIDI outputs, then it’s extra expense to purchase a MIDI drum module.

If you’re just recording for personal or band practice then I think the direct audio output is the best option. It’s easy, and does not require messing about with MIDI mapping to your computer’s DAW. If you’re doing anything more comprehensive, such as using your electronic drum set recording for music production or professional releases then I’d recommend that you go the MIDI route.

In my opinion, the best option is to combine both of these option together if you can, as it gives you the most amount of freedom. Higher end Roland V-drum modules usually include a USB connection which can transfer both audio and MIDI at the same time, which is a fantastic feature.

Summary

So that’s my article on how to record electronic drums to your computer. It’s generally a pretty straightforward process, but there can be a few standard technical issues issues along the way.

best_electronic_drum_sets

However, once you get past these issues initially you should be ready to record in a flash in future. You won’t have to go through the process of re-setting up microphones and mixers like you would with an acoustic drum kit.

Have you run into any other issues while recording that I haven’t listed above? If so, please write a question or comment below!

28 thoughts on “How to Record Electronic Drums to Your Computer”

  1. Thank for the clear and concise advice. My 15 year old son has just got a focus rite 18i8 for Christmas. We are steadily working out how to link his roland td11drums , electric guitar, bass guitar, mandolin and Mike. Your piece has been a great help. I’m he will have a lot of enjoyment . Kind regards.

  2. Hi, im using focusrite 2i4 and im recording midi with my dtx900 yamaha drumkit using ezdrummer2 in cubase 5. but Im having trouble , if i hit the pads there is no delay between the hit and when i hear the sound but if i make a recording even the simplest one like just quarter notes with the metronome, when i hear its completely out of time, increasing the buffer size in the options causes delay when hearing but not in the recording. I set it to the minimum but does not affect the recording. Any ideas what i could be doing wrong? Thanks for the article.

  3. How do I convert my drum module sounds to midi? I’m using GarageBand. I like my module sounds better than the GarageBand drum sounds

    • Hi Brian, you would need to get the drum samples from your module into Garageband. MIDI itself doesn’t transfer audio, rather just the notes/velocity, etc. Either you would need to record your drum samples one by one (using the audio output as described in the article) and chop the recordings into playable samples (it would take a bit of work), or it’s possible that the samples from your module might be available online for you to load into your DAW. Hope this helps!

  4. I’m trying to record a live band the drummer is playing an e-kit hooked up through midi to the same PC that is recording the band using superior drummer 3, I’m getting a latency issue that makes it impossible to keep timing once I hit record. I use Presonus studio one 4 pro and Capture software,the only way I’ve been able to do this is if I use capture is to send the drums to an aux out that the drums are being monitored on and record it from there without latency live but then I have no control over my aux tracks it’s just a stereo send. Now in Capture 3 software there is no way to get to an aux track to record from there might be but it just came out I can’t find a way yet anyways,I got no drum modual it’s an midi trigger ddrum ddt I/o so I can’t get a signal from there. I have an output from my drum monitors could I get a signal from there back into my interface? W/o any problems? Please help it’s been a freaking nightmare to record live like this I know it’s a routing issue and the Studiolive 24 series III mixer has digital routing I’m not to keen on how to use any help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Fabe, have you checked the difference in latency when connecting via the USB compared to the MIDI 5 pin connectors from your ddrum ddti? I’ve noticed some serious discrepancies on these using other gear.

      Also, if you’re trying to record to Studio One, have you enabled low latency monitoring? If you’re not sure, it’s a Z icon below the master fader that turns blue or green when it’s enabled.

      Do you get similar issues with other midi controllers or is it just related to the ddrum device here?
      Could it be a computer performance issue for your PC, are you using the correct drivers, etc? (if so, check out my response to Roman above on optimizations suggestions).

  5. Thanks for responding, no I have not even thought of using the midi out of the ddrum ddti, I’m using a PreSonus Studiolive 24 S III for an 64×64 interface but has no midi connections neither does my Sweetwater 250 CSv5 audio PC that is strictly optimized for audio. Yes Studio one 4 is running in green Z low latency monitoring. I have a keylab 49 mkii that doesn’t have that problem when using pads as drum triggers in the same Supirior drummer 3 software. All drivers correct and updated. If I’m going track by track it’s not a problem it’s when I want to record edrums triggered by real drummer being monitored through aux outs on the SL24 mixer live with guitar of bass the latency becomes an issue. If I use the same setup through the capture software and record drums from the aux outs it works fine. I guess I’m missing something somewhere along the line, plus drummer can’t use headphones because some stupid reason buts it would come from the same feed as the aux outs I’m using now. Thanks any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi again Fabe, if it’s a problem with monitoring latency in Studio One then check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e87Q-7qmmAA – there’s some extra settings that might not be enabled. Otherwise, it might be worth checking out some forums relevant to your hardware/software configuration as people who’ve used these tools more might be able to give you some additional help on it, as the e-drums themselves probably aren’t the problem in this situation. Hope you get the latency issues sorted. If you do figure it out then please do write a comment below as it might help others in future, as I know these issues can be really head wrecking! Thanks, Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the wonderful article.
      Do you have any experience with the Pearl Mimic Pro?
      I started recoding UBS to MIDI using GarageBand and SSD5 free plugin but I wish I could use the same sounds coming from the module and be able to edit each sound.

      • Hi Alberto, you’re very welcome! MIDI only allows you to transfer note, velocity, tempo data, etc, so you can’t transfer audio. In order to record sounds for the module, you would have to do this through an audio interface. The Pearl Mimic Pro has quite a few outputs so if you wanted to multi-track record then you would need an audio interface with enough inputs.

        One thing you could do if you really want to record through MIDI triggering… record the MIDI from the Pearl Mimic Pro to your DAW, then fix up the MIDI if required, play and route this back to the Pearl Mimic Pro as a MIDI input, then record the sounds of each of these tracks from the audio outputs to your DAW via your audio interface.

  6. Bro am grateful, I’m Bcleff from Nigeria, each time i record from my Roland td8 to my system, I always see long sustained midi note how do I get rid of this?

    • Hi Bcleff! A few things to try out:

      Have you hooked up any other MIDI gear to the computer that might be conflicting with it? If so, try to just use the TD8 connection by itself.

      Have a look at the preferences of your DAW, if possibly, try to disable other incoming signals if they are enabled.

      Do you have any other MIDI controllers to check if this issue is also present on those too?

      Make sure you’re using the correct audio drivers (e.g. ASIO4ALL for windows, if you don’t have a dedicated interface).

      Play around with the buffer size.

      Try it using another DAW if you have another one installed to see if the problem is still occuring. Otherwise you could get some free MIDI monitoring software for your computer and check to see if you’re getting sustained notes or regular notes on these.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Hello Mike,

    When Using Steinberg program to record MIDI drums (Simmons SD1000), once the MIDI track is open via VST, I can see the track and see it registering the sound coming from the SD1000, however, once a track is laid down, I hear nothing when I attempt to play the track back. Is there a change I need to make to the program to hear? I have Zero issues when creating and playing a track recorded thru the Focusrite via 1/4″ or XLR recording. I am not certain what I may be doing wrong. Your help is most appreciated.

    • Hi Matt, check the monitoring options on the track in the program you’re using. Perhaps it’s currently set to Monitor ‘In’, which would only monitor incoming MIDI notes.

  8. Hi, Mike.
    I am doing music as a hobby in South Korea.
    Thank you for the explanation on the homepage!
    But I have some questions!

    I am using atv electron drum and garage band to connect usb to usb (midi) cable.
    Everything’s perfect, but it’s hard to recognize the sound of the hihat being kept open or the cymbal being recognized.

    To solve this problem, I went to all the sites and YouTube.
    But I couldn’t solve it.

    You’re an expert, so I’m sure you can solve this problem.

    It’s using Google translation, so the context may not be right. Please understand me.

    • Hi David, Yes, the hi-hat is usually the area that you will find most problems when trying to record via MIDI!

      Does your ATV drum module have the option to transmit the MIDI to different channels? This could be possible because you’re using USB-to-USB MIDI connection. This could be the ‘Individual’ MIDI setting on your ATV drum module, where the Hi-hat would come through in channel 6. You could then set up a different track in Garage band where the input is only that channel. It might be easier to work with the sound in Garage band from there.

      Different drum module manufacturers have their own hi-hat protocols, so they can transmit this differently. For example, they might transmit the ‘open/close’ setting of the hi-hat separately, or transmit different notes depending on how open or how closed the hi-hat is.

  9. Thank you for your answer, Mike.
    You mean to see ‘Individual MIDI setting’ in the drum module?
    I’m really sorry, but is it possible to explain it a little easier? I don’t even know what Channel 6 actually means.

    And I don’t know if it will help, but when I see the atv drum site, I leave a message for reference because there is this answer.

    When I record via USB-MIDI, cymbal choke technique is not recorded. Alternatively, the hi-hat half-open sound won’t stop.

    Check whether recording is enabled for “polyphonic key pressure” messages, or that these messages are not filtered out by your DAW.
    For details on how to change this setting, refer to your DAW’s owner manual.

    • Hi David – have a look at this video to understand what I mean about MIDI channels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVBFI039TZg

      The ‘Polyphonic key pressure’ or ‘polyphonic aftertouch’ is a separate message along with the MIDI notes that would get sent which could transmit data for cymbal ‘chokes’ or hi-hat pedal pressure. If this is the case, perhaps you could MIDI Map this data in Garageband:

      I’d suggest you read up a bit more on the manual for your ATV drum set, and watch some tutorial videos on how MIDI works in Garageband.

      Good luck!

  10. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the great article!

    I have a pretty basic Yamaha DTX450 electronic kit with a single stereo output. From your description, I understand that I need to connect the module to an audio interface (I’ve just bought a FocusRite 2i2) with a TRS cable and then need to connect the audio interface to my laptop with a USB type A to USB type B cable, is that correct, or is there anything else I will need?

    Will the TRS cable plug straight into the FocusRite 2i2 input sockets on the front, or do I need another adapter? Also, can I plug in headphones to the audiointerface so I can monitor what I’m playing whilst recording at the same time?

    Thanks for your help

    Dan

    • Hi Dan – glad you found the article useful! Yes, the Focusrite USB-A to USB-B cable will both power the audio interface as well as transmit the audio data to your computer (the cable will most likely come with the interface).

      Yes the TRS cable will plug into the front 2i2 inputs (The 2i2 inputs are dual inputs, so you can input 1/4″ cables OR XLR cables into each of them).

      Also, yes you can plug in headphones into the audio interface to monitor what you’rep playing. Though the headphones input is also 1/4″, so if your headphones use a small connector then you might need a 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch adapter. Just flick the ‘direct monitor’ switch and adjust the headphone volume knob at the top-right of the interface.

      Have fun recording!

      Mike

  11. Hi Mike,
    We are recording midi drums using TD-11 and Pro Tools 12 straight in via USB.
    When we play back a very fast roll – like on a cymbal intro to a song thru the TD-11- it sounds fine. If I then take a drum kit plugin from Xpand2! and replace the TD-11, it sounds terrible. The rest of the track is fine but anything where it is play quickly with a crescendo etc. the plugin doesn’t seem to be able to interpret? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    THX, Jean

    • Hi Jean – could be latency problem. A few things to try:

      1. Try to change the audio buffer settings (e.g. to 512 samples)
      2. Test it by bringing the track to a blank project and see if you’re still getting the problem. If not, then it could be a CPU issue and your computer can’t handle the load of all the tracks based on it’s current hardware/software configuration. I’ve left some pointers in this article for improving CPU performance for audio.
      3. If you’re using windows, make sure your either using a Asio4All driver or using the ASIO driver from a dedicated audio interface.

      Hope this helps!

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