Can You Use Electronic Drums As Midi Controller?

If you own a set of electronic drums or are thinking about purchasing a set of electronic drums you may be wondering, “Can You Use Electronic Drums As Midi Controller?” What are the advantages of recording with electronic drums and how to connect your electronic drums to your computer? Let’s take a look.

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Can You Use Electronic Drums As Midi Controller?

Yes, you can use your electronic drums as a midi controller. Simply connect your electronic drum module to your computer with a midi or USB cable and then activate the drum control module software on your computer. Once this is done, your computer and electronic drum module can communicate. This is a great way to write, compose, and record your drums midi information. You can also control virtual drums inside your DAW software with the midi information being sent to your computer from your drum control module.

If you want to record the audio signal from your drum control module, simply connect the audio outputs from your drum control module to an audio interface which will be connected to your computer, or you can use the audio from your virtual instruments inside your DAW software.

Are Electronic Drum Kits Midi?

Yes, electronic drums use midi data to trigger sounds in your electronic drum module and inside your DAW software.

When you hit a drumhead or cymbal this generates a midi signal that gets sent to your drum control module and the drum control module changes the midi signal into an audio signal that sounds like the drum or cymbal that you have assigned to that drum or cymbal.

Your drum control module can then send that midi signal on to your computer and you can use the midi signal inside your DAW to play drum and percussion virtual instruments.

Superior Drummer 3 Virtual Instrument With Midi

This happens so fast that there is no lag or latency. If you do experience latency you can adjust your DAW settings to eliminate it in most cases.

You can change any drum or cymbal to make any sound that you want.

For simplicity most electronic drum kits come preprogramed with different drum kits so you can just plug in and start playing.

If you are using a drumming virtual instrument inside your DAW software, you can change or map the midi sounds to sound however you want.

Midi opens the doors of endless possibilities.

What Is A Midi Controller?

A midi controller is any device that generates midi data that can be sent to a virtual instrument to create any sound that you want.

Midi controllers can be electronic drum kits, keyboards, Pads, wind-blown instruments, guitars, and now even a ring you can wear on your finger to control midi.

Midi controllers come in all shapes and sizes and are great ways to create music for all styles of musicians.

How Do I Connect My Electronic Drums To My Computer?

If you want to record your electronic drums inside your DAW software, it’s easy to get started.

1. Connect The Electronic Drum Module To The Computer.

The first thing you need to do is connect your drum control module to your computer.

Most electronic drum modules have a USB output that you can connect directly to your computer.

The advantage of connecting to a powered USB port on your computer is that often times the USB connection can power your drum module.

How To Connect Your Electronic Drum Module To Your Computer

Most electronic drum modules also have Midi connections. A direct Midi connection is a great alternative to using a USB connection if you are short on USB connections.

You can use the USB or the Midi out from your electronic drum module and connect directly into your computer or audio interface.

If you are going to use the Midi output on your electronic drum module you can plug directly into your audio interfaces Midi in and connect to your computer through your audio interface.

You can also get a midi to USB adapter cable and plug directly into your computer.

2. Install The Electronic Drum Control Modules Software And Drivers.

The next thing you need to do is install the electronic drum modules software and drivers on your computer.

Be sure and read the manufactures instructions for installing the software and drivers correctly.

After the drum module software has been properly installed, configured, and connected you’ll be able to enable it as a MIDI controller and then start recording electronic drums.

Make sure and check with the manufacture to ensure you have the latest software, drivers, and your computer meets the compatibility requirements.

Electronic Drums Midi Recording

One thing that is super cool about using your electronic drums as midi controller is that you can record the midi data inside your DAW software.

Let’s say you have a beat in your head that you want to use to develop a new song or beat.

Simply hit record inside your DAW software and start playing your electronic drums.

You can record all of the midi data being sent from your drums to your DAW software.

Once the midi data is recorded inside your DAW software you can use the midi data in a virtual drummer software or edit the midi data in your piano roll function to change and edit the beat any way you like.

With virtual instruments inside your DAW, you can change the way the drums sound, shape and mold your beat and change the tempo.

Let’s say you just want to send the kick drum midi data to a synthesizer to create a whole new sound that is in tempo with your beat.

The possibilities are endless when you record your electronic drums midi data to use with virtual instruments inside your DAW software.

Video Credit: Sweetwater

Can I Record Audio And Midi Data With Electronic Drums?

Yes, you can record the audio and midi data from your electronic drums inside your DAW software.

If you have been reading this article you already know how to connect your electronic drums midi data to your computer.

You should already have a midi connection between your drum control module and your computer.

If you want to capture the audio signal that comes out of your drum control module then read on.

Connect Your Drum Control Module To An Audio Interface.

The Easiest way to connect the audio from your electronic drums to your computer is with an audio interface.

Simply come out of your electronic drum control modules audio outputs and plug them directly into your audio interfaces audio inputs.

Your audio interface may have midi connections and you can connect your drum control modules midi out to the audio interfaces midi input.

How To Connect An Electronic Drum Module To An Audio Interface

This way you have your audio signal and midi data being sent to your computer through your audio interface.

Your drum control module may only have a left and right main output that you can connect to your audio interface for a stereo connection.

If your drum control module has an output for each drum, you can connect each channel individually to your audio interface.

You will need an audio interface with enough inputs for each drum or cymbal if you go this route.

Start Recording Audio And Midi With Your Electronic Drums

Now that your computer is receiving the audio signal and the Midi data from your electronic drum module, you can record both at the same time inside your DAW software.

When you set up your track to record inside your DAW software be sure and select both the midi and audio inputs to record.

This way you can capture the sound of your drums and the midi data that you can use with other virtual instruments for your project that you are working on.

So, if you love the way your electronic drums sound you can now record them with your DAW software.

If you want the midi data so you can edit and create with other virtual instruments, you also have that available to you.

Relevant Article: If you want to learn more about connecting your gear to an audio interface check out this article. It’s geared toward midi keyboards but is the same for electronic drums.

Advantages Of Recording With Electronic Drums

If you are a drummer, I’m sure you love acoustic drums and the way they sound.

I do too. But let’s face it, today’s electronic drums have come a long way since they were first introduced.

They sound amazing and are great for those who need a quieter option.

Not to mention, electronic drums are a great midi controller.

So, the technology is here, electronic drums sound awesome and have midi capabilities. Let’s record them!

Here are some advantages of recording with electronic drums.

  1. Electronic Drums Sound Great
  2. Better Sound Isolation Between Each Drum
  3. Quiet, So They Don’t Disturb The Neighbors
  4. Can Quickly Create A Completely Different Drum Set
  5. Easy To Add Percussion Parts
  6. No Need For Expensive Microphones
  7. Can Record In Noisy And Untreated Environments
  8. Very Portable
  9. Onboard Midi For Greater Creativity
  10. Better For The Drummers Ears

Can I Use An Audio Interface With My Electronic Drums?

Yes, you can use an audio interface with your electronic drums. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to use an audio interface with your electronic drums. Especially, if you have other instruments that you will be using to write, compose, and record with.

An audio interface is the best way to connect multiple instruments, drums, and midi instruments to your computer.

Why Use An Audio Interface?

The audio interface provides one central location to connect your instruments and microphones and will provide high quality Analog to Digital Converters (ADC) and Digital to Analog Converters (DAC).

The instruments we play and our vocals coming through a microphone all produce analog signals. Sometimes we also call this audio signal.

Our computers work with digital signal. So, the problem is, we need to turn an analog signal into a digital signal that our computer can work with.

This is where the AD Converter comes into play. The Analog to Digital converter converts analog signal from our instruments and microphones into a digital signal that your computer can work with.

Now that the signal is digital and being recorded, edited, and mixed inside our DAW software we need to be able to hear what our projects sound like.

In order for humans to listen to the audio happening inside our DAW software we need an analog signal.

Humans hear and understand analog signals. So, we need the digital signal coming from our computer converted back into an analog signal.

This is where the DA Converter comes into play. The Digital to Analog converter turns digital signal coming from our computer back into an analog signal that gets played back through our studio monitors and headphones.

The quality of the ADC and DAC converters makes a huge difference in the quality of your recording projects.

So having a good quality audio interface with good quality ADC and DAC converters will be an important factor for musicians who are serious about creating quality sounding music.

This is just one very big reason it’s a good idea to use a quality audio interface for all of your recording projects.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of using an audio interface.

How To Connect Your Electronic Drums And Other Instruments To Your Audio Interface

1. One USB Connection For All Of Your Instruments.

If you are a drummer and are wondering how to connect your drums and other instruments to your computer, an audio interface will be the simplest and most efficient way.

You can plug your electronic drums, guitar, bass, midi keyboard, and vocal mics into one audio interface.

The audio interface can connect to your computer with just one USB connection.

This is a very simple, clean, and easy to manage solution. Plus, this will free up some of your USB connections to use with other devices.

2. Phantom Power For Your Condenser Microphones.

If you are using condenser microphones you will need phantom power to power your condenser microphones.

Almost all audio interfaces will come with built in phantom power.

Plug your condenser microphones into your audio interface and then turn on the phantom power.

Now your condenser microphones are getting the proper amount of power they need to function properly.

3. Easy To Record Your Instruments With Direct Inputs.

We talked earlier in this article about how to record your electronic drums audio.

This is super easy with an audio interface. Simply plug the direct audio outputs from your electronic drums control module into the direct inputs on your audio interface.

Now that the electronic drums audio is plugged into your audio interface, set the levels, and your always ready to record when inspiration hits you.

Plug in your guitars, microphones, keyboards, or any instrument you like.

4. Easy To Set And Monitor Your Gain Settings For Recording.

One of the most important settings when you are recording is you gain settings.

You don’t want your signal too loud or too quiet.

Your audio interface will make it easy to get your gain settings just right because most audio interfaces will have a led display showing you if your input signal is clipping (too loud) or is too quiet.

Your gain settings can also be adjusted inside your DAW software.

5. A Great Way To Connect Midi Devices.

If your audio interface has midi in and out, you can easily connect any midi device.

Most electronic drums have midi connection so you should connect them to your audio interface if you have one.

If you are shopping for an audio interface, be sure and get one with midi connections.

The midi data will get transfered to your computer through your audio interface.

Now you can record your midi data and the audio signal coming from your electronic drums.

6. Better Sound Quality.

We talked about the ADC and DAC converters.

A great reason to use an audio interface is because you will have better quality ADC and DAC converters with an audio interface than the stock ADC and DAC converters in your stock computer.

Most all computers have built in ADC and DAC converters. However, the converters in your stock computer are not designed with high quality recording and playback in mind.

The converters in your stock computer will work but they will not sound as good as the converters in an audio interface that is designed specifically for recording.

7. Easy To Connect Studio Monitors And Headphones.

You may be wondering where and how to hook up a pair of powered studio monitors or headphones.

The best way to connect your powered studio monitors is connect them to your audio interface.

All audio interfaces will have two or more balanced main audio outputs.

Simply come out of your audio interface audio outputs and plug directly into your powered studio monitors audio inputs.

Your audio interface will have balanced 1/4″ TRS outputs as will your powered studio monitors so be sure and use a balanced 1/4″ TRS cable and not a 1/4″ unbalanced guitar cable. This is important.

Your audio interface may have balanced 1/4″ TRS, or XLR outputs. Your powered Studio Monitors will have balanced 1/4″ TRS or XLR Inputs.

Some models will have RCA connections. I recommend balanced 1/4″ TRS or XLR connections for best sound.

Plug your headphones into the headphone jack on your audio interface.

8. Connect More Than One Set Of Studio Monitors.

A lot of producers and mix engineers who are serious about their mixes like to monitor the mix on more than one pair of studio monitors.

If you have an audio interface with more than one set of main audio outputs you can connect two or more sets of studio monitors.

You can then switch between different monitors to listen how your mix sounds on different speakers.

9. Separate Volume Control For Your Studio Monitors and Headphones

You may need to listen to your studio monitors at a certain level of sound.

It’s easy to adjust the volume of your studio monitors from the volume control on your audio interface.

Same way with your headphones. If you need to adjust the volume on your headphones you can do it from your audio interface.

Super simple and easy to control different volume levels.

10. One Convenient Location To Connect All Your Instruments and Microphones.

If you have a set of electronic drums, you can connect them to your audio interface.

You may have other instruments that you like to play and record like the guitar, bass, vocal microphones, or a midi keyboard.

You can connect all of your instruments to the same audio interface depending on how many inputs are available.

Now that you have everything hooked up, you are always ready to record direct to your DAW software and play your instruments through your studio monitors or headphones.

This is also a great way to do late night jamming and recording because you can slip on a pair of headphones and not bother anyone who is trying to sleep.

How Do Electronic Drums Connect To Speakers

There are a couple of ways to connect your electronic drums to a pair of studio monitors, headphones, or an amplifier.

Audio Interface

The best way to connect your electronic drums to a pair of powered studio monitors is with an audio interface like we discussed above.

Simply come out of your electronic drum modules main audio outputs and connect directly into your audio interfaces audio inputs.

Your powered studio monitors are also connected to your audio interface so, you can listen to your electronic drums through your studio monitors or your headphones.

Remember, your audio interface is also connected to your computer and DAW. You are ready to record with the push of a button.

Connect To An Amplifier

Another way you can connect your electronic drums to a speaker is by connecting your electronic drum module to a drum amplifier.

You could also use a keyboard amp, or any kind of full range amplifier for best sound results.

Drum amplifiers and some keyboard amplifiers have dual inputs so you can connect your left and right audio outputs from your electronic drum module.

For a single connection simply come out of the left side main audio output (mono) of your electronic drum module and connect directly into your keyboard amp or full range amplifier.

If you have two amplifiers connect them both (Left output goes to one amp and Right output goes to one amp), for a stereo monitoring setup.

Do Electronic Drums Sound Real?

Yes, todays modern electronic drums sound real.

Once upon a time, many drumsticks ago, electronic drums didn’t sound so great. They were ok but that was it.

The reason electronic drums just sounded ok was because they were programed to use general midi sounds and sounded kinda fake or toyish.

Today electronic drums still use midi, but the better electronic drum sets, and virtual instruments use real live professionally recorded acoustic drum sets.

Acoustic Drum Set Being Recorded In A Studio

So, real drummers playing real drums are recorded in professional studios and the drum sounds are captured and turned into samples.

What’s cool about this is the drum sound was captured and also the sound of the room the drum was played in was captured. This makes the drum samples sound real and live.

It’s all in the ambience and natural reverb that occurred while the drums were being played and recorded.

When you play a nice set of electronic drums what you are hearing are the samples that were created by professional sound engineers, pro drum sets, and the room ambience or natural reverb.

This makes all the difference in the world.

So yes, electronic drums sound real, and they sound really good!

It’s the same with today’s virtual drum instruments. Professionally recorded acoustic drums in pro studios with great natural reverb and ambience.

What Are Virtual Instruments?

Virtual instruments are software-based instruments that you can play and record inside your DAW software.

Need some great sounding acoustic drums? Get yourself some virtual drum instruments like Superior Drummer, Steven Slate Drums, EZ Drummer and the list goes on.

Today virtual drum instruments sound very realistic and are very affordable.

You can play virtual drum software with the midi data generated by your electronic drum set as a midi controller, midi drum pads, keyboards, or a set of midi control pads that you play with your fingers.

If you need a nice sounding set of acoustic drums but can’t set up real drums to record in your home recording studio because they are too loud and microphones are too costly, then virtual drum instruments and an electronic drum set may be a good fit for you.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Electronic drum modules can connect to your DAW or virtual instrument via USB or MIDI. USB is the most common because it will often power the module and carry MIDI messages to and from your computer. That’s handy but does take a USB port, so if you’re running out, you might consider getting a powered USB hub. While passive hubs can work, we’ve had the best luck with powered hubs.”https://www.sweetwater.com/sweetcare/articles/connecting-electronic-drums-to-your-computer/#
“An electronic drum set may feel different than a MIDI keyboard, but the signals are still the same. Note gate, velocity, and note number. Some might have aftertouch, or even MPE (I highly doubt it though). Even the fanciest of electronic drums is pretty far off from the real deal as far as feeling (drum set is my first instrument). I would personally recommend using a pad controller & fingers but that’s just me.”https://www.reddit.com/r/reasoners/comments/8wjufb/electronic_drum_kit_as_midi_controller/
“To send the MIDI messages from the drum kit to the computer you will need a MIDI interface. Also, since for playing drums live you want very low latency (sub 10ms), you will need a reasonably good audio interface (most soundcards intended for recording will come with ASIO drivers that allow working at low latencies).”https://sound.stackexchange.com/questions/24064/using-an-electronic-drum-kit-as-a-midi-controller
“Assuming the electronic drum kit presents itself as a MIDI controller (which I believe most if not all of them do), then yes you can.
You just need to make sure the USB drum kit’s MIDI IN device is checked within Preferences / Midi / Devices. As long as the track containing Addictive Drums 2 has MIDI echo enabled, and MIDI set to receive from the drum kit it should work.”
https://discuss.cakewalk.com/index.php?/topic/9067-using-electronic-drum-kit/
“One of the biggest benefits of electronic drums over acoustic kits is their ability to be quickly and easily recorded with minimal hassle.”https://www.electronicdrumadvisor.com/record-electronic-drums/
“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.”https://zerotodrum.com/how-do-i-connect-machine-to-computer/
“I was testing the drum controller on the my notebook, where I installed a few helpful programs. They are FL Studio, Addictive Drums (as VST plugin).”https://www.instructables.com/Electronic-Drum-MIDI-Controller/

In Conclusion

Yes, you can use electronic drums as midi controller. In fact, electronic drums will be the most fun and realistic midi controller you can get your hands on if you are a drummer.

Midi drum pads and touch pads are going to be your next best choice for playing rhythms with your hands and fingers.

Virtual instrument software samples sound very realistic today as they are actual instruments professionally recorded in studio halls that capture the true sound of the instruments, the natural instrument decay, and the ambience and reverb are all captured as part of the sound of the drums or instruments.

Virtual instruments, electronic drums, and midi are game changers for home recording studio setups.

With Virtual Instruments you can now compose and record full orchestras, rock bands, cinematic, or any style music you like from your home recording studio.

If you are interested in playing, writing, recording, and producing your own music you are in the right place.

Take a minute to look around my website. You will find many great articles that will inspire you and help you get started with your own home recording studio setup.

Relevant Article: Here is an article that you may find helpful and interesting: Are Studio Monitors Necessary?

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Can You Use Electronic Drums As Midi Controller?”

  1. Hmm, what an interesting idea to use electronic drums as a midi controller for composing and recording. You bring up a good point about being able to get good sound isolation between each drum. To get a good sound with traditional recording, there is a lot of microphone setup involved to isolate each individual drum. This takes a lot of time — and a lot of microphones! 

    We don’t currently have a midi drumset, but this brings up a lot of solid reasons to consider getting one! Thanks for the thorough article!

    Reply
    • I think one of the more difficult instruments to mic up and get good sounds for recording is a drum set.  If you have the space, acoustic treatment, and engineering skills then sure..  you can record acoustic drums.

      One thing that is really nice about a good set of electronic drums is that you do not need the microphones, they sound great, are very quiet, and also provide midi data for editing in your DAW software. 

      If you are an inexperienced sound engineer you don’t need to know much to get a great sound from a good set of electronic drums. 

      Reply
  2. Wow! All the information on electric drums and midi controllers . You have created an excellent location as a complete guide to this topic. I am surprised in how much information is here for those willing to read. Complete discussion, complete directions when needed and the contents clearly given means that information is easily found. I can find what I an looking for without searching to find my answers. You have answered many questions and given detailed steps to solve issues. I am looking forward to your future reviews!

    Reply
  3. Hello there. I was just having a surf of the internet when i stumbled upon your website. I was just having a little read to your article here and found it to be a great rivetting read indeed. I am usually a guitar playing but i always enjoy reading up on all sorts of musical instruments and percussion equipment and the latest gear. So thanks for sharing

    Karalyne

    Reply

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