A drummer using using a keyboard dumpad for drum programming

I admit, I’m not a brilliant drummer, but I’m not a bad drummer either. I can keep time, I know how to enhance a song with a fill or crash in the right place. In fact I regularly play live in a friends band. But I’m no good with amazingly fast fills or My studio is small with quite low ceiling (2,3 meters or about 7.5 ft.), probably too small to record live drums despite my bass traps all around. Also, I have only a couple of mics, not particularly suited for drums, and only three mic inputs to record on separate tracks. I also own an old Yamaha e drum set. I say I own it, but I lent it out to my daughter and when - years later - she brought it back it was without the kick and without the e module…
So I sort of gave up. I have a midi controller keyboard with drum pads however, so that should do the job, shouldn’t it? Well I don’t know, and I am interested to hear if there are any drumming musicians out there with a similar problem and how they solve it.
Right now I tend to use a basic midi drum track from superior drummer and programme from there using a mouse and a lot of time… I find “playing drums” on drum pads so far removed from a real drumset, I can’t get it to sound realistic. What’s your experience?

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I just bought a drum kit and started taking lessons. I gave up on the idea of live drums before I ever tried it, for some of the reasons you mentioned. (Room acoustics, complicated mic setup, limited playing ability, etc) However, one of the reasons I wanted to learn how to play the drums is so that I could write more organic drum parts. I have not done this yet, but my plan is to write drum parts on my drum kit, and possibly even record them for reference. Then go back in and program the drum part to more or less match what I played on the kit. That way I’ll get great quality sounds while still being able to write on my drum kit, where I can better feel the groove.

I have dabbled in playing drums on pads, but I never got into it. If you’re interested, I’ve been following this guy for a while and his finger drumming method looks cool. He puts out good content in general.

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I’ve been very happy with the add on packs and third party MIDI patterns out there. It does take time to wade through them and audition things to find what you need, but it’s not too terrible. I use Addictive 2 and it has a pretty nifty feature by which you can find patterns that are similar to others. Once you find one you like, you can quickly sort your available library by the same (or different) hits. These days I find I take no more than an hour or so to explore my huge library and find a great selection of patterns to use on any given tune (some take longer of course).

I especially like the third party stuff from Groove Monkee and Platinum Loops, which include tons of fills, intros, outros, etc as part of each pattern set. Not that tough to set up a natural sounding MIDI drum track with lots of variations without having to painstakingly apply hits and velocities by hand, which to me is like torture! Good luck Ev!

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Sounds similar to my work flow, but that’s not my point. I know how to use this software, but I’m enough of a drummer to prefer to do it myself.

Thanks Christina, this may be the answer I’m searching for. I’ll check it out!

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Ah, my apologies, I see that now when I re-read your post. Wasn’t paying enough attention. Sorry about that!

No need to apologise Dave! Actually, there is one thing I like about sifting through a drum library: I come across drum patterns I wouldn’t have thought of myself, and even if I don’t use them, it does give me new ideas.

@ Christina: I 've been checking out this finger drumming guy. It looks like a good idea. By using a 16 pad drum controller he mirrors the left and right side of the pad so you can alternate fast beats with 2 fingers on two pads going to one instrument. I can imagine that works more fluidly on a fast high hat for instance. My only worry would be that you’re using your left and right hands in quite a different way than on a real drum set. I wonder if I could learn this, and what influence it might have on my normal drumming… And I would need a different drum controller, I now use a Nektar LX 25 keyboard with only 8 pads. That would mean yet another controller… I have 3 others I hardly ever use, maybe I can sell them.

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Well the XPress guy is impressive for sure, but why not just do that on a regular keyboard? Is there an advantage to pads?

Like a piano keyboard? I guess the keys do have pressure sensitivity, which is important, but it doesn’t feel as natural to try and drum on the keys. You can press a key with different amounts of force, but you can’t strike it in the same way you can strike a pad, like you would when drumming.

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I guess it doesn’t matter how you do the input as long as it gets done. I prefer keyboard myself, there are so many different configurations now it’s crazy, have you seen this one?


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I played drums as my first instrument, many years ago, and still have an e-kit I play occasionally. Probably a competent but not exceptional drummer, at least these days. For digital: I have used pads and keyboard, and I prefer the keyboard for tactile input. Either method takes some time and practice to get acclimated, so I’m more inclined to just use the mouse these days. If the tactile approach appeals to you, it can be used for creative process and input and “feel”, then go in with the mouse or quantizing and fix the timing where you want it. It may not save any time, but may give you the feeling of at least playing physically to some degree, even if not totally satisfying.

With pads and keyboard, it probably sucks unless you get into the “theatre of the mind” that you are actually playing drums. Call it “imagination” I suppose. It can’t be too real or it will be absurd. Just focus on the sound of what you are playing and not the vehicle. Like flying a drone with missile payload into a warzone or watching a movie; totally absorbed in the virtual reality of it. See yourself onstage at a drum kit with thousands of screaming fans waiting on the next note in your drum solo. The closer you get to feeling insane while doing this, the better. It means you’re actually getting somwhere. :sunglasses:

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Yes, that thing is so cool!! I would like to have one, but they’re pretty damn expensive. Maybe someday. :slight_smile:

I use Addictive Drums 2 to replace the sounds of recorded drums. If you used the mics you have to record your drums, even if they don’t sound great, you can convert the audio track to midi and replace the individual drum sounds with the sounds from Addictive Drums 2. It’s still your playing, just makes it sound better. I do it in Sonar Professional, but I’m sure most decent DAWs support that.

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Yeah trying with your fingers is not quite the same. However, you’re really playing so you sort of get the reward after you’ve finished.

The good thing about ezd is you shouldn’t have to program. Just drag and drop the drum parts you want…fills and all. I’d much rather play with my fingers though.

The key with any finger drums or even a real v drums kit…is to have the sensitivity set correctly or you will fail every time. It’s crucial. I had a recording student of mine create drums for his songs and he was quite good at it.

But it took forever and some of the beats, fills and little intricate parts just sounded funny. No matter what he did, or which module he used, something just wasn’t right.

Drums being my first instrument, I thank God every day that I can play and don’t go through the pains you guys that don’t play or have a kit go through. But anyway…I played the stuff for real on my v drums kit and sent the midi file for him to dissect.

It was amazing how low some of the velocities were to make the stuff sound real. I would have NEVER thought to program anything that low. The little ghost notes and stuff…it just brought things to a new light. You’d have to be a drummer and then look at a file played by a drummer to totally get it.

But yeah, that midi controller should work for you. Just make sure it’s touch sensitive and don’t set the velocities to give you 127 hits at all times and you should be golden. Or, just invest in the drum midi packs where they have all the beats, fills and other stuff available via drag and drop. It takes seconds. :slight_smile: Good luck!

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Thanks guys (that is including Christina of course :sunglasses:), I now at least know that you all come across the same choices, and none of them are perfect, all take time. Yeah I found out the effect of low velocity ghost notes as well. With keyboard or pads you either get a high sensitivity but also relatively high velocity even on the soft hits or you have to hit the damn pads (for a normal hit) so hard your fingers start to ache. I suppose a good e set is the best of both worlds, but that means serious cash. Or record drums and use replacement samples. I haven’t tried that, but I’m sure it has it’s own draw-backs.
One thing I’d like to try is to record the way I drum in my friends band. I actually play a Cajon with kick pedal, high hat, crash and ride. I’ve learnt to appreciate this small set up. You can do almost anything you can do with a drum kit (and use your fingers for some finger fills as well) whilst keeping the levels low. I might try recording that and add in some samples on top.
I don’t expect finger drumming to be the answer anyway. Thanks for your replies!

Hi deuce,

I haven’t tried this, mainly because I can only record 3 mics simultaneously. I would guess you need to have a good amount of separation to prevent bleed from other parts of your kit to trigger samples you don’t want, while triggering soft ghost notes you do want? How do you do that?

With 3 mics, it’s a bit more difficult, but you can still pull it off if you want to put the time in. I would use your most appropriate mic as an overhead, then use one for kick and one for snare, isolating the kick and snare as best as possible.

Isolation is great because most programs can pick out the hits based on amplitude of the waves and replace them automatically with midi. In Sonar, I am actually able to adjust the sensitivity, select hits to convert manually, or insert new midi notes manually if it doesn’t pick them up due to lack of isolation or just to add things that weren’t there, like a missed crash cymbal hit. If you have the kick and snare mic’ed they should pick up to convert to midi fairly well. The overhead sound is hopefully usable with some tweaking after the kick and snare have been “upgraded”, but if not, you can spend the time manually replacing hits with midi notes and changing what drum sound those midi notes trigger for your overhead track. It’s a pain in the ass, but doable if you put in the time.

I have replaced snare and kick while still utilizing the original toms and overheads, and had good results for rock music.

Get an MPC or a small set of V Drums :slight_smile:

Aerodrums saves you from having to use hardware. Not expensive either…

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Oh yeah, how could I forget about Aerodrums! My bro-in-law has them…very cheap and very good. Here is a little clip I once posted on RR of us jamming with them (I think we were triggering SD2 with them):


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At first glance its a great idea, but then you remember as a drummer you want to hit things that make a noise. Note: there’s the hitting part and the noise part. The aerodrums are fine in the noise department but the problem is the air bit: you don’t hit anything but air, and unless you stop the hit with your wrist, your sticks continue their journey through the air until they do connect with something, usually something which is not made to be hit. So your sticks don’t bounce back for the next hit and you end up with a sore wrist.
Nah, nice gimmick but not for me…