How To Record Electronic Drum Audio (2 Simple Methods)

Have you got an electronic drum kit that’s great for practice, but now you really want to record those sweet grooves for the world to hear?


You’ve come to the right place.

In this guide you will learn:

  • What Are The Benefits Of Recording Electronic Drums?
  • What Do I Need To Record Electronic Drums?
  • What Are The Different Ways Of Recording Electronic Drums?
  • Which Method Of Recording Is Right For Me?
how to record electric drums simple guide

In this essential guide, I will take you through all the different ways that you can easily get great sounding drum recordings from your electronic kit. 

With step by step instructions and some quick tips that’ll make tracking your favorite beats a breeze. 

What Are The Benefits Of Recording Electronic Drums?

Having had my own studio for the best part of 10 years, I have heaps of experience recording both acoustic kits and electronic drum sets.

As much as acoustic drums are the ‘real thing’, recording electronic drums is so much easier, time-effective and often can yield incredible results. 

Recording acoustic drums require setting up multiple microphones for all the different drums and cymbals (I’ve been on sessions with over 25 mics on one kit!) and the levels have to be checked, phase issues sorted etc takes time and a lot of know-how record drums well.

Read Also: What are the top drumsticks for electric drums?

With electronic drums, however, all you need is an electronic drum kit and (depending on your method, more on that below), a computer and USB cable or audio interface!

Did you know: The oldest drums on record were from neolithic China and they were made from alligator skins.

What Do I Need To Record Electronic Drums?

Before I get onto the specific components associated with the various different ways of recording electronic drums, there are two things that you will need no matter how you want to record:

  1. A computer
  2. A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

Using a Computer

A computer is an essential tool for modern recording as it houses the software that allows audio and virtual instruments to be recorded.

One thing to note, to record electronic drums you really don’t need an incredible power-house of a PC. Most basic laptops and desktop computers will be able to run the necessary software with no problems.

Using a DAW

DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations) are pieces of software that allow you to record, mix, edit and export audio. They also often have built-in ‘virtual instruments’ (or VST’s) that allow you to create music ‘in the box’. 

digital audio workstation for electronic drums

There are some great free options such as Garage Band (comes free with Mac computers) or Audacity. 

There are more advanced and feature-packed options such as Pro ToolsLogic and Ableton Live, which you will have to pay for. 

What Are The Different Ways Of Recording Electronic Drums? (Step By Step Guide)

There are 2 main options for recording electronic drums:

  1. Recording Audio
  2. Recording MIDI

Recording audio basically means taking an audio output from your electronic drum set and recording the sounds that are built-in to your e-drum module.

Whereas recording using a MIDI interface allows you to use virtual instruments within your DAW that are triggered by the pads of the electronic drum kit (more on that later). 

How To Record Audio For Electric Drums? (2 Methods)

There are 2 ways to record audio from your electronic drum kit, depending on the type of kit you have:

  1. Using a USB cable
  2. Using an audio interface

Read Also: What are my recommended picks for electric drum amps?

Method 1 - Recording Audio For Electric Drums Using a USB cable

This is the simplest method to record audio.

Many modern electronic drum modules (also called ‘brains’, the bit that houses your drum kits sounds) come with a USB port.

This means that with just a USB cable you can connect your electronic drum kit straight into your DAW, as the drum kit brain itself acts as an audio interface. 

What you will need:

  1. Computer
  2. DAW
  3. USB cable (USB A - B)
  4. Electronic drum kit with USB port

Step by step:

  1. Turn on your computer
  2. Connect your electronic drum kit to your computer via USB cable
  3. Install any necessary drivers for your computer to recognize your drum kit
  4. Open your DAW recording software
  5. Follow your DAW instructions for recording audio. Most DAW’s have the same process for recording:
  • Create an audio track (usually under Track > New Track...or similar)
  • Where it says ‘input’ for that track, select the name of your electronic drum kit
  • ‘Arm’ the track (usually the red button)
  • Play your drums and check there is signal coming through your track
  • Press record
  • Rock out!
recording electronic drums MIDI

Method 2 - Recording Using An Audio Interface

If your electronic drum kit doesn’t have a USB output then you will need an audio interface to connect it to your computer, via an audio cable(s).

An audio interface is simply what you need to get sound (audio signal) into your computer. 

You plug your musical instruments or microphones into it, then it connects to your computer (via USB), allowing those sounds to be recorded and manipulated by your DAW.

Audio interfaces can generally range in price, but a great example that would be ideal for this purpose is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. However, any USB interface with two channels will work. 

What you will need:

  1. Computer
  2. Audio interface
  3. Audio cable(s) - see below
  4. DAW
  5. Electronic drum kit


Before moving on to the step by step guide. The output you have in the back of your drum module (brain) will determine what audio cables you will need.

If your module has a STEREO OUT (also called STEREO, or STEREO MAIN). Then you will need a TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve) cable (stereo audio cable), which has two black bands around the jack ends. 

If your drum module has two main outputs labelled L and R. Then you will need TWO TS cables, one to go into the left (L) output and one for the right (R). These are the same as guitar cables and have only one black ring around the jack ends. 

Step by step:

  1. Turn on your computer
  2. Connect your audio interface to your computer using a USB cable.
  3. Use your audio cable (or cables) to connect the main output of the drum module into the inputs of the audio interface. If you’re using a TRS cable (stereo) it will be one input, if you’re using two TS cables then it will be two inputs. 
  4. Play your drum kit and adjust the amount of signal that is being sent to the audio interface from the drum module. Do this by adjusting the ‘gain’ nob on your audio interface. You want a decent amount of level without the interface overloading and distorting. 
  5. Launch you DAW recording software
  6. Follow your DAW’s instructions for recording audio. The process is generally very similar no matter what DAW you use:
  • Create a new audio track. If you are using two audio cables you will need two tracks, one for each input. A single Stereo TRS cable on needs one track.
  • On each track, select the correct input that corresponds with your audio interface. (For example: If you have plugged cables into inputs 1 and 2 in the audio interface, the audio tracks inputs will need to be set to 1 and 2 respectively. A stereo track would be 1/2 instead). 
  • Arm the tracks (usually a red button or ‘A’)
  • Play your drums and check there is signal coming through your track(s)
  • Press record
  • Rock out!

Read Also: What are my recommended headphones for electronic drums?

Common Problems Recording Audio (And How To Fix Them!)

My audio interface isn’t being recognized by my computer

  • Firstly make sure the USB cable is plugged in! (we’ve all been there!)
  • Make sure the correct drivers are installed
  • In your DAW preferences, make sure that you have selected your audio interface as the audio device you wish to use. 
  • Check the audio interface power supply (if it has one)
  • Check all your USB cables and USB ports on your computer are working (try other ports)
  • If in doubt try restarting your audio interface or computer.

My recordings sound too quiet or very distorted

  • Usually an issue with the amount of gain you have on each track on the audio interface. Turn the gain (or level) nob so you have a good level coming into the audio interface from the drum module: it’s too high it will sound distorted, too low and it’ll be very quiet.
  • Make sure the master volume is up on your electronic kit drum module.

There is latency (or lag) when I hit my drums

  • Try reducing the I/O buffer size in your DAW preferences (refer to your DAW manual). Be aware this will use more CPU power.
  • If this doesn’t work, try plugging your headphones into your drum module rather than your computer to monitor what you’re playing while recording. 

How To Record Electronic Drums Using MIDI

Recording your electronic drum kit using MIDI is very different from recording the audio from your drum module. 

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a language that computers use to translate the information the pads from your drums create when you hit them.

Recording via MIDI connection, essentially means that you can bypass the internal sounds in the drum kits sound module and use it to trigger other virtual instruments (VST’s) in your DAW instead.

The fantastic thing about this method of recording is that drum VST’s often sound hundreds of times better than the built-in sounds in your electronic kit. Making your $300 no-name entry-level kit sound like a top of the range Roland V-Drums, Yamaha or Alesis drum kit!

It also gives you a load of flexibility to change the sound of the drums after you’ve recorded your drum track, meaning you can utilize whatever crazy synth drum plugins you have at hand!

What you will need

Before I get into the step by step guide, there are some things you will need before you get started recording via MIDI:

  • If your electronic drum kit module has a USB port then all you will need is a USB cable. The MIDI data gets transferred via USB. 
  • If your drum module DOESN’T have a USB port but does have a MIDI OUT port (MIDI output), then all you will need is a MIDI to USB converter. 
  • If you have an audio interface which has a MIDI port, then it can act as your MIDI to USB converter instead. You will need a MIDI cable to connect the drum module to the MIDI input of the audio interface.
  • If your electronic drum kit has neither a USB port or MIDI port then it won’t support MIDI connectivity.

Step by step:

  1. Turn on your computer
  2. Connect your drum kit to your computer via MIDI. (Either via USB cable, MIDI to USB converter or by MIDI cable to a MIDI-compatible audio interface...depending on the type of module you have)
  3. Launch DAW or stand-alone drum VST (such as Toontrack EZDrummer or Superior DrummerSteven Slate Drums or Addictive Drums). If using a DAW, create a new ‘Instrument MIDI track’ and select your preferred kit or plugin.
  4. Follow your DAW or software instructions for mapping the drum pads to the MIDI channels/instruments correctly. (often it will map the drums for you automatically)
  5. Hit record
  6. Rock out!

The MIDI recordings will look very different from an audio recording. You will see small dots/bars appear on a grid, which are the MIDI notes that are being triggered when you hit the different elements of your drum kit.

Once you’ve finished recording, these dots/bars can be moved around to change the performance or drum MIDI drums much more flexibility than a traditional audio recording. 

Your MIDI performances can also be ‘quantized’ (aligned to a grid that’s linked to the metronome) to make them sound perfectly in time. 

Although be careful not to quantize too much as you’ll risk making your drum tracks sound robotic and stale!

My Final Thoughts On Recording Electronic Drums!

Personally out of all the methods I’ve covered today, I’ve always got the best results recording using MIDI, with the drum samples from a VST. 

It’s also a lot easier than you think when you try it! I currently have my ancient Roland td-8 drum kit hooked up to Native Instruments Studio Drummer and it sounds immense!

Recording audio directly from your drum module is absolutely fine for writing demos, or for a quick drum track for a song. However, you have so much more flexibility and improved sound quality through an external VST!

So there you have it!

A complete step by step guide to recording drums, straight from your electronic drum kit. 

Questions, comments? Let me know in the comments below!

Russell Keeble

Russell Keeble

Russell is the Lead Drums insider here at YourMusicInsider. He has been a professional drummer, producer and audio engineer for over 10 years. He has worked extensively in the music industry in London UK, and from his own dedicated recording studio has tracked drums for a huge range of artists worldwide.

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Russell Keeble

Russell Keeble

Russell is the Lead Drums insider here at YourMusicInsider. He has been a professional drummer, producer and audio engineer for over 10 years. He has worked extensively in the music industry in London UK, and from his own dedicated recording studio has tracked drums for a huge range of artists worldwide.


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