NOOB HOME RECORDING (002) - Lining Up Drum Beats

For the benefit of total beginners, I would like to point you to the Glossary link at the top. This will come in handy as I throw out a bunch of acronyms and foreign sounding terms. -Mario

After finding a suitable version of The Metro for a scratch track, it's time to get busy with drums or drum programming. In my case, it's the latter since I don't know any drummer, I don't own real drums and even if I did, I won't do a good job at it. Enter, the drum Virtual Studio Technology instrument or VSTi for short.

For this project I'll be using Toontrack's EZDrummer. There are other drum VST's out there ranging from free to expensive and simple to complex. EZDrummer is, in my opinion, very easy to use, has adequate features and a continually expanding drum kit library to whet your creative appetite and best of all, it's reasonably priced. Now on to the project...

Getting Up to Tempo
I fired up EZDrummer within my DAW and selected the POP/ROCK kit. I then picked a basic bass and snare drum pattern and dragged it into a blank MIDI track.

Then I played the MP3 track in Media Player. With the song playing in the background, I hit PLAY to play the drum track in my DAW, timing it with the downbeat. The DAW's default tempo was slower than the song so I simply adjusted the tempo slider until both MP3 song and MIDI track were playing in lockstep. The final tempo was 169 BPM.

I know that some DAW's have some kind of beat detection plugin that makes the process even simpler, and for all I know, I may also have it on the DAW I'm using but I haven't gotten to that point in my familiarization phase so I'm doing it the best way I know how.

Lining Up the Tracks
I imported the MP3 track into my DAW, then played it back entirely to make sure there are no skips or other problems caused by the sampling process. I use an old Dell D810 with a Pentium 4  processor and 2GB memory. I turned off the wireless antenna and anti-virus to ensure a glitch free conversion but it still took me a couple of runs before I got a usable track. Note to self... start saving for a newer laptop with a multi-core CPU and at least 4GB memory that will be dedicated for recording only.

 Now with the initial ingredients in place, I simply dragged the MP3 track to line it up with the bass and snare hits on the MIDI track. The MIDI track is only one bar so I just copied it over and over until it spanned the entire length of the song.

Here's a sample of the MP3 track and MIDI drums lined up:

NEXT: NHR 003 - VST Drum Programming