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Building Your Own Drum Triggers

December 15, 2012

For the home studio enthusiast, recording great sounding drum tracks can be a difficult task. We’re restricted mainly by these three things:

– Our room may not be great to record drums in

– We may not have the money to buy a bunch of microphones to record a whole kit

– Perhaps our kit just doesn’t sound good (having said that, maintaining your instrument and putting a new set of heads on the kit will improve the sound vastly)

One way to improve your drum sounds is by using pre-recorded samples from a sampler such as EzDrummer, Studio Drummer or Steven Slate Drums, and by building your own drum triggers.

Drum triggers are basically contact microphones which are placed on certain drums. The recorded signal of these lo-fi microphones is good enough to capture the initial transient of say, a snare a hit, but due to their lo-fi nature, they’re able to reject bleed from other drums from entering the microphone.

Building The Triggers

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Building drum triggers is cheap and relatively easy. First off, you’ll need contact microphones or piezo microphones (I bought a set of 5 microphones on eBay for 99p) and a connector of some kind, typically XLR or 1/4″ jack.

Step one:

When looking at the piezo microphone, you’ll see two wires attached. These wires are the tip and ground wires, the tip being the wire which is near the centre and the ground wire being the wire near the edge.

Step two:

Solder these wires to their respective connections on the connector you’ve chosen (for an explanation on which connector is which, look at my previous blog post “A Crash Course in Fixing Your Cables”).

Step three:

So now you’ve made a drum trigger for under £5. You need it to trigger something in software. For this example, I’m using Studio One 2.5, but you can do this in more-or-less any DAW.

First off, create a new audio track and an instrument track:

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Next, put a gate on the audio track (piezo mic track), and set your gate settings. Use mine as a guideline if you want. Notice I’ve made the trigger at the top right of the gate plugin active and set its note to D1 (a snare note).

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Once you’ve set your gate settings, go to the instrument track and set its input to be the gate plugin.

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Record enable and monitor both of the tracks and you’re now set to use your newly built drum trigger on a real drum kit!

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In Summary

So as you can see, building your own drum triggers is cheap, quick and easy. You can get professional sounding drum tracks for an insanely cheap price. What’s more is, you won’t have to manually input every MIDI note and have unrealistic sounding drums. Even if you have a great sounding kit, you can use a little bit of sample with your recorded drums to add more snap and bring your drums forward in a mix without increasing the volume of individual drums; something that almost every professionally recorded song has these days.

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