Integrating Drum Apps into Cubasis

Drum apps are a little cantankerous for me. They often don’t behave the way I expect them to work without reading the manual and even then, some things that “just work” with synth apps just don’t with drum apps. Here are some things I have gotten to work.

1. Standalone/AudioCopy – in this mode, you work up the drum track in the drum app and simply export the audio file and import it as an audio event into Cubasis.

Pros:

  • Concentrate on just the drums, more brain cells and CPU cycles available
  • Saves CPU once you get to the DAW

Cons:

  • Can’t hear other tracks while working on the drums
  • Drum app needs to have a “song mode” to arrange patterns
  • Insert effects limited to those supplied in the drum app and these are often skimpy
  • Mixing individual drum parts is limited to what is supplied in the drum app

2. AudioBus – this is similar to the first option but also works when the drum app has no audio export feature. For example, the Vigorón track used the following AudioBus setup: DM2 in the input slot, Multitrack DAW in the output slot. (This was before I had Cubasis.)

Pros:

  • See #1
  • Might can hear other tracks while working on drums but lack of MIDI sync can be an annoyance
  • Don’t have to have song/arrange mode – drum app can be played “live” into the DAW

Cons:

  • Same insert effects and mixing cons as #1

3. IAA “instrument” – This mode might be considered AudioBus+. If you aren’t familiar with the difference between IAA “instruments” and “generators” here is a good summary – in a nutshell, you expect IAA instruments to receive MIDI in from the host app and send audio out to the host app. Every synth I’ve tried so far in this mode pretty much “just works” at least in terms of the MIDI and audio routing. So far, this appears to not be the case for drum apps, as I can’t get them to respond to MIDI in. Neither DM2  nor ElasticDrums work for me like that, although they do respond to MIDI tempo and play/pause from the DAW. Strange.

Pros:

  • Same as #2
  • Better audio integration with DAW
  • MIDI tempo, start, stop works from the DAW

Cons:

  • MIDI notes from DAW not working

4. IAA “generator” – if an app doesn’t support IAA “instrument” mode, there is a good chance it can be configured as a “generator” audio input, especially if it supports AudioBus as the AB API did something clever under the covers to provide the IAA generator feature “automagically”. This is a little harder to set up in the DAW as it involves separate MIDI and audio tracks. However, it does have one big advantage over the previous methods – with certain apps. Some apps have separate audio outs for each drum part. SeekBeats and Patterning in my current app collection offer this. This means you can set up the MIDI track to send the notes for both kick and snare but have the audio for each routed to separate tracks. Then these tracks can be mixed and effected separately in the DAW.

Here’s how this looks in Cubasis:img_0591
Note that track 2 is the MIDI track routing over channel 10 of the “Virtual MIDI” interface.

And here’s the MIDI configuration in SeekBeats:
img_0589
Note the input channel 10. Also note the starting Note of C1 which guides how the piano roll in Cubasis has to be configured to get the proper MIDI notes sent from the DAW to trigger the pads in SeekBeats.

Here is the audio coming back into Cubasis:img_0590

Track 3 is the kick (Drum 1) and track 4 is the snare (Drum 2). Both audio events were created in the same record sesssion in real time.

Pros:

  • MIDI notes from the DAW work to trigger drum hit
  • multiple MIDI tracks can feed the same IAA generator
  • IAA generator can route audio to separate DAW tracks – stems
  • easier access to DAW facilities (insert and send effects, automation, etc.) after stem export

Cons:

  • trickier to set up in the DAW and generator app
  • “fiddlier” to get started, e.g. seems like SeekBeats needs to be launched first, then Cubasis, then wire up the MIDI connections

That’s all for now. Time to get a groove on!

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