Friday, May 14, 2010

.480 Using The Yamaha DD-5 As A MIDI Controller In Reason

This post will probably help exactly none of you, but if any of you are experimenting with incorporating older MIDI gear into your setups, the process might at least be interesting.

As you might remember, a week ago I posted samples from my "new" Yamaha Digital Drums DD-5, explaining that while its built-in sounds may have a fun, cheesy vibe to them, what truly makes the DD-5 intriguing is setting it up to be used as a MIDI controller in Reason/Record. What I didn't get into was that its default MIDI output data is, in a word, strange. Its four pads output to A1, E2, A2, and D#3, making it the very opposite of "plug and play."

There are a couple of things you can do to change this. The first, and most obvious, is to use Reason's "Remote Override Edit Mode" which is what I experimented with to get it working in Redrum. It doesn't take much time and the results are what you would expect, giving you the "hit-here-get-sound-there" effect that you're probably looking for. The problem is that once you have these maps set up, tying each drum pad on the DD-5 to its appropriate Redrum channel, you'll quickly learn that those remote overrides aren't saved as global settings in Reason, instead being settings just for that one song or project. You can work around that, of course, by setting up a Reason or Record song with these settings and saving it as a template file, which you would then load every time you want to use the DD-5 as an instrument controller in a song.

That is, unfortunately, not very practical. I rarely know what devices I'll be using when I start up a new song. Part of the fun in making music is working through that process, picking up gear and blowing the dust off, as you encounter the different needs and inspirations of your latest song. Needing to know which devices you will use, before you start, might not be practical.

The other issue is that your MIDI interface, which accepts the MIDI data from the DD-5 and makes it into something Reason can understand, might not be dedicated solely to your DD-5. As is the case with my own setup, the MIDI interface you use might be more "universal" and sees use with a variety of gear, so mapping the DD-5's drum pads to specific Note Numbers might make it useless for other MIDI gear that require default note assignments, if you unplug devices and plug in new ones, working through your song.

The second option to you is using the DD-5's controls to set its output Note Numbers to match what you need Reason to "hear." The process for this involves several button presses on the DD-5, sometimes done while turning the unit on, but how this is actually done is a mystery to me. The DD-5 Owner's Guide is surprisingly vague on the steps and since the unit doesn't have a screen to provide any kind of useful feedback, its literally a case of fumbling in the dark. Plus, any tweaks or changes you make are erased when the unit is powered off, requiring you to do this every time you use it. Again, not very practical.

So, what can you do? Well, the solution I finally decided upon, which might be useful to you in your own MIDI experiments, is using Reason's NN-XT to map samples to the specific notes being sent from the Yamaha DD-5 (or whatever piece of outdated gear you might be using).

If you open up the NN-XT's Remote Editor you'll see that the instrument contains four samples, each one mapped to either A1, E2, A2, or D#3, the MIDI Note Outputs of the DD-5. The specific samples and assignments match the four preset pad assignments that load into the DD-5 when you first power it on, but they can easily be replaced with whatever sounds you might want to trigger using the device's drum pads by selecting the appropriate sample and clicking "Load Sample" to assign a new sample. The mapping stays the same, but keep in mind that the Root resets to C3 whenever a new sample is loaded. You'll need to manually change this whenever you load a new sample if you want to keep its tone intact.

While this isn't quite "plug and play" its a bit faster than using the Remote Override Edit Mode, and if you take the time to set up a series of NN-XT patches with samples mapped to the appropriate pad assignments, you can achieve the kind of quick, flexible access you might need.

So, as I said at the beginning of this tutorial, this long-winded explanation of how I setup my DD-5 probably isn't useful for anyone out there. The odds that any one of you have a setup (or needs) identical to mine are fairly slim, but using Reason's NN-XT to accept specific MIDI notes, especially from old gear, might be a useful tool or technique for you.

A few random tidbits if you are one of the strange few using a DD-5 with Reason:

  1. The Yamaha DD-5 continues to make sound through its built-in speaker even while sending MIDI data. This can be hugely annoying, especially if you're using it to trigger sounds the DD-5 isn't making while you're playing it. Turning the volume on the DD-5 down doesn't work, because even at its lowest setting, the Yamaha machine continues to make noise. Just plug a 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adapter into the DD-5's Audio Out and it'll stop making noise.
  2. As stated above, remember to adjust the Root note for each sample, if you load new sounds into the NN-XT patch provided. If you create a particular kit that you like, save it for quick access later.
  3. Also remember that you'll need to adjust the Amp Envelope's Release setting to account for samples that are longer in length than the NN-XT's default setting of only 60 ms. Forgetting to do this will create abbreviated sounds when you play them.


Lewis.72 said...

So when are you going to post the video of you playing the Miami Vice drum fill?

Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

Heh. Very soon, Lewis! I need to work up to it.

eric said...

you can make this setup even better if you use a few RPG-8's. all you have to do is put the RPG's in a combinator, one for each pad, and limit the notes each one gets to the note of the corresponding pad. then you just have to connect each RPG's gate output to any device's gate input. be sure to turn off the arpeggiator on the RPG's

Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

Interesting suggestion, Eric. I'm not sure I completely understand how that kind of setup is "even better," as you say, given that they seem to provide the same effect. Unless you mean that not having to adjust the sample length is the inherently better aspect, but its an interesting take on it regardless. Thanks for the suggestion!

Neil Paddock said...

I have just started messing around with a DD5 and trying to connect it to Reason and Record. Unfortunately, I have just noticed it has a loose connection and will power off, So I need to get it fixed or open it up myself and do some soldering!

When it works reliably I will return to your article and see if I can get it to work ok.

By the way, since downloading your RX17 samples (Thank you) I have recently got my RX17 working with Reason and Record. I have been playing some John Bonham beats! There's a nice video on Drummerworld with John's old 1971 Ludwig Green Sparkle Ludwig Kit where you could sample (for personal use only of course...)

I fed them into Redrum and Kong, and I can now play them (trigger them) with the RX17. It does sound pretty awesome! There's also some excellent videos on YouTube on Groovedrummin channel.

isweartogodifyoutouchmygijoesiwillskullfuckyou said...

I am one of the few that actually was trying to do the exact same thing as you. I just bought a DD-5 at a Music Go Round about a month ago, and this weekend I finally tried plugging in the MIDI out to my computer. I got it solely for the purpose of using it as a drum pad Midi controller. So, I found your tutorial and patch extremely useful. I ran into all sorts of random, unrelated problems in the process, and assumed my DD-5 MIDI out was fried. Turned out my M-AUdio F410 MIDI in wasn't working, and my MIDI to USB cable wasn't working. I updated the drivers for the F410, and then it worked. I actually found out my DD-5 was working when I just plugged it into my MIDI keyboard, and had piano notes coming out.

So yeah, long story, but I found your blog very useful, and it actually was exactly what I was trying to do.

Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

Neil... sorry I never responded to your comment. Sounds like we have very similar collections of black, plastic boxes! ;)

isweartogod... glad you found this helpful. I'm always surprised by how little is actually on the internet about some of these machines, but I guess that's because everyone tends to concentrate on the 909s and 808s of the world. The DD-5 is a fairly lousy replacement for a 909, but it has a nice, viscral thrill the 909 can't match. Good luck!

Webmaster said...

Hey Robbneu

Greetings from Western Australia!

Just a quick note to say I got the DD-5 fixed just before I left the UK and I have just downloaded your NNXT patch to get it working with Reason. I connected the DD-5 via a Yamaha UX-16 Midi interface cable.

I can vouch for the fact that the .sxt patch works 'cos I just tried it out!

I can play all four samples on the pads just like you said, so thanks for that!

I was hoping to record the midi patterns from the DD-5's pre-programmed sounds (which you can do with the RX-17) but the manual says the auto rhythm isn't output from the midi channel, so I started to re-program them from scratch myself!

I have now created a Redrum, a Kong and a Dr Octo Rex that use the DD-5 samples and patterns/loops.

I am also creating a few variations on each pattern.

I'll post a link when its done at howtoprogramdrums(dot)com

Thanks for the patch and the samples!



Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

Thanks for dropping by again, Neil! Good to hear from you.

Glad the NNXT patch works on your end. There always seems to be the possibility, especially when you're using used gear, that something you have or think is "universal" is just an inherited quirk! :)

Let me know when you get those patterns and loops posted and I'll post a link here on PAD!

Webmaster said...

Hey Robb

I have been playing around with the DD-5 again.

It's pretty quirky and the only practical use it will probably be is as a substitute hi-hat with the Simmons Pads.

Still good fun finding out what you can and can't do with it though.

Glad to see your original articles are still here.

I mapped out all the default midi notes today - I really should get out more - here they are:

1 - BASS DRUM - A1 (45)
2 - SNARE DRUM - E2 (48)
3 - TOM1 - F2 (49)
4 - TOM2 - D2 (50)
5 - TOM3 - C2 (48)
6 - RIDE CYMBAL - D#3 (59)
7 - CONGA - F3 (61)
8 - HH OPEN - B2 (55)
9 - HH CLOSED - A2 (53)
10 - RIMSHOT - D#2 (47)
11 - COWBELL - G2 (51)
12 - HAND CLAPS - F#2 (50)

Ok. No more posts. Honest. Bye!

Devan Welsh said...

Could you please repost the NNXT patch? It seems that the link does not work any more. Thanks bud!