Triggering MIDI Drums from Recorded Audio Tracks in Reaper DAW

I’ve been tinkering with a new Digital Audio Workstation software recently called Reaper. This software is amazing, and does so many incredible things. I’ve been doing home recording for quite some time, but always on a very low budget. Reaper provides a great deal of features for a very low price.

Last night I was playing around with a mix using audio tracks I downloaded from mixoff.org. I wasn’t happy with the way the drums were sounding, and I wanted more options.  I had heard on the Home Recording Show podcast about a technique for using the recorded drum tracks to send MIDI signals to a drum machine or drum plugin, so I thought I’d give it a try.  This turned out to be SUPER EASY in Reaper.

Here’s how you do it:

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1. Add the Reaper Gate plugin to the original track, like the bass drum track, for example.

2. Adjust the leftmost vertical slider down to the point that the gate is triggered (opened) every time the kick drum is struck.

3. At the bottom of the ReaGate window, check the box for “Send MIDI on open/close”, and put “36” in the “note” field.  36 is one of the kick drum notes on the EZDrummer plugin, you might have to change it for your setup.

4. Set the “channel” field to 10, which is the MIDI channel typically used for drums.

5. Now let’s setup the drum plugin to listen for the MIDI signal. In Reaper, go to the top menu and choose “Insert/New Virtual Instrument on a new track”. Click the “FX” button on that track and choose your drum plugin.  I use EZDrummer.

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6. On the EZDrummer track, click the “I/O” button and it will display the Input/Output window for the EZDrummer.

7. Click “Add New Receive”, and select your kick drum audio track. In the Routing panel, select “MIDI: 10 -> ALL. This will tell EZDrummer to listen for MIDI events on channel 10 and use them.

8. Now you can pull down the fader for your original kick drum audio, and you should hear the EZDrummer kick drum playing the exact same part. If notes are missing, you can adjust the gate level down again to make sure every hit is triggering the gate.

This is just one example of the amazing tools you have at your disposal in Reaper.

8 thoughts on “Triggering MIDI Drums from Recorded Audio Tracks in Reaper DAW

  1. This was EXACTLY what I needed to reinforce a live drum track sent to me by an old drummer friend from 20 years ago from across the country! Thanks a million! For others reading, if you’ve got some fast footwork going, you might need to adjust the ms of the gate’s release down (I had to go to about 17ms to get all the hits), and the low and high-pass are adjustable, so for my single stereo track of drums, I was able to filter out the snare and other drums without a million hours of tedium. Thanks!!!

  2. Also, the original “drum track” doesn’t have to be drums at all, it could be a recording of you playing a cardboard box. As long as it has percussive spikes in the audio, it’ll do the job.

  3. With this technique, I don’t think it uses the velocity, I think it just triggers the sample whenever the volume threshold is reached.

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