Advancements in Midi and Drum-Triggering Technology

By Magesh MageshContributing Author

Article photo - Advancements in Midi and Drum-Triggering Technology

Drum technology has progressed in the last 20 years. I want the focus of this article to be specifically about midi drums and drum triggering. As recording music has become easier now because of phones and laptops it is important to understand how and when to use triggering and MIDI.

What is MIDI?

Midi stands for ‘Musical instrument digital interface’. It is a way to record an instrument and have more options with the recording once it has been completed. I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say you record a drum track with a ‘Rock’ sounding drum kit. If you record this in midi you can change the kit to another sound like ‘Funk’ or ‘Pop’ ONCE the recording is finished. This can not be done if you record the drums as AUDIO!

How do I record drums in MIDI?

In the 1980s and 1990, MIDI was only recorded in major studios and was quite complex to do. This was because most electronic drums didn’t have midi OUTUTS. Now, even entry-level electric drum kits have midi outputs so you can record Midi drums straight into any DAW (Digital audio workstation) on your laptop computer.

Alesis Nitro Kit see price

Take the "IS IT GOOD FOR ME" test for "Alesis Nitro Kit", read the reviews and join the community!

Helpful hint: If you have a printer at your house you can use the printer cable to connect your electric drum kit to your computer as it’s the same connection!

What is triggering?

A trigger is a small electronic sensor that is activated when it is hit. There are 2 types of triggers. Internal triggers are inside electric drums. With some electric drums, you can see the trigger through the skin. It is important not to hit electric drums too hard on the internal trigger as it can cause it to malfunction.

External triggers are attached to acoustic drums to enhance or add another sound on top of the acoustic sound. An example might be attaching a trigger to your bass drum so you can have an electronic 808 sound on top of the acoustic bass drum sound.

I’m using a trigger on my bass drum in the clip. You can clearly hear the electronic bass drum sound on top of my regular bass drum sound which makes it a lot fatter.

Triggering has also come a long way in the last 20 years. It has never been more mainstream and the size of the triggers is getting smaller.

Why do drummers use triggers?

Drummers on major tours that play stadiums will nearly always trigger their drums. This is because they want the sound to be accurate if they are playing in a venue that seats 5,000 people or 50,000 people. If they trigger their drum sounds they don’t have to worry about the acoustics in the venue, essentially because they are adding processed sounds. This means their sound won’t change if the venue is half full of people or the walls are made of brick and the floors are wood.

Another reason drummers trigger sounds is because they may add samples to songs on the fly. This is easier than having a drummer play a backing track. (Although the drummer has to be very talented to do this!) They will usually use a sampling pad like the Roland Spd-s and hit it with their stick while simultaneously playing the beat. This will usually only be done with short samples like vocal effects or quick horn stabs.

In this clip, I have triggered vocal samples by hitting the Roland Spd-s pad.

In this clip, I’m actually triggering samples from a Roland sampler with my fingers. The reason I did this was that I sometimes wanted to start a pad and stop a separate pad simultaneously. This would have been impossible to do with 1 stick.

Whatever stage you are at with your drumming. I encourage you to get into triggering and sampling. Recording Midi drums will really help you have more options with your music. Triggering and sampling will also make your live shows more interesting. Keep practicing!

Sidenote - The clips of me with the samples were from my first instructional drumming video called ‘Unique Beats’. It is available here.

About Magesh Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming DVD called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.

Contact Magesh Magesh at

About Music Production

In this section of the blog you will find recording advice, tips and tricks from fellow artists and music producers.

Interested in writing a story for this section as a guest or joining the Musicngear team as a Contributing Author? Contact us at