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Synching that old drum machine to your recorder.

Back to basics today.”This may be a basic question, but I’m new to digital recording. I’ve been using a DR 770 drum machine to record stereo drum tracks onto a 4-track. Is it possible, with any of the digital recorders out there, to sync the drum machine to the recorder via MIDI, enabling me to record the kick, snare, cymbals, etc. to their own tracks? I want to be able to change levels of the kick, snare, etc. later in the mixing stage.”Okay, there are several issues we need to address here. First, I’ll answer your question. Most inexpensive drum machines (the 770 included) will sync only to MIDI clock. This poses a problem because most synchronizers do not transmit MIDI clock. (MIDI Song Position pointer is also required, but that usually comes along with the MIDI clock capabilities.) The reason for this is because for a sync box to deal with MIDI clock and Song Pointer it has to be able to convert whatever time code is being used into a signal that has specific information about the song. Things like the start point, tempo, length, etc. are required, which means the synchronizer in question has to have a much more elaborate user interface, not to mention the memory to handle the pertinent information for one or more songs. Most synchronizers these days don’t bother doing this because most devices can happily sync to MTC or some other time-based (as opposed to music-based) code. So in order to sync this machine to your recorder you will have to find a synchronizer and/or a sequencer that can output the required MIDI clock information. Most people these days just use a sequencer (often computer-based) for the whole thing, and the drum machine just becomes a ‘dumb’ MIDI module playing notes generated by the sequencer (of course you have to get them into the sequencer first). One other alternative may be to find an old (now discontinued) smart FSK (SFSK) type synchronizer. Boxes like the JL Cooper PPS-1, PPS-2, and Tascam MTS-100 come to mind. There were more, but none of them are around anymore, and they didn’t work all that great anyway.The other question you have to ask yourself is what you are really going to gain recording those drum parts separately on a 4-track recorder? Once you use up those four tracks you are going to have to mix (bounce) them all together to record any more stuff anyway, so it still sounds like you’ll have to make early and permanent decisions about the drum mix. To keep all those drum parts, as well as your other tracks, separate all the way to mixdown you’d need many more than four tracks of recording available. Most drum machines (even inexpensive ones) allow you to vary the levels of the individual instruments, and in many cases those levels can be set to change throughout a song. Without more tracks available I would just get the levels where I want them in the machine and then record it all at once. The capabilities of each drum machine will be different, but this is probably the easiest way to control the mix.There are some other possibilities here, but all the ones I can think of involve buying one or more pieces of equipment. If you are open to the idea of spending some money to improve your overall situation I highly recommend you call and talk to one of the Sweetwater Sales Engineers. They can dig deeper in to the specifics of what you are doing and work out a custom solution that is best for you.

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