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The Drum Maps in Cubase

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Sometimes, when you work on different projects simultaneously, the rhythm section can give you trouble if you are using different virtual instruments for the percussion. The snare MIDI key on one instrument might be the hi-hat of another. The MIDI maps of the instruments might get all mixed up. 

Drum Maps help you to solve this issue by standardizing the note values in a fixed format. This way, when you play the C1 for the kick in an instrument, the same C1 key can be used for the kick in another virtual instrument. In this tutorial, I will show you the basic set up and how to use it in a project effectively.

The Drum Editor

The Drum Editor is a tool that helps you to create rhythms like the way you would do for a MIDI score. Creating rhythm patterns and drum sections will be really easy if you are creating them through the Drum Editor. You can see the name of the notes, the tone of the note, the length, the quantization, the velocity and many more aspects of the rhythm that you are making.

For this tutorial, you have to create a VST track and a MIDI track to link them together. First add the VST track using VST Instruments from the Devices menu or by pressing F11. I have added a new HalionOne Instrument onto the project, you can select any other Drums Virtual Instrument that you have.

Now create a MIDI track that sends its data to the VST. In order to do that, create a MIDI track using the Add MIDI Track option from the Project menu’s Add Track option or by selecting Add MIDI track from the right-click context menu on the project. Once the MIDI track has been created, select the Output Routing to the VST that you created, in this case HalionOne. Now whatever you play on the MIDI track will be played through the VST.

Add a blank field to the MIDI track using the Draw tool in the Toolbar list. Now select the Drum Editor from the MIDI dropdown menu.

The Drum Editor With GM Drum Map

The Drum Map

The most common Drum Map is the GM Map, which stands for General MIDI Map. It’s always wise to use this setting for your drum maps because most of the producers use this setting as default. 

Select No Drum Map to switch off the Drum Map feature for the track. Load the GM Drum Map using the drop-down menu at the bottom of the Drum Editor window.

Once that is loaded, you will be presented with a view of the sound list and the pitch assignments. You might have to adjust the width of the window to see the full features. This is where you adjust all of the settings except the pitch. 

Select No Drum Map to switch off the Drum Map feature for the track. Here’s some detail on what these fields mean:

  • Empty Column: This is the first column in the Map. It can be used to audition the sound and check if that is the sound that you want
  • Pitch: This is the note which will trigger the sound. For example, the C1 on the MIDI keyboard will trigger the Bass Drum sound
  • Instrument: This shows the name of the sound that is mapped to the key
  • Quantize: This value determines the length and position the notes being entered on the Editor
  • Mute: This feature helps you to mute the sound from being played back during the performance
  • I-Note: This is the MIDI note on which the drum sound will be triggered. It means that when this note is being played on the MIDI keyboard, the sound associated with this note will be played
  • O-Note: This is the MIDI note which is being sent out when that sound is being played. This MIDI note number will sent out through the device during playback
  • Channel: This is the channel through which the drum sound will be played back. You can either select the Any option or any channel from 1 to 16
  • Output: Here you can select the MIDI track or the VST tracks that is being used to play that specific sound. It is usually selected to be the default track, you can change it so that that specific note can be played back through another device

The Drum Map Setup Dialog

Before you venture into creating rhythm through the Drum Maps, it’s a good idea to go through the Map Setup. You can access the Drum Map setup through the drop-down menu from which you select the Drum Map. The same settings that you found in the above heading can be found here as well. The Functions drop-down menu is what’s different from the other one. In this menu, you can find the following options:

  •  New Map: This option helps you to create a new Drum Map from scratch. All the instruments will be renamed to Sound and the name of the map will be changed to Empty Map.
  • New Copy: As the name suggests, it creates a new copy of the current drum map. You can create a new one and then edit the settings as you like, keeping the original one intact.
  • Remove: This removes the current Drum Map.
  •  Load: This is used to load external Drum Maps into Cubase.
  • Save: This saves a .drm copy of the selected Drum Map.
  • Edit Head Pairs: This allows you to edit the head pairs in your Drum Map.
  • Init Display Notes: This reset all the notes to their default values.

How to Use It in a Project

If you have followed the above steps, you will be ready to use the Drum Maps in a project. Now all you have to do is to enter the drum notes in the Drum Editor window. You can either enter notes using your MIDI interface or through the Drumstick button.

Select the Drumstick tool from the Toolbar and click on any grid in the window. Make sure you have set your quantization grids according to the rhythm that you are going to create. For common rhythm, it’s always wise to set it to 1/8 or 1/16.

If you need to preview the sound, click the first column to the left of the Drum Map window, right beside the Pitch column.

You can start by adding some Bass Drums and Hi-hats on the lines on the grid, make sure that you listen to the rhythm as you progress. If you are using a MIDI Controller, switch on the auto-quantization to prevent timing problems or grid errors.

Once you are done creating your rhythm, save your project and export it.


Now that you know how to use Drum Maps, try it on your next project. This method will help you to fix all the issues that you face when producing rhythm for a project. Different instruments with different instrument maps will no longer be a problem for you if you stick on to using Drum Maps. They are the solution for effective and efficient rhythm creation.

The next time you create a rhythm, assign a Drum Map to it, and there won’t be any more cacophony while switching the instruments. Tell me about your experience with Drum Maps in the comments, below. 

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