Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 2: Record a Hydrogen Drumbeat

Okay, so you've planned your recording project like I told you to do in Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 1: Plan your Project. You now want to create a Hydrogen drumbeat as the backbone to your track.

To begin, start up JACK and then Hydrogen. You can begin messing around with beats and patterns to get a feel for the program. If you want a more in depth description of the Hydrogen interface check out this post: Hydrogen Drum Machine Basics.

If you are unsure of the drumbeat that you will use for the song, just write a simple one and loop it for the entire song. As long as it is set at the same timing and at the same tempo, you can replace the beat with a better one at a later stage. A useful tip to remember: always start the beat off with a count-in, it will make the recording process a lot easier and you can always remove it later. For our recording project, we are using a Hydrogen beat for U2's song: Sunday Bloody Sunday - it is available for download here: Sunday Bloodly Sunday Hydrogen Drumbeat.

Once you have finished your beat, and you can play along to it in Hydrogen, you want to record it into Ardour. So start up Ardour and create a project with whatever name makes you sleep better at night. The Ardour interface should have only one track called Master. All the future tracks will be linked to the Master bus and then output to your soundcard. You now want to create enough tracks to record your drumbeat into. Hydrogen can either output one stereo track or a stereo track for each instrument/drum. I prefer to use multiple outputs, because it's more versatile - but if you are just laying down a simple beat, rather use the single stereo output (it is easier). I explain how to enable multiple outputs in Hydrogen in this post: Multiple Outputs for Hydrogen.

To add a track in Ardour, click on File and select Add Track. A window appears which allows you to chose how many tracks you want to add and whether those tracks are going to be stereo or mono.

If you are using Multiple outputs, select mono and add about six tracks. You can then change the names of the tracks by clicking in the track name and typing what you like. Use relevant names like snare, kick, crash, etc. it will only make it easier for you later.

If you are using just one stereo output, select stereo and add one track only. Name it Drums.

You now need to connect the Hydrogen outputs to the Ardour inputs, you do this from JACK. Open the JACK connections kit by clicking on the Connect button. This looks like the below figure.

Expand the Hydrogen tab under Outputs and the Ardour tab under Inputs. You now need to connect the relevant drum outputs to the inputs of Ardour. The Hydrogen outputs are unfortunately labeled as numbers, so you have to look in Hydrogen and determine which number links to which drum. Pan each Hydrogen instrument/drum fully to the left from the Hydrogen mixer. Then link only the left output of the instrument to the mono Ardour input.

Once all your connections are linked up correctly, you can start recording. Go back to Ardour and change the tempo so that it is the same as that found in Hydrogen. You can change it by double-clicking on the number (just above the Master track) and typing in the relevant tempo. You must now arm all of the tracks by clicking on the red circle found by each track's name (Only armed tracks will be recorded to). Once all the tracks are armed, select the Record Button (red circle) on the Ardour transport bar and then select the Play button - Ardour is now recording any activity in the armed tracks. Quickly go back to Hydrogen and click the Play button. If you observe the tracks in Ardour, you will see the drum waves being recorded. When the song is finished, press the Stop button in Ardour. Your Ardour project should look something like the below figure.

Your drumbeat has now been captured into Ardour and you can leave Hydrogen behind. It is important to drag your recorded drumtrack into time with Ardour's time, if you don't, Ardour's click track will not be in time. This is done by clicking on the drumtrack and dragging it till it aligns with the bar lines of Ardour. In Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 3: Adding Effects to the Ardour Drumtrack, I will be discussing how to add effects to your drumbeat in Ardour.

Other posts you might find interesting:
Audio Recording in Ubuntu Studio - Part 1: Plan your Project
Sunday Bloody Sunday Hydrogen Beat
Hydrogen Drumkits
Pimp my Hydrogen Beats
Making a Roll Sound Realistic
Hydrogen Drumbeat Templates - A Non-drummer's Best Friend


Mika said...


Simple trick I used to find correct connections in JACK was that I created test pattern to Hydrogen. Into the test pattern I used 'Fill Notes' for those drums I used in the drum lines. Then I clicked play in Hydro in play pattern mode.

Before starting connecting Hydro and Ardour in JACK connections I had Ardour in background in the view and JACK connections on top of that so that I could see left hand side control panel for the tracks where Ardour had record buttons on.

Now when connecting the lines in JACK I could see from the level meter when there is some beat in the line and easily connect the lines I needed.

I hope this simple trick helps:)

Best Regards,

Brian the Lion said...

Hi Mika,

Thanks, that's a fantastic idea. It's always a pain looking through multiple channels for the right connection.


Dave said...

Hi, very handy blog you have here, I just switched over to ubuntu studio from a cubase/soundforge based system, and your hints are really helping. However, you might want to try syncing up your hydrogen and ardour, to save dragging drum tracks about. Just set your time master in ardour to jack control instead of internal, and make sure hydrogen has jack transport enabled down by the tempo bar. Check this article out.

Brian the Lion said...

Hey Dave,

Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely check out that article.


Ivan said...

Hi Brian and thank you for this great tutorial. I have a "little" problem. Following your howto I've recorded tracks into Ardour from Hydrogen and they appear in the timeline, but when I try to play them in the Ardour, I get no sound and pick meter on the Master track doesn't showing anything (pick meters on the recorded tracks shows recorded signal). I hope that you could help me.

Cheers and greets from Serbia,

Brian the Lion said...

Hey Ivan,

Thanks for the feedback. Surprisingly, I think I will be able to help you with your "little" problem because I vaguely remember having the same problem once upon a time.

You need to check your connections in JACK. The easiest way of doing this is to go to your JACK console and click on the Connect button. From there you should be able to see the Ardour Outputs and Inputs. When Ardour is started, it should automatically connect all of its outputs to the Master input. The Master output should then be connected to the input of your soundcard... I hope that makes sense :-). If these connections are incorrect, you will not get any sound in your Master bus. So if these aren't connected, just connect them in JACK.

I hope that helps. If not, let me know and we can see what else it could be.


Ivan said...

Hi Brian, that solved my problem.
Many thanks,

Brian the Lion said...

Awesome, I'm glad it worked.