First steps with Yamaha’s DTX Multi 12 drum pads

Here are the setup and customisation steps I followed after buying this awesome second-hand instrument.

Today, I’m not writing about startups, Openwhyd or personal development. I would like to share a few things about a new music instrument I bought from another drummer: Yamaha’s DTX Multi 12.

My second-hand Yamaha DTX Multi 12 drum pads

A bit of context

Why did I want to buy a DTX Multi 12, you ask?

I’ve been playing in a groove/fusion band called Harissa for about 2 years. This has been quite a change of genre for me, as I was mostly used to play with rock and metal bands, previously. This time, I had decided to try another genre to explore new kinds of rhythms and to improve my drumming skills by adding more nuances and dynamics in my game. One of the changes I made was to integrate a second snare drum in my drum kit, with a splash cymbal on its head in order to use a more dirty, hip-hop-like sound on some parts of our songs. Besides the fact that carrying a second snare had become a bit of a chore, compared to the very few seconds it was used during our concerts, I recently received a sign: my snare stand broke during our last gig! It may sound like a stupid excuse, but instead of buying a new snare stand, I took that opportunity to replace it by something more versatile. I became excited about by the idea of bringing even newer sounds to my drum kit: electronic pads!

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve always loved using my hands and fingers to play percussions. E.g. playing on cajons, darbukas, and other various kinds of percussive instruments, including objects that are not even instruments. To summarise my point: I love to use a very wide range of percussive styles and hitting strengths when I play.

I considered several options:

  • Roland’s SPD-SX Sampling Pad
  • Clavia’s Nord Drum 3P
  • Alesis’ SamplePad Pro
  • and Yamaha’s DTX Multi 12
A good comparison review between Roland’s SPD-SX and Yamaha’s DTX Multi 12.

After spending some time watching demo videos and reading user reviews, I became doubtful about the quality of the SamplePad pro, loved the sound of the Nord Drum but found it too limited (or let’s say specific) for the ideas I wanted to experiment with Harissa, and then the DTX M12 won my heart thanks to its apparent versatility and the possibility to play on it with drum sticks, hands of fingers.

A convincing demo of the DTX Multi 12

First contact: pad sensitivity

When I first played on the DTX M12, I really appreciated the sensitivity of the pads while playing with hands and fingers (which you can enable by pressing Shift-Utility), but I must admit that I was disappointed by the lack of dynamic range of the “drum sticks” sensitivity mode…

Fortunately, the fellow drummer who I bought the DTX from told me that it was possible to fine-tune the settings to increase the sensitivity range. And, indeed, I did found some documentation online about that:

As I really wanted the pads to detect both my heavy hits and very nuanced ghost notes, here is how I fine-tuned it:

  1. press Shift-Utility to adjust the pad sensitivity settings;
  2. press the Right key and Enter to edit the “PAD” settings;
  3. use the +/- keys to select the “HandDyna” trigger type;
  4. then, using the Left and Right keys to switch to different settings, and the+/- keys to change their values, set “Gain” to “1”, “VelCurve” to “hard2”, and leave all the other settings to their defaults;
  5. Save your changes in the first custom/user trigger (“U01”) by pressing “Store” and confirming using “Enter”. (if you don’t do that, your DTX will forget your settings when you turn if off).
Hello, fine-tuned trigger settings :-)

And then, in order to have this custom trigger to be activated by default, every time I turn on my DTX, I followed these steps:

  1. press Utility to go to the main settings menu;
  2. press Enter to go to the “general” section;
  3. go to the “StartupTrg” setting by using the Left and Right keys;
  4. set its value to “U01” (or whatever name you stored your settings into);
  5. press the Store button to save this preference.

Let’s put the headphones on

At that stage, I was still hearing the DTX through speakers. I decided to plug my Urbanears headphones, by respect to my girlfriend’s ears. ^^

Bummer: it sounded very weird, compared to the speakers, and there was a huge difference of volume between the sound of the first drum preset (“P01” kit), and the second one (“P02”)…

While unplugging my headphones’ mini-jack, I realised that they had 3 conducting bands (i.e. because there’s one for the microphone), and that the DTX was probably supporting just two of them.

I solved that sound problem by pulling the mini-jack of about 1 millimeter away from the slot, like so:

Simple hack to fix the sound of my 3-band headphone’s jack: pull it just a little bit.

Recording in GarageBand, thru MIDI

One last thing I was really excited about was to record my performances in GarageBand, using the MIDI format rather than Audio, so that I could later fix the hits independently. (e.g. to quantise and/or change the sound of pads after recording)

I had already bought a Roland UM-ONE Midi-to-USB interface, so I just plugged it between the DTX and my MacBook Pro, then I launched GarageBand.

The Roland UM-ONE Midi-to-USB interface, between the DTX and my MacBook Pro.

To my surprise, after creating a “drums” track, the snare was not recognised by GarageBand!

After taking a few minutes to browse the DTX’s different kit presets and GarageBand’s various “drummers” and “drums kits”, I found that the “Vocal Drums” preset (“P48”, on the DTX) was working as expected with GarageBand’s “SoCal” drum kit.

The best way I found to control GarageBand’s “SoCal” drum kit is to use the DTX’s “Vocal Drums” preset.

Even though I ended up not needing this, I learned that it would have also been possible to connect the DTX to my laptop using a plain USB cable instead of a MIDI-to-USB adapter. In that case, the only requirement is to install a driver from Yamaha’s website: http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/global/en/downloads/firmware_software/mididrivers/.

I also discovered that I could have changed the MIDI notes of each pad by following these steps: http://faq.yamaha.com/us/en/article/musical-instruments/drums/drums_digital_percussion/muilti_pads/dtx-m12/dtx-multi12/4354/8114

Finally, let’s try a different layout of pads

While trying to play some groovy rhythms on the DTX’s most classic kit presets (like “Oak Custom”), I found that I could play them more smoothly after swapping the position of the bass drum and snare pads + moving the hi-hat from the bottom-right pad to the top-left one.

In order to do that, I figured that I just had to use the Left and Right keys from the “Kit” mode in order to find a “Job” section, which had an easy-to-use “Exchange Pad” feature!

After making a few changes to the layout, I saved it to a custom kit, so I can re-use it again another day.

Next things I want to explore

So far, I’ve been amazed by the quality of the DTX’s pads, the possibilities in terms of customisation, but also the instrument’s ease of use despite all these possibilities. The provided sounds and presets are great, and I really love the fact that I can use the DTX for both training sessions, live performances and even stick-free jam sessions.

There are still several features I can’t wait to explore:

  • adding my own samples, (e.g. the “dirty” hip-hop snare I mentioned earlier)
  • connect an iPhone or iPad to the DTX in order to select and customise kit presets with a more intuitive and fast user interface,
  • trying the “Cubase AI” software, included with the DTX, (even though I still have to find a way to get a working activation code for it, now that my DTX’s previous owner used it already…)
  • and plugging a MIDI keyboard to the DTX, like shown on the video below.
Yes, the DTX can be used as a synthesiser, if you plug a MIDI keyboard (or other controller) to it!

I hope that some of you found this article interesting!

Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any question!