Ever Wonder How MIDI Drums Get Mapped?

by Chris Heille February 03, 2017

Ever Wonder How MIDI Drums Get Mapped?

One of the most common questions asked about the jamstik+ is “how do you play drum kits in GarageBand or Logic” or whatever app or DAW you’re working in. The answer is pretty simple once you know how the drum kits are mapped on the jamstik’s fretboard. 
Let's dive in and get this sorted out so you can start making beats with your jamstik. Either check out the video above, or follow along with the text in the post. 


The first thing to know about how drum kit sounds get mapped to the jamstik’s fretboard is this - we didn’t start the fire. If what I’m about to share seems screwed up to you, it’s because this was designed by KEYBOARD PLAYERS in the 1990’s.
The system I’m referring to is called General MIDI, and GeneralMIDI is an agreement that gave MIDI manufacturers some kind of standard for patch lists and other things, but it also included guidelines for drum mapping. If you were going to include a sampled drum kit on a synth or make your drum machine respond to MIDI input - General MIDI gave you the suggested note numbers for specific sounds (for example the Kick Drum is mapped to MIDI note # 36, the Snare to #38, etc.) 

Not every drum patch you’ll find applies the General MIDI drum map exactly, but the majority of the basic sounds typically are mapped to the following positions in this image:

In case you missed it, General MIDI drum mapping starts one octave below the default jamstik tuning, so you’ll need to press “down” on the D-pad to get this to work correctly.

As standard as General MIDI drum mapping may be from the Kick Drum up through the Toms assignments, you’ll find plenty of variations in the wild once you get beyond the first octave. So - if you download any of the great drum kits available from the jamstik+ app store (and why wouldn’t you, they’re FREE and they sound awesome) the drum mapping will be consistent to most of the major sounds in the General MIDI standard, but when we start adding sounds that General MIDI had no clue would be available back in the 90’s we have to deviate from convention.

Here’s the drum maps for each patch in the jamstik+ app:

Synthwave Drums
Trap Drums

Rock Drums and IndieRetro Drums

Since you now know where the drum sounds are mapped, let’s get down to playing them. You can of course play them traditionally, with your fretting hand and a pick or your thumb.

Using Drum Kit MIDI Mapping on jamstik+
But you can also put the jamstik into Tap Mode and just strike the notes on the fretboard with your fretting hand, and you could even get your picking hand in there too. (Check out this article from our Music Product Specialists for additional pro tips and tricks with the jamstik+).


How to activate tap mode 

How to enter Tap Mode on the jamstik+ D-Pad
The one caveat in using Tap Mode is that all of your notes will have the same maxed out velocity level, but you can always mix and match your playing technique between Tap and default modes to generate the performance you want.

The next time you run into a drum patch in an app or DAW and you can’t seem to find the mapping, understanding that in General MIDI the Kick Drum sound is supposed be mapped to C2 (or midi note number 36) can help you sort things out in a hurry. So grab your jamstik, get connected and start making some beats.
-Chris & The jamstik+ Team



Chris Heille
Chris Heille

Author




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