So I recently acquired an electronic drum kit and I've been wanting to record stuff on it. I'm wondering, is it just a matter of buying a MIDI - USB cable and playing something with Audacity on record or do I need some kind of special software? Is it difficult to do or pretty easy? And can I do other things with a MIDI - USB cable other than recording (if that's even possible in the first place)?
All you really need is a MIDI/USB cable yeah, and I'm pretty sure any DAW would be sufficient for it... but if you don't have something to use different samples (such as Superior Drummer) I'm pretty sure you'd be stuck using the stock samples on the electronic kit, which may or may not appeal to you.
There are several ways to record them.
First of all, it depends on whether you want to use MIDI or not - basically do you want to have complete control on your computer over every single note you play? What I mean by this is that even if you play a kick and hi hat together, each drum/cymbal/'pad' is isolated meaning you can adjust the sound, velocity (volume) etc. etc. Your answer to that may well be 'yes' as it does indeed sound very appealing and convenient. But...
MIDI DOESN'T record actual sound - rather it records information which you 'put in' to the computer - via an audio interface (mentioned later) - by hitting the drums. You then use this information and 'overlay' samples on your computer to give sound. You can change the minute details of these samples - usually - to really taylor the sound.
HOWEVER, it can be very complicated and confusing to set up and get a hang of at first, you need more specialist software on your computer, and (this is debatable and purely down to personal preference) MIDI drums sound a lot more sterile and 'fake' so-to-speak. This is comparing them to acoustic drums, so there won't be as much of a difference between your kit and a MIDI kit. You also have to buy a lot of the samples... I don't have much experience with sampled drums so I assuming that there are some very real sounding samples out there, just gotta find them - and be prepared to pay for them.

Another way to record e-drums - I used this before I got my acoustic kit to great effect - is to simply record from the stereo output on the 'brain' of you kit. This will record the actual sound - exactly what you would hear through headphones or an amp. For this too, I believe you'll need an audio interface. You can get USB interfaces. I would highly recommend - if you end up looking for a simple not-too-expensive interface - the Edirol UA-25EX by Roland. I recently recorded an album with two of them and it sounds fantastic. What does the AI do? It means you have various input options - 1/4", XLR etc. - meaning you can record a huge variety of things. The other huge benefit is the improved soundcard quality over the typical internal one in a computer/laptop.

If you're wanting to get into recording, I would highly recommend investing in an audio interface.
As for software? If you use MIDI, you will need some kind of more advanced DAW (digital audio workstation) - Audacity is a very basic DAW. If you use the second method, then Audacity will work fine. You'll be very limited in how much editing you can do after recording, but it will work.

Of course, there are other ways as well to record e-drums... I'm sure someone else will chime in here to add some more alternatives.
I good site for recording techniques is TweakHeadz. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but there is am abundance of good information on there regarding the recording process.
My current acoustic group:

Fiftieth Parallel

Martin Guitars
Elixer Strings
Acoustic amplification
BOSS pedals

Last edited by jon93971 at Jan 31, 2012,
Wow, thanks, I didn't expect such in depth answers.

So to get things straight, if I use a MIDI-USB cable, I'll just be triggering MIDI samples on my computer itself and not actually recording what I hear in my headphones, while using my stereo outputs will record what I hear straight?

What if I use a MIDI cable on Reason? Would it just be the same as using the built-in drum computer on Reason (as in, the same samples and such)? And on Audacity with MIDI - USB, will it just record it as I hear it? It would make sense considering Audacity doesn't really have in-depth drums editing as far as I know, but I can't speak from experience of course.
Since I've rarely used MIDI myself to record, I couldn't tell you for sure whether a MIDI/USB cable would suffice or whether you would need an interface (the UA-25EX I mentioned in my previous post will accommodate MIDI). Since you can get MIDI/USB cables I would assume you can, but double check first!
But yes, recording in MIDI means what you record will trigger the samples in the DAW (Reason or Audacity). Without 'applying' the samples you will hear absolutely nothing.
Recording using the stereo output means you record exactly what you hear through headphones - and can play it back without messing around with samples etc. Depending on your e-drums you can set the panning/volume/voice etc. of each individual drum/cymbal prior to recording.

If you want to use MIDI, go for Reason. A quick Google search confirmed that Audacity will not record in the MIDI format - only audio (stereo output). Audacity say more MIDI capabilities will be added in the future.

To answer your question regarding Reason, effectively yes. Since you cannot hear MIDI without first 'applying' the samples, you will have to use the samples included with Reason - meaning all your sounds will come from within Reason's 'drum computer'. Of course, additional samples may be obtained either for free or by purchase. I'm no expert on the actual quality of the samples, but I'm led to believe some of the recent ones are brilliant.

Using the stereo outputs is by far the more simple of the two methods. However, both have their merits and their disadvantages.
My current acoustic group:

Fiftieth Parallel

Martin Guitars
Elixer Strings
Acoustic amplification
BOSS pedals

Last edited by jon93971 at Feb 1, 2012,
According to the wonderful Dirk Verbeuren (he's recently started recording session drums out of a home studio using just an e-kit and Superior Drummer) in this video, yes, all you need is a MIDI to USB cable.

And it seems Jon knows far more about this than I do so I'll just +1 to everything he's said thus far.
You really need is a MIDI / the USB cable yes ah, I'm sure any DAW will be sufficient for it ... but if you do not have something, using a different sample (such as advanced drummer), I'm sure you willgets stuck, the use of the electronic components may or may not attract your sample shares nice.