How to backup your RX-17 Patterns to midi and audio

RX-17 Q&A:

Question:

I have a query about the RX17.  I want to use RX17 again but it’s full i.e. all patterns and songs used I don’t want to overwrite stuff I laboured on and is still useful. So I bought a midi/USB cable (cheap on the net) and want to download/copy the patterns to my laptop/desktop. Only I don’t know what software I need on the computer to do this or if I need any at all?  Could you advise please?

Answer:

What a great question!

Here’s a “quick” initial summary of what you would need to be aware of and what to do if you want to re-use your old patterns. I am assuming you have a computer running Windows 7 – whether its 32 bit or 64 bit makes a difference on what you can run. You may have a Mac – in which case that may be beyond my expertise.

Here’s a few pointers. This is how I do it, so I know it works. In practice, there are other ways and other hardware and software – but this works for me.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to record using Cakewalk Professional, Reason 7.1 and Reaper V4.76 to create backup midi files and audio files of your drum patterns.

The RX-17 Manual

I had a look at the RX-17 manual:

There’s at least 3 ways you can do it:

1) Backup your patterns to cassette tape using the cable that came with it.

I never, ever got this to work (maybe the cable was faulty) – so I really don’t recommend this – if you still have a working cassette recorder and the manual, you can at least back it up – but this would not be my first choice.

There’s some stuff in the RX-17 manual about sending/transmitting and receiving bulk data (from one RX-17 to another) but this wipes the data in the receiving unit, so unless you have two identical units – its a non starter.

And it doesn’t help you get those patterns onto your computer either.

You may be able to do a midi data dump using MIDI-OX, – squirting midi data back and forth between your RX-17 drum unit and your computer, but that could be tricky and a bit complicated for a beginner – I am still getting to grips with that myself – so I don’t recommend that either – it will wipe your unit clean of patterns if it doesn’t transfer them back correctly. It might be worth looking for a tutorial on it though. Best to back up your old patterns before you try this method.
http://www.midiox.com/

So how do you go about backing up your old patterns you created all those years ago? Here’s a couple of ways:

2) Sending midi from your RX-17 to an external device (i.e. your computer – to create midi (.mid) files of each drum pattern)

and

3) Send audio from your RX-17 to an external device (i.e. your computer – to create audio files (.wav/.mp3) of each drum pattern)

I’d go with 2) and 3)

You can do both at the same time or separately.

You end up with a midi file and a separate audio file of all your patterns. They can be sliced and diced afterwards to suit what you need. Or you can do them one pattern at a time. It’s up yo you. Start with something modest and manageable.

So here’s the easiest way:

Sending midi.

I just tried this out.

Assuming you have a Windows PC:

The Audio interface I use is called a Focusrite Saffire USB 6

The Saffire is connected to your computer via a USB connection and acts as an external sound card.

You may be able to get away without using one and using your computer’s sound card inputs, but I found it much, much easier to record stuff once I got this. I am not convinced they make this model anymore, but it’s important that the audio interface you end up getting has both midi and audio inputs.

A Focusrite Saffire

Fig 1: A Focusrite Saffire USB 6 – A good audio and midi interface (i.e. external sound card)

Midi Connections
I connect a midi cable to the midi out of the RX-17 and the midi in of the Saffire.

DSCF0065

Fig 2: Plugging in the Midi Out from the RX-17 to the Midi In of the Saffire (at the back of the unit)

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Fig 3: Plugging in the Midi Out from the RX-17 to the Midi In of the Saffire (at the back of the unit)

Audio Connections
I connected the RX-17 Left and Right outputs to the Saffire’s 1/4 inch Left & Right jack plug inputs.

DSCF0019

Fig 4: Connecting the audio outputs from the RX-17 to the front of the audio interface – Standard 1/4 inch jack plug – use good quality guitar leads.

Software

1) Quick and Dirty (Audio Only)

Now, there is a quick and dirty method. Record the audio output of the RX-17 using something like Audacity.
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Find an appropriate audio input on your computer.

But that ignores the midi side of things. If you want to use midi to record your patterns (for maximum flexibility) , read on…

2) Midi and Audio
Now you need a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – some midi software to handle the midi files you want to create.

Midi works like a 16 lane data motorway – drums tend to travel on channel 10 – I set my stuff to receive on all channels, but for playback you may need to set your track to channel ten – or you may hear a piano playing instead!

I have several DAWs I tested today which all do the job.

1) Cakewalk Professional (Old midi software – midi only – no audio – will not work on 64 bit Windows PC)
You could also use Cakewalk Express on an older 16 bit Windows system or Cakewalk Professional which can be downloaded for FREE from http://queststudios.com/

You can get a great midi file by recording with Cakewalk Professional or Cakewalk Express

You can get a great midi file by recording with Cakewalk Professional or Cakewalk Express

Personally, I use this (or Cakewalk Express) because I have had it for about 20 years and it works. It creates a decent midi file, but it is a bit clunky to use and you need an old operating system for it to run. If you are on 64 bit, forget this and read on…

2) Propellerhead Reason (DAW) $399
https://www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/tryreason/
You probably cannot use the trial version to record your patterns, but have a play around with it if you can.
Easiest recording software I have ever used. Intuitive, comes with a great sound library. Just excellent.

Reason 7 gives you additional simultaneous  audio recording.

Reason 7 gives you additional simultaneous audio recording.

You may find an old (midi only) version like Reason 4 on eBay, but you will need a proper license with Propellerhead so avoid anything that looks dodgy (i.e. pirated) like the plague. They allow you to receive a license transfer from a legitimate previous owner.

Fantastic piece of software – I can’t praise this enough, but it is expensive (at $399) and may be overkill for what you need – unless you go the eBay route.

The midi files it creates aren’t as good as the Cakewalk ones. It forgets channel numbers.

Drum midi is almost always on midi channel 10.

The current version is Reason 8 – I am still on Version 7.1
https://www.propellerheads.se/reason/buy

My only regret with Reason is not buying it earlier! It’s worth the cash! Honest! I love it!

3) Cockos Reaper (DAW) $60 Discounted License
http://www.reaper.fm/download.php

Pretty good piece of software – different learning curve but a lot cheaper than Reason and pretty straightforward to use. There’s a good forum if you get stuck and good documentation online via Google and videos on YouTube.

Midi and Audio files created in Reaper. Note they are out of alignment with the grid.

Midi and Audio files created in Reaper. Note they are out of alignment with the grid.

In the attached Reaper screenshot, it shows the midi at the top and the audio at the bottom. It’s not quite lined up properly and needs to be edited (dragged back to the right point on the grid) to achieve that.

Once they are tidied up, they can be rendered and exported to your desktop.

I used Session Drummer 2 with my RX-17 Patch to play back the midi on track 1.

4) Acoustica Mixcraft 6 (DAW) (Now in version 7 – I am using version 6)
http://www.acoustica.com/mixcraft/

A bit like the Apple Mac’s garageband – quite easy to use, but I stuck with the first three DAWs for my test.

Has some good midi voices which you can use with Reaper too – to get that standard midi file you just imported immediately playing with a midi instrument on playback – by default.

***

Overview of recording process – How to record your patterns to midi and audio

1) Each piece of software (DAW) has be configured for audio and midi input.

2) You need to set up a track in your chosen DAW for both audio and midi.

3) Make sure the tempo on the RX-17 and the DAW are both set to 120 beats per minute.

4) Arm the tracks and when you are ready, press record.

5) Then press play on your RX-17 for the first pattern.

It’s easier to let the track stay on and then just advance the patterns one at a time – let each one play at least twice.

6) When you have finished, press stop.

***

The downside of doing it this way is you have to manually change each pattern, and over time, the drum machine goes out of time with the software.

So for best results, be patient and record each pattern individually and let it play say, eight times. If the pattern doesn’t start exactly at the beginning, you need to edit or drag the midi clip or audio clip so that it does.

You may have to quantise your pattern too. This moves the beats (snaps them) onto the bar grid and lines them up to start at the beginning of each bar.

Quantising will work well for basic beats but may alter the feel of others and ruin them. Use it sparingly.

Audio Loops and Rex Loops
If you record audio you can use Reason to slice your audio into loops. They can be speeded up and slowed down because they are cut into slices in a format called Rex Loops (RX2).

Propellerhead Software invented software called Recycle to do this which was integrated into Reason 7 (R7).

Now you can simply double click your audio clips in R7 to create rex loops and play them in the Doctor Octo Rex Device.

Save this luxury for later on though – it is starting to feel like a series of videos is needed to go over the basics – as each piece of software has its own little quirks and ways of working.

I hope that helps to some extent without a video at this stage. At least it should prompt a few more questions.

It depends on your budget. If you want audio loops of the factory presets, check out my RX-17 at selz.com
http://www.howtoprogramdrums.com/rx-17-reboot-free-edition-is-now-available/

P.S. – Some midi cables I bought from eBay are rubbish and don’t work properly – they gave me no end of grief as I thought I was doing something wrong – but they aren’t wired the same as the Yamaha ports and so only work partially. Would you believe it?

After talking to Yamaha’s technical support people – I ended up getting a Yamaha midi interface called the UX-16, but a decent standard midi cable will do the trick. Just be aware of cheap and nasty midi cables on eBay. They aren’t up to it. If you do have problems – get a better cable.
http://au.yamaha.com/en/products/music-production/accessories/usb-midi/ux16/?mode=model

All the best – and let me know how you get on!

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