Logic Pro X, the Roland TD-50 Sound Module, and using a external MIDI click sound

The internal audio click in Logic Pro is very convenient but it doesn’t offer much variety. I prefer a cowbell for a click because I can easily hear it without having to really listen hard for it. If you have a Roland TD-50 and a set of their digital drums, it may not be obvious how to set up an external MIDI click because the Roland TD-50 is the actual digital audio interface. I’m referring specifically to connecting your Roland TD-50 to your Mac laptop via a USB cable and then setting up the tracks in Logic to record either audio or MIDI coming from the Roland TD-50 via the USB cable.

This should work with any of the Roland drum sound modules that have MIDI OUT but the TD-50 is the only one I’m familiar with.

I use a Zoom drum machine for my MIDI device but this will work with any MIDI compatible synth or drum machine that has internal sounds and supports MIDI.

Step 1: Connect the Devices

Using a MIDI cable, connect the MIDI OUT on the Roland TD-50 to the MIDI IN of your drum machine or other device you want to supply the click sound.

Figure 1. Connect a MIDI cable to the MIDI OUT/THRU port on your Roland Sound Module
Figure 2. Connect that cable to the MIDI IN of your MIDI sound device.

See the manual of your MIDI sound device to determine how to setup the midi channel (the manual for this particular drum machine is here). The Roland TD-50 uses channel 10 as default so I set the Zoom drum machine to use MIDI receive channel 11 to avoid confusion and ensure I really was triggering the drum machine sound and not the Roland. And you might ask now, “why don’t you just use the sounds in the Roland TD-50 for a click”. Well, I couldn’t figure out how to do that and I’m not clear if it’s even possible. Initially I started out by setting the rim of the floor tom to a cowbell on the particular kit I was using and set up Logic Pro to trigger that sound. But the click got recorded onto the tom track so I started down this road of using a drum machine for a click.

The MIDI cable gets you clock and MIDI data to the drum machine but now you need an audio feed back to the Roland Sound Module in order to hear it. So take an audio out of the drum machine and plug it into the Stereo “Mix In” on the Roland TD-50 (There are two, one in the back and one in the front, either will work).

Step 2: MIDI Setup on the Roland Sound Module

Next, set the MIDI settings in the Roland TD-50 by pressing the SETUP button in the upper right then use the PAGE DOWN button to get to SETUP MENU 2 where you’ll see MIDI as in the figure below.

Figure 3. Find the MIDI settings in the SETUP menu

Next press F1 to select MIDI.

Figure 4. MIDI settings on the Roland TD-50

Set the “Soft Thru MIDI In” and “Soft Thru USB MIDI In” as in the Figure 4 to get the MIDI clock from the laptop to the Roland TD-50 and then to get that data sent out the MIDI OUT port.

Step 3: Change the Metronome Settings in Logic

Next, in your Logic Pro project go into the metronome settings and uncheck “Audio Click” as in Figure 5 below.

Figure 5. Metronome settings in Logic Pro

Next change the Port to TD-50. Then set the Channels to 11 or whatever you selected on your MIDI device (in my case I set up the drum machine to use MIDI receive channel 11 since the Roland uses channel 10, seemed less confusing for me). Next change your notes and the velocity. Click here for a map of the percussion notes on a midi keyboard. You can see in that map that “3Ab” is a cowbell. The “3” is the octave on a keyboard starting with 1 as the first octave. But Logic starts at zero for the 1st octave and uses sharps not flats. So to get the “3Ab” cowbell we need to select “G#2” in Logic which means the G# (or Ab) in the 3rd octave.

The nice thing about this set up is you can control the click sound right on the Roland Sound Module using the Mix In knob. No more click-holding on the metronome icon to bring up the settings menu just to change the volume.

None of this was intuitive and I couldn’t find anything in the Roland manual or even anything online. I just started clicking buttons until it started working. Hopefully this is helpful for someone trying to do the same thing or something similar.