How to Make a Foot Pedal Drum Machine

Written by matt gerrard
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How to Make a Foot Pedal Drum Machine
A software drum machine emulates its hardware equivalent and uses pattern sequencers to save button space. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Drum machines can be useful accompaniments to a solo artist or extra elements added to full bands. They offer a range of sounds and patterns that cannot be played by a human drummer, but they always have been limiting when it comes to improvisation. Patterns have to be programmed in advance, in a set sequence, and cannot be altered in real time. Creating a foot-pedal control for a digital drum machine allows a user to switch between a variety of preset patterns using foot-switches on a pedal board.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Audio host software/DAW
  • Drum machine plug-in with pattern sequencer
  • MIDI foot-switch pedal board
  • PC/MIDI Interface

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Connect the foot-switch pedal board to the MIDI interface. Connect the Interface to the computer. Power on the computer, and launch the audio host or DAW application. Create a new channel, and insert an instance of the drum-machine plug-in.

  2. 2

    Load a sample kit into the drum machine, and click the pads to ensure they are working. Open the pattern sequencer window, which displays a horizontal row of buttons or toggle switches. There most likely are 16 buttons and switches, which represent 16 divisions of time within a specified loop. The length of the loop is determined with a selector switch on the sequencer panel, allowing eight, 16 or 32 beats.

  3. 3

    Press the "Play" button on the sequencer window. A cursor moves along the row of buttons from left to right, looping around to the start each time it reaches the end. Select the kick drum, and program a simple pattern of three or four beats by clicking buttons in the horizontal row. Each highlighted button plays a drum hit as the cursor moves over it.

  4. 4

    Locate an array of buttons labelled A to Z, which is the pattern matrix. Each time you create a drum pattern using the sequencer, it can be assigned to a letter in the matrix. Once you have a number of patterns, they can be triggered during playback, switching between different loops and patterns in real time.

  5. 5

    Click the "MIDI Learn" button in the toolbar of the audio host or DAW. Highlight the play button on the pattern sequencer, and click the first footswitch on the pedal board. This switch starts and stops the drum machine. Assign the other footswitches to individual patterns in the pattern matrix. Disable "MIDI Learn" mode. Pressing the switches on the pedal board now allows control of the drum machine.

Tips and warnings

  • You can assign the footswitches to play individual drum hits by assigning them to the single-hit drum pads in the drum machine's main view.

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