Some years ago I was thinking about how to make my band’s ( Ego vs Emo ) performance more lively via using some WII drums with Ableton Live. I had this idea about creating a drum set-up which would allow me to move around on stage. As I’m standing while playing in this band anyways and wanted to be even more pro-active. I wanted to be able to move and dance on stage. I thought this was a good idea but hard to put in practise.
Initial thoughts which led to use WII Drums with Ableton Live
Using acoustic drums would have meant to use multiple sending/receiving audio units. Set-up costs would have been very high as well. Overall setting up would have been not very handy at all – that’s why I investigated into using midi drums.
As I’m playing a hybrid kit with a Drumkat and Roland triggers, all my electronic drum sounds are being triggered in Ableton Live anyways. I used the Wiimote in conjunction with a Wii-Guitar before and was very satisfied. I was looking into Wii-Drums and got some second hand ones of Ebay for about 15 Euros.
Latency on MIDI drums with Ableton Live
BUT – the latency was to high and even just using them for just one song as a special effect wasn’t an option. I tried if I could just hit them a bit earlier but this wasn’t working at all. A few weeks ago I stumbled over a forum where people were discussing that issue, this way I found out that the software, I was using to connect my Wiimote was updated to work with the Wii-Drums and gave it another try.
It is know working much better then before, still latency is an issue but it’s now much better then it was before. You will not have a great experience for some ‘real-feel’ drumming but to start/stop samples and to use it for some show elements this could work for you.
How to set up WII Drums with Ableton Live
I am on a Mac, so this guide only works for OSX, as the software OSculator which translate the signals from the Wii-Drums/Wiimote is only for Mac. (Update: The WiiMote is currently not being able to connect to M1/M2 Macs!)
There are Apps for Windows as well, which will work with the Wiimote but I can’t say if they are any good for working with the Wii-Drums. Of course Max for Live is always a way to go as well, but as I have used OSculator for nearly a decade now on numerous shows and it never crashed or did anything weird, this is definitely a stable solution I can recommend.
MIDI Routing, Velocity and Midi effects
I use Ableton Live for triggering my samples. Ableton Live receives MIDI notes via an internal virtual connection (IAC driver) which are being send by OSculator. I can edit which notes are being created for each drum pad. I can send velocity values as well, which to be honest wasn’t that useful.
The Wii-Drums are not sending that accurate velocity values and produce very ‘quiet’,low velocity values. It makes sense use some MIDI effects to define the range and even set a fixed velocity.
More control options with WII drums with Ableton Live
The Wii-Drums have a few buttons left which you could use to switch to next songs or presets in Ableton Live Same as I do it in my video below, you could use them to start/stop/loop recording yourself drumming. If you want to go crazy, you could even use the position (X,Y,Z) of the Wiimote to send MIDI Control Change signals to Ableton Live. This way you could change volumes or audio effects like filters or delays depending on the position of the WII drums.
Overall with this set you will get a very flexible, wireless midi controller – if you not sure how to set up midi drums with Ableton Live, you could check out my video courses here!
Watch me how I use this set-up in this video: