How to Create Electronic Drum Setups with Ableton Live
By Anderton |
Use Live's Drum Rack feature to create complete, editable drum kits
by Craig Anderton
Starting with version 7, Ableton Live added a feature called the Drum Rack. The Drum Rack makes it easy to assemble complete drum kits, with processing, transposition, different sound characteristics, and other options. Although a very deep feature, this introduction will get you started with the basic concepts – we’ll create and edit a simple drum set, and sequence a quick drum part, using the Drum Rack feature.
Fig. 1: Drum Racks require MIDI tracks.
In Session View, create a MIDI track or select an existing one.
Fig. 2: Drag the Drum Rack from the Browser’s Instruments folder into the drop zone.
Open the Browser if it isn’t already open. In the Browser toolbar toward the left side, click on the Live Devices button. Next, locate the Instruments folder, then unfold it. A Drum Rack instrument appears within the Instruments folder; click on the Drum Rack, then drag it into the “drop zone” section of the Track View Selector.
Fig. 3: The Drum Rack note selector chooses the range of notes to which you can assign drum samples.
The right side of the Drum Rack has a note selector scroll bar. Move the note selector up or down to select the desired note range where you can assign drum (or other) sounds.
Fig. 4: Create your kit by dragging samples.
In the Browser, locate the hits you want to collect into a drum kit. Drag the desired hits from the Browser into the Drum Rack device (you can drag one hit per “pad”).
Fig. 5: Program a drum part.
You’ll need a MIDI clip to create your drum sequence. If a MIDI clip doesn’t yet exist, double-click on a MIDI clip slot (not the slot’s Record button), then program the desired drum part within the MIDI Clip Overview. If you want to work with an existing MIDI clip, single-click on its clip slot; you’ll see the sequence in the MIDI Clip Overview.
Fig. 6: You can edit particular drum parameters within the Drum Rack.
There are several editable parameters (volume, pan, MIDI note receive and play, choke for drum groups, solo, etc.) within the Drum Rack, called rack chain parameters. You can edit these parameters in the Track View Selector’s Chain List (click on the button shown circled in red), or the Session View Overview (click on the button shown circled in blue at the top of the “parent” drum track). Choosing the Session View Overview option “unfolds” additional mixer channels that correlate to the various drum sounds.
Fig. 7: Here’s how to edit drum sound parameters.
To edit an instrument’s sound, click on the Track View Selector, then click on the “pad” with the instrument you want to edit. In the “mini toolbar” toward the left, under the Device Title Bar, enable Show/Hide Devices to see the drum sound parameters for editing. Note that if you hide Macro Controls and Chain List (these are hidden in the screen shot), you can see more of the instrument editor without have to scroll in the Track View Selector.
Note that Drum Racks have their own sends and return chains. In the “mini toolbar” toward the left, under the Device Title Bar, click on the Show/Hide Sends and Show/Hide Return Chains to see these. To create a return chain, simply drag an effect into the space indicated when showing Return Chains.
And of course, if you’re going to do all this work creating a Drum Rack, you’ll want to save it. To save the current Drum Rack, click on the save button (floppy disk icon) toward the right side of the Drum Rack’s Device Title Bar.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.