how to create a drum rack in Ableton Live
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How to create a drum rack in Ableton Live

This is one of the incredible features of Ableton Live: the possibility of creating your own drum rack, fully customized and mapped. In this tutorial we are going to learn the basic steps for building a drum rack and also saving as an instrument in the User Library. It means that this custom drum rack can be used in all future productions as well.

A drum rack is an Instrument in Live’s components. It has slots where the samples are set. Each slot corresponds to a key on the keyboard or any assignable button of a midi controller. Once a sample is stored in a slot, you can add effects and map them to real-time control.

You can use samples from Live’s Packs or even from a sample library. Any WAV, AIF or even mp3 audio sample can be stored in a Drum Rack. You decide it.

That said, let’s learn how to create a drum rack.

  1. Open a new instance from Live and load an empty drum rack in a midi track:


P.S.: Although we are going to handle audio samples, a drum rack is a midi instrument.

  1. Notice that a key note indicates each drum slot: C1, C#1, etc.:


The drum rack screen displays 16 slots at a time. There are many more! Just move up or down the little square in the column at the left and more slots will be available.

  1. For this tutorial, let’s use the samples from the Live’s Core Library. We begin by choosing a kick sample to store in the C1 slot. To do that just click on the “Samples” option from Categories and in the search bar type “kick”. Live will display in the column at the right all samples with the word ‘kick’ in their names. It will make the job of finding a sample easier. For now, I will select the ‘Kick-909.aif’ sample:


4. To assign the sample to the slot, just drag the ‘kick-909.aif’ file to the C1 slot. Notice that the sample opens in the Simpler:


You can set the parameters in the Simpler at your needs. P.S.: Usually when I record a sample myself, I have to set the start point of the sound, to make it sound without a delay.

5. Repeat the same procedure with other drum parts to assign them to the slots. You can use also sound effects and one-shots in your drum rack. In the image below, I have set some samples to the drum rack just by dragging them to their respective slot:


6. By opening the Chan List (the highlighted button below) it’s possible to set parameters for each slot, such as volume, pan, mute and solo:


7. You can also add audio effects in the rack and map any sample or effect parameter to your controller; you can also set macros for any function inside the rack and create more exciting control possibilities:


8. You can also save your drum rack in the User’s Library. Just click on the save icon and rename the drum rack:


That’s it! Building drum racks is an efficient way to boost the creative process in Ableton Live.

Happy productions!

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