Exploring Drum Racks In Ableton Live

Drum Racks in Ableton live have endless power and functionality that allow you to programme amazing sounding drums.  In this article we'll cover the use of FX sends in the drum rack, saving drum rack presets, processing and pitching drum samples and manipulating the envelope of a drum sample.  So, let's answer a few common questions about the almighty Ableton Drum rack.


What Is A Drum Rack In Ableton?

The drum rack in Ableton is a virtual instrument that contains a collection of samplers.  Each mini sampler can hold a single drum sample and be triggered using MIDI.   By using MIDI we're able to programme drums loops, percussion lines and anything else you fancy.  Inside the drum rack we can also process the individual drum sounds with things like pitch, the envelope of the sound, reverse the sample and numerous other functions.


Adding Samples To The Drum Rack

The drum rack is made up of 128 cells that can each hold a drum sample.  You can easily drag and drop a sample into the cells from either the browser (on the left) or from your session.  It will also accept longer recordings that you can edit down inside the sampler itself, if you so wished




Above you can see that the kick drum sample has a created a 'simpler' plugin inside the drum rack - this gives us loads of options for programming drums inside and effecting drums inside the rack.

Processing Drum Samples With Envelopes

When talking about 'envelopes' on drums we're talking about 2 main things:

Attack - The speed at which the first sound or transient happens.  Usually on a drum this is very short as the sound has a huge initial impact.

Release - How long it takes for the sound to end - A kick would be very short where as a ride cymbal would be very long.

In the Ableton Simpler this is labelled as 'fade In' (Attack) and Fade Out (Release).

Watch the video below to see how powerful this easy process can be for making tough kicks much softer or added a weird shape to a snare drum etc etc.



Check out our Ableton Live Sample Packs and take your drum rack skills for a spin!


Can I Pitch Samples In A Drum Rack?

Pitching samples in the drum rack is incredibly easy and insanely useful.  Not only can you pitch samples to be in the same key as your song but you can also pitch sounds into worlds they wouldn't usually exist in.  In the video below listen as a kick drum is pitched up drastically, turning it into a potential percussion or snare sound.



Tip: Try pitching your sample up 12 semi-tones before tuning it to your track.  By doing this you'll be able to hear the note more clearly.  Once tuned pitch it down by -12 and you'll be good to go.



How Do I Add Fx Sends In An Ableton Drum Rack?

Inside the Ableton Drum Rack we're able to include FX like Reverb & Delay then choose how much of that effect is added to each drum sound. 

We do that by creating a send and return inside the drum rack as show in the video below. 



What's great about this is that we're able to add 3-4 different sounds for a snare, a kick and percussion and send different amounts to each effect.  This is incredibly need and tidy and keeps everything contained inside your drum rack. 


Mastered this?! Why not check our top 10 Ableton Drum Tips & Download your free Ableton Drum Racks.


How Do I Save A Drum Rack In Ableton?

The great thing about drum racks in Ableton live is that you can save them and use them in another session.  The process is incredibly easy and makes your workflow so much faster for the future.  The video below shows just how easy this is but here's the process: 

  1. Click on your drum and press CMD+G - This puts your drum rack into a group.  The group can contain just the drum rack or other plugins in your chain, it's totally up to you. 
  2. Click the floppy disk looking item at the bottom left of the group. 
  3. Name your drum rack something memorable. 
  4. Note - The drum rack presets can be added to the quick save menu making them even easier to access.