Programming Realistic Drum Parts

As many of you will know, programming realistic drum parts can be a tricky business.  With this in mind we sat down with our resident drum guru Stu to chat ask him about his favourite drum programming techniques in Ableton.  From getting a live feel in your hi-hats to utilising Ableton's midi effect all will be revealed.  So..



Programming Realistic Drum Parts

How Do I Add Swing In Ableton Live?

When a live drummer plays the drums, they will naturally swing their beats.  This means the drum loop will breath and move on and off the grid.  They won't be perfectly quantised, like MIDI.

That's where Ableton's swing comes in.  By clicking the 'groove' section in our MIDI file, we're able to choose how much swing we require then add it to our beat when trying programming realistic drum parts.  Image 1 shows our drum pattern with no swing applied.  All the hits are exactly on the grid which feels robotic and fake.





On the image below we've added swing to our loop which slightly moves the hits off the grid giving a much more natural feel.





How Do I Programme Realistic Hi-Hats?

Ableton's ability to create a MIDI file from an audio file is great for two reasons:

1 - The feature allows you to programme beats with the ultimate in feel and velocity control (Image 1)

2 - It's an amazing insight into just how swung a live drum beat can be as well as showing off the changes in velocity. (Image 2)


Programming Realstic Hi Hats With MIDI


(1) By dragging the audio loop onto our MIDI channel the audio drum loop has been converted to MIDI.


Note: Make sure your MIDI channel has a drum rack loaded onto it before dragging the audio down.


Programming Realstic Hi Hats With MIDI_02


(2) The image above shows all the velocity changes when playing a live hi-hat.  Note also the swing as the notes moves off the grid.


Be sure to check out our huge range of Ableton live Sample Packs and take these new skills for a spin.


Our Favourite Live Drum Sample Packs

An absolute Touch Loops classic. Oh wow, a classic for a reason! Incredible performance, killer recording and endless lashings of style! Think vintage drum breaks, classic Hip-Hop grooves and soulful rhythms that we know you'll love!  


Vintage Drums Breaks Sample Pack


Using Ableton's Velocity & Random Tool

Ableton's velocity tool is a great way to add random velocity to all your drum notes and hits.  Here's what the dials mean:


'Out High & Low' 

This refers to the maximum and minimum velocity a drum hit will be.  MIDI notes have a range from 0-127 getting a balance between 75-100 usually works out nicely,.


This controls how much Ableton randomises the velocities of the hits.  Ableton will randomise the notes within the range of the 'high & low' setting.


Ableton Velociuty Tool Drum programming Blog


Now you've got the skills to programme in style, make sure you check out our Live Drum Mixing series that's packed with amazing live drum mixing tips.