How to fully exploit the Ableton live 10 Drum Rack.

 

For all those who have Ableton Live, the Drum Rack is really a very interesting and powerful tool.

Following a training session this month (thanks to Vincent for these questions) to help you discover the Drum Rack in depth.

What is the Drum Rack?

When you load an empty Drum Rack, you have this window with pads. Each pad will correspond to a note on the keyboard or a pad if you have a Push 2 or Novation Launch Pad controller.

Drum Rack by default

On the side we have 5 circular buttons that I will talk about later. And right next to that we have blocks of 16 pads.

Because yes, the Drums Rack does not only contain 16 pads but a total of 64 pads!

In these pads you can load different categories of elements:

  1. Samples in wav – aiff – mp3 format
  2. EQ-type audio effects – Compressors and much more.
  3. Software instruments such as those from Ableton such as Analog – Electric and of course VST
  4. Ableton’s Midi Effects are also available and we will see why later…
  5. For the samples, nothing could be easier, in my audio library, I select a kick for example and I will put it on the C1 pad and there I can trigger it (play it).

A little tip if you want to use several samples in the Drum Rack, select them in your library and drag all the samples in one operation.

Let’s load a sample!

Once you have loaded your wav files into the Drum Rack, you have the name that appears on the pad

Drum Rack Loaded

The name is also displayed in the upper part of Simpler which is an Ableton plug-in for playing audio samples.

A Play button, a mute button and the solo button appear on the pad.

As explained, plug-ins can also be loaded in two different ways:

  • By pad as below with the EQ as in the example below.
Drum Rack Pad effect
  • Overall on the whole Drum Rack as with the Glue Compressor below.
Drum Rack Overall Effect

Let’s now look at a Drum Rack with several samples.

Let’s start with the three small buttons at the top left:

Drum Rack buttons
  • The first button displays the macros that are used to control one or more parameters of an effect with a single button.
Drum Rack Macro
  • The second button displays the chain for each pad.
Drum Rack Chain
  • The third button shows or hides the processing chain.
Drum Rack Chain view

Then we have the following 3 buttons

  • I/O: This button is displayed when the channel mode is activated. It displays the received note and the note played in Simpler, the Choke function, volume, pan, mute solo and hot swap. It also displays the output called Rack Output.
Drum Rack In/Out
  • S: Send button, this button allows you to view in the I/O chain independent effects sendings for each pad. Example how to put the sound of the snare drum into the reverb bus without affecting the other sounds. You must activate the R button and insert an effect.
  • A: Return button, use in conjunction with the Send button. It is possible as shown in the image below to set the output (a Reverb in this example) on a return track. This provides consistency throughout the song.
Drum Rack Send & Return

Let’s explore this tool further

1. Choke

As you can see in the image above, there is the Choke switch that allows you to assign the channel to one of the sixteen exclusion groups! In concrete terms, the triggering of a chain silences the other chains belonging to the same exclusion group.

This is useful for example to cut an open Hit hat (Charleston) by playing a closed Hit hat. This brings a more natural game, because in battery mode you can’t play an open Hit hat at the same time as a closed hit hat.

Drum Rack Choke

2. Layering of samples method 1


The layering technique consists in stacking several sounds to form one. This technique is used in the work of drum sounds. There are several methods to do this here is the first.

In this example I want my kick in C1 to play with the kick in C2. As shown in the image below, the note received by pad C2 (Receive) is assigned to the same note received on pad C1 (in example C1) the name of the pad changes and is called Multi. You are free to rename it at your convenience.

Drum Rack Layering 1

3. Layering method 2

As I explain at the beginning of the article, you can insert virtual instruments into the pads of the Drum Rack. For this layering technique, I will use a Rack instrument that I will place on note C1. In this Instrument Rack we will use several Simplers to perform our layering. An advantage over the previous method? This saves pads and no need to assign the received score to each Simpler string!

Drum Rack Layering 2

4. Midi Pitch

Let’s imagine that we have the sample of a kick that sounds good, but that we like to hear it more deeply in the octave below. We can in the Simpler transpose our sample, know there is another method. By using a midi plug-in!

As shown in the example below, the midi plug-in Chord is inserted between the chain and the Simpler. The Shift potentiometer 1 is set to the value -12, which corresponds to the octave below. This method can be easier to make pitch ramps in EDM production for you to see!

Drum Rack Midi Pitch

This example also shows you that midi plug-ins fit into the Drum Rack.

5. Copy values into chains Sibling

This is a very practical function in the Drum Rack, in concrete terms. You load several samples and the volume values for example in the Simplers are all at -12. There is a quick way to put all Simplers with the same output volume. Go to a Simpler and set the parameter to the desired value, example -6, right click with the mouse or on your trackpad and in the drop-down menu, click on copy Chain sibling value (6). In this example the menu informs you that it will change the settings of the other 6 chains. Practical, isn’t it?!

Drum Rack Chain Sibling

Be careful with this function, because the setting applies to all chains and not only to the chains you would like this is not yet possible.

6. Random Pan

A very practical function that is located in the Simpler. Make a Ran>Pan (Random Pan) setting in the Controls tab of the Simpler as in the example in the window below, here we see it dosed at 80% you will give movement to your shaker, tambourine and other percussion….

Simpler Random Pan

7. Synthesized in the Drum Rack

I often use different sounds in Epic music to create reminders. I use these synth sounds very often on a track called Fx Epic. Instead of loading 5 tracks with 5 synths, as I only use one note at a given time, I place my synths in the Drum Rack. Saving time and energy for me. It is up to you to see if you have the usefulness of this process… an example in the image below.

Drum Rack Synths

One last tip!

When you insert a Drum Rack on a track in session mode at the top right of the track. On the small arrow, click on it, you open the tracks created in the Drum Rack, as well as the effects tracks. You can make your settings directly in session mode. Practical if you find like me that the Drum Rack is not resizable.

Drum Rack Session

Of course there is a lot we can do with the Drum Rack and I haven’t shown you everything particularly I haven’t explained Simpler. It will be the subject of another chapter… If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email and if you need a composition or arrangement, a remix from your Ableton project, it’s possible