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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jan-17 > Create custom Drum Racks with Ableton Live

Create custom Drum Racks with Ableton Live

Drum Racks are one of Live’s most powerful features, whether you’re using them for just for beatmaking with drums and percussion, or for far more. Martin Delaney flexes his drumming fingers…

Ableton Live In Depth

Drum Racks are the main building blocks for programming or re-sampling beats in Live. Whether you’re entering notes with a mouse or trackpad, or recording in real time from pads, Push or a MIDI keyboard, Drum Racks are Ableton’s most important beat-making tools, as well as being useful hosts for other types of sounds and effects.

A Drum Rack is a group of Live devices which contains up to 128 drum pads, and uses Live’s Simpler instrument to host the sample content for each of those pads. Alongside Simpler, you can also expect to see MIDI and audio effect devices, as well as third-party instrument or effect plug-ins. This is backed up with the potential for very sophisticated MIDI and audio routing, as well as macro controls for more accessible hardware controller assignments and, vitally, the ability to save the entire thing as a single preset. Did I mention that each pad can also contain another Rack? That means you get Racks within Racks within Racks. This is powerful stuff but luckily, it’s also easy to get started with.

Our focus here is on customising existing Drum Racks, but there’s an empty Drum Rack provided in the Live Library, so if you want to start from scratch, use that, and drag in your samples, letting Live put them into instances of Simpler automatically – you can also browse and load samples from Push. Drum Racks are visually complicated things at times, so it’s a good idea to use the small buttons at the left to fold and unfold elements on demand, or else double-click on the Rack name and fold it right up, in the usual Ableton style. As I’ve said, there are many ways to trigger the sounds in a Drum Rack, but I find that it usually comes down to the computer keyboard if I’m travelling, or Push if I’m at home – one extreme to the other.

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