Have you ever wondering how other producers always seem to have drum racks that "just work" but every time you try to make one it falls flat?
Maybe you use expansion packs or pre-made drum racks from us or other sample pack companies and want to know what the secret sauce is to making them?
Today we're going to spill the tea on how its done. Here is an audio example of our GRITMATTER sample pack and Ableton Drums Rack that you can build yourself with your own samples or ours.
This may seem a little like busy work to someone who just wants to get straight to making music, but there's a time and a place.
We recommend saving this kind of work for those days when you want to work on music, but aren't in the headspace to write songs, finish mixes, etc.
Maybe work was stressful, you didn't sleep well, or it just isn't coming together that day.
You can still choose to be productive by building tools for yourself.
This is literally the story of GRITMATTER.
We were having an off day, but had been playing around with an idea for a playable drum rack that sounds like an old drum break sampled from a vinyl record.
Before we we start programming the drum rack to behave how we would like, you'll need to make sure you have some proper drum sounds on hand.
The vibe or recording style of the samples doesn't matter a ton. Use what makes the most sense for your drums. You can download a kit from somewhere or record them yourself
But there is one very important quality your samples need for this whole tutorial to work.
You need 3-5 similar sounds for each drum pad that will be grouped together.
If you're recording these yourself, like we did with GRITMATTER, you would record yourself hitting the same drum around 10 times as consistently as you can, then pick the best 5.
This collection of 5 sounds is how we will make our multisample drum pad.
When a real drummer plays, the stick never hits exactly the same place with exactly the same force and alternates between two hands that are slightly different and two sticks that are slightly different weights and lengths.
They're very, very similar, but not exactly the same.
So each drum hit a drummer places produces slight variations in sound.
These slight variations are the secret sauce to making a sampled drum kit sound "human" or "real".
A computer playing back a single sample doesn't do that, even if we vary the velocity which just changes the volume and maybe modulates the filter a bit.
The single sampled rack sounds more mechanical because the computer is literally making the exact same sound over and over again, which is basically impossible for a human to truly do.
Now that you know some of the method behind the madness here, let's get to cooking up this rack!
One of the more clever features of Ableton Live Drum Racks is you can wrap them with...another drum rack!
And that is exactly what we're going to do here to achieve multisample playback.
First, make a blank drum rack.
Next, go into the browser again and drag another blank drum rack onto a pad of the drum rack you just created.
Now you have two drum racks, an inner rack that will do your multisample cycling, and an outer rack which is what you will directly trigger with MIDI.
Grab the samples you wish to use on this pad in the browser and drag them into the inner, embedded drum rack you made.
The next step is easy, but essential. Right now the rack will only play back the first sample of the collection you dropped in.
You need to be dragging in two stock plugins next: Pitch and Random.
Navigate to the MIDI plugins in Ableton and make sure you put them in front of the inner drum rack on each pad of the main rack you want to do this one.
The following settings should be changed from the default:
The Choices control on the Random plugin should be equal to the number of samples you used for that drum rack pad you're working on.
The Mode on the Random Plugin should be set to Alt
The Pitch plugin should be set to -24
The Chance control on the Random plugin must be at 100%
Now you have multi sampled drums!
As you engage the pad you will see that the sample being played back will advance in order from the top of the list of chains in the inner drum rack to the bottom, then repeat from the top.
You need to duplicate this process for every pad in the rack you wish to use multisamples.
If you have multiple pads that would be in the same frequency range, you can set choke groups to keep them from interfering with each other.
An example of this is if you have several hi hat pads or kicks.
Depending on how you make music, pad layout for your racks can make a big difference.
If you mostly program sequences with a mouse, it isn't a big deal, but for people who like to "play in" drum parts from a MIDI controller, you need a layout that feels good and makes sense to you.
We encourage you to change around how you do it to find what works.
We typically like to have kicks and snare next to each other on the bottom two rows of an 8x8 pad controller, then put hi hats, cymbals, and FX sounds in the upper two rows of pads.
This tutorial assumes you're working with a rack where the samples don't vary by velocity.
The volume or filter can be programmed to move with different velocities, but the computer is still cycling through the same handful of samples no matter what.
However, you can have one group of quieter samples for lower velocities, then a different set that only engages when you press the pad or key of your MIDI controller harder.
That out of the scope of this tutorial, but if you want to know how a lot of software instruments work under the hood, this a technique used in most of them to add more depth and realism.
Repeat this tutorial, except instead of using a handful of multisamples for each instrument in the rack, replace them with a bunch of really different sounds on each pad.
The rack will still cycle through them, so when you play the results will be a lot more unpredictable.
You can try using different sounding drums, synth samples, slices of drum breaks, even vocal samples. Get weird with it. There are a lot of creative possibilities that will surprise and inspire you.
We hope you were able to follow along and expand your concept of what's possible by building your own drum rack along with us.
If you did, congrats! Most people don't take that kind of initiative to build drum racks that don't suck.
This may seem tedious the first few times you try it, but once you've made an instrument rack or two like this and feel how smoothly it works, you'll want to do more.
And of course we'd be honored if you tried one of ours if you want to see someone else's working example and change it to suit your tastes or add to it.