Create a Finger-Drumming Rack in Ableton Live (Basics)
1200+ students enrolled, lifetime access and a 30 day money back guarantee in case you're not satisfied with the content!*
Please note: Free previews of 3 lectures available! Just scroll to the curriculum section to see where we start, how a kick drum sound is processed and what the possible result could sound like.
Latest Update: To help you getting started, my version of the Ableton Live Session can now be downloaded. Just look at the material of lecture "Setting Up The Live Session"!
This course will teach beginners how to set up a session for recording in Ableton Live, records sounds created with items from your household and turn them into a finger-drumming rack.
You will learn to cut samples, process them with Simpler, shape sounds with envelope and filter and play them with your computer keyboard or a midi controller. With clever arrangement and some practice, you will be able to play the processed sounds with both hands simultaneously and create basic drum loops accompanied by simple melodic elements.
Therefore we will:
- set up a live session to work with
- set up your input source
- choose proper items to record
- shape drum- and percussion sounds
- process a bass sounds
- use looping techniques to get pads and lead sounds
- spice up the sounds with Simpler's built in audio fx and Ableton's midi fx
- arranging the sounds for playback on keyboard or midi controller
- play the rack!
Finger drumming is a fun way to develop simple rhythmical ideas and improve your coordination, even if you have never played an instrument. The recordings are made from items you'll find at home.
The course consists of video modules only. Some lectures have downloads available to help you in your process. Choose whatever items you like to use during the course. Watching and understanding the videos will take about 2 hours, but I recommend to execute all tasks show in the lessons directly after watching. Still, after you gathered your items and installed a version of Ableton, the course can be completed in about 3 to 4 hours without any problems.
If you're completely new to the topic, I recommend to watch the lectures once to understand the basic idea and then re-watch it to support you in settingup, recording, processing and playing, step by step.
No special equipment needed! You will most likely own everything needed to complete this course!
*May not be available for app-in purchases, please check conditions before buying.
Welcome and Overview
Welcome to the course! All you need to start is a computer with Ableton Live running (the demo version is fine, as long as you don't want to save your work) and a cheap microphone or a built-in mic in your laptop. I hope you have fun choosing some items, recording the sounds, playing around with them and then playing them from a drum rack.
As I'm german, my english is in no means flawless. I hope that everything is clear to understand, though!
If you have any question or suggestions, please let me know. Now, enjoy the course!
Preparing & Recording
Before we start recording, you have to choose the items you want to use to create the drum rack. In this course, I used a candy bar, my key, a do-it-yourself shaker (built from a children's toy and some letter-shaped noodles), a glass bottle (for long, resonating sounds) and my mouth.
Of course, you can choose different items and apply the techniques of this course to them. Just look around your house, flat, garden or garage and use things that sound interesting.
Time to set up the live session for recording. We need: An audio track for recording, a midi track containing the "drum rack" device and optionally a midi track for the "simpler" device. The optional track with the simpler can be used to create a preset without overwriting your original ableton live simpler preset.
To speed things up, I provide my version of the session as downloadable content!
Before the recording can be done, we might have to set up an input source. Don't worry if you don't own a high quality microphone, for the concepts shown in this course, even an input source with poor audio quality like a built-in mic or a cheap usb mic will do the trick. You may also use your external or internal sound card in combination with a microphone, if you own one.
The actual recording starts, just after everything got set up. I recommend to use single clips for each item you record. If you plan to do longer recordings of one item, it might be useful to separate the recordings into even more clips. Rename them properly, so you have easy access and don't waste time searching for a specific sound or part of a recording.
If you don't find an item that does a certain sound you're looking for, try using your voice or mouth to imitate it!
If you don't have access to any microphone or have trouble recording your items, you might also use the samples I will use in the next video. You can download a .zip file containing them from the extras tab and just import them as shown in the video.
This quiz is all about the items I used in the lectures.
Editing Beat Sounds & Percussion
We start to fill or rack with samples! Make sure to pick cells in the drum rack that make sense for your setup. If you want to use your computer keyboard, C3 to D4 would be a good choice, if you like to use a midi controller later, you might want to use the cells that get triggered by that controller, so you don't need to shift the samples around later. I use C1 to D2 because my controller is configured to that interval.
First sound is the kick drum. Make sure to cut the sample right and crop it to safe disk space. This keeps you drum rack projects nice and clean.
Next up are sounds like hihats and shaker sounds. Make sure you cut these samples at the right spot to get them in shape. Hard cuts after the actual sound cut more of the room reverb you may have recorded when recording the sound.
Use the decay and sustain knobs to create a nice fadeout if you like to have one, depending on what kind of sound you want to create.
Within the last slots in the lower 8 cells of the drum rack, we use the remaining recordings to get some nice, percussive sounds. Be sure to compare them when adjusting volume levels and listen carefully when setting sample start and end. Sometimes fading out even short samples via the ADSR curve of the volume envelope sounds better than just cutting off.
Editing Long Sounds
We use the "blow over bottle" sound to create a bass sound. After shaping attack and decay, a well chosen pitch does the trick in this case. The filter section of the simpler helps us to get rid of too much "blow" sound at the top end.
After that, we use copies of the first sound with different "transpose" parameters to play different pitches. Remember to use headphones or good speakers so you can hear the low frequencies!
Leads and Pad sounds are long sounds too, but I like to use a different technique here. By choosing settings for a very short loop and trying out several start positions, we simulate the behavior of an oscillator and create intensive sounds.
Copying the sounds and then pitching them corresponding to the bass sounds is necessary for harmonics.
This quiz is all about knobs and parameters of the simpler instrument.
Preparing The Rack and Midi Setup
Some little adjustments first: Check the volume levels for all sounds again and adjust them to make them fit together. To widen high frequency sounds, you might use the spread know for more stereo movement.
The "chord" midi-effect helps us to play chords without spending slots on more notes. With this on, a button plays not one but up to seven sounds.
Finally, we use the loop function and the release of the volume envelope to create a transition sound we will use to separate musical parts from each other.
If you own a midi controller, maybe even a pad controller, I recommend to use it for playing our rack. If you don't, just use a midi keyboard or your computer keyboard.
Remember: All midi controller have to be set up correctly to use them!
If you plan to play the drum rack with a computer keyboard, you should think about rearranging the sounds. Look for the white and black keys on the keyboard and try to find a configuration which fits your needs.
Midi controllers are a nice way to play a drum rack. I would recommend a 4x4 or even 8x8 matrix, if you don't have one yet but want to get one. Be sure to check them first, how the pads react and how they feel, there are a lot differences.
I like to arrange drums sound to my right hand (I'm right-handed) and melodic parts and basses to my left hand. Make sure that the controller sit firmly on the table in a position you can access all pads without problems.
Playing The Rack
When learning how to play the drum section, make sure you start slow and easy. Try some simple rhythms with one or two sounds first, so your muscle memory can get used to the finger routine. Get fastest bit by bit and/or start adding more sounds. Try different patterns, depending on your musical taste.
Make sure the pad or keyboard is in the right position to play without pain. Do short practice intervals in the beginning, STOP if you experience pain.
Basses and leads or pads are easier to play. Make sure that the cells are in the right pitch and easy to reach. You may play sounds short or long, play around a bit and see what you like best.
Thanks for doing the course! I hoped you had some fun doing it and really recorded some of your household items. If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, don't hesitate to contact me. I would love to see or hear if you build your own rack and what you did with it.
Make sure to check out my next course, where I plan to go deeper into sound design and use a lot more midi and audio fx to improve our rack.
Thanks and goodbye!