Super Drum Racks: Quickly Audition Drum Samples in Ableton Live

Anyone that’s ever bought a sample pack from Loopmasters knows that they include lots of drum samples. The problem is that most sample packs don’t include ready to play drum racks or kits, which means producers spend a lot of time just creating drum kits rather than actually playing and recording. What if there was a way to create a drum rack that’s loaded with all the drum samples and that lets producers easily audition all the drum samples? Today Multiplier is going to show you how in Ableton Live!

Speed is crucial when it comes to producing music. It’s important that an idea can come and go without gear getting in the way of the creative process. Setting up this Drum Rack will make it easier to get in a state of flow and create drum patterns faster.

Once the Drum Rack is setup producers can start creating drum patterns and quickly change the sound of the pattern simply by selecting new samples with the chain selector knob. This is a much faster way of creating and testing new patterns without the need to load an entirely new drum kit.

How To Setup The Drum Rack

The first step is to drag a drum rack onto an empty track. Then go to the “Instruments” tab in Ableton’s browser and drag an “Instrument Rack” onto one of the drum rack cells. Most sample packs will organize the drum samples into folders for each sound: kick, snare, closed hat, open hat etc. To keep it simple we’ll start with instrument racks for 4 sounds – kicks, snares, hi hats, and percussion.

Once the drum rack cells have been loaded with instrument racks the next step is to drag the drum samples from a sample pack into the chain list. Now for each instrument rack, we’ll need to distribute the samples across the chain. A chain can hold up to 128 samples (since the midi range is 0 – 127). So if these instrument racks were maxed out across the 4 drum rack cells that gives us 4 x 128 = 512 samples in one drum rack!

Looking for more Ableton tips: Check out these tips that will revolutionize your Ableton workflow!

Click for an animated gif showing how to distribute samples across the chain.

After all the drum samples have been loaded into each drum rack cell, the next step is to map the chain selector to a macro knob. This is how producers can quickly select and audition different drum samples from the chain. First the chain selector needs to be mapped to a Macro knob inside the Instrument Rack.

Looking to make your own drum samples? Learn how to make a great kick drum sound.

Click for an animated gif showing how to map the chain selector to a Macro knob.

The last step is to map the Macro knob of the Instrument Rack to one of the Macro Knobs of the Drum Rack. This sounds a little tricky but the video tutorial covers it well along with another animated gif:

Click for an animated gif showing how to map the Macro knob from the Instrument Rack to the Macro knob of the Drum Rack.

To ensure the Drum Rack is setup properly, start to trigger the drum rack while turning the Macro knob that’s mapped to the “Chain Selector”. If everything is setup properly then turning the knob while playing the drum rack should result in hearing different drum samples from the chain. While the Macro knobs can be controlled with a mouse, a midi controller such as Push would allow for easier control over the drum rack.

That’s it, now you’re ready to start auditioning drum samples and creating drum patterns at breakneck speeds. It seems complicated at first but after doing this process a few times new drum racks can be setup in minutes. This is an indispensable tool for getting the most out of drum samples from sample packs.

What other tips have helped your production workflow?

Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Creating Melodic Kicks With Ableton | NUTesla | The Informant

    […] way to 127, and right click and choose “Distribute Ranges Evenly”. Now we can flip through our kick samples with one knob, but lets go one further and set up our chains to fade between each sample, so that we can combine […]

  • Creating Melodic Kicks With Ableton | DJ TechTools

    […] way to 127, and right click and choose “Distribute Ranges Evenly”. Now we can flip through our kick samples with one knob, but lets go one further and set up our chains to fade between each sample, so that we can combine […]

  • Clyde N. Pearce

    i’ll try again. It’s an old technique. I learned it at Dubspot. I don’t think it matters if anyone gets credit.

  • Clyde N. Pearce

    I learned this technique at Dubspot awhile back. It’s a great technique. I don’t care if you give credit or not for something like this. Getting the technique out there is good enough. no need to get bogged down with who did what when on something like this. Good Job, DJTECHTOOLS

  • Telagraf

    Awesome tip,

    one of my friends showed me how to do it a long time go but I had forgotten.

    not sure why some in this community are so upset. everyone has a skill level that is different. what seems like old useless information to some, might be a completely welcomed refresher for others. DJTT needs to reach a broad audience, how could they possible know what everyone who comes across this post has read or seen.

    now a valid criticism would be something like, why haven’t there been more video tutorials on how to use the midi fighter twister in more real world performance situations. We have band and would like to use the twister as a performance instrument along with ableton and a laptop, maybe a guitar or best practices for converting finished ableton sets into performance sets that can be triggered with your midi controllers.

    how about some stuff like that DJTT?

  • Softcore

    Im surprised that everyone seems to think that such a easy-to-figure-out by yourself technique should be the result of an earlier tutorial – video. Ya know, there are people out there doing this stuff for years now just because they know how the software works – no reference or credits needed…..
    Try using a Sampler and the sample selector. Still the same, nobody told me, no video exists. Jeeeesus….

  • Orion

    all three tutorials are slightly different. the ill gates and dubspot tutorials use sampler in drum cells and this one uses instrument racks in drum cells.

    I tried using this method because I am having some issues with using the sampler method.

    Problem: When I use this method of mapping the key selector to a macro in both sampler and an instrument rack I’d like the sample to show in the drum rack. Of course if I hit the drum cell with the sampler/instrument rack the device in that cell pops up but the actual sample that the selector is selecting is hidden. So if I want to tweek the actual sample i have to spend time looking for it. In sampler it’s more difficult cause I have to locate where the sample select editor is located to click on the sample and then make adjustments in sampler. With instrument racks it’s a little easier because i can see the VU meter in the chain list, then navigate to the instance of simpler.

    food for thought. if any one knows how to populate an instance of sampler with the selected sample that’s playing let me know. There’s also a difference in how you can macro this whole set up. Excuse my tight photoshop skills.

    • Softcore

      Thats the way I ‘ve been doing it 2 years now. And Im really surprised noone mentions how this whole set up can be used in live performances – talking about a custom made drum sampler where you can select the drum sounds real time and then use something like Push (or Launchpad 95 scripts) to sequence the drums.


    • Manu El Malik

      If you use the method with the Instrument Rack, you can simply activate the small arrow (marked with red in the picture) and it will allways show you the right sample/chain when you use the macro to dial thru your sounds.

      Doing this inside Sampler will unfortunately select ALL samples. So, method two would be better I guess.

  • similian

  • CUSP

    It must have been a slow day for DJ news. Unless there’s something that ties directly back to a DJ technique, or some DJ gear used in some performance manner, articles like these seem off topic, are better covered, and better received, by electronic music enthusiast sites.

    Here’s what I suggest: instead of diving deep into production tips and tricks, focus more on DJ related topics. Link to production tips on those sites if you like, but when you stop focusing on one topic, you lose a little of your intended focus.

    I think I’ve seen one article regarding the how and why of song (and song part) selection (which is a DJs main job) on this site, while I have easily seen over a dozen articles regarding optimizing gear, most DJs do not hinge their careers on.

    It’s very easy to do product reviews, and feature articles that are probably covered elsewhere, but why people come to an enthusiast website is for something they cannot get anywhere else. In this case, that unique reason is a community of DJ’s take on how to be a better DJ in the modern market space.

    Telling us what features a controller has is useful, telling us how and why to use a library management system is useful, sharing your experiences is helpful. May I suggest that this site shift focus toward the “human interacting with other humans through music” angle, and less of the car and driver for DJs angle?

    • Derp

      DJing is not that difficult they can only have so many articles on it

      • CUSP

        Oh, I think there are a few articles that are hard to research, but have a huge impact such as: Why do I clear the dancefloor with a popular song? How do I read my crowd? (There are oodles of articles that can be written in this) and How do I add my own uniqueness to my sets without ruining the groove?

        Please note that all of these topics have a major emphasis in the DJ themself. I’m sure I’ve seen a finger drumming practice article, and there’s been a scratching primer, but no one would expect these articles are enough.

  • gw

    I just tried this with the Max for Live LiquidRhythm’s plugin. Talk about a creative and random way to play a drum rack.


    Love how Multiplier described it easily and clearly all in just over 3 minutes. Need more videos from him!!!!

  • robjac

    Bummed that ill.gates or amon tobin or eskmo did not get credit for this. It’s good to refresh everyone about 128’s in racks and all; It’s a pro tip reminder…. but credit the origin of this on the web => ill.Methodology /; ESKAMON Fine Objects Project. ;

    • Migari

      Sampler is being used here, not an Instrument Rack.

      • robjac

        that’s fair, and I knew this was a variation; 128’s can be used in various ways with various native (or even non-native) plugins. The whole paradigm of building 128’s is what I’m trying to point out. Doesn’t matter what native container or instrument we use in Ableton; Dylan pointed this out in his E-book, and in the comments he would reply to us in via the comment thread on the older version of his site. Regardless, I’m happy that DJTT revamped the idea, albeit a general technique that was introduced to us a long time ago.

        I never had Sampler, and so I used the technique with Instrument Racks, BECAUSE I learned the technique from the ill.Methodology lectures. I’m just saying It would just be nice to also mention where the technique of maxing out the MIDI index (0-127) originated from. I’m sure Multiplier knew of illgate’s 128’s before he realized you could do this with an Instrument Rack (just as I did). Instead, it seems more ‘paraphrase’ than ‘plagarism’ ; for which you’d still have to credit paraphrasing in any publishing context.

        • Migari

          Well, I’ve learned of 128s more than a year ago, discussed it in multiple places with hundreds of people and I still missed this variation that you seem to think is commonplace. I don’t consider it proved at all that ill.Gates invented the idea of keeping multiple alternative samples conveniently available in RAM. It’s hardly a novel concept since RAM got cheaper in the early 00s or even before that. Musicians and producers are an inventive bunch.
          Additionally I don’t think ill.Gates minds not getting credit for a concept that is in such wide use. He’s likely about much more than simple techniques and ideas. I think you’re doing him a disservice requesting credit on his part. Just mentioning his approach would be sufficient.

          • robjac

            Pfft. lol. okay. enjoy.

  • alexandermon

    This is just an ill Gates 128 rack and you guys gave NO credit in the article. Even Dubspot covered this technique years ago and gave credit to ill.gates.

    Not what I expect from DJTT, a bit disappointed

    • Migari

      No, it’s not “an ill Gates 128 rack”. This is a variation on the idea using an instrument rack instead of Sampler. Which is great for people without Sampler.

  • Scribbl3

    Ok, this is cool. I’m about as new as you can get with Ableton, and have been slowly learning the features. I’ve been wondering how to use all the samples that I have instead of the provided instruments, and this definitely answers it for me. Sometimes when you have a question, you don’t even need to ask it.

  • Derp

    Didnt ill gates come out with a video on this like 5 years ago

    • alexandermon

      Yes, this is an old technique. Idk why this DJTT author opted not to give credit to the creator :

    • Scottie Pimpin

      I hope DJTT cleared the sample from Dubspot.

      • Derp

        Scottie pimpin lol

    • Ean Golden

      In the future, we hope video contributors will tell us if they are knowingly building on past ideas or videos so those references might be included – as no one on editorial staff was aware of other tutorials that are similar to this technique.

      There are probably a lot of people out there (including myself) who had never considered this method – and found the video to be very helpful and informative.

      • alexandermon

        Don’t disagree, but isn’t Mad Zach on the editorial staff? I’m sure he’s aware of the idea of 128 racks. In fact, I think he even gave a shoutout to Ill.Gates for this technique in one of his recent Beatport videos.

        It blows my mind that a website as active and knowledgeable as DJTechTools could legitimately not know that this is an old and relatively famous technique.

        Mistakes happen, don’t get me wrong, but wow

      • alexandermon

        Hey Ean,

        Is it too much to ask that you guys edit the article and just add a line giving credit?

        I don’t enjoy hounding you guys on this subject but it seems like the obvious right thing to do.

        • Migari

          Why would DJTT give credit as the author is not using Sampler? Which is what I believe ill gates uses.

      • Derp

        well if you’re on djtechtools and you never heard of this method your staff is very immature and unaware of a lot of things going on but your response is very nice cop out and that’s why you’re a DJ and not a producer lol

  • AfroDJMac

    Awesome tip, and huge time saver! Also, nice quick and to the point video. A little bonus tip: If you select the samples from browser and hold CMD, Live will let you drop all of those samples on a single drum rack cell. Live will automatically put them in an instrument rack for you. It’ll save you the extra step of adding an instrument rack.

  • Ezmyrelda

    Trying to conceptualize how to integrate this with my Twister.. Must be a way…

  • lupzdut

    Some word of warning about this technique. If you are sharing your project for collaboration make sure you bounce that track to audio or delete the unchosen samples from the drum rack. If you don’t do this, your project will save all of those samples within the Ableton project and give you a massive file size, or at least larger than needed. When I used to build my drums this way, I would bounce or delete unwanted samples and choose ‘Collect all and save’ and only the used samples were contained within the project. Otherwise great tip if you know its quirks.

  • Kosta X

    Super smart & speeds up the selection process~!

    Question: Is it easy to midi map the “macro knob” to 2x midi buttons (plus/minus) instead of a knob? I think i’d prefer this mapped to some beat pads or buttons instead for better precision when utilizing 128 samples (for those of us who don’t have an endless rotary encoder, especially one with indents or “clicks”).