There are many ways to program drums, but still one of the most effective methods is using Ableton’s Drum Rack and a midi controller. This way the user has the control required to program more complicated rhythms and in a few simple steps you are able to map all your drum samples to your controller.
To begin open a new midi track (Mac- shift cmd T or PC- shift ctrl T). To open Drum Rack you will find it in the left drop down menu under “Live Devices/ Instruments.” Simply drag and drop the drum Rack onto your new midi channel.
In the track view below the Drum Rack appears with pads that have note numbers which are linked to the keys or pads on your controller. Simply drag and drop drum samples from the browser onto each pad. By double clicking the pad you reveal the Simpler plug-in with the sample already loaded. Simpler allows you to manipulate the sample by changing start and end points, loop features, volume envelopes etc.
To program drums simply record arm the midi channel, hit record on an empty clip and play the parts you want. A great tip is to create a new midi channel for each new drum part and to record separate parts. This will allow you to create variations of each separate. When doing this remember to route the midi signal to the Drum Rack on the “In’s & Outs” portion of each channel.
After recording a clip quantise, accordingly (Mac- cmd U PC- ctrl U.) Always check the quantise settings before applying.
Alternately Ableton has an extensive groove pool which will give your drums a more natural swing. Live’s Library includes a large selection of grooves, which appear as .agr files in the Browser. The easiest way to work with Library grooves is to drag and drop them from the Browser directly onto clips in your Set. This immediately applies the timing characteristics of the groove to the clip. A solid rhythm is the most crucial element of your track. It provides a foundation on which the rest of the track is built. Once your kick is placed the groove builds above it. Each new element should complement and support what’s gone before in terms of how it works both rhythmically and as part of the overall sound.
On the Drum Rack Midi channel there is an arrow on the right of the channel name. Click on this to expand the audio channels of your drums. Here you can apply unique EQ, compression, reverb and other FX.
You can also mix your drums and pan using each channel strip. If you are layering multiple sounds as shown here with the claps, try select all and create a group (select all channels then Mac- cmd G or PC- ctrl G.) This will allow you to apply the same FX to multiple pads.
The Drum Rack channel strip is where you can apply all your final FX to your kit. This is where opinions will vary but generally a drum FX chain can really shape things for you. An example would be a final EQ, Multi-band Dynamics, Compression and even Saturation. This glues the kit together and helps with a better final mix down of your track. A marriage of tone and rhythm is what you are after. Get the drums right and the rest will follow.