Jonny Strinati walks through 11 essential drum techniques, from programming hi-hat patterns to compressing kicks.

Drum Layering Techniques in Ableton Live – Kick

We’ll use Drum racks in Ableton Live in this walkthrough to create a layered kick drum. Layering drums can be a very effective way to create customised drum sounds, as you’re selecting the strongest elements from each layer and have a great deal of control over each element. Here’s an example of the kick we’ll be creating, playing alongside a tops loop:

Step 1

Load the Drum Rack device in Ableton by clicking and dragging it over to a MIDI channel on the mixer. We’ll start by loading kick drum samples into our Drum Rack. Use the Places section on the left to navigate to wherever you have some samples stored on your computer. We’ve used the Vinyl & Tape Drum Hits library, and selected ‘SM43_vth_tpe_kick_mch_falling.wav’ from the Machine Kicks in the Tape Folder.

Now drag and drop your sample onto a MIDI channel on the Drum Rack (this creates a Simpler for our sample). We’ve placed our kick on C1. The first sound is a subby kick that’s going to provide the low-end energy for our layered kick.

Next, right-click on a Clip Slot on the Drum Rack channel to insert a MIDI clip, and draw in a kick pattern to trigger the sample.

Step 1.1 Step 1.2

Step 2

Now for a kick that has more snap and will take care of the transient. First, create a Group by right-clicking where you see the file name on the Device Title Bar of Simpler. Select Group from the drop down. This creates an instrument rack on C1, meaning we can stack up samples that will be triggered by this one MIDI note.

Click the Show/Hide Chain List button on the instrument rack to reveal our first kick sample and some volume, pan, mute and solo controls. Click and drag another sample and drop it in the space underneath our first sample. We’ve selected ‘SM43_vth_tpe_kick_mch_born.wav’ from the same samples folder.

This sample has a much more prominent transient, however the low frequency on both samples is clashing. In the Filter section for the second Simpler, select a hghi-pass filter and change the frequency to 271 Hz.

We’ll also change the envelope settings as we’re only concerned with the attack portion of this sample. We’ve set the attack to 0.00ms, decay to 347ms, sustain to -inf dB and release to 50.0ms.

Step 2.1 Step 2.2

Step 3

The transients of both kicks playing at the same time could potentially start causing phase issues, so let’s go back to our first sample and change the envelope settings. Click on the first sample in the instrument rack and select the Classic playback mode.

Now change the envelope settings to attack of 3.97ms, decay 60.0s, sustain -inf dB and release 698 ms. This softens the attack of this kick and also shortens the tail. Increase the release time if you want to keep the subby tail.

Step 3

Step 4

The final element we could add to this kick is a hi-hat sample, which acts as a high frequency burst to help the kick cut through a mix and adds character. We’ve selected ‘SM43_vth_tpe_hh_clsd_machine.wav’ from the closed hi-hats folder on the same sample pack.

Again we apply a high-pass filter, setting the frequency at 2.52 kHz, and change the envelope settings to attack 0.00ms, decay 66.1ms, sustain -inf dB, release 50.0ms. As with the transient kick sample, we’re mostly concerned with the attack portion of this hi-hat sample.

For a final bit of tweaking, we bring down the volume of the hi hat to -1.2 dB, and the volume of the transient kick to -1.5 dB, balancing the levels of our individual layers.

Step 4

20th December, 2015

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