CUSTOM 909 kit in Ableton

909-style hi-hats are synonymous with many different electronic genres, and although original hardware 909s cost a small fortune these days there are other ways to get close to the sound. D16’s excellent Drumazon plugin is one option, but you can achieve similar results on a budget in your DAW. Most DAWs include a 909-style kit as a sampler preset, but learning how to build a custom kit from scratch is an essential technique, allowing you to explore some of the creative options found in your sampler. In our case we’ll be using Ableton Live’s Drum Rack and a few 909 samples, with a focus on the hi-hats.

Step 1

To begin, let’s load up an instance of Drumazon to get a sense of the sound we’re after. We’ve turned off the Int Sync option so that Drumazon syncs to the host tempo, and programmed this basic drum rhythm using the bass drum, hand clap, closed hi-hat and open hi-hat. An emulation like Drumazon captures the spirit and vibe of the 909, producing slight inaccuracies from one hit to the next.

Here’s the same pattern with the bass drum and clap muted. Note how the closed hat chops off the open hat. This is an effect known as choking (sometimes also called muting, mute groups or choke groups, depending on your software).

Step 1

Step 2

Now we’ll create a similar hi-hat groove using some 909 samples and Ableton’s Drum Rack. Load a Drum Rack onto a MIDI channel in Ableton and add some hi-hat samples by dragging and dropping them onto the grid on the Drum Rack. We’ve sourced both open and closed 909 style hats. If you don’t have any samples like this to hand there are plenty of free 909 drum sample libraries around, or failing that at least make sure you choose open and closed hi hats, and that the open hat has a nice tail. Here are our closed and open hat samples, which we’ve dragged onto C1 & C#1 respectively:

Step 2

Step 3

Now insert a MIDI clip onto your Drum Rack and program a hi-hat pattern. As shown below, we’ve placed the open hat sample on the off beat, and in the first half of the bar we’ve placed a closed hat sample just after the open hat. In the second half of the bar we’ve made sure there’s a gap after the open hat.

Step 3

Step 4

For starters, our rhythm could do with some swing and variation in the velocity of the hits, mimicking the shuffle and accent features of the 909. In Ableton, we’ve selected the ‘Hip Hop 1.agr’ groove from the Groove Pool and committed the groove to our hi-hat part. This applied the groove settings to our MIDI clip. There’s now some nice swing to our hits and some variation in the velocity.

Step 4

Step 5

The next step is to make the closed hi-hat chop off the tail off the open hi-hat, as it does on a real 909. To do this, click on the Show/Hide Chain List button in the Drum Rack – this brings up some extra options below, one being a Show/Hide Input/Output Section (the symbol being ‘I-O’). Clicking this reveals some extra options for our samples in the Chain List. Under Choke, select 1 for both samples. Now both our open and closed hi-hat samples are being sent to Choke Group 1, meaning if one of the samples plays directly after the other it will chop the tail off the sample. Listening to our loop now, the tail of the open hi hat is chopped off when the closed hat sounds directly afterwards:

Step 5

Step 6

Finally, we’ve added a flanger to our hi-hats with the Dry/Wet control set to 15.9% for a very subtle effect, creating mild variations in the hi-hat sounds as the track plays. We’ve also added the kick and clap samples to give our loop some perspective:

Step 6

20th December, 2015

Comments

  • Christmas just arrives for me ! Thanks a lot for all this tutorials !

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  • 10 essential drum techniques??? 10 tutorials on how to do this or that using very particular DAWS and Plugins. Total waste of time.

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  • I do like Attack and despite me mainly being into underground hip hop I play disco and some nu disco (which is house haha) and still love techno as in the minimalist Detroit sound, not bloody tech house. I DJ and come from a great position clubwise. Growing up in South London in the 80’s there was the soul scene then the warehouse, hip-hop, funk, Boogie, disco anthems, Kiss FM when it was a pirate was our Bible and on a Tuesday night there were prob 5 good clubs to go to, on a Saturday, 25 maybe. who knows. Then I lived and loved through 88- to about 93 when the original Balearic, anything went, all about the tunes was starting to go slowly and it was about the DJs and had split into 1000 genres. Boys Own, Slam, and others still kept a more undergrounf scene going away from momeymakers like MOS. (only time I went there I lost my mates within about 20 mins and looked in vain for a few hours. That wasn’t what it was about. I was in Brighton then anyway and we had the wonderful Zap. Now what we got? A weekly decent hip hop night on a Tuesday, once a month clubs like Russ Dewbury’s terrific Soulful Strut where I do the odd slot.. All the sefront clubs which were once cool are now for the geezer and hen night crowd.Then there’s patterns. If there is a decent DJ it;s worth it. If not it;s the usual kid playing his perfect and completely broring seamless tech house set. The crowd don’t actuyally seem like they are having a particularly great time and most people in their 20’s just go to the pub and I’m not surprised. Your ‘What makes a great DJ’ was terrific as it so backed up what had happened. Itl;s turned on it’s head so instead of buying tunes as u knew they would be bangers I can tell that tracks are downloaded ‘cos they fit in with other tracks, I call it anti-DJing and it’s nice to see Attack interview some of the greats like Derrick May etc. You would think that the kids who think they are DJs now (despite there not being many places to DJ) would respect people like that. Indie kids in bands worship those who went before but no…they think they know best, they DJs who shock horror mixed with vinyl and would drop lots of banging tunes on the One as we punters couldn’t have cared less about the mixing really. It was all about the tunes, Depressing really. Good that the drum and bass scene and a few others have kept going by not becoming commercial. Sad thing is in Brighton there are loads of us that want to put proper small nights on with little risk like u used to be able to but there’s no where to hire out now.

    Anyway I think all that was saying that you seem to be taking a more mature approach instead of articles like one I saw online which was “Is it possible to mix without using your EQ?” I just stared at it tbh in horror. The only time I tounch my EQ is when I turn the bass down for scratching. Oh couple of requests. How about a few more Beat Dissected on hip hop. The Underground has all kinds of leftfield beats and talented producers, and more minimalist techno. We of a certain age could make a house beat in our sleep. And can you please not make your tutorials so expensive plugin specific? We donl;t all use or can afford Ableton, Pro Tools, etc. I use Reaper, MPC Element and the best free plugins and synths that I have found. I’m sure Variety of Sound and Tokyo Dawn plugins could give a lot of commerial ones a run for their money. And making hip hop TyrellN6, Firebird and SQ8L certainly do the job. The only plugins I’be bought are the DopeVST Hip Hop romplers. And how about some tips on leftfield hip hop? Do people really still actually make ‘House Leads?’ I have about 50 in various presets that sound alright. Andy

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  • Thanks for all these tips, great article!

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  • This seems to be an advert for various (expensive) plugins rather than a tutorial on essential drum techniques. This should have been done using a DAW’s native plugins.

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