Today Danny J Lewis creates a rack in Ableton Live inspired by the iOS app from Propellerheads – ‘Figure’
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 99
A few weeks back I took a look at the fantastic new iOS app from Propellerheads called ‘Figure’. One of the key innovations was the rotary pattern switching interface that created an inspired and fun way to create variations in the drum programming. I was really inspired by this and wanted to construct something in Ableton Live that would give me similar spontaneous flexibility. One of the things I like to do as a music educator is inspire people to think outside of their normal compositional box, seeking alternative methods to make music. Tools that present a different way to make music can be just the ticket when you are looking for inspiration.
The Robot Drum Rack
This unique rack is comprised of a number of Simpler devices. Simpler is a basic Sampler device in Live and is in fact a core component of the drum kits in the library. Essentially each Simpler is a sound in the Robot Drum kit. There is a simpler for the kick drum, a simpler for the snare, one for the hat etc. Instead of programming these sounds in a traditional fashion this fun rack brings in an arpeggiator linked to each simpler. Instead of triggering hits yourself you just keep your fingers down on the keys or pads for as long as you want the pattern to play for. The ‘programming’ of the pattern itself comes from the arpeggiator rate control and this parameter is mapped onto a rotary control on the Macro for hands on action. It’s great fun to create variations on the fly on top of your music using this method and it’s well worth recording about 32 bars of information into the arrange window for further editing and refining.
Free Ableton Live Rack Download
We are sure all you Ableton Live users are itching to get your hands on the Robot Drum Rack to have a play around with it for yourself. Well we have decided to give the rack away to you lucky readers for free! Load the rack into Ableton, assign the macro controls to any midi control and you will be ready to lay down some unique drum patterns with a completely fresh and tactile approach.
Click the pay with a tweet button below to download the rack. Enjoy!
Hi. This Danny Lewis, course developer and tutor here, at PointBlankOnline. This week, what I wanted to do was emulate what’s going on in Propellerhead’s Figure App. With this app where you can trigger patterns and also vary what’s happening with the rotary control. I wanted to do something similar in Ableton Live. I’ve created a custom instrument rack, want what I’m going to do is show you how it works first of all, and then I’m going to show you how I made it in the second part of the video. This is called the Robot Drums rack and it’s just a really nice, fun, inspired way to trigger some patterns and get some vibes down very, very easily. Let’s take a look.
Here you can see my Robot Drums rack. I’ve got 4 rotary controls mapped; one for the kick, one for the snare, one for the hat, and one for the tom. These rotary controls are influencing the drum programming, so they’re creating variations. We keep everything running and we rotate these to create variations on-the-fly. It’s a very hands-on vibe. Instead of programming this stuff, we’re literally going to rotate the controls to create the variation. I’ve got a DJ Pierre-style vibe on the go. I’m going to manipulate these on-the-fly, and we’re going to record the variations into the sequencer, the arrange window. I’m just going to push Stop to reset everything from the beginning. Push Record, and then play, and I’ll record the rotary control changes into the sequencer.
If you take a look at the Arrange window, you can see the automation that’s been recorded. The rotary control movement has been turned into a visual representation, we can amend this. I didn’t give the best performance there, I can go back here and I can make changes to improve the grid sizes at the right time. We’ve got these available for any of these elements; there’s the hat control, the snare control, and the kick, if I used it. This is a great way to do it. Like I said at the very, very intro, it’s a little bit more of an inspired, spontaneous flavour. It’s going to break you out of your routine when you’re actually making beats. That’s a little musical introduction. You’ve seen it in action. I’m going to show you how I built the rack in the next section of the video.
I’ve got a brand new project here to demonstrate everything from scratch. On the MIDI track, come to Instruments on the browser and setup an instrument rack. We’re going to load up a selection of Simplers into this. I’m going to drag the first one in and open things up so we can see what’s going on. On this Simpler I want to set the key so that it’s only triggering from C3. We are adjusting the low note and the high note, so this is only on C3. The other thing that I want to do is bring on a MIDI effect. If you’ve been using Ableton for a while, you may [inaudible: 03:37] that it’s the arpeggiator that I’ve been using for these patterns. That it’s setup and I’m rename this as Kick, and duplicate to create my snare. I’m going to change the position of the MIDI note and I’m going to duplicate again, and rename. This is going to be the next available note, duplicate, rename Tom, and move this on to the next. Of course, you can have as many you want; it’s up to you how many elements you have in your kit. Essentially, what this is becoming is an automated drum kit. It’s a similar effect to a drum rack, so there are several Simplers inside this instrument rack.
What we do next is bring on the Samples, so I’m going to click on [inaudible: 04:21]. The samples that I used in the demo before are here on my desktop, so I’m going to drag this tom onto the Sample area on the Simpler, with the hat, snare, and the kick drum. The default settings we’ve got for the speed of the arpegiator are not optimal at the moment, I need to set these.
Let’s just assign the controls first. With the kick, I’m going to assign the rate to Macro 1. I’m going to also assign the snare to Macro 2, the hat to Macro 3, and the tom to Macro 4. Let’s rename these Kick, Snare, Hat, and Tom. The speeds, let’s sort these out. Let’s go to Map Mode. For my kick what I to do is have a minimum setting of every beat, so we come down to 4. The maximum, I’m going to make it something sensible, which is probably going to be 12. I’ll show, I’ll trigger from the pad. That’s a nice little range of variations that are sensible. If I took it too fast it might sound a little glitchy.
The snare; let’s have a think about this. The snare at the moment, the minimum is 128, the maximum is 1 bar. What I want to do is setup the minimum to be something like every other beat. The maximum; let’s take this to 32. Let’s have a listen.
For speed, we’re back in my original project. I just want to point out, the minimum and maximum rates for the tom, and also on the tom chain, I had a chord device before the arpegiator to create additional variations, so I’ve get extra notes. I’m going to do a little performance just to sum up. This is relating it right back to the Propellerhead’s Figure App. I can trigger stuff on-the-fly. Let’s get the kick and the hat going. I can let go of the hat, bring it back on, and adjust the speed. This is the whole concept; it’s more of a performance vibe. If you’re the kind of person who’s not very good at playing stuff in time, don’t worry, this is always going to be in time, and it’s a great way to get a performance aspect into your programming. Even if you’re the kind of person who meticulously programs their beats, you might want to try this because it really breaks things out of your regular compositional mold.
If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, you might want to check out the Ableton Live Sound Design Course. In that course, we build a lot of instrument racks and effects racks. It’s a very broad ranging course that covers all kinds of audio processing, and experimenting with things like warping. You kind find more information about that course by visiting the PointBlankOnline website; that’s PointBlankOnline.net. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube Channel for free tutorials, that’s YouTube.com/PointBlankOnline.