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Sampling With Drum Rack in Ableton

Ever wondered about how to sample with Drum Rack in Ableton? One of the best ways to continually create fresh ideas is to continually alter your process. Today we're going to go over a sampling method using Drum Rack, which offers some interesting advantages over just using Simpler.

I want to focus on getting you started with this method without getting bogged down in the realm of possibility so you can focus on having fun.

I'm using Ableton 11, but you'll have access to Drum Rack in Ableton 7 and above.

Quick Setup

Pull in some audio from your browser that you want to sample onto a new audio track

Adjusting the global tempo to be the same as the loop tempo gives you a consistent starting point, and can always be changed once the drum rack has been created. (If you want to know how to quickly find and lock in the tempo of a sample, go ahead and check out my other video on that)

Instead of cutting up the sample on the audio track and dragging each clip into a new pad on drum rack, we can have Ableton do all the work for us.

  1. Make sure "Warp" is on so that we have the option to right click and select "Slice to New MIDI Track"

  2. Now Ableton is asking how we want it to "slice" or divide up the sample into the drum rack

  3. Let's make each slice a quarter note long by selecting "1/4 note" and we'll keep it simple by sticking with the "Built In" slicing preset

  4. We'll also leave "Preserve Warp Timing" on, which makes it easy to change keys and tempos while keeping the length of slices as a quarter note. No sample too long, no sample too short.

Once we hit OK, a Drum Rack has now been created. Using the parameters we selected earlier, Ableton divided up the sample and placed each slice onto a different pad.

Now, Activate "Show/Hide Devices" so we can see the sampler on each pad.

Each "pad" corresponds to a MIDI note that can be "triggered" with a key on your keyboard

By default, Slice 1 starts at C1, two octaves down from middle C and when we press C1, the Drum Rack triggers the sample.

Tip: Press "M" on your computer keyboard if you want to use it for MIDI notes

Ableton sets up some macro knobs on the left for us to change different parameters that affect ALL the slices in the Drum Rack. For example, slowing down the attack to 100ms changes the envelope of every slice at once.

By default, all samples are set to loop when you hold the key down. I recommend turning off loop mode by setting "Loop length" to 0% because I've found that there are very few situations where I like to have all the samples looping. Most of the time, you just hold the sample slightly longer than it needs to be and you catch the blip of the beginning again.

You can change the macros to control whatever parameters you want and save your own presets, which I will cover separately. For now, we'll leave the rest of them alone so we can lay some chops down!


I start by looping an 8 bar section, turning on the metronome and then recording. Otherwise I'll use a drum loop if the metronome feels uninspiring (and at times it can).

This is the fun part where you just start pressing keys and triggering things until you find something you like.

It's usually nice to make sure your slices don't overlap when you press two at the same time.

All you have to do is head over to the left side, click "Show/Hide Chain List", click the little button that says i-o, hold shift and select all your slices, and change the dropdown under "Choke" to be 1.

Once you're happy with a loop you've made, make sure "Auto Select" on the left side of Drum Rack is deactivated so that it doesn't change which sampler is displayed every time a new pad is triggered.

A nice advantage to sampling using Drum Rack is that each slice is its OWN sampler, so you can change the pitch, envelope, filters and more for each slice which gives you a lot of ways to VARY the samples and trigger them all in one place.

Drum Rack also gives us the ability to put different MIDI and Audio effects on each slice which provides even more options.

Drum Rack provides a lot more possibilities for creativity that expand beyond the scope of this video but this is a great way to get started. If you liked this video, check out the playlist of other helpful videos on sampling that we created to help keep the creative juices flowing.

Happy sampling!


Music Producer | Audio Engineer | YouTuber


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