Introduction: How to Create / Edit Drum Patterns in Ableton

This lesson will show you how to record, draw and edit drum patterns with Live.

Step 1: Loading Impulse

We're going to start from scratch, so press [Ctrl + N] on Windows or [CMD + N] on Mac to create a new Live Set.

We will be using Live's built-in Impulse instrument. Impulse is found among the devices listed in the Device Browser, which appears at the upper left of the screen.

Impulse resides in the Instruments folder. If you open Impulse's folder, you'll find a selection of drum kit presets, saved as Instrument Racks. These Racks combine the Impulse instrument with a selection of Live's audio effects.

Select a preset that you find interesting. ("Backbeat Room" works well in our case).

Step 2: Adding Instrument to Midi

Click on the preset, and drag it to the right into the track labeled "2 MIDI." Notice the mouse's cursor will indicate that the instrument can be dropped here.

After releasing the mouse button, notice that the track name changes to "2 Backbeat Room." You'll also see the preset appear at the bottom of the screen.

You can also drop the Impulse preset into the "empty" space next to the tracks and have Live create a new MIDI track for the instrument.

Step 3: Playing Impulse

When we loaded the Impulse preset to the MIDI track, the track's Arm button (red button on bottom of arrangement view) activated automatically. This allows incoming MIDI to arrive at the track.

If you have a MIDI keyboard connected to the computer, the white notes played in the C3-C4 octave range should now arrive at Impulse.

If you don't have a MIDI keyboard available, you can use the computer's keyboard instead. To do this, make sure the Computer MIDI Keyboard switch is enabled at the upper right corner of the screen.

Step 4: Recording a Pattern

Let's record a drum pattern. The new pattern will reside in its own new MIDI clip. Double-click any empty Session slot in the track that contains the Impulse instrument (be careful not to click any of the round record buttons at the clips' left-hand sides as you do this).

Play C3 on your MIDI keyboard, or hit the computer keyboard's "A" key. You will hear the corresponding drum sound immediately, and again once every bar. Every note that you play will be captured in the new pattern and played once every loop cycle.

Step 5: Getting It Right

If your first pattern doesn't exactly match your expectations, don't give up. Use Undo ([Ctrl + Z] on Windows or [CMD + Z] on Mac) to get rid of all notes played in the pattern's last loop cycle. You can do this at any time, and in fact any number of times - until the pattern is empty. Watch as the Clip View's Note Editor reflects your changes.

To rehearse while the existing pattern plays, without adding notes to it, deactivate the Control Bar's Overdub switch. Turn overdubbing back on when you are ready to record again.

Step 6: Drawing and Editing Notes

Not only can you record patterns, you can also draw them. Make sure Draw Mode is engaged by clicking the pencil icon in the toolbar.

In Draw Mode, clicking into an empty grid tile in the Note Editor creates a note there; clicking into an occupied tile clears the tile. Dragging across tiles fills them or deletes them all.

When Draw Mode is deactivated, you can select notes by clicking them, or multi-select notes by clicking and dragging a selection box around them. Groups of selected notes can then be edited together.

Step 7: Drawing Velocities

Drawing in the Velocity Editor changes the velocities (intensities) of notes. The color of notes in the display corresponds to their velocities: darker notes will play louder.

To draw velocities for a single drum sound only, click the white piano key next to that sound's name, selecting only the notes that play that sound.

Step 8: Enjoy!

Have a great time building drum patterns and never stop improving.