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Music is inherently rhythmic. Even complex syncopated grooves play off the regular intervals of a steady beat, and so it is as though all songs hang their varying elements off this scaffolding, a phantom metronome. Since producing in software doesn't require you to play instruments in real time, the grid functions as a kind of visual metronome. In this section, you'll learn how to start organizing sounds in Live by building percussion-based samples. This way, we don't have to worry about your sounds working harmonically together.


2.3 loading a drum device

Live comes packaged "drum kits" already assembled in presets. A preset is exactly what it sounds like - a device with the controls, processing, and samples already set working together. Navigate to the Drums tab toward the top of the sidebar and you'll open up a whole folder of drum kits to choose from. Notice when you single-click on the name of a kit, you hear a preview of the sound just like when you look through samples.


When you've found a sound you like, go ahead and add it to a track. There are a couple ways to do this, but for now we'll just click on the name and drag it to a blank section of the arrangement (where it says "drop files and devices here").


/* internal notes - record with it dropping in the arrangement */

If you don't see the drum rack appear at the bottom of the screen as pictured above, press shift + tab. Like with audio clips, this shortcut swaps between two views in the bottom panel - one that contains your devices (such as this drum instrument) and one that displays the notes in the currently selected clip - and you should keep it in mind if you don't see what you're expecting.

You'll notice that the sounds in the drum rack is arranged in a 4x4 grid of pads, and each of these pads contain a sample. You can preview the samples by clicking the play button below the name on the pad, so go ahead and tap these to hear what kind of sounds you'll be working with.


Now we'll learn how to sequence a pattern to trigger all these sounds without needing to mouse click them.

2.2 creating a midi pattern


In order to have Live play our drums for us, we have to create a clip that will contain the notes. This is easy enough to do - just select a portion of the timeline by clicking and dragging within the track lane (you will see it become highlighted) and use the shortcut cmd + shift + m. Ideally, you'll want to make the clip start at the same point your previous loops do, so try placing it there and select out a full bar. Now the selection you made will have a small colored bar in it - this is your clip, but it is blank.


Now we need to fill up the clip with notes, which represent the various hits in your drum pattern. Click the colored bar you created in the last step to ensure it's selected, and use shift + tab to flip to the clip view (the grid) at the bottom of the screen if you don't see it.


The grid you see at the bottom of the screen is the clip view, which shows all the notes contained in your clip. We need to add some notes, but first we need to choose our sound. Notice the small headphone icon above the piano roll on the left side of the grid - click this and it will turn blue, meaning you can now preview sounds directly from the piano roll. Go ahead and try your sounds, just like you clicked around the drum pads earlier, only now click the white and black piano keys on the lefthand side.


Now we're finally going to start entering in notes so that the software can play these sounds for us, no more clicking! Well, not so fast actually - we have to click in the notes into the piano roll! Double click any part of the grid and you'll make a note. Notice that the sound also plays when this is clicked in, that's because the headphone icon is still blue (you can switch it off at any point in the process that it becomes annoying).


We didn't give much consideration to placement of that note, and that's just fine. With Ableton, you'll get used to putting things in and editing/correcting them after, it's part of the production process! So now we're going to have to move this note into a more musically appropriate position. Click and drag the note and you'll find you can move it to any part of the grid (and if you still have the blue headphone engaged, you'll hear a new sound every time you cross a note). We're going to place this one right at the start, butted up against the first line on the left (horizontal placement) and it doesn't really matter what sound you choose (vertical placement), but usually this will be a kick or kick-like sound. Notice that this line is labeled 1.1 at the top - like in the arrangement grid, this means it is bar 1, beat 1. If you don't know these musical terms, don't worry. If I'm patronizing you at this point, I apologize.


You're going to have to make a second note, of course, and we lined our first hit up with the kick drum from our previous loops so we'll try adding a new note to line up with the snare. This will be on line 1.2, the second beat or quarter note of the first bar. Just like before, you can double click to add the note and then drag it to the correct position if necessary.


We're going to repeat the pattern we just made, but it isn't necessary to click each of the notes in again. Try this - click and hold somewhere on the note grid and drag the mouse so that you see a box appear. Make sure both notes fall inside the box as you drag it, and the release to have selected them. Now, click and hold on one of the notes and pull them to the right while holding option. Just like that, the notes have duplicated. Continue holding option as you drag the notes so that the first note lines up with the 1.3 line (first bar, third beat) and native that the second duplicated notes automatically falls on 1.4 because the distance between the notes is fixed. 

Now that we have the basic bar in, we'll loop the clip just like we did for our audio loops. You'll notice to the left of the piano roll there is the same "Loop" button, but that's not the only way to make this work. This time, try highlighting a full bar by clicking and dragging, starting at the first note (1.1) and dragging past the last note all the way to the 2.1 line. Just press cmd + l to now loop this selection. You'll see that the loop button turns on to confirm this.

If you turn your attention back up to the arrangement view you can pull the midi clip out to the length of the other ones. 

This is how much of the Live workflow works - moving between the arrangement view and "zooming" into the clips that are arranged there in the more detailed lower panels. 

2.3 custom drum rack

make new clip, loop

custom sounds

same pattern using duplicate

extend the loop