4 Problems with Ableton Drum Rack (Solved)

Ableton Live is an incredibly powerful and user-friendly DAW (Digital Audio Interface) and packs a host of unique features and tools. One of these tools is Ableton’s Drum Rack, designed to create and manage drum sounds and beats.

Although the drum rack is an incredible tool, it can sometimes be difficult to use.

In this article, we’ll run through some common problems you might face when using the drum rack and give you 4 solutions to solve them.

Difficulty Editing the Drum Rack During Playback

A common issue that can be very annoying for Ableton users is the difficulty to edit a drum rack or sample chain during playback.

This is due to automatic switching between sample chains within the drum rack while you’re only attempting to edit one specific sample chain.

This means you must pause the track while making small adjustments, making things tricky and the workflow cumbersome.

If you’re looking for a solution to this annoying problem, you’ve come to the right place.

The reason for this issue is that Ableton Live is auto-selecting each sample chain, based on the MIDI information it’s receiving.

In other words, as soon as your drum rack detects a MIDI note, it will switch to the corresponding sample chain where that MIDI note is assigned.

The good news is that it is simple to switch between, all with a single button!

Here’s how to turn off the “Auto Selector”:

  • Within your Ableton Drum Rack device, there are 5 controls located on the far left of the window.
  • Simply disable the “Auto Selector,” which is the small yellow arrow right at the bottom of those controls.

Now you’ll be able to edit and manipulate each sample chain, add effects and even change samples without the drum rack automatically changing the sample chain window every time a MIDI note hits.

This will allow for a much quicker and more efficient workflow, as well as more creative control.

Issues with MIDI Note Velocity

First things first, let’s talk about what velocity within MIDI notes actually is.

  • At its core, note velocity measures how hard a note is played, triggered, or even drawn.
  • This is typically measured on a scale of 0-127, with 0 representing the lowest velocity (when the note is played softly) and 127 representing the highest velocity when the note is played loudly).

Note velocity changes the way a MIDI instrument or sample sounds quite drastically and can significantly impact the feel of a song.

With certain virtual instruments, the sound’s timbre and character are changed with each note’s velocity. A higher velocity results in a more intense sound, and a softer velocity in a warmer, more mellow sound.

Right, now that we have a basic understanding of note velocity and how it affects the sound and its character, let’s figure out how to adjust MIDI note velocity.

Follow these simple steps:

  1. First, double-click on the MIDI clip that contains the notes you want to adjust.
  2. Locate the notes you want to adjust and click on them with the mouse to select them.
  3. Once the notes are selected, you can adjust the velocity by dragging the “Velocity” slider in the “Note Editor” section of the screen which located right at the bottom.

Now that you know how to adjust the velocity, you’ll notice the volume of the MIDI note doesn’t actually go all the way up or down. Rather, it has a much smaller range in terms o its dynamics.

This can be frustrating when you’re looking to have complete control over your velocities. Don’t fear, though, this is also a simple fix!

Within each particular sample chain of the drum rack, you can adjust the “Volume to Velocity” knob, which allows for more or less range for your volume within each velocity note.

  • If you adjust this knob to 100%, you’ll have maximum control over your velocity and volume, meaning that it’ll be completely silent, and at 100% it’ll be at its absolute loudest.
  • Once you’ve clicked on your desired sample chain within your drum rack, the “Volume to Velocity” knob is located under the sample controls.

Please also read our article with easy fixes for Bluetooth devices not working with Ableton.

Problems Duplicating a Drum Rack Pad

Ableton Drum Racks are filled with all kinds of samples, from kicks to snares, hats to toms, and often even vocals or FX.

But when you’re using your drum rack and need a quick way to copy or duplicate a specific drum pad, it can be a little confusing.

For instance, there isn’t an option to right-click-copy on a pad, and you also can’t copy the sample from the sample display straight into the pad section, as it’ll replace the whole drum rack.

Luckily the answer is straightforward and a simple click away!

To copy or duplicate a specific pad in a drum rack, all you have to do is hold down “Option” on a Mac or “Alt” on a Windows PC while clicking and dragging the desired pad to an empty one.

This is especially useful for elements like hats, where you need the exact same sound but on a different pad, where you can edit and manipulate it on its own.

Drum Rack is Not Affecting Individual Drum Pads

Ableton’s Drum Rack can seem limiting if you don’t quite know the ins and outs of its interface. Some Ableton users have been disappointed with the Drum Rack’s seeming inability to affect individual drum pads with the same single audio effect.

The good news is that there is a simple workaround for this.

Although slightly hard to find, Ableton does allow you to use your main mixer’s send and return effects on each particular drum rack sound.

This is a great way to keep your music consistent, as using the same effects (like reverb and delay) throughout keeps all of your track’s elements smooth and helps them work together.

Here’s how to use the main mixer’s send effects on your Drum Rack:

  1. Firstly, make sure your chain list within your drum rack is visible. You can show the chain list by clicking on the small “Show/Hide Chain List” button on the left side of your drum rack.
  2. Then, you’ll need to set up your return channel within the drum rack. Do this by clicking the little “R (Show/Hide Return Chains)” button, then right-click on the return chain list window and click “Create Return Chain”
  3. Next, you’ll need to ensure the “I-O” button (Input/Output Section) is armed, where you can assign the send chain to one of your main mixer’s effects.
  4. Finally, click the small “S” button (Show/Hide sends) on the left side of the drum rack.
  5. Now, you’ll be able to adjust the effect of every individual sound within the drum rack independently.

Adding the main mixer’s send effects to each drum sound individually means that you will achieve a much more congruent or ‘together’ sounding song, especially regarding effects like reverb or delay.

When using a drum rack in Ableton Live, specific elements will need different kinds of effects.

For instance, a kick drum will rarely need reverb or delay, whereas a snare or clap will often benefit from either. This is a great way to add effects without cluttering up your drum rack, and it means a much smoother and clearer overall mix.

Check out our article with solutions for delay compensation not working.

Final Thoughts

Ableton Live’s Drum Rack is a powerful tool, known for its efficient and easy-to-use interface and rich bed of sounds and samples.

The drum rack allows you to load multiple samples or virtual instrument sounds onto a single pad grid, which can then be played and triggered using MIDI notes from a controller or computer keyboard. It also has a bunch of built-in tools and features for creating and manipulating drum patterns, including step sequencing, MIDI recording, and swing control.

It’s important to explore and try new things with the drum rack, as you’ll often find hidden gems and other helpful features the more you dig.

Although Ableton Live has a huge library with of tons of drum samples, it’s also important to build your own sample library, especially for drum sounds.

With the drum rack, you can add, change and mix up your sounds with Ableton’s, and create unique and creative drum kits that can elevate your music.


Instrument, Drum, and Effect Racks