Drums are the foundation of incredible music pieces in almost every musical genre in the world. Make great drums and beats – and your track will stand firm.
As a music producer, learning how to make great-sounding drums and beats is one of the more important things you can learn in music production.
In this complete guide to drums in Ableton Live, you will learn how to:
- Add your drums
- Mix your drums
- Pan your drums
- Compress your drums
- Tune your drums
But before we start, make sure you check out these articles on creating masterful drums and beats:
- Guide: Humanizing MIDI Drums in Ableton (3 Essential Factors)
- How To Make A Powerful 808 Beat In Ableton Live
- How To Make A Beat With Ableton
- 4 Secret Tips To Next-Level Drums
How To Add Drums In Ableton
There are two main ways to add drums into Ableton Live. Depending on your goal, if you're working with several drum sounds or what morphing capabilities you want, the technique you choose can differ.
The two ways to add or make drums in Ableton are:
When you have one or several drums sounds ready in an audio file and want to load it into Live, you want to use samples.
Here is a great article that explains the complete process of how to use samples in Ableton.
When you want to create your drum sounds from presets or scratch, you want to go with an instrument.
Ableton Live comes with several instrument synths that allow you to make drum sounds from scratch or use ready-made presets.
We will make drums in Ableton using the Serum synthesizer with SERUM Presets: Techno in this example.
Here's how to add drums in Ableton Live 11:
1) Insert a new MIDI channel
2) Double-click or click-and-drag Serum into the MIDI channel.
3) Choose your drum sample.
4) Create a MIDI clip in your arrangement view and draw your drum notes.
How To Mix Drums In Ableton
Mixing drums can be tricky but so satisfactory when you do it right. The process of mixing includes many things, like setting the volume, panning, using compression, and applying other audio effects.
Check out these articles for your drum mixing purposes:
- Mixing: How To Make Fatter Drums (5 Simple Tips)
- Mixing: Kick Drum Techniques You Must Know (Including Bonus Tips)
- How To EQ Kick And Bass For Powerful Low-End
- 5 Tips On How To Mix Drums (Using Only Stock Plugins)
How To Pan Drums In Ableton
The process of panning drums in Ableton looks a bit different depending on if you are using drum samples or instruments and whether you’re working with one or several sounds in a drum rack.
The universal knob for panning everything on your audio or MIDI channel is located here:
If you turn it to the right, your sound will travel to the right speaker. Left is left.
However, if you’re working with a MIDI channel and a drum rack, you probably have several drums sounds loaded. If you want to change the panning of your hi-hat but leave your kick and snare centered, do this:
1) Click the sound in your drum rack
2) Find the panning slider for your drum sound
3) Change the panning to your liking
How to EQ Drums In Ableton
You can equalize your drums either separately if you’re using a drum rack or in your entire channel, just like any other sound.
If you have one drum sound in your audio or MIDI channel or want to equalize every sound in your drum rack...
Follow this process on how to EQ your drums in Ableton Live 11:
1) Double-click your drum channel
2) Choose your equalizer
3) Double-click or click-and-drag your equalizer into your channel
How To Compress Drums Ableton
There are many techniques on how to compress your drums in Ableton
If you want to compress an individual sound, you can use the compressor on the MIDI or audio channel or individual drum rack sound.
Drag-and-drop your compressor into the audio effect rack:
If you want to compress a complete drum set of groups or drums, you drag-and-drop the compressor onto your channel.
You can also put your compressor in one of Ableton Live's return tracks. If you put your compressor in return track A, increase the level of your send knob 'A' above the channel panning knob.
How To Tune Drums Ableton
Tuning your drums is extremely important for an excellent sounding mix.
Even if it might be difficult to hear, your most important drums all have tonal qualities that you can tune.
The most important example is your kick drum. When you want a kick that sounds great together with your bass, you must ensure that both are in harmony with each other.
But how do you tune your drums in Ableton?
Follow this technique on how to tune your kick drum in Ableton Live 11:
1) Start by loading up Live’s Spectrum Analyzer on your kick drum channel
2) Let your kick drum play and see where it peaks.
3) Hover your mouse over the peak to see the tuning of your kick.
4) When you change the pitch of your kick, you will see different frequency peaks in your Spectrum Analyzer – meaning a different pitch.
If your track is in A minor, try tuning your kick to ‘A’ or a fifth above or below, as explained in this interview with Anjunadeep producer Nils Hoffmann.
You have now learned how to do many of the most important things to create and mix epic drums.
The only thing left to do now is to continue educating yourself. And a lot of practice.
Make beat after beat, try different drum sounds and instruments and all the techniques you learned in this article.
Then, you can learn how to humanize your beats with velocity and swing, pan and compress your drums – and mix them to perfection.
By making your music, you can ensure that you're getting better even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. Every hour in the studio is a learning experience.
Don't wait to wait years until you make professional sounding drums?
Why spend years trying to achieve something when all the information you need to make professional drums is available right now?
Let's put your learning into high-gear...
Learn The Top Producer Beat Secrets Today
Want to create mind-blowing beats that make people dance all night?
The foundation of any top list EDM track is the beat. Without a good, professional beat, your entire track can make any dancefloor cold.
Is this currently you?
- You’re a new producer struggling to create good beats.
- You’re an intermediate producer frustrated that your beats don’t sound professional.
- You’re an advanced producer searching hours for ‘the perfect drum sample.’
If it is, don’t worry.
The techniques behind professional bouncing drums and grooves are both easy and quick to learn.
And best of all...
Once you learn what makes professional drumbeats – you’ll never make an amateur groove again!
In other words:
Learn once, make professional beats forever.
Groove Course will teach you the techniques professional producers use to program drums. With step-by-step instructions on making drums groove, you will learn everything you need to know – in just hours.
No more endless searches through your drum sample library...
Make consistent, professional beats on the fly!
Click here to get your groove on.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.