Using the Pitch Plugin to Trigger Drum Racks in Ableton Live 9

You're playing live. Triggering samples in Ableton Live 9. But you've got 132 to choose from... Yikes! Tadhg Leonard shares some super tips on using the pitch plug-in to trigger samples in an instant!  
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Ableton’s drum rack is probably the most commonly used instrument for triggering samples and finger drumming within Live. So what is the best way of accessing a particular sample (among a possible 132) at a second's notice when performing live? You could use chain selectors of course within an instrument rack, but what about using Ableton's Pitch plug-in to instantly trigger your sample of choice? Let's take a further look.

As there are 16 drum pads on my own MIDI controller, I like to divide out my samples in sections of 16. For example, I might have vocal samples in one section, hip-hop drums in another and FX one shots in another. This way I can use the Pitch Plug-in to enable me easy access to whatever section I need. 

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Step One

Under MIDI Effects in the browser, drag the Pitch effect onto your drum rack track. Create a few different instances of the plug-in by clicking its title bar and pressing Command-D. My first section of samples are spread across Drum Rack pads C1 to D sharp 2 and are automatically mapped to the 16 drum pads on my controller. However, I have also another section of samples located from E2 to G3, 16 notes above my first section. In order to access this section on the fly, I have moved the first pitch knob up 16 semitones and mapped the devices on/off switch to a key on my computers keyboard. Now when I turn the device on, the drum pads on the controller will correspond to the new section in the drum rack. Repeat this step with the other Pitch plug-ins, transposing each with the correct amount of semitones you need to reach the desired section. 

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Step Two

Remember to switch one plug-in off when turning on another as Live will add the two transpose values together otherwise. As a visual reference, rename each plug-in with the name of the particular section that the Pitch knob will transpose to. To see each section on the drum rack within Live, you will need to use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to jump to each section when the Pad Overview is selected. (Hold down Command to scroll one row at a time). 

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Step Three

To save this setup for easy recall in the future Command-select all the Pitch plug-ins along with the Drum Rack itself and press Command-G to group it into an Instrument Rack. Click the rack’s Save Preset button and rename it in the browser accordingly. 

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It may be an unconventional way of accessing all the samples in your Drum Rack to play on your controller. However as you have just seen it is very easy to set up and means you can keep all samples within the one drum rack. Also using pre mapped buttons to access a set of samples is a godsend when playing live.

I have been an audio enthusiast and DJ hobbyist since I was a young lad. I currently work as a researcher on The Gadget Show on Channel 5 in the UK where I specialize in all the audio and music tech related content on the show. Before that I have worked in the sound department on a number of feature films doing everything from locati... Read More

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