Creating A Full Track Out Of MP3s (Part 2 – The Drums)



This article was written by our guest contributor Eric Dubois. 

Last week we saw how to customize a full lead instrument using a simple sound out of a low quality MP3, now it’s time to take care of the Drums! If you have missed the previous article you can check it out here:


We are going to use the same principles as before, create a full amazing drum rack out of another MP3! Check in your music library to find the track with a section where the drums are ALONE. It is very important to find a track with the drums soloed out at one point, it will avoid undesired frequencies to disturb your mix. A lot of House songs will have a full 8-bar section with drums alone (helping DJs mix between tracks, very common in Dance music). If you are looking for a more realistic type drum, a lot of old funk songs will have breaks where the drummer goes crazy (James Brown for example…). I am a huge fan of Travis Barker, the drummer from Blink 182, so I am going to use the song “Elevator” from Box Car Racer. Here is the intro of the song:


Everyone is different when it comes to producing drums. I like to use a Drum Rack instead of a Sequencer or predesigned loops… I like to play the drums over my track and programming the details afterwards. There are many ways in creating drums but I’m going to show you my way. Final result:


Create a new Midi Track (ctrl + shift + T) and drag on a Drum Rack from Ableton’s Instrument Library.


I am using the Session View from now on to be able to easily loop my Lead and hear it while working on my drums.


 Building the Kick


Now drag your selected MP3 file onto a cell in your Drum Rack, we are going to create our kick.



Ableton will automatically load up the Simpler for your MP3, exactly like we did in the previous article for our Lead. But this time we are triggering the Drum Rack and not the Simpler which is why this is called a “One-Shot”. We do not want to create a full instrument for this section.

Same as before use the two little triangles to select the perfect sounding kick, with no background noises. Use the “Snap” option to help you grab the best ending point. I like to extend the release all the way… It will allow you to play the whole Kick sample and avoid having to write long midi notes. It makes a tremendous playability difference if you count on playing your drum rack on your keyboard or a midi Pad!

Filter it a little bit to make it fit your lead: use a LP12 filter and put the frequency to about 300Hz. As always play around with the LP12, LP24 and the frequency until you find what you love. Mine came out like this:


The first bar has no filter, then I turn on the filter, and then with the lead to see. Remember there are no other effects or sidechains going on, we will explore more later.


The kick is one of the most important parts of your Drum Rack! You can either leave it as is (in order to keep the purity of the sound),or… well, have a little Sound Designing fun! Let’s create a bad ass kick to fit our lead!


 Making it your own


As we did last time with the Lead, lets layer on different sounds to make our kick more smooth and powerful!

Select your simpler (Not the drum rack! Just the kick simpler we have just created) and ctrl + G to group it so we can create several chains.


I have renamed our chain “Kick low”


Now I want a very sub/low kick so lets modify some parameters. First, drop the transposition to about -20st. This will give us all the low end we need!

Now in the filter section, select an LP24 filter and lower the frequency to around 150 – 200Hz. As always trust your ears! You will lose most of the attack on your kick, but no worries we are going to layer another Kick with only attack!


This is how your Simpler should look now.

Time to layer on a little high end for some attack! Duplicate the chain you have just created by selecting the chain and Ctrl+D and rename it “Kick high” and solo it so we can play around with it.

On this chain we will select a BP12 (now is the time where you will notice the difference between BP12 and BP24…), raise the frequency to about 280-300Hz and we will also raise the resonance a bit to 1, which will allow us to get even more attack!

I don’t like how the kick kind of fades to a white noise towards the end of the sample… So to solve that lets lower the sustain knob to -23dB. This will cut off the tail of our sample which creates that noise (you can also lower the release as well). As I mentioned before, on this Layer I only want the attack.


Another little trick is to play with the LFO. It will create a small rise towards the end of our sample. Turn the LFO on, select the “Note” icon, set the tempo to 1/8 or 1/6 and raise the LFO on our Filter section all the way. As always play around to obtain the best sound! You might not even like the LFO, in that case just turn it off… Trust your ears.


Advice: For your volume levels in a Drum Rack, I always make sure each sound has a general level of -6dB. I adjust the volume in the simpler accordingly. It allows me to be sure that all of my levels are the same. It makes my life easier when I enter the mixing process by only modifying the pans and the levels in my chain.


Building the Snare


Time for the Snare! Select Your MP3 and drag it once again to another cell on your Drum Rack. Select the start and end point of your snare with the two arrows.

I’m lucky because the snare in the sample of “Box Car Racer” is insane! Travis Barker really knows how to hit that snare! I won’t have much processing on this one. But you guys might need a HP12 or 24 to filter out the low ends so your snare doesn’t interfere with your kick.


Here is my snare:


I raised up the Spread to add a little more wideness to the sample.

But I’m going to show you a little trick since my snare is so clean! I am going to create a reversed snare! Great to add a little groove to your drums. With Ableton’s Simpler there is no way to reverse a sample. So we need to first reverse the sample in the Arrangement view before bringing it in to our drum rack.

Drag your sample on to a new Audio Track, and from here select your snare.



Right click and select “Split”. Erase the beginning and the end we do not need them anymore… There is a small button called Rev in the “Sample” section at the bottom of your screen, this will reverse your sample.



Now drag your brand new reversed snare on to a new cell of your drum rack! Filter it out a bit with a BP12 at around 600Hz, boost the spread for more wideness, set the release all the way and finally adjust the volume.



Building some Hats


Instead of finding your MP3 and dragging it on to a new Cell in your Drum Rack, you can just copy and paste an existing cell! Saves some time! Drag the Snare Cell over to a new cell and maintain Ctrl to duplicate it.



Find a Hi-Hat in your sample and we will filter it a bit with a BP12 at 4,2 KHz and boost the resonance up a bit to about 1,6. The fact of filtering the sample will cut off all undesired frequencies. Lower the sustain and release to obtain the sound of hat you desire (either long or short…).

And once again you are done! Adjust your volume and Pan if you desire.

Advice: When composing your drums, if you don’t like to write down all of the midi notes, you can just slap on an Arpeggiator to your Hi-Hat cell. I will show you in a future article all the cool little tricks you can do with Hi-Hats. (layering different rhythms using arpeggiators and gates to trigger each one separately for more diversity!)



 Blending it together


Now that we have the three major features of a drum set, time to blend it all together. The most import is sidechain compression! Before all reverbs, delays and other; Sidechain compression will blend it all beautifully!

Drag and drop a compressor onto your Snare Cell. There is a little triangle at the top left corner of the compressor, this will open the sidechain section. We want most of our sounds in our drum rack to react according to the Kick. To do that, turn your sidechain on. In the “Audio From” select the Drum Rack you have just created, and underneath select your “Kick Pre FX cell”. It is always best to select the PreFX option because we don’t want are compressor to be triggered by any delay or any effects you might add later.

Advice: This is why it is important to rename all of your cells to not avoid getting lost…


Lower the threshold, EQ by using the Band Pass option at 500Hz (so the attack of the kick is the only thing triggering your compressor). The release is going to act as a “fade in”, slowing raising the volume after the kick hits, it gives a little pumping effect pretty nice.


Once you have set all your parameters, copy and paste the compressor to the Hihat cell and our Reverse Snare cell.


It’s time to add some reverb and delay, but we are not going to add them to each cell… We are going to create two return channels inside our drum rack!


At the bottom left of your Drum Rack you will see a little “R” icon, this will open your return channels inside of your drum rack. Drag and drop a reverb and do the same thing with a delay. Make sure your effects have the Dry/Wet at 100% because we only want to hear the effected signal out of these channels.



On the bottom Left of your Drum Rack you will see the “S” icon, this will open your send parameters. Send to the reverb and delay a little bit of everything and mix it however you want it. You can now play with the volumes, the pans and the settings of your reverb and delay.




You can add as many cells as you want to make this drum set perfectly your own!

Hope you enjoyed these few tricks and stay tuned for the next part where we are going to use another MP3 to create an atmosphere to fit your mix! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or email me directly! Thanks again and be CREATIVE!

You can download the full Drum Kit on my Website in the Members section under “Ableton Live Downloads”!!members/ztl4i


Eric Dubois

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Twitter: @ericdubois_prod

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