How To Fatten Up Drum Loops In Ableton Live

Some stock drum breaks and loops can sound a little thin. Recordings in the 60’s and 70’s may not have that punch in the low end you’re looking for, especially in hip-hop music. In this tutorial we’re going to use Ableton to take a simple one bar drum break and layer a kick underneath to fatten it up.

The Samples

The Drum Loop
For this tutorial I am going to grab a 90BPM 2 bar drum loop, and cut it down to just 1 bar.

Here is the 2 bar drum loop:

Click Here to download the loop.

The Kick Sample
Now for the kick drum we’ll be using.

Click Here to download the kick sample.

1. Preparing The Drum Loop

For this tutorial we will be using Ableton’s Arrangement View.

Drag the drum loop onto the first audio track. Your global tempo should now automatically change to 90BPM.

Our drum loop as it appears in Ableton’s Arrangement View.

The drum loop is already set up almost perfectly for looping, so adding extra warp markers will not be necessary.

Next, cut the clip down to a 1 bar loop by hovering your mouse over the end of it until your cursor turns into a bracket. With your eye on the beat ruler, drag until the clip reaches the “2”. Do the same with Ableton’s Loop Brackets.

Drag both the clip and the Loop Brackets to the “2” on Ableton’s Beat Ruler.

A 1 bar loop, ready for editing.

In the Control Bar at the top of the screen enable Ableton’s Loop Switch.

Enable Ableton’s Loop Switch to make editing easier.

The loop is now ready for kick drum layering.

2. Setting Up The Kick Drum Sample

Start by adding a Drum Rack to the MIDI track below our loop. Once you’ve done that, locate the kick sample and drop it into the “C1” Drum Rack pad.

Our kick sample loaded into our Drum Rack. There will be a few adjustments in the Device Chain.

Click on the “Show/Hide Devices” button highlighted in the above screen shot. Once you open the device, you will want to turn the Release knob to full, and the Vel up to 100%.

Full Release opens our kick sample, before it was being cut short. 100% Velocity allows us to adjust the velocity of individual notes in our MIDI editor.

Next, unfold both tracks in the Arrangement View. You should see the waveform of the 1 bar drum loop. Underneath the drum loop, on the MIDI track, click and drag for 1 bar (up to the “2” on the Bear Ruler), it should highlight orange. Press Ctrl+Shift+M to create a new MIDI clip.

Highlighting our MIDI track for 1 bar.

Ctrl+Shift+M creates our new MIDI clip.

This is now going to allow us to line up our MIDI kick hits with our wave form kick hits. I like the turn the grid off when programming the MIDI kicks to keep the human feel, and have precise control under the kick hits in the loop.

Here is a quick video of me lining up the MIDI notes with the waveform’s kick hits.

An here is a screen shot of the results I am satisfied with:

You can hear from the video, that it sounds pretty good so far, but there are a couple of tweaks I want to make the tone of the kick.

3. Fattening The Kick Sample

First we am going to start by loading an EQ 8 onto the MIDI track. Click on “Band 4” of the EQ and hit the “High Cut” filter mode. Next click the 10kHz under the Frequency knob and type in 500. This will cut everything above 500Hz eliminating the “tambourine” sound in the high end of the kick sample.

Our EQ settings for cutting out anything above 500Hz.

Next, we’ll select band 1 on the EQ 8 and give it a slight bump around the 100Hz area. This will add a pleasant thud. Click the first band and click the number under the gain knob and type 3 with your keyboard.

This will add a nice thud to our beat, unfortunately, it is clipping..

Okay! We’re almost there, our last step is to add a limiter to the track. No adjustments necessary, just throwing Ableton’s Limiter over the MIDI kick track and the master track will keep it from clipping, and tighten up even more.

Here is the final result:

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