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MPC Style Note Repeats in Ableton With Impulse And Beat Repeat

Looking to add a little more flavor to your live drum programming?

For years, owners of the legendary Akai MPC series have been able to create stuttering note repeats and drum rolls with the flick of switch. Today I am going to show you how to achieve these exact same results with a copy of Ableton Live’s Impulse Drum Machine and Beat Repeat.

Thanks to Daniel for this great tutorial idea!

Step 1.)

Under Ableton Live’s device browser, open the folder labeled Instruments.

Next, locate the Impulse drum machine and click the arrow to the left of it, opening the presets.

Double click on the Vintage Funky Good Time preset to load it in a new MIDI channel.

A screen cap showing me loading Ableton's Drum Machine Impulse into a new MIDI channel.

Simply locating an instrument’s preset and double clicking it will load it into a brand new MIDI channel.

Step 2.)

Open the Audio Effects folder in Ableton Live’s device browser and drag a copy of Beat Repeat onto the MIDI channel that is hosting Impulse. With the record button enabled, you should be able to play all 8 notes loaded on the Impulse on either your MIDI controller or computer keyboard (Starting on note C3).

A screen cap showing Impulse and Beat Repeat loaded on the same MIDI channel.

Make sure to load Impulse and Beat Repeat on the same MIDI channel.

Step 3.)

For the rest of our tutorial, everything will be handled in Ableton Live’s Beat Repeat.

To get those authentic MPC stutters and rolls, we have to change a couple settings in Beat Repeat.

Start off by bringing the Chance knob all the way down to 0% (as we will control the repeats manually).

A screen cap showing my settings on Beat Repeat.

Bringing the Chance knob down to 0% will allow us to manually control our note repeats.

Step 4.)

Next up, assign a key to the Repeat button on Beat Repeat. Do this by clicking either the Key or MIDI button on the top right of Ableton Live, double clicking the Repeat button and pressing the desired button you want assigned to it. After you’re finished, click once more on either the Key or MIDI button

A screen cap showing how to assign a MIDI button to Beat Repeat's Repeat button.

Assigning the Repeat button to a MIDI key.

Step 5.)

Depending on whether or not you want your live drumming to be heard over the repeated notes, you can leave the Mix button selected, or activate the Ins button (which only plays the repeated note, your playing will be muted until you switch off the Repeat button).

A screen cap showing the difference between the Mix and Ins button on Beat Repeat.

Mix allows you to play notes over your drum part, while Ins will only allow your repeated notes to play, muting your performance.

Step 6.)

Start playing a beat on your MIDI controller. Every once in awhile, when it feels “right”, activate the Repeat button with the key you assigned earlier. You will hear the note you last played repeat. Try and catch a simple snare hit, or a kick drum, it takes awhile to get used to, but practice and you will get a feel for how it works.

To stop the repeating note, simply de-activate the Repeat button with the assigned MIDI key.

Depending on your Grid settings, you will either hear a quick drum roll, or a slower drum roll (1/8 and 1/16 notes for a standard roll, while 1/12 and 1/6 can add an interesting triplet feel.)

A screen cap showing Beat Repeat's grid settings.

Beat Repeat’s grid settings allow you to fine tune the division of notes Beat Repeat will “stutter”.

Once you’ve mastered simple rolls, you can start playing with the Variation knob (randomizes the Grid settings for you) and even the Pitch and Decay knobs (tunes the drum hits up and down).

Above all, experiment and have fun!