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Facing a Problem

I’d like to tell you a little story. It’s the story of how I built a preset Drum Rack in Ableton Live that I now use on a regular basis, which you can download here.

But first, a preface:

Every time I open up Live I get inspired somehow. It’s just so easy to quickly get ideas from my head to the speakers. However, there are times when I get an idea and get stuck. And why is that? 9 times out of 10 it’s because Ableton Live’s built-in devices limit me. Before I go on, I should say that I don’t use Max for Live yet. More power to those who can make their own devices, but my mind doesn’t work that way. Now you may be wondering why I haven’t bought Max for Live and taken advantage of the plethora of patches out there available for free download, or, even better, made friends with an awesome programmer. My one and only reason is this: I try to face my Live problems head on and be creative within my limitations. It’s a self-imposed challenge and I love it.

And now, for the story: Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I was building a drum track and decided to use Drum Rack. While programming my beat and tweaking controls I thought, “Man, I wish Simpler had some of those cool random options that Impulse has so I could use them in Drum Rack.” Now, flashing back to the time when Drum Rack came out with Live 7, everyone (myself included) was like, “Yo, forget Impulse! Drum Rack is the stuff!” Then began the war between die-hard Impulse fans and Drum Rack spearheads. But wait! Why should we have to choose? Why is it one or the other? Then I had an idea…

Knowing Your Tools

My problem was simple: I wanted, with one button, to be able to randomize which sample slot of Impulse was played to be able to get a more realistic kick drum pattern. How, with all of the built-in devices that Ableton has provided me, could I make that happen? Since I already did the hard work – becoming familiar with my tools – I began to formulate a solution. Here was my totally geeked-out thinking:

– According to the Live manual, the eight sample slots of Impulse, from left to right, are hard wired to MIDI notes C3, D3, E3, F3, G3, A3, B3, and C4. That’s a C Major Scale! Scale, hmmm.

– Maybe if I put the MIDI effect Scale in front of Impulse, I could force all of the MIDI information into a C Major Scale. Okay, that works, but how do I randomize all of that MIDI information? Random, hmmm.

– I’ll try putting the Random MIDI effect before Scale, crank up the Random parameter amount to 100%, and make sure it’s set to play a Chromatic Scale within one octave, maybe it’ll work. Let’s try hitting C3.

– It worked! Cool. Now, how do I turn this into a drum set? Maybe I’ll drop them in an Instrument Rack and duplicate the chain. Well, I can definitely program a beat and get the sound I want, but wouldn’t it be cooler if I could play these chains like drum pads with my Launchpad or my Maschine? Drum pads, hmmm.

– What if I drop these devices, including Impulse (a drum sampler), into Drum Rack (a drum machine), which has drum pads? Is that allowed? Will I have to later explain my actions in Ableton court? Hey, it works and it’s easy to do.

– I should probably save this as a preset Drum Rack. What do I call it? Impulse… Drum Rack… Pulse… Rack… Im… Drum… Pulse… DrumPulse!

The Moral of the Story

Okay, okay. So it’s not the most invigorating story ever told. Now that maybe be true, but there is a good moral to this story. In the words of Ableton Live wizard, Christopher Willits, “Deep simplicity breeds infinite possibility.” Or in the words of some other genius dude, “K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid.” While I could have bought Max for Live, took the time to wrap my head around it and maybe come up with something close to what I actually wanted, I decided to go with the tools I already had and keep things simple. It’s important to note that what’s straightforward to me might be complicated to someone else, and what’s difficult to me might be brain-dead easy to someone else (like a Max programmer.) But nevertheless, I was faced with a problem and forced myself to be creative within my limitations. And by keeping things simple, using as few stock Live devices as possible, I was able to pave the way from my problem to a solution in a relatively short period of time.

Oh, and one last thing … try not to forget about the little guy. When Drum Rack came out, it was “So long, Impulse!” And now Max for Live exists and it’s like, “You still use the Live devices? Really? No, really?” Impulse is still great – just ask Sebastien Leger who uses it on pretty much every MIDI track in his own projects. Drum Rack is still great – just ask anyone who uses Slice to New MIDI Track for sampling purposes. And while I’m at it, Max for Live is also great – just ask Dubspot Instructor, and my good friend, Dave Linnenbank, creator of Max Fuel, the First for PureMagnetik. I will buy Max for Live (and Max Fuel) eventually, but I’m good with what I got for now and would like to become comfortable with the instruments that I’ve already chosen to use. Sometimes you just have to make a decision and stick with it. Maybe someday I’ll decide to combine all three of them: Impulse + Drum Rack + Max for Live = Max for DrumPulse? It’s probably a good thing that it’s not my job to name presets for Ableton.

Article written by Patrick Cupo, Dubspot’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction.


For more start dates and information about payment plans, please call 212.242.2100 or 1.877.DUBSPOT (1.877.382.7768) or send us a message.


Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

All six levels / 48 sessions
Online Classes Starts Next Monday, June 6th

The flagship of our music training, with every Ableton Live course offered at the school. After completing this program, you will leave with 4 completed tracks (EP), a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.


  • Ableton Live Level 1: Shake Hands with Live
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Completing Your First Track
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Production Essentials
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Sound Design & Instrumentation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Composition & Production
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Taking Your EP Global

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, from developing your sound through a series of sketches while getting familiar with the application to creating a fully-fleshed out four song EP. You will create a remix and submit it to an active remix contest, score a commercial, and learn valuable insider tips and techniques.


  • Ableton Live Core & Advanced: 6 levels
  • 132 hours of in-class instruction
  • Additional instructor-supervised lab hours
  • Dubspot’s complete Ableton course load

Program Goal:
After completing this program, you will leave with a multi-track EP, a remix entered in an active remix contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.


Click here to view the embedded video.

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Feed: CreativeApplications.Net


GRID is an interactive multi-touch sound visualization for the band Mathon and the ZKM AppArtAward 2011. Created for live events, the application consists of a desktop version for realtime graphic visualization of music – created using Processing and also an iOS version for interacting with the Processing app – created using openFrameworks.

The basic appearance is based on a shape that deforms synced to an audio signal. A never ending journey through portal-like visuals, organic and technical scenes take the viewer into a surreal feeling atmosphere. Forming rapidly changing pictures out of those shapes the viewer seems to be part of electrical impulses catching short impressions of the human and his role in the universe…..</em

Continue reading: Grid [iPhone, iPad, oF, Processing]

Feed: CreativeApplications.Net


The Digital Rube Goldberg Processor is the outcome of a workshop The Product collective gave at the HfG Karlsruhe (Design School). The team was invited to give a 4-day Processing workshop for the communication design students there. Since they understand it is impossible to teach programming to beginners just within 4 days, they decided to focus more on the essential topics behind generative and computational design, to provide a grounded starting point for the students.

Jens explains: We first gave a quick introduction to the processing environment, thematically centered around the actual matter of generative design, namely digital data. Given the fact that any stored data is binary code in the end, it is the encoding and decoding algorithms that make digital data meaningful for us. To create an awareness for that, we came up with the idea of the rube-goldberg-processor (wiki). It is an potentially endless line of sub-processors that transform the same dataset from one state into another. Each group of students had a translate-from-to assignment, e.g. from moving image to sound. To make the steps more comprehensible for observers, the transfer was made in an analog way (camera pointing to monitor, microphone in front of speaker…) In the end, this obvoiusly led to an indecipherable outcome, but on the way, the teams had to negotiate basic “protocols” and concerned themselves with several techniques that are used in computational design.

The flickr account in question, website with video and photos

The student teams were:
Sound to printed patterns: Matthias Gieselmann, Stefanie Miller
Moving image to sound: Kirstin Griech, Simon Schelsky
Text to image: Nadja Schoch, Lisa Stöckel

The Product team provided the first step (image to text) as well as the last step, the flickr uploader. The rest was done by the students.

For more teaching by The Product, see the-product.org/category/teaching

The Product a berlin-based spatial and media-related design practice. They conceive design concepts. They create installations. They animate surfaces. They design spaces. They develop objects. And they extensively think about the application and combination of technologies in meaningful ways.


Text to Graphics


Graphics to Sound


Sound to Print


Print to Flickr


Flickr to Text



Feed: bedroom producers blog

Filters and delays are my favorite effects to play around with, so this edition of bpb Freeware Studio was a rather easy one to write. I’ve included all sorts of different types of filters in the list below, from simple transparent ones for cleaning up the low end, to some more complex and dirty sounding […]

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Ah, the sine wave…

For years, I have referred to this wonderful little waveform as “the atom of sound”. Without the sine wave, no other waveform could exist, since every complex or single-cycle wave is comprised entirely of sine waves – whether they are harmonically related or a cacophony of chaotic tones.

So, as an exercise, I created this month’s preset – Sine Of The Times – out of two single sine waves an octave apart, just to see if I could make it do as many tricks as possible via clever macro assignments.

The result exceeded my expectations and hopefully yours too.



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