How to Use Ableton Racks [Get 10 Ableton Drum Racks]

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an abstract ableton drum rack

Ableton racks are a huge time saver for any Ableton user. They make it easy to load in effects chains, instruments and Ableton drum racks.

If you learn to use racks properly, they can save you time and help you get to creating tracks faster.

In this article we’ll take a look at how you can use various Ableton drum racks, effects racks and instrument racks to speed up your workflow and help you get to creating tracks faster.

Then we’ll share a few of our favorite drum rack sample packs to help your Ableton drum racks stand out from the crowd.

Let’s dive in!

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What are Ableton racks?

Ableton racks are preset groups of instruments, drums and effects that you can easily load into audio and MIDI tracks in Ableton.

Hot tip:

Looking for an overview on how to use Ableton? Learn everything you need to start making tracks with our ultimate Ableton guide.

Ableton comes with a handful of pre-made racks for drums and effects, but it’s not complicated to build your own racks based on your needs.

The term “rack” borrows from the effects racks found in professional analog studios, instead allowing digital producers to set up the same kind of racks in their DAW.

Of course, Ableton racks’ uses extend beyond housing various effects chains—they also house sets of drum samples, and preset synth and sampler instruments.

There are three kinds of racks in Ableton:

  1. Drum racks
  2. Effects racks
  3. Instrument racks

Let’s take a took at each one more closely.

Ableton racks are preset groups of instruments, drums and effects that you can easily load into audio and MIDI tracks in Ableton.

Ableton drum racks

Here`s an in-depth look at how Ableton drum racks work.

Here`s an in-depth look at how Ableton drum racks work.

The drum rack in Ableton is where drums are programmed, controlled and customized.

Ableton drum racks are formatted using 16 pads MIDI mapped from C1 to D#2.

Each drum rack in Ableton comes with five sections:

  • The macro effects control section
  • Its 16-pad sampler
  • The sound chains section
  • Ableton’s Simpler plugin for each sample
  • Drum MIDI roll

The macro controls offer the ability to add custom effects, EQ, compression and other sound design tools that change the sound of the entire drum rack.

The sampler pad section allows you to demo sounds in the rack and hot-swap different samples in and out.

The chains section allows you send each sample through your output of choice, set up choke groups for hi-hats and other instruments and change the volume and pan of each sample.

The Simpler plugin view allows you to modify and design the sound each individual sample in your drum rack.

With a drum rack open, opening a clip or clicking into the timeline will open a MIDI roll where you can easily click in drum patterns straight into the MIDI roll.

Ableton effects racks

Here`s a helpful tutorial from Reid Stefan on using effects racks.

Here`s a helpful tutorial from Reid Stefan on using effects racks.

Effects racks in Ableton are similar, except they don’t feature the 16-pad sampler found on the drum rack.

Instead, they’re designed to offer a space for centralized control over the various effects plugins in Ableton.

And, because racks are saveable, you can create a guitar effect rack with controls over your desired effects that are easily recalled whenever you write guitars.

The effects rack essentially gives you the ability to set up your sound and use it consistently as you hone in the exact sound you’d like to create.

Ableton instrument racks

This tutorial dives deeps into Ableton instrument rack uses.

This tutorial dives deeps into Ableton instrument rack uses.

Instrument racks work very similarly to effects, except they group instruments together and offer macro effect controls like filter, drive and EQ over the entire rack.

You can also customize the presets of each instrument in your rack and then copy the values from each one to other instruments in your rack.

Ableton instrument racks work great for mapping different instruments to different parts of a MIDI keyboard—a synth bass in the lower register, a pad in the middle and a lead in the highs for example.

You can also use racks to control the pan and volume of each instrument.

And, you can save the sounds to instantly recall for use in any of your projects.

10 must have Ableton drum racks you need right now

Alright, now that we gone through what racks can do for your music production workflow in Ableton, let’s look at some drum rack sample packs that we’re curated with Ableton in mind.

Matt takes us through 10 of the most popular drum patterns in music.

Matt takes us through 10 of the most popular drum patterns in music.

1. 808 Drum Rack

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The best 909 samples

Get 909 Drum Rack

There’s nothing more iconic than the TR-808 drum sound.

Beloved in nearly every genre, especially trap—you’ll hear 808s everywhere.

So, if you’re looking for some premium 808s that punch through any speaker, grab this sample pack.

2. Berlin Techno Rack

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The best 808 samples

Get 808 Drum Rack

Slamming kicks, long subby decays and crunchy hats percolate throughout this techno inspired sample pack.

If the Berghain is calling, grab this Ableton rack friendly sample pack and start making tracks.

3. 90s Hip-Hop Drum Rack

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The best 90s hip-hop samples

Get 90s Hip-Hop Rack

Inspired by the drums used by 90s hip-hop pioneers, this sample pack will give you all that bit-crushed lo-fi flavour that early samplers like the SP-1200 and the AKAI MPC.

Grab that lo-fi crunch and get to work making your retro throw back hip-hop track.

4. Trap Drum Rack

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The best trap samples

Get Trap Drum Rack

Modern trap 808s have long departed from the original sound of the TR-808.

Today producers put hours in find the perfect amounts of distortion, decay, EQs and compression to make their 808 stick out from the crowd.

If you need thumping kicks, boomy 808 bass, snappy hi-hats and ear-slicing hi-hats don’t sleep on this sample pack.

5. LinnDrumm Rack

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Try unique LinnDrumm Samples

Get Linn Drum Rack

The LinnDrumm is maybe the most under-rated drum machine of all time.

While legendary producers from Prince to Thundercat consistently use it in their tracks, it’s not as popular culturally as say the TR-808 or TR-909.

So if you’re looking for electronic drum samples that are little bit more unique, give this drum rack a try.

6. 909 Drum Rack

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The best 909 samples

Get 909 Drum Rack

The TR-909 is the original drum machine used by techno and house producers from Chicago and Detroit in the late 90s.

It’s easily gone down as one the most iconic and most popular drum machin in all pop music, aside from maybe its cousin the TR-808.

This sample pack makes use of the best available, pristinely recorded drum machines and works as a capable substitute for the real hardware machine.

7. Detroit House Rack

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The best Detroit house samples

Get Detroit Techno Drum Rack

House music always asks for some pretty specific, incredibly funky drum sounds that play well on club speakers.

This sample pack was designed for exactly this purpose and is sure to supply everything you need to write a groovy house tune.

8. Studio Drum Rack

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The best acoustic drum samples

Get Studio Drum Rack

Electronic drums are one thing, but what about good ol’ acoustic drums? We’ve got you covered with the Studio Drum Rack sample pack.

Electronic drums are one thing, but what about good ol` acoustic drums?

These meticulously engineered recordings of live acoustic drums are a capable substitute for the real thing.

Especially if you consider how much control Ableton drum racks can give you over the sound of the sample when played from a MIDI drum controller or electronic drum kit.

9. Lofi Drum Rack

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The best lo-fi drums samples

Get Lo-Fi Drum Rack

Crackling hi-hats, understated kicks, soft snares and low key vibes are the best way to describe this Lo-fi-inspired drum rack.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect lo-fi indie rock jams, or something to put behind your lo-fi jazz-hop track, give this pack a try.

10. Minimalist Drum Rack

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The best minimalist drum samples

Get Minimalist Drum Rack

Miminalist techno and house makes paired down requirements on its drum sounds.

Their subtle natures means they aren’t necessarily looking for the slamming sound of their more bombastic techno and house counterparts.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t pack enough punch to get the dancefloor grooving.

These samples simply use a bit more restraint and offer a tasteful vibe for the muted yet mature producer.

Alex Lavoie

Alex Lavoie is a drummer, music producer, songwriter and marketing professional living in Montreal, Quebec. He works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and writes indie post-punk tunes in his band UTILS while moonlighting as drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters. Connect with Alex Lavoie on LANDR Network!

@Alex Lavoie

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