Ableton Live Video Tutorial: Drum Rack + Impulse = DrumPulse

In this Ableton Live video tutorial, production guru Pat Cupo takes us through his DrumPulse preset that randomizes Live’s Impulse sample slots to generate more realistic drum patterns. Included is a FREE Ableton Live Instrument Rack.

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 called DrumPulse that is available to download FREE below.

Free Download | Ableton Live DrumPulse Preset

Enter your email address to download the free Ableton Live Instrument Rack

Email (required)

Check this box to receive Dubspot's monthly newsletter.

Story Behind the Creation of DrumPulse

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 then get stuck. And why is that? Nine times out of ten 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. 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.

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, with one button I wanted to randomize which sample slot of Impulse would play to get a more realistic kick drum pattern. How, with all of the built-in devices that Live offers, could I make that happen? Since I already did the hard work by 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 explain my actions later 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… I’m… Drum… Pulse… DrumPulse!

The Moral of the Story

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 for me might be brain-dead easy to someone else (like a Max programmer). 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!” Now that 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. Max for Live is also great, just ask 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 Live.


Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

About This Program

At Dubspot our world-class instructors provide the most complete and cutting-edge Ableton Live learning experience. The Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program is the flagship of our music training. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

What’s Included

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music


  • Dubspot’s complete Ableton course load: six levels/48 class sessions
  • 132 hours of hands-on instruction
  • Additional lab hours to work on assignments in Dubspot’s onsite facilities
  • 24/7 access to Dubspot Online’s Ableton Live course videos
  • Access to the course videos for one year after course completion


Visit the Ableton Live course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

  • a.m. gold
  • 6/6/2011

It’s cool to learn from Live users who are committed to using the built-in instruments and effects, I feel exactly the same as you about Max for Live. I will certainly try this DrumPulse idea, as I’ve always been a bit confused about which device to use in which circumstance. Thank you for the valuable info.

  • horiadu
  • 6/6/2011

Very helpfull! Many thanks!!!!

  • Thavius Beck
  • 6/6/2011

Haha! Pat MacGyver Cupo… I love it!

  • Unit27
  • 6/6/2011

Really cool vid. I love the idea of using Live’s devices as if they were parts of a modular system. Live’s Groups allow for some really complex signal routing with the tools available within a track.

I’ve made a series of Live instruments and effects using only Live’s built in devices. It has a range of weird effects and tools you might find useful. It’s available from my site unit27music dot com.

  • Seth Brundle
  • 6/6/2011

“DrumPulse Max!” duuuh! lol :)

  • WaterRabbitUSA
  • 6/6/2011

Patrick Cupo, Thank You for all the work you put into these projects and then making them available to us. That is what makes the internet so powerful, the spread of knowledge, which will benefit all of us humans.
I look forward to taking one of your courses someday, Take Care & Keep Playing.

  • Ableton Live Video Tutorial: Drum Rack + Impulse = DrumPulse « FutureBass. FrigoTek.
  • 6/6/2011

[...] Click here to view the embedded video. [...]

  • Doug
  • 6/6/2011

Demo download does not work with version 8.0.8!