Using 3rd Party Drum Plugins with Ableton Push

Use 3rd Party Drum Plugins with the Ableton Push Controller

The Ableton Push is a super-flexible songwriting tool and its Drum sequencer view is particularly helpful for building out beats quickly. But when you add a third-party drum plug-in to a MIDI track, Push only gives you its general melodic keyboard interface, not the super-handy Push drum pad and sequencing interface. If you want to use a third-party drum module like NI’s Battery or Toontrack’s Superior Drummer with Push’s drum-programming interface, you’ll need to follow a few simple, but often-overlooked steps.

Note: this quick tutorial was created with Ableton Live 9 and the first revision of the Push hardware, but I’ve also tested it with Ableton Live 10 and the Push 2 as well.  Let me know in comments if you have issues and I’ll try to help out.

First, create a new Drum Rack in your Live project. Do this by clicking the title of the MIDI track you’d like to add it to, then double-clicking Drum Rack in the Live 9 Browser (found under Categories > Drums > Drum Rack).

Drum Rack in Ableton Live

Next, drag your drum plugin from the Browser (usually found in Categories > Plug-ins) to the C1 drum pad button in your new Drum Rack.

Assignments in Ableton Live

Now the Push shows the correct interface, and the C1 (lower left) pad plays the correct plugin drum sound—but it’s currently the only pad that does. No bueno. We must fix this! In order to map the remaining drum pads to their respective sounds, click the small, round List button on the far left of the Drum Rack to open its Chain List, then click the I-O button that appears in the lower far left to open the Input/Output section, where you should see your plug-in listed (in this case, Superior Drummer 2). Change the receive value of your plug-in in the Chain List from C1 to all notes.

You now should hear your drum plug-in’s sounds correctly mapped to each of the drum pads on your Push. Woot! Now you can use all the sequencing and loop length features of the Push’s drum interface with your favorite drum module. Having trouble? I created a quick video below to step you through the process.

To make it easier to bring up your favorite drum module at your next session, you can save a preset Drum Rack so your favorite sounds are ready to roll on the Push whenever you create a new project. In the main Drum Rack interface at the bottom of your Live screen, click the small disk icon in the upper right, and you’ll be prompted to give it a name. I recommend choosing one that you’ll recognize quickly in the Push LCD browser. You’re ready to go!

From now on, whenever firing up a new Push project, you can just navigate to Drum Racks > User Presets in your Push library, scroll down to your preset (it will appear alphabetically), and load up your favorite drum sounds on the Push in one fell swoop.