MPC Note Repeats Tutorial with Impulse

Learn how to create classic MPC snare rolls with Impulse

Photo credit: Jaymis Loveday

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!

18 thoughts on “MPC Note Repeats Tutorial with Impulse”

  1. This is awesome! What a great tutorial!

    Mini-testimonial: I requested this tutorial and then in not even a full 24 hours it was posted up on this blog. Ableton Life is the real deal!!!

  2. I agree Daniel, this blog is by far my favorite.
    Im visiting EVERY single day to see whats new and if nothings new, I go over the older tutorials, because they are explained in a very simple manner so that even such a noob as me understands ๐Ÿ™‚
    CHEERS and carry on !

  3. hi there, got a question
    i’m working a lot with beat repeats combined with a mpc-24 and when i hit one of the repeats i want it to go on of course but i want to turn the device off the split second i release the pad in stead of hitting it again to do so. is there any way to make that happen?

  4. Nice simple effect ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for the tut. For some real jitter mind, just install the Dblue Glitch plugin. Its cheating I know but a real time-saver – awesome for live performances when you feel like glitching things up on the fly.

  5. Thanks for this, I have been wondering how to get this sound for ages! Keep up the good work homey!

  6. If you drag n drop an ableton arpeggiator onto the pad you want to repeat it will repeat the sample as soon as you press the pad and continue until you release it, you can midi map the repeat speed of the arpegiator to a knob on your controller to get the repeats to increase in speed.

  7. To Jack,

    Check the manual of instruction of your MPC24 to find that option when you hit a pad. I know it’s available for a lot of controllers.
    Very good site BTW.

  8. Hey, love your blog first of all.
    Just one suggestion. For the RSS, it seems that every feed is full blog which I suggest to change to the title and some description and a link to your site, then we could know that we could visit your site to see full blog.
    Thanks a lot!

  9. After step 4, whenever I try to play on my keyboard there’s no sound. Why is this?

  10. this is rediculously good thank you provides so much funk to things

  11. jack: Bomes Midi Translator can for sure do that. I believe ClyphX can also do it and is free. Alternatively I think there are a lot of Max4Live scripts that accomplish that.

  12. I have a mpd 26 and the sounds are working but are spread out and not all in the 16 pads (pad bank A) that I have. Is there anyway to have them all in one bank

  13. This looks awesome! I have a Korg padkontrol as well as an m-audio trigger finger. I love both but I’m not satisfied with the drum roll capabilities in either. Can’t wait to get home and try this out.

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