Making Music With Ableton, Sample Packs… & Mad Zach

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 10 April, 2018

Mad Zach first came on to our radar here at Digital DJ Tips when he showed us what Traktor’s Remix Decks can do. But now, he’s doing the same for making music with sample packs and Ableton Live…

Making music using pre-produced sample packs is huge right now. Why? Basically because sample packs – collections of sounds that are pre-prepared by top producers and sold as a set – offer a fantastic way to get started in making your own beats, especially for DJs who are used to building sets out of other people’s songs. If you’re used to building sets out of other people’s tunes, goes the thinking, then why not build tracks out of other people’s sounds?

Now, if you want to do this kind of thing “live” – while DJing, in other words – Traktor’s Remix Decks and Remix Sets offer a great solution. But if you want to actually start producing your own music this way, you need to take another route – and that route is usually Ableton Live.

Ableton Live is a piece of software that lets you easily “play” samples, creating your own “on the fly” arrangements, and then play back the results, tweaking, changing – basically, turning a load of bought-in sounds into something that is totally your own. Grab a trial version of Ableton Live and a sample pack, and you have all you need to have a go – and getting started really is half the battle, trust me on that one.

Free video training

The reason we’re talking about this now is that we’ve teamed up with Mad Zach and Beatport (who sell sample packs) to bring you a set of four “taster” tutorial videos that go from the very basics right through to amazingly complex stuff. There’s not enough in these videos to “teach you” to produce, of course – that’d take a bit longer than we have time for here – but there’s plenty to get you past square one, and show you the possibilities for you if you stick with it.

There’s another reason for this, though: We are considering making a set of training videos ourselves – again, free – to help you get started. To make those videos as useful as possible to you, we need you to tell us what you want us to cover in them. Have you tried to make your own music? What stopped you? If you could have asked for help when you got stuck, what help would you have asked for? If we are to make a “Digital DJ Tips” beginners production series for the site, what absolutely has to be in it? We’d love you to let us know the answers to any of these questions in the comments below. Hopefully these videos will give you some ideas….

The videos

These videos were produced in association with Beatport, who want you to use their sounds to learn with. That’s cool – the deep house pack that Mad Zach uses is made by him, is huge in size, and reasonably priced – but be clear: If you’re not into deep house, there are sample packs in most every other genre available, and there are plenty of other places that sell sample packs too; you could even make your own. But the object of this is to get going quickly, so really, you are going to want a pack – and this one is as good as any, so we’re happy to recommend you go for it if you like what you hear and see.

Video 1: Installing Ableton & your sampler pack (beginner)

This is the “hand holding” video – it gets you up and running with the software, and shows you how to install and set up a sound pack on your copy of Ableton Live so you’re ready for…

Video 2: Get started playing with loops (beginner)

Seriously, you could be doing this in 30 minutes from now. Here, Zach shows how to trigger loops, and gives you an understanding of how a sample pack is laid out in Ableton. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to start making stuff that sounds there or thereabouts.

Video 3: Building a track from scratch (intermediate)

Of course, nobody’s saying production can be learned in 30 minutes. This video – while also easy to follow – will open your eyes to just how deep you can dive into this stuff, as Mad Zach builds a beat from scratch with his pack.

Video 4: Discover the groove (advanced)

The takeaway from this video is how much you can affect the feel of a track by playing with the “groove”. This isn’t about any kind of formal “music training” – it’s about a DJ’s sense of what works on the dancefloor. You’re a DJ! You’ve already got that. You’re half way there…


We hope you enjoyed this “taster” of what’s possible with Ableton and sample packs. Remember, though, one of the purposes of this little project is to get you thinking about making your own music, and for you to let us know what you’d like to see featured in any forthcoming Ableton beginner series here on Digital DJ Tips. So please let us know in the comments below what you thought of these videos, and what you’d like a series made by us to show you.

Beatport’s Promo Video

So, let us know your thoughts on this mini-series – and what you’d like us to include in a future Digital DJ Tips production training series – in the comments below.

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