In this article we will be looking at the best drum plug-ins for Ableton. This list is a personal curation from my own experience, which I believe is the most interesting for your production needs. I have also compiled a list of guitar, vocal, synth, chord and auto tune plugins that you may also want to check out.
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Some of these plug-ins will come in primarily the VST 2.0 or VST 3.0 format for Ableton, or the .nki format compatible with the 3rd-party plug-in host Kontakt. Nonetheless, they will provide you with great utility for your productions and live performances in Ableton.
XLN Audio – Addictive Drums
Addictive Drums was the first drum plug-in I ever used in 2015. I cannot recommend it enough. It is simply world-class. The samples, recorded in world-class studios, offer versatile sonic options and creative controls.
The plugin features a collection of drum packs (drum kits), MIDI packs (beat loops), and Kit pieces (single drums). There are 21 addictive drum sets with loads of presets and pieces you can mix and match in the kit view to create your custom sounds. Everything is labeled appropriately to match the genre and vibe you want to go for.
My favorite kits are the Vintage Dry, Reel Machine, and Studio Prog. With different kit elements you can get everything to sound authentic in the effect view.
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Brushify Pro by ADSR Sounds is great for Lo-Fi, Soul, and easy-listening Jazz productions. You get the dusty and smoky sound from acoustic drums with a brush stick for soft impact and a soothing sound when rubbing your kit with a brush stick. It is also great for when you want drums in the background.
For only $35 you will get a plug-in with a Brushed Drums Module, 12 mic position sampling ready to be loaded into Ableton with no online activation required.
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Skaka by Klevgrand
Skaka is the first sample-based plug-in on this list. The obscurity of where the samples are obtained makes this plug-in very unique. I have found utility in this plug-in while producing blues and Afro-folk music because of the organic feel of the samples.
Samples are acquired from calabashes, zippers, tambourines and even egg shakes for a fresh sound plug-in. For only $57.99 you get 12 slots, 18 sampled shaker instruments, pre-baked shakes, a room simulator, 12 parallel slots, multiple shaker instruments, high precision editing options and a lot more!
EZdrummer by Toontrack
EZ Drummer is just like having a studio drummer on your computer. It is the first acoustic drum plug-in on this list. With the Tap-2 find feature you can find a loop to suit your production. You can also add user MIDI content to refine your loop and groove search, work with Grid Editor to humanize your grooves, and use the mixer with an elaborate routing system for your drum kit and mics. Bandmate is a transient analysis feature that will help you generate drum parts based on transient detection, and finally, Song Track, a tool for quick song arrangement.
Drum Daddy by Ingram Audio
Drum Daddy, hosted by Kontakt Player, is the second sample-based drum plug-in on this list. It comes in the .nki format and offers a lot of utility as a jack of all trades for all genres (even samples suitable for Polka music, with a colorful and bright GUI).
The plugin features 17 individually controlled Direct, Overhead, and Room Channels, Built-in Effects controls, and a plethora of Kicks and Snares, Toms, and Cymbals.
Beat Master Drumloop Machine
Beat Master is the second 3rd-party based plug-in (Kontakt Player) specifically grounded on samples, but especially sample chopping. Have a look at How to Chop Samples in Ableton Live for more on the topic.
Beat Master contains fourteen patches and 4000 drum loops and grooves which cover an extensive range of music styles and genres, but are especially suitable for electronic music and modern music that uses a lot of digital instruments and instrument emulations. The plug-in also comes with effects racks with over 100 convolutions of reverbs, delay, chorus, phaser, flanger, and more!
There is a myriad of drum plug-ins available for you to use on Ableton. Sadly, most of them do cost something, however, you do not need the most expensive and robust drum plug-ins to make bangers! Sometimes all you need is a moment of genius, some luck, and a conducive environment. Even with the best drum plug-ins, I will advise that you customize the sounds you decide to utilize, to make your production very distinct. Use these tools to create your sample packs (see a tutorial on the best free sample packs for Ableton), and with a bit more experience, learning sound design, and recording techniques, you may even create your plug-ins. Have fun!