A brief history of triggering melodies via drums

Many drummers have used electronic triggers for their acoustic drums to trigger melodies via synths or digital audio workstations. Electronic drum brands had even included some melodic step sequencer functionality in their products already in the 80ies but it didn’t developed into a more used feature and kind of disappeared from the mainstream electronic drum products for a little while. It is now being re-introduced in products like the Roland SPD-SX Pro but unfortunately to some unpractical ways.

The best solutions for drummers to trigger melodies is in software and obviously Ableton Live with it’s flexibility is the one solution used most here. Of course I am promoting my plugins for this approach here – I think they can give drummers a very good starting point and can help you to create some very complex performances. You need to check them out yourself to find out IF they are for you.

how to play trigger melodies via step sequencer in Ableton

Here are a few examples of drummers and their techniques.

AndrĂ© Duracell – live synth drumming

According to his homepage, AndrĂ© is using “…bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, all with triggers (cheap piezo pickups).triggers go into mixer for preamp, then into a clavia nord modular G2…” . His kick drum is playing the bass melody, his snare is playing the top melody/chords and via his tom he is switching to the next part or chord.

Zach Danziger

Zach is a world class drummer and composer, he is using some custom Max for Live devices for his techniques. In the video below you can watch him incorporating video triggering as well.


Davide Compagnoni aka Khompa is using a custom Max for Live device for his drum performances which is very similar to the Melody Trigger.

Adam Betts aka Colossal Squid

I had the pleasure to meet and watch Adam play a few years back at a small venue in Glasgow. Back then he was using a technique of combining the “Random” + “Scale” Ableton’s stock MIDI effects.

Jules Jensen aka Mad MIDI

Jules has become one of my beta testers and friends to ask to push my plugins to the limit. He is using some very advanced video triggering, ClyphX and OSC techniques.

Stuart “Stu” Brown

Stu is an amazing drummer and is always trying to develop and push things into another dimension. Here is one video of a collab he made with an visual artists feeding the drums to create reactive visuals.


I had the pleasure to see CHIMINYO live once in Bristol, UK. Besides programming his own Max for Live/MAX stuff (again similar to my MelodyTrigger but focusing on triggering sliced audio via MIDI, I think.) Besides his music and set-up I’m a huge fan of his drumming.


Nick aka Chordsplitter is using a mix of Sensory Percussion sensors + e-drums, Ableton Live and Max for Live devices (similar to my newer Synced MIDI Trigger device). Hey has released a full album in 2023, which you can check out here,

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