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GrooveCell Drum Plugin Pro Tools

How To Use GrooveCell Pro Tools Drum Plugin

Included with Pro Tools, GrooveCell is a virtual drum instrument that can be used to create drum loops, and load in your own drum samples from a folder on your hard drive. In this article, we are going to look at GrooveCell’s features for creating, organizing, and sequencing your own drum parts.

Using GrooveCell In Pro Tools

GrooveCell is a virtual drum sequencer modeled after a traditional, hardware drum sampler/sequencer. It features 16 individual pads that can be used to load and trigger drum samples. The drum pads can be performed with an external MIDI controller, clicking on the drum pads within the GrooveCell window, or by programming notes into the sequencer window.

Groovecell Plugin

When you insert a new instantiation of GrooveCell onto an Instrument track, it will default to Pads view, as shown in the figure above. Pads view gives you control over every individual drum pad and a great degree of control over each sample. Each pad provides a few options for playback, performance, and sample loading.

As with all other virtual instruments included with Pro Tools, GrooveCell provides access to a plethora of presets from which to choose. To choose a preset, click on the dropdown arrow near the top of the window labeled <factory default> and browse the submenu. The presets span drum sounds for a large variety of genres, including drum kits suitable for hip-hop, EDM, synthwave, lo-fi, and much more. This is a great starting point for anyone wanting to hop into GrooveCell and start making beats. Each pad can soloed or muted, using the Mute and Solo buttons at the bottom of the pad. The MIDI note used to perform the pad’s sample can be changed at the bottom left.

Groovecell Pad

If you have a library of drum samples on your hard drive that you want to load into GrooveCell, you can do so by clicking on the + at the top right of the pad. Once clicked, you will prompted to select your desired audio sample by navigating to its location on your hard drive. Once you have selected audio sample, click Open to assign it to the drum pad within GrooveCell.

Drum Sample Library

If you want to load in multiple samples at once, you can do so by Command+Clicking (Mac) or Control+Clicking (Windows) all the samples you want to import into Groove Cell. Once you click Open, the Sample Mapping dialog box will open, giving you various options for how you want your samples to mapped within GrooveCell. You are given the following options for sample mapping:

  • Spread: Load up to 16 selected files across pads in order starting with the selected pad (1 sample per pad)
  • Velocity: Load 2 or 3 files for individual playback by velocity range. With 2 files, trigger the first sample by velocities from 1–63 and the second sample by velocities 64–127. With 3 files, trigger the first sample by velocities from 1–42, the second by velocities 43–84, and the third by velocities 85–127.
  • Layer: Load up to 3 files to a single pad. All samples play back together when the pad is triggered
  • Round Robin: Load up to 3 files to a single pad. Each trigger cycles through the samples in order

Loaded Samples

The three vertical dots at the bottom right of each pad can be clicked to bring up a sub-menu of additional options. Using this menu, you can rename the pad, clear the sample loaded into that pad, clear the adjusted settings for that pad’s sample, or clear the pad entirely.

Rename the Pad


Pad Settings: Page 1

When in Pads view, the right side of the GrooveCell interface provides a variety of editable parameters that will affect the mix of the selected sample. This area is separated into 3 different pages, selected using the numbered tabs on the right-hand side.

Pad Settings

Parameters such as volume, panning, and pitch can be adjusted under the “General” section.

General Paramaters

In the “Sample” section, you can adjust parameters that affect the start and end point of the sample.

In addition, you can place any sample into One Shot Mode. When enabled, One Shot Mode ensures that the entire sample is played when the pad is triggered by a MIDI Note On message (or a mouse click). When this option is disabled, the sample plays when triggered by a MIDI Note On message (or a mouse click), but then stops playback with the corresponding MIDI Note Off (or mouse release). So, for example, if you trigger the sample with a quarter note, but the full duration of the sample lasts for a half note (at the current tempo), only the first half of the sample is played.

Sample Section in Groovecell

Under the Sample section, you can also designate your desired output for your selected pad. The Main Output plays through the track output on which the plug-in is inserted. Individual outputs need to be routed to other track inputs to be heard. Assigning individual pads to separate outputs lets you record, process, and mix each of those pads independently.

For example, you might want to assign Pad 1 (kick) to one individual output (Indv. Out 2) and Pad 2 (snare) to another individual output (Indv. Out 3), and then separately assign each of those plug-in outputs to the inputs of corresponding audio tracks for independent recording, processing, and mixing (or use Auxiliary Input tracks for just processing and mixing). The Master effects on the FX page only process audio of pads assigned to the Main Output, and are not applied to any pads routed to Individual Outputs. The same is true for pads sending to the Delay and Reverb effects.

A high-pass filter and/or low-pass filter can be set using the filter knobs. The amount of reverb and delay can be adjusted using the “Sends” knobs.

Filter Section in Groovecell

Under all these options, a waveform view of the selected sample can be viewed. Any changes you make to the Start and End points of the sample will be reflected here. The vertical white lines with triangular flags at the top represent the start and end points of the sample playback.

Changing Waveform in Groovecell


Pad Settings: Page 2

If you click on Tab 2 on the right side of the Pads window, you will be given access to a whole new set of adjustable parameters. Each of these parameters can be set independently for each pad. The first option on Tab 2 is Drum Mode, which allows you to set the selected pad to emulate the sound of various drum machines.

GrooveCell Plugin

  • Off: No effect.
  • Old Sampler: Simulates the sound of an old sampler with both a low bit depth and low sample rate.
  • Drum Machine 1200: Pushes the sound towards the character of a famous vintage drum machine.
  • Super Console: Emulates the sound of a famous 16-bit console from the 90s that was well regarded because of its sound chip.
  • Bad Converters: Gives the sound a slightly rougher edge so that it reminds you of something that was not sampled with the best equipment.
  • Hollow Sounding: Adds a special sonic character to the sound by combining formant shifting and boosting a specific frequency range.


The AHDSR Vol section allows you to adjust the AHDSR (Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain, Release) curve, or the amplitude envelope, of the selected sample.

AHDSR Vol  in Groovecell

In the waveform view, there is a graphic representation of the amplitude envelope superimposed on the waveform itself. The yellow line represents the current settings of the AHDSR Vol envelope. As you make adjustments using the AHDSR knobs, you will affect the yellow line, shown below.

Amplitude Evenlope in Groovecell


Pad Settings: Page 3

Tab 3 of the Pad Settings pane offers options for both drive and dynamics. Drive refers to various methods of adding distortion; Dynamics refers to the different options of processing, or shaping, the volume of the selected sample.

Drive Function Presets in Groovecell

The functions of the different Drive presets are as follows:

  • Off: No effect.
  • Saturation: Adds some weight and volume to the sound without distorting it too much.
  • Distortion: Adds some aggressiveness, especially with higher drive settings.
  • Burning Gear: Very aggressive distortion. Really destroys the signal at high drive settings.
  • Analogue Warmth: Even softer than the Saturation setting, this preset is designed to add a little bit of warmth and flavor to your sounds.
  • Gritty: Adds dirt and distortion, but without destroying the punch too much. Great for beefing up kick drums and snares


The functions of the different Dynamics presets are as follows:

  • Off: No effect.
  • Punch: Enhances the attack of the signal by combining compression and transient shaping.
  • Slammer: Especially useful for drum loops to give them that special compressed character.
  • Fattening: Strong compression with a short attack but long release to squeeze the signal.
  • Extreme Transients The stronger version of the “Punch” preset. Really features the transients at high settings and adds high clicks to the sound.
  • Attack Softener: Useful if a sound is too punchy or aggressive, and you want to lower the attack portion of the signal.
  • Hard Limiting: Not a brickwall limiter, but hard limiting to add a very compressed character to your sound.

The Sample Mapping feature allows you to specify the MIDI note number used to trigger the selected sample. In addition, you can specify the minimum velocity value required to trigger the sound as well as the maximum velocity value.

Sample Mapping


At the top of the GrooveCell window, two additional window views are available: Sequencer and FX. To switch to a different window view, simply click on whichever option you want to view. The option will become green when it is selected.

Sequencer and FX.


Sequencer Window

The Sequencer window can be used to sequence drum parts using the multi-step sequencer matrix, shown below. Each pad is laid out on the left-hand side, and you can click on individual sequence pads within the matrix to add a note wherever desired. The pad will light up blue when it is engaged for that step. Additional options, such as note velocities, pitch, pan, and probability can be adjusted at the bottom.

Sequencer Window in Groovecell

Below is a list of the track controls, which are available to all 16 tracks within the

Track Controls

The GrooveCell FX view provides options for adding global effects to the GrooveCell instantiation. EQ, distortion, compression, reverb, and delay can be added to the GrooveCell instrument, thus affecting the entire kit rather than an individual drum sample. The Master effects on the FX page only process audio of pads assigned to the Main Output and are not applied to any pads routed to Individual Outputs. The same is true for pads sending to the Delay and Reverb effects.

Each effect can be toggled on or off using the On/Off button at the top right of each effect’s section.

Export MIDI Sequence


A convenient features of GrooveCell is the ability to export a sequence as either MIDI or audio data. Clicking the “Export” button at the very top right of the GrooveCell window will bring up options for exporting your drum sequence.

GrooveCell Plugin


The GrooveCell export options window allows you to export MIDI data, audio data, an individual pad lane, or each drum sample.

Export Options


Simply click on whichever export process you want to run.

  • Export MIDI: Exports all MIDI from the sequencer.
  • Export Audio: Exports the sequence as a WAV file that you can drop and drop to a stereo audio track in Pro Tools or to the desktop
  • Export Lanes: Exports the information from the sequencer lanes info, as .MID files (into Pro Tools or desktop, via drag and drop)
  • Export Samples: Exports the samples from the pads to 16 separate .WAV files (drag and drop to Pro Tools or desktop)


Once GrooveCell has loaded your desired export option, the export option will change its name to “MIDI,” “Audio,” “Lanes,” or “Samp,” depending on which option you clicked. To retrieve the exported data, click and drag into a new Instrument track, or Audio track, depending on what type of material you exported.

Retreive Exported Data

Alex Thomen

Author: Alex Thomen
Composer & Music Technology Instructor
ProMedia Training, LLC


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Alex Thomen
Alex ThomenComposer / Arranger / Music Technology Instructor
Alex Thomen is a producer, composer, pianist, mixing engineer, and music educator. He attained his Master's Degree in Commercial Music Composition and Arranging from Belmont University in Nashville, TN and taught as an instructor in Music Production at University of Miami Frost School of Music. From small-scale chamber groups and rock bands to full symphonic orchestra, Thomen arranges, produces, and mixes for a variety of ensembles and styles. Thomen’s education and experience have helped refine his skills in contemporary music production for Film/TV/Games. From ambient, musical soundscapes to fantastical, orchestral pieces, television commercials, and more, Thomen’s creative output evokes a vast variety of moods, settings, and themes.


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