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March 2014 / CM201
Create stand-out beats and unique
patterns with our essential guide
Computer Music 201 is here, and I gotta say, its
about time. Really, thats what its about! In our
massive main tutorial, Radical Rhythms, we tackle the
scary-sounding topics of time signatures, syncopation,
tempo shifts, polyrhythms and more besides, then
whip the cloak of mystery off of the lot of em.
The great thing about timing tricks is that theyre not
all-or-nothing affairs, and so you dont have to be an
experimental loon or jazz head in order to use them in
your tunes. Using 3/4 timing, for instance, doesnt
mean going full-on waltzcore you could just toss in a
few bars to liven up your bridge before getting straight
back to the usual 4/4 stomping ground. Likewise,
syncopation can achieve anything from occasional
rhythmic jolts to wake up your listeners to
total obfuscation of the underlying beat.
Use tempo shifts for jarring about-
turns of pace and exhilarating ramps
up and down or just vary the pace
by a few BPM to gently push and pull
the song where needed.
As ever, its all about what you take
away from our tutorials, so to start
applying Radical Rhythms to your
own tunes, just get stuck in and
Lee du-Caine Editor
Where to get
Subscribe to
Computer Music!
See p108
intro / computer music <
Theres extra video content wherever you
see this icon.
This icon means there are extra files to
help you follow a tutorial feature.
Wherever you see this icon, theres
downloadable content such as videos,
software, samples and tutorial files.
See the Contents on the next page
for how to download.
Tutorials featuring this icon make use of
our own Plugins.
includes Dual-Layer DVD
for PC, Android, iPad & more
for Android and Chrome
for iPad, iPhone & iPod touch
Master time signatures, tempo,
polyrhythms and more with our
easy guide to playing with time, p34
ISSUE 201 MARCH 2014
Producer masterclass
Find out why Trevor and Rustem are making
waves on the deep house scene, and see their
in-studio production methods for yourself
Take a circuit-bending journey into the
realm of custom-built synths and effects
Take a closer look at Abletons FM-powered synth and
learn how to use it for a range of sound design tasks
Put the grid to work with
our guide to arpeggiator
and sequencer functions
Thomas Shaw reveals the
backstory behind the
house duos success
4 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Tutorial videos
Productions not cutting it? Go nuclear with
this powerful multitrack dance machine, p8
This issues exclusive free content from Computer Music
Our exclusive collection of
free plugins for Mac and PC.
See whats available on p14
A folder full of audio examples,
synth patches and project files
to help you follow our tutorials
CM Plugins Tutorial les
Put the pedal to the metal with
this collection of over 900
finely tuned samples p12
Our fantastic software, samples, videos* and tutorial
files are now available to download! To get access,
head to on your
PC or Macs web browser. Youll be asked to register
and answer a few simple questions to prove that
youve got the mag. Youll then be given access to
our content! You can sign in any time to register
new issues and download more content.
* The Producer Masterclass video is not currently available as a download, though a
solution to this is being worked on. Apple Newsstand readers can still watch the video
via built-in internet streaming just hit the Play Video button on the page.
18 high-quality
videos to guide
you through our
tutorials. Wherever
you see the below
icon, theres a video
version to watch
Electronic Youth put together an entirely new track
just for us in this 70-minute video masterclass, p51
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 5
9 Using cross-rhythms to
create a fill
6 Polymetres in
FXpansion Tremor
7 Polymetric MIDI and
audio in a DAW
8 Programming cross-
10 Beat displacement
5 Exploring deeper
syncopation ideas
4 Basic syncopation of a
drum part
3 Tempo changes in
Ableton Live
2 Time signature changes
in Ableton Live
1 Odd time signatures
in action
Read the full
article on p8
Getting started with
UVI Defcon
Building a track with
UVI Defcon
This issues videos all in one place! Download them
on your PC/Mac at
Our fantastic software, samples, videos
and tutorial files are now available to
download! To get access to this content,
go to
on your PC or Macs web browser. Youll
be asked to register and answer a few
simple questions to prove that youve got
the mag. Youll then be given access to
our content! You can sign in any time to
register new issues and download more
content. For more info, see our Vault FAQ:
Read the full article on p34
Get control over the fourth dimension
without bending your mind these ten
tutorials will show you how to play with time
Ready-to-roll beats and
melodies to get you out of
the sourest sonic pickle
see this issues inspiring
new plugin in action
6 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Our fantastic software, samples, videos
and tutorial files are now available to
download! To get access to this content,
go to
on your PC or Macs web browser. Youll
be asked to register and answer a few
simple questions to prove that youve got
the mag. Youll then be given access to
our content! You can sign in any time to
register new issues and download more
content. For more info, see our Vault FAQ:
* Please note that the Producer
Masterclass video is not available as
a download via our Vault, though Apple
Newsstand users can watch the video
via built-in internet streaming.
Producer masterclass
Trevor and Rustem take us into their studio to
show how they go about building a new track
in this months Producer Masterclass video
Read the full article on p74
Read the full article on p67
Read the full article on p51
3 Rearranging a drum loop
with Cumulus sequencer
2 Arpeggiator sequencing
with SynthMasterCM
4 Aalto CMs modular
step sequencing
1 Basic arpeggiator
functions with PolyKB II CM
5 Custom step sequencing
with Dune CM
Get the most from the Plugins collections
onboard step sequencers and arpeggiators
Decorate your tuneage by breaking your chords apart.
Dave Clews shows us how to arpeggiate from first
principles to more elaborate techniques
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 7
Construct pro-sounding dance tracks in no time with this months exclusive
software a powerful and fun multitrack instrument for PC and Mac
>Exclusive full software
As a modern electronic
musician or computer-based
composer, its easy to struggle for
inspiration in an endless ocean of
sonic possibilities. Deep synths
and expansive sound libraries are
all well and good, but sometimes
you need quality and features in an
inspiring ready-to-go format. Enter
this months exclusive free
software, built exclusively for ,
UVIs Defcon a unique software
instrument ideal for both
beginners and pros alike.
Defcon houses six separate
channels of pre-loaded track
elements (three drum tracks, a
bass track and two melodic
phrases) sourced from some of
their finest dance and urban
instruments: Electro Suite, Urban
Suite, Mayhem of Loops and World
Traditions. The tracks can be mixed
and matched to craft modern and
high-quality electronic tracks in a
flash. Parts will stay in time with
both each other and your host
softwares tempo, and the three
musical tracks will remain in key.
Simply fire up UVIs Workstation
2 sampler on a new MIDI or
Instrument track in any DAW, load
up Defcon inside it, select from the
multitude of parts available for
each track category, then use MIDI
notes to trigger the six parts in
time with each other.
Controls for on/off, solo, mute,
volume, pan, tune, low-pass and
high-pass filters are on hand for
each track, so you can adjust and
tweak your mix directly from
Defcons front panel. In addition, a
huge array of high-quality studio
effects can be applied inside the
Workstation 2 sampler for more
in-depth processing. UVI
Workstation also offers other
useful functions to assist your
music making: stack multiple
Defcon instances for a thicker
sound, split multiple parts across
MIDI notes with the Split, Velocity
and key Switch functions; and
tweak its parameters using MIDI
CC with its MIDI Learn function.
If you cant get enough of
Defcons high-quality sounds and
features, then get your ears around
UVIs other instruments. Their
insanely powerful UVI Engine
powers a whole host of collections
including super synths, composer
tools and faithfully recreated
emulations of classic instruments.
Go and scope out their expansive
range for yourself at their website.
Click to access and
browse factory presets
Select the current
sample on each track
from a dropdown menu
or by scrolling
Level, pan and pitch
individual tracks here
Toggle each track
on/off, mute and
solo them
Tune Defcons melodic
elements in octaves
Use these sliders to
apply a high- or low-
pass lter to a track
Play/Stop all
enabled tracks
Randomly change the
loaded samples on all
six tracks
Get the plugin, the video and
the Tutorial Files on PC/Mac at
8 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> download / uvi defcon
> Step by step
Getting started with UVI Defcon
Lets kick off by installing the free UVI
Workstation 2 sampler instrument,
found at or
on your covermounted DVD. Double-click
the PC or Mac installer and youll be taken
through the installation process on your
system. Now copy Defcon.ufs into the
relevant system folder see page 6 of the
Defcon User Manual to determine the
correct folder on your system.
Now well open a new project in our
DAW (were using Ableton Live to
demonstrate, but any compatible DAW
will do) and load up UVI Workstation on a
new MIDI track. Double-click its browser
bar at the top to open the Soundbank tab.
In the Defcon folder, load Defcon.M5p,
which will initiate Defcon inside the UVI
Workstation environment.
Defcon gives you six channels of club-
ready elements that can be mixed and
matched in a construction kit-style format.
Later, well show you how in-depth the
instrument can go, but first well take you
through its basic functionality. Draw a new
four-bar MIDI region on our track, loop it
up, then fill it with a long four-bar G1 note.
Hear how the notes C1 to B1 play back the
musical elements at different pitches.
Now open Defcons interface. Its main
centre section is divided up into six
sections one per track element and
they all play back together in sync with
our DAW. Lets focus on the Kick + Snare
track to get to grips with these controls.
We have On/Off, Mute and Solo buttons at
the top to help us audition our
combination of parts, so hit the S button
to solo our kick and snare loop.
Click on the sample name to open
a dropdown menu, where we can
click to select from a whole host of
four-to-the-floor and breakbeat rhythms.
Alternatively, we can click on the left and
right triangle buttons to cycle through
these loops in real time. Lets settle upon
092 Duck Town-BD+SD.wav, an urban
kick and snare pattern.
Now hit its S button again to unsolo
the track, then turn off all of our other
elements (except the Hi-hat track) using
their On/Off buttons. For the hi-hat, we go
for 128-E-Blond Maniac-HH.wav. We can
use the sliders in the tracks centre to mix
and tweak our hi-hat loops characteristics.
Turn Volume up to roughly 0.75, Pan to
around -0.30, then bring Tune up to
approximately 3 semitones.
Now turn on the Percussion track and
select 095-Shaker2.wav from its list.
The two larger triangles at the bottom of
this track section are Low- and High-pass
filters. These come in handy when fitting
our separate elements frequencies
together, so click and drag the High Pass
slider to around 0.50 and pull the Low
Pass slider down to roughly 0.90.
Lets fit in a bassline. Turn on our Bass
section and open up 133-B-Cordial-
Bass1.wav. The bottom three melodic
tracks dont feature a fine pitch slider, but
instead have three buttons so we can
transpose our musical parts by octave.
Here well hit the -1 octave button to give
us a lower, weighty sub under our beats.
We can now turn Phrase 01 and 02 back
on to add our synth elements back in.
Finally, hit FX in the top-right, then hit
the add FX tab. Well select the 09 -
Dynamics 03 - Studio Limiter Soft
Limiter effect, then bring the Threshold
back to -5.50dB for more controlled
dynamics. Weve shown you how to create
a simple arrangement using Defcons
factory content. Ready to go deeper?
Check out our track and second video on
the next page.
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 9
uvi defcon / download <
Weve seen how easy it is to get a composition
up and running in no time using Defcons
intuitive multipart interface and streamlined
approach to composition. However, the more
seasoned electronic musician would also be
wise to investigate Defcon in more detail, as the
instrument contains some truly professional-
grade onboard sounds and features, making it
far more than just a preset machine.
Weve put Defcon through its paces so you
can see (and hear) what its truly capable of. Our
challenge was simple: create a professional
dance track solely using sounds sourced from
Defcons onboard factory content, and only
process these sounds with Plugins.
Building a track with UVI Defcon
Using Ableton Live 9 as our host, we
decided to tackle the tracks creation in two
stages. Firstly, we built up our initial loops and
ideas in a sketchpad project. Instead of using
the onboard sounds and riffs directly out of
the instrument, we programmed our own
MIDI parts and layered up multiple instances
of Defcon to create a custom stab hook and
gritty bass part. After crafting accompanying
melodic riffs, FX and beats, we exported all of
our elements out as audio files to sequence in
a second arrangement project. Here we used
Lives audio processing and some creative
application of Plugins to piece together a
DJ-friendly composition pictured below.
Log in to or fire
up this months cover DVD, and in the Tutorial
Files folder youll find two Ableton Live 9
projects. One is the initial sketchpad project, and
the other is our full arrangement. If you dont
own Live, head over to and you
can install a demo that will load our projects. As
weve only used Plugins throughout both
projects (also bundled free with this magazine),
youll be able to explore these two projects for
yourself. If thats not enough, check out the
video tutorial in the Tutorial Videos folder
here we dissect our workflow and production
techniques just for you. You can also grab the
finished track itself: Defcon Track - Master.wav.
A duplicate copy of our kick runs
throughout our track, used purely to trigger
sidechain compression over other elements,
ducking them even when the kick isnt playing.
Our drums have been grouped, and
weve sent the groups signal to a heavily
saturated return track for extra weight.
We created some FX in Defcon, added
reverb and processing in UVI Workstation,
chopped up the audio, pitched and reversed it
to create a rising build-up sweep.
In the intro, Vengeances Philta CM
filters our lead stab riff. We slowly open its
Lowpass dial throughout this intro breakdown
to increase anticipation towards the main drop.
When our track kicks in, we layer an
old-school piano over our stabs to thicken the
riff. We switch between long and short notes
to create contrast between 16-bar sections.
A weighty bass sits under our riff,
filling out the tracks sub and mid regions. We
use the same riff on another channel to high-
pass the bass and create tension.
For the main breakdown, we introduce
our custom breakbeat loop for the first time to
switch up the arrangement. We chop this up
and create a snare roll build-up.
When our breakbeat drops in, we
bring back our bass and piano hook this time
with extra stuttering notes. This provides
welcome variation to our main theme
Weve subtly placed a high-pass filter
over our master channel to remove bass from
the track before drop sections. This makes us
anticipate the basss return.
Eurydice CM adds interest to our leads
group channel at certain edit points. We
activate/deactivate the effect with automation.
For subtle interest, we move our onbeat
ride to the offbeat in certain eight-bar sections.
Altering existing parts can sometimes be
more effective than introducing new ones!
Until now, core elements have been
sidechained against a duplicate kick for a
bouncing house feel. For variation, we simply
remove the kick (and sidechain).
To create a turntable-style finish, we
automate Lives Clip Transpose over the
breakbeat for a pitching-down effect. We also
timestretch our snare to end.
10 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> download / uvi defcon
The closest we get to a joyride in the
offices is the white-knuckle trip down a
questionable lift shaft and the daily bumper-to-
bumper commute to the coffee machine.
Dreaming of the open road, this month weve
commissioned a tankful of high-octane sounds
to inject N2O into any production.
The outcome is this collection of motor-mad
musical loops, FX, foley, multisamples and drum
kits. Grooving guitar loops, rocking bass hooks
and all manner of driving-inspired melodic
phrases can be combined with screeches,
engine roars and automobile noises aplenty.
So, if the only wheel you get your hands on is
attached to a MIDI controller, if your idea of a
nice little two-door is achieved using ReWire;
and if the only time you get involved in a crash is
when your computer fails you, allow us to
welcome you to Motor City.
Robbie Stamp calls us from the Bromley Heath
roundabout on the A4174, where he often goes
to seek inspiration for sample packs.
This months loops range from rock to R&B
through Krautrock and DnB. The tempos (95,
108, 120, 128, 140 and 170bpm) should find their
way into most genres, and the keys have been
restricted to A, C and E for compatibility, he
says over the purr of thrumming engine noise.
The beats were made with four kits: two
acoustic and two electronic. The hits used have
been included, and the acoustic hits are
numbered to indicate velocity-layered hits.
There are also parallel FX loops to mix in with
the dry ones filter sweeps, massive
overcompression, overmodulation, etc.
Robbie pulls over to refuel. The acoustic
basses were DId through the Little Labs Redeye
into an ISA828 preamp and sent to AmpliTube.
The electric guitars were recorded in the same
way with a selection of amp models and pedals.
Challenge Robbie to a drag race on Twitter:
Groove Criminals
Oli Bell of turbo-charged sample label Groove
Criminals took us out for a spin to explain the
finer points of this months pack. The majority
of the FX and foley were recorded out and about
using our Yamaha portable SD recorder and an
external stereo mic. The more Hollywood
sounds are heavily processed versions of the
original car sounds compressed, pitchshifted,
EQed, etc. We also included some cheesier FX
created with our stack of analogue synths, says
Buckle up and get in gear for an exclusive collection of over 900
drivin loops, hits, kits, car sounds and plenty more under the hood
Motor City
Get these exclusive samples
and loads more at
If you experience any problems using your DVD, you should first visit our support page at, where most common problems and solutions are listed.
Alternatively, you can email, making sure to include the
magazine name and issue number, along with a description of the fault, or else telephone our
disc support team on (+44) (0) 1225 822 743.
Oli, stroking his shiny walnut dashboard.
For the crash samples, we made a variety of
humble sounds by dropping bags of glass,
rolling biscuit tins and so on, and layered them
in our DAW just like a conventional tune, he
says, keeping his eyes on the road and both
hands on the wheel (anything else would be
irresponsible). Other samples like heavy kick
drums and similar were also used to emphasise
the crash impact. Weve included some of the
basic foley sounds as well as the end results.
Swap insurance details with Oli over Twitter:
12 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> download / samples
249 beat loops
111 bass loops
47 synth loops
72 pads
36 guitar loops
42 foley crash sounds
154 sound FX
4 full drum kits (78 hits)
6 SFZ multisamples (149 samples)
Our exclusive collection of instruments and efects is included with every
issue of Computer Music its all you need to make great music now!
The Plugins collection is a suite of complete,
limitation-free instrument and effects plugins. Its an
incredible resource, boasting 35+ pro-quality plugins that
you wont find anywhere else, all for PC and Mac, in VST and
AU formats. All of the included software is created
exclusively for us by respected commercial developers such
as LinPlug, Sugar Bytes, Ohm Force, KV331 Audio, u-he,
Vengeance-Sound, Rob Papen and Synapse Audio.
BigTick RhinoCM
Stampede your
tunes with this
fabulous feature-
packed FM synth!
Its capable of
everything from
chunky bass tones to lush electric
piano patches and complex ambient
textures. Key features include large,
flexible envelopes, a mod matrix,
macro controls and built-in effects. If
thats not enough for you, check out
the full Rhino at Big Ticks site.
LinPlug AlphaCM
A Plugins
veteran, this
subtractive synth
from legendary
developers LinPlug has been with us
for many years now but is still able to
hold its own. Key features include dual
oscillators, each with two blendable
waveforms; a modulation matrix; slick
chorus effect; tons of carefully
designed patches; and glide with
polyphonic operation. Its big brother is
LinPlugs commercial Alpha synth.
Madrona Labs Aalto CM
This stupendous
sports an
oscillator with
FM capabilities, a
weird and wonderful waveguide delay
section, filter, gate, intuitively
patchable modulation, on-board
reverb, step sequencing, and most
importantly, a fabulous analogue
sound. Aalto CM and its funky features
demand your attention.
AudioRealism ADM CM
An old-school-
style drum
machine with step
sequencer, ADM
CM offers an
emulation of
Rolands legendary TR-606 drum
machine and banks of custom CM
samples covering a variety of genres.
Its an essential source of beats for all
styles of electronic music! Check out
the full ADM if you want more it also
includes TR-808 and TR-909 sounds!
Expert Sleepers
Breathe life into
your samples with
this creative
sampler that can turn tiny tones into
smooth, long-lasting timbres! Based on
the commercial Crossfade Loop Synth,
its other key features include the novel
hard sync mode thats sure to delight
sound designers, blendable multimode
filter, creative modulation options,
saturation and flexible looping.
Camel Audio Alchemy Player CM
Based on the
Alchemy, the cutdown Alchemy Player
CM is a powerful beast in its own right
it gives you a vast sonic palette, from
drum kits and basses to lush pads,
huge soundscapes and more. It has
200 awesome patches from the full
version, and another 50 can be had by
registering on Camel Audios site. Many
of our sample collections also include
compatible patches in SFZ format.
KV331 Audio SynthMaster CM
KV331 Audio based this monster synth on their
astounding SynthMaster 2.5, which MusicRadar
users have deemed the third best VST plugin
synth in the world today. SynthMaster CM uses
the exact same under-the-hood technology,
featuring dual wavescanning oscillators, a
multimode filter, customisable waveshaping
distortion, FM/AM synthesis modes, powerful
modulation sources, a modulation matrix and
built-in effects.
14 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> download / plugins
XILS-lab made
a real name for
with their beautiful emulations of
classic analogue synths, and PolyKB II
is one of their finest efforts,
resurrecting the sound of the ultra-rare
PolyKobol synthesiser. PolyKB II CM is
a ready-to-play variant that gives you a
massive bank of mix-ready sounds
with assignable knobs for the main
parameters. For gorgeous analogue
tones in a hurry, look no further.
Synapse Audio Dune CM
Set sail for new
sound design
horizons with this
very special edition
of Synapse Audios
awesome hybrid synth! It offers virtual
analogue and wavetable oscillators,
per-voice modulation, a 12-slot mod
matrix, tons of presets, and best of all,
an unbelievable sound! The full
commercial Dune also features built-in
effects, twice as many modulation
slots, and even more presets.
Synapse Audio Plucked String
This is a
instrument for
creating plucked
string sounds
entirely using synthesis no samples
here! Features include a stereo mode
that mimics guitar double-tracking by
playing dual detuned voices, a three-
voice mode for extra phatness, and five
selectable modes: Noise, String,
Gourmet, Nylon and Acoustic. Its
plucking brilliant!
Get these instruments on your
PC or Mac right now at
Loomer Cumulus
If a lack of
inspiration has got
your head stuck in
the clouds, Cumulus
will bring you back
to Earth! Its granular sampler
functionality enables you to break
samples into tiny components called
grains and then reconstruct them to
form new and interesting sounds, while
the Scenes function transforms
Cumulus into an awesome beat slicer
and sequencer.
u-he ZebraCM
Perhaps the most
popular plugin weve
ever given away, this
is a completely
original instrument
created for us by the DSP geniuses at
u-he. Its based on elements from u-hes
uber-synth Zebra, but is a much easier
beast to tame. With its super-
programmable step LFOs, swish
on-board effects and superb sound
quality, you wont want to be without
this one in your plugins folder.
LinPlug CM-505
Analogue drum
synthesis is
made easy with
this brilliant
beatbox from LinPlug, proving that you
dont need a PhD in synthesis or an
insane modular synth setup to get
slick-sounding synthetic rhythms. With
12 different sounds at your disposal,
and built-in distortion and bitcrushing
to add character, CM-505 is perfect
whenever you need electro flare, or for
mixing with more conventional drums.
Cableguys Curve 2 CM
V2 of Cableguys
waveforms synth
sees the addition
of plenty of new
features. Oscillator 1 can now mix two
waveforms, while oscillator 2 has its
own discrete waveform. Theres now a
phat 16-voice Unison mode, four Macro
knobs, and improved envelopes. And
the new colour scheme looks better
than ever!
Rob Papen RG-Muted CM
This amazing
instrument comes
from the virtual
instrument king
himself: Rob Papen!
With it, you can
create realistic funky guitar grooves
via the onboard sequencer, and there
are tons of effects and modulation
options too. Its based on Papens RG
rhythm guitar plugin, and comes with
pretty much all the same features, but
only the muted guitar sounds.
What is Plugins? Is it just
No, and neither are the plugins
limited or crippled. Its a set of
virtual instruments and effects
created by some of the best
developers in the business just
for us you wont find this set of
plugins anywhere else!
Where do I get Plugins?
As a download from our Vault
(see p5) or on the DVD with the
print edition.
How do I install Plugins?
Find installation instructions for
each plugin in the How To Install
file in the CM Plugins folder
What do I need to use
A PC or Mac and a music program
(aka DAW) to host them (ie, plug
in to). You need a DAW that can
host VST or AU plugins, such as
Ableton Live, Garageband (Mac),
Reaper, FL Studio (PC), Cubase,
Logic (Mac) or Sonar (PC).
Which of the plugins are 64-bit?
Around half of them have 64-bit
versions. For those that dont, try
a 32-bit bridge (eg, jBridge, or the
one in your DAW). See our full
format list at
Still got questions? See the full
FAQ at
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 15
plugins / download <
pack includes a
pair of superb
equaliser plugins.
IIEQ Pro CM is a
6-band EQ with a
choice of 19 filter
types including
Butterworth filters, and series or
parallel routing. LP10 CM is a mastering
EQ with the ability to smoothly adjust
the phase response, up to and
including linear phase. Both are based
on DDMFs commercial EQ plugins.
LiquidSonics Reverberate CM
Manipulate your
sonic space and
set your tracks
apart with this
reverb! Its based on the excellent
commercial Reverberate plugin, and it
comes with a selection of beautiful,
high-fidelity presets. The included
impulse responses offer all manner of
room, hall and cathedral reverbs, and
there are some far-out experimental
sounds to be had too.
Sugar Bytes Artillery2
CM Edition
This is a special
version of Sugar
Bytes powerful
Artillery2 effects
sequencer that
includes six of the best effects from the
parent versions arsenal of 28. Effects
include amplitude modulation, an
8-stage phaser, resonant filter delay,
low-pass filter, a Beat Repeat-style
effect, and more. The real headline
feature is that all these effects can be
triggered from MIDI keys!
KResearch KR-Reverb
CM Edition
KR-Reverb CM
is based on
existing KR-Reverb but improves on it
with a handy pre-delay and a damping
control that provides the user with
previously unachievable levels of
control over the effects tonality.
Thankfully light on CPU usage, its a
must for anyone looking for an easy-to-
use yet flexible reverb effect, and it can
handle everything from tiny rooms to
epic plates.
Blue Cat Audio FreqAnalyst CM
Get a grip on
the frequency
spectrum with
this pro-quality,
spectral analyser,
based on Blue Cats full FreqAnalyst.
With a wide range of parameters for
adjusting the way the frequency graph
responds, you can easily create a
custom view that works for you, then
save it for later recall. You can even
save curves for comparison, and undo/
redo any adjustments you make.
KResearch KR-Delay CM Edition
KR-Delay CM is a
totally original
effect created for us
by the audio boffins
at KResearch. Its a powerful stereo
delay with a comprehensive array of
options, including linkable delay lines,
a ping-pong setting, clear visual
feedback, multimode filters and
syncable delay/pre-delay times. Like its
sister plugin KR-Reverb, its a highly
CPU-efficient beast, making it a great
go-to plugin for all of your feedback
delay needs.
Kuassa Amplifikation CM
From down n
dirty distortion to
clean, folk-friendly
tones, this guitar
amp plugin boasts
authentic sounds
that you can make your own. It comes
courtesy of amp-emulation wizards
Kuassa, and it offers two cabs, two mics
and two channels. Of the latter, Clean is
chimey and warm, making it ideal for
country, soul, funk, classic rock or
blues, while Lead delivers rich and fluid
rock overdrive.
MHarmonizer CM
Conjure up lush
harmonies from just
one part with our
harmoniser plug-in,
based on MeldaProdutions mental
MMultiBandHarmonizer! For the
uninitiated, a harmoniser lets you
create harmonies artificially from a
monophonic vocal or instrumental line.
It can, of course, also be used on other
material to interesting effect, so dont
hold back from experimenting.
Photosounder Spiral CM
Whats in a note? A
chord? Now you can
find out just what
your sounds are
made of with this
superb visualisation
plugin. Spiral CM
places the 12 notes around its circular
display, giving you a window into your
sounds harmonic content. As well as
using it to choose chords and notes,
try using Spiral CMs display to
deconstruct and replicate an existing
chord or synth patch.
SKnote Snap
From the DSP
masters at SKnote,
Snaps Hit and Body
controls work like
the Attack and
Sustain in a
transient shaper
plugin, but instead of adjusting signal
level, they apply EQ using two
intelligently linked filters. Add subtle
brightness to the crack of a snare or
hi-hat, tame a drum groups sharp
snap, or soften a pianos sustain
without blunting its attack.
eaReckon CM-COMP 87
This slick-
plugin joins its
equalisin stablemate CM-EQUA 87 in
the Plugins barn. As well as having
a superbly punchy compression
characteristic and the controls youd
expect from any compressor,
CM-COMP 87 has a Dry/Wet control
that makes parallel compression a
doddle, and a handy Limiter switch
to keep the level of the output signal
from exceeding 0dB.
ToneBoosters Barricade CM
Since this
limiter debuted in
199, weve been
using it constantly
on individual
tracks, busses and
full mixes. Barricade contains not one
but two impressively transparent
limiting stages, dynamic response
controls, stereo options and hugely
versatile metering. This could push
your tracks into another league.
16 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> download / plugins
Ohm Force Ohmygod!
A stalwart plugin,
this one has been
with us seemingly
forever, but being
from such a highly
regarded developer as Ohm Force,
its easily a match for modern plugins
thats if you can find one that
offers anything remotely like
Ohmygod!s insane mash-up of a
resonant comb filter, distortion unit,
LFO, and yet more filtering. And things
get really freaky when you start
feeding it MIDI
Sonimus Satson CM
A seemingly innocuous
plugin that offers nothing
more than gentle saturation
and low-/high-pass filtering,
Satson CM is a true secret
weapon for anyone who
wants to get the best mixes
possible. Based on Sonimus full Satson
package (which also emulates a mixing
buss), it emulates the subtle warming
and gentle filter slopes of a classic
hardware mixing console slap it on
every track in your mix and dial in that
sweet analogue sound!
eaReackon CM-EQUA87
A great equaliser
is an essential
part of any
arsenal, and this
one makes it easy to dial in a great
sound, time after time. It offers a low-
cut filter, three bands of bell-shaped EQ
with switchable high/low shelves, a
spectral analyser (so you can see what
effect your EQ is having), built-in EQ
tips to help you shape sounds, an
output limiter, and more. Its based on
eaReckons sweet PR-EQUA 87.
Get all of these effects on your
PC or Mac right now at
Vengeance Sound Philta CM
Based on
Vengeance Sounds
awesome Philta XL,
Philta CM has the
same slick high-
and low-pass filters,
complete with four
different slopes and width and
resonance controls, plus a handy link
function and the ability to swap
between band-pass and notch modes.
Philta CM will delight you with its
flexibility and ease of use, whether you
use it as a mixing tool or for wild FX.
Hornet Fat-FET
Offering VCA,
FET and optical
emulations, this
phat, analogue-modeled compressor
is based on the classic UREI (aka
Universal Audio) 1176LN Peak Limiter
hardware compressor/limiter. Like the
original, its capable of ultra-fast attack
times as low as 0.02 miliseconds, but
unlike the real thing, its ratio and
threshold controls are fully flexible.
A wonderful modern take on a brilliant
piece of vintage kit.
Cableguys Waveshaper CM
This down-
plugin uses a
graphical editor to add a non-linear
distortion effect to an audio signal.
Tease out a timid fuzz from a gentle
curve or eke out grittier harmonics by
drawing in something spikier. With
input and output waveforms
superimposable via the oscilloscope,
you can see exactly how your artistic
expressions influence what
WaveShaper CM does to the sound.
Subsonics Labs Wolfram CM
A shiny and easy-to-
use multieffects
monster from
Swedish newcomers
Subsonic Labs,
Wolfram CM provides
you with pitchshifting,
distortion, phase-shifting, panning,
delay and filter effects, all backed
up with flexible modulation routing
capabilities to bring your sounds
shimmering to life.To find out
more about Wolfram, visit Subsonic
Labs website.
Inear Display Eurydice CM
Send your
audio signals
on a musical
odyssey with
Eurydice CMs
bitcrushing and generally bonkers
sound-mangling capabilities. The
plugins mixing modules let you
blend signals in custom combinations,
and three LFOs add modulation to
bring movement to almost any of
its parameters.
Kuassa PreMix CM
Made especially
by Indonesian
plugin hounds
Kuassa for
Computer Music, this simple but
effective preamp plugin can give every
mix channel some grit and character
right from the off. Crank up the Gain
control to drive the signal and
introduce anything from subtle
distortion to screaming overdrive.
Then refine the tone with the smooth
low, mid and high EQ controls and
adjust the output for mix-ready results.
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 17
plugins / download <
After DJing many years ago, I recently decided
to resurrect my passion and bought a copy of
Ableton Live with the intention of producing the
sort of tunes I would love to hear played out live.
After two years of intense learning (a far steeper
curve than I imagined), a subscription to
Computer Music and the fantastic tutorials
provided, I feel I am in a position to start getting
my tracks out there.
However Ive found that the focus of is
more on the creation of music, and there seems
to be little help when it comes to publicising
finished projects. Is there a possibility of a
feature suggesting how a lonely bedroom
producer might get his ideas heard? Im sure
many readers pin their hopes on being signed to
a record label ready for world domination but
for me, any help in getting more than ten plays
on SoundCloud would be appreciated!
Alex Dee

s focus is indeed very much on making
music, but as you point out, many of us have
ambitions that go beyond just producing
tracks for our own amusement. We do cover
such relevant topics periodically for
instance, 187s Cashback feature outlined
how to go about making some dosh out of
your tunes. As for a guide to releasing them,
youre in luck: we have an article on this very
subject lined up for next issue. Do let us know
when your first track is out! LdC
Send us your letters and technical queries! Email us at
Message of the month
Dynamic rage
Hello guys! First and foremost, I love the
magazine. The content is absolutely
amazing, and I love the fact that I can
download it all on my iPad since Im a tree
hugger at heart.
Anywho, Im currently running Ableton
Live 9 on my Mac and I am very familiar with
the program. The issue I seem to be having
is that when I solo a channel, the volume of
that particular channel is much louder than
when it is in the mix playing. Weird. Also, if I
allow single elements to play in the
arrangement to give my track some space
and a pause here and there, the singular
elements (vocal, synth, etc) are much louder.
I have sidechain compression on a few
synths and basslines but even the channels
that are not sidechained have this issue. Im
running a Saturator and a Limiter on my
master channel. Help me out please!
Mr Notorious
This is almost certainly caused by using
way too much limiting/compression on
your master buss. This has the effect of
heavily reducing the gain (ie, volume)
when the whole mix is playing, but when
only single sounds are playing, the
compressor/limiter isnt hit nearly as
hard, so the volume level comes back up.
So in short, ease off the compression! LdC
The writer of
our Message of the Month
will receive FabFilters
fabulous Creative Bundle
suite of plugins for Mac
and PC, worth 279!
Don Zamorra
A. 303 because I lost
mine and I have a 909
and an 808.
Chris Ristevski
A. TB-303, but they have
to be exactly the same as
the originals with added
MIDI, otherwise therell be
a lot of people let down.
Trefor Ward
D. Propellerhead Reason
has enough rack devices
to emulate most of this.
Stijn Kuipers
D. Roland has a terrible
knack of not really
understanding why these
devices got successful in
the first place see what
happened with all the
Grooveboxes, etc.
Alex Picciafuochi
B. TR-808 unbeatable
swing and soul.
Dave Nicholson
C. 909, as long as
its analogue
We asked our Facebook fans:
Which would you buy rst if Roland reissued
the TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909?
A TB-303 Bassline
B TR-808 Rhythm Composer
C TR-909 Rhythm Composer
D None of the above!
The poll
Do the meters on your mastering plugins look like this?
They shouldnt! Back em off and let your tunes breathe
C: 26%
B: 17%
A: 35%
D: 22%
20 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reader emails
Weve been listening to
KC and the Sunshine Band, Miike Snow, Ivy
Lab, J Dilla, Wu-Tang Clan, Bill Frisell, The
Kills, Voyager, Ne-Yo, Menta, Pitman,
Dvorak, Secret Machines, 1349, Jason
Becker, Chaos A.D., Dr Mastermind
Youve been listening to
Coil, Toto, Gary Numan, Einstrzende
Neubauten, Eric Prydz, Kraftwerk, Death,
Phonat, Martin Garrix, Steve Vai, Machine
Head, Boards of Canada, Korn, Gungor,
Avicii, Skrillex, Vivaldi, Crookers
ISSUE 201 MARCH 2014
30MonmouthStreet, Bath, BA12BW
Tel: 01225442244Fax: 01225732275
Editor: Lee du-Caine,
ArtEditor: Mark White,
FeaturesEditor: Joe Rossitter,
ProductionEditor: James Russell,
Alex Williams, Ben Rogerson, Dave Clews, Danny Scott, David Newman, Jon Musgrave,
Ronan Macdonald, Scot Solida, Caity Foster, Tim Cant, Reuben Cornell, Tim Oliver,
Owen Palmer, Ehsan Ziya
Illustration: Jake
Photography: iStockphoto, Getty Images
GroupSeniorEditor: Julie Taylor
SeniorArtEditor: Rodney Dive
CreativeDirector: Robin Abbott
Editorial Director: Jim Douglas
AdDirector: Clare Coleman-Straw,
AdSalesManager: Lara Jaggon,
SeniorSalesExecutive: Leon Stephens,
GroupMarketingManager: Lyndsey Mayhew,
MarketingExecutive: Sarah Jackson,
TradeMarketingManager: Matt Cooper,
ProductionController: Frances Twentyman,
ProductionManager: Mark Constance,
HeadofInternational Licensing: Regina Erak,
Tel: + 44 (0)1225 732359
If you would like to purchase the images featured in this publication, please visit or email
HeadofMusic: Rob Last,
MDSport, Auto&Music: Andy Rice,
UKChiefExecutive: Mark Wood
PhoneourUKhotlineon: 0844 848 2852
Overseas: (+44) (0) 1604 251 045
Printed in the UK by William Gibbons on behalf of Future.
Distributed in the UK by Seymour Distribution Ltd,
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Tel: 0207 429 4000
Future Publishing Limited 2014. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be
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registered office of Future Publishing Limited is at Beauford Court, 30 Monmouth
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and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot
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Sky London 9/10
Good, but now well
overpriced against Logic,
and the update charges all
the time aint helping.
Plus the dongle is really
inconvenient cant we
have a Service Center like
NI? Still love it.
Eric Poore 9/10
Divine. Everyone
complaining hasnt used
version 7.5. Would be 10/10
if sidechaining wasnt still a
long process.
David Lilja 2/10
Same feature set as in
Cubase 5, but with a
polished GUI.
Terry Marsden 10/10
As a Steinberg user for
22 years, Cubase 7.5
has matured into the
DAW that gets my
creative juices working.
Brian Naas 9/10
Steinbergs commitment
to development is
Sarah Bellum 9/10
Cubase makes using
other DAWs feel like a
handicap and very
Aleksashka Zilkov
Very good DAW which
gets irreplaceable once
you really get into its
features. And 7.5 update
is totally 10/10 Id gladly
pay 50 bucks monthly
for such additions.
Bill Kastanakis 1/10
Sucks. Paid updates every
six months.
Ed Benwell 9/10
Work in five hours Must
go to bed Cant put
Cubase 7 down.
Chris Marsh 10/10
Continues to impress
and please.
Tom Tripp 6/10
Id give it a 6 purely based
on the actual difficulty of
learning the product.
Ben De Graaf 8.5/10
Its pretty simple: you
are either a Cubase- or a
Logic/Live-minded person
it seems these days. I love
Cubase 7.5, although
there is always room for
improvement. Yes it is
complex for new users, but
producing music is getting
more complex. Evolution.
Colin Wright 10/10
Ive been using it since it
was a fun little prog on the
Atari computer and was
called Steinberg Pro 24.
For a pro engineer, I find it
eminently intuitive and I
love what its become.
Reader reviews
We asked our
Facebook fans to rate
Our rating: 9/10, 201
Average score
from 38 reviews
out of 10
The emulation kings announce two smaller audio interfaces, each with a shot of DSP
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
With Universal Audios painfully
desirable UAD-equipped range of
Apollo audio interfaces currently starting
at over 1500, the launch of a (much)
cheaper version is something many
desktop producers have been awaiting
with bated wallets. Well, its finally here in
the shape of the Apollo Twin!
Two models are available, both
connecting to the host Mac via Thunderbolt
(it seems a PC version is not on the cards, at
least not initially) and differing only in the
amount of DSP inside for powering UAD
plugins: Apollo Twin Solo and Apollo Twin
Duo, the suffix referring to the number of
SHARC DSP processors onboard. I/O
comprises two mic inputs (featuring UAs
new tube/transformer-modeling Unison
preamps, built on an integration between
Apollos mic preamps and its onboard UAD
plug-in processing), two line outs, an
instrument input, a headphone output
Waves Scheps 73 and
WLM Plus Loudness Meter
Waves relentless release schedule
continues apace with two new mixing/
Were looking forward to
this sleek unit gracing
our test bench
Waves give us their take on the classic Neve 1073 EQ circuitry
NIs Supercharger is a straightforward, diminutive
compressor with a suitably diddy pricetag
mastering plugins for Mac and PC.
Scheps 73 is a three-band EQ designed in
partnership with engineer Andrew Scheps
(Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, etc) and based
on an emulation of the Neve 1073 console
EQ. Scheps involvement was in tweaking
the overtones of the harmonic distortion for
beautiful and authentic saturations.
Crucially, the plugin also throws in the
10kHz midrange band from the rare 1078
channel strip, as well as Waves mid/side
matrix. Its out now, priced $149, and well
be reviewing it soon.
WLM Plus Loudness Meter, meanwhile, is
compliant with all current ITU, EBU and
ATSC specifications and features every
form of loudness metering you could ever
need, plus a True Peak Limiter. Waves boldly
describe it as affordable, although at $400,
well let you be the judge
Native Instruments
NIs latest effects plugin is inspired by a
one-of-a-kind boutique tube compressor
and works the majority of its magic (once
youve set your input level) via a single knob
that sets the compression amount and
make-up gain. Beyond that, the Punch button
adds definition to transients, while the Dirt
button pours on an extra layer of saturation
for tracks that burn with overdrive urgency.
Native Instruments cite Superchargers
versatility, describing it as the perfect
all-round tool for anything from warming up
a vocal to crushing your drums completely.
With a sidechain input onboard and a Wet/
Dry mix control enabling parallel
compression, all the essentials seem to be in
place, but well bring you our official opinion
in the forthcoming review.
You can buy Supercharger this very day,
for a joyously reasonable 44.
and eight channels of
optical input.
The headline feature,
though, is those SHARC DSPs,
which enable you to run the full
range of UAD Powered plugins. To
get you started, a range of
Realtime Analog Classics comes
bundled, comprising emulations of
various legendary units.
Due for release in February, Apollo Twin
Solo will set you back 729, while Duo ups
the tag to 929. Well review it as and when.
22 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> news
news <
Requiring little by way of
explanation, Sub Bass Tools
gives you 101 sub bass loops with
which to underpin your b-lines.
Its out now for 10
Bastardized Hip Hop & Techno sees
producer Ghostek bringing together the
two said genres in over 600 loops and
one-shots. It can be yours for 35.
Industrial Strengths Dread
Drum n Bass Vol 2
comprises 694MB of tear-up
drums, basses, pads and more
from the eponymous producer.
Get it now for 17.
With 400 loops in the clip, Modern Guitar
Tools is a collection of riffs and licks from
both electric and acoustic guitars.
Ranging in style from funk and dance to
experimental and percussion, its 28.
VST Plugins go modular (along with some of the developers additions) in Rack Performer
Abeem Rack Performer
A modular VST effect and instrument host
for PC, Rack Performer aims to give live
performers everything they need to create
simple or elaborate signal generating and
processing setups in an intuitive full-screen
interface. Routing plugins is done via virtual
cables, and they can be presented in a range
of custom GUI Wrappers in order to limit the
controls visible onscreen. Scene snapshots
and cue monitoring are also supported, and
its available now for 139.
Sound Radix 32 Lives
With Apple making the move to 64-bit
plugins only in Logic Pro X, and numerous
effects and instruments still only available in
32-bit versions, 32 Lives will be a godsend
for many producers. Quite simply, it
generates 64-bit adapter versions of all
your 32-bit Audio Units plugins. Its available
now for the princely sum of $99.
Special: Mastering
Mastering marks the final full stop to your
music making, and the latest Special
delivers everything you need to make your
tracks louder, harder, bigger and better!
We show you how to prep your track for
the mastering stage, introduce you to the
science of compression and limiting, and,
of course, garner expert advice from the
pros. And dont miss the example-laden
disc with the mag or for download with the
digital edition.
Special 64: Mastering is available
now in shops and at the URL below, via
Apple Newsstand, Google Play, Zinio,
Kindle Fire and Nook.
Renoise 3 and Redux
Version 3 of Renoise, the much loved power
tracker, is in beta at the time of writing and
may even be out by the time you read this. A
radical overhaul, v3 introduces a ton of new
features, such as a self-contained instrument
editor, per-instrument note sequencers, new
real-time performance functions and much
more. Perhaps equally exciting is the news
that it will soon be joined by a plugin, Redux,
that brings much of Renoises sample-
manipulating functionality to any DAW. Well
be reviewing both as soon as we can.
Positive Grid BT-4
A Bluetooth MIDI foot controller for iOS and
Mac, the BT-4 boasts four assignable
footswitches for wirelessly transmitting
bank and program change messages and
MIDI CCs, plus 1/4" guitar input and line
output jacks, a headphone output and an
expression pedal input. Its coming in
Spring for $99.
Get the knowledge necessary to give your tracks
the polish they deserve with the latest Special
Image-Line have released IL Remote, a free
iOS/Android MIDI controller app for FL
Studio 11 and Deckadance 2. IL Remote
includes eight preset configurations to give
control over various aspects of the software.
Piano, for example, is a MIDI keyboard; Mix is
an array of mixer controls; and Slicex controls
FL Studios loop-slicing device. You can build
custom controllers in the apps Edit mode,
which looks splendidly easy to use.
Its free, so theres no reason not to give it
a try on your iOS/Android phone or tablet.
The brainchild of Waldorf developer Wolfram
Franke, Stroke Machine comes with a real
pedigree. A professional drum and groove
synthesizer and sequencer, this high-spec
iPad instrument combines synthesis and
sampling in a performance-focussed GUI. 12
drum and percussion sounds and 12 melodic
parts can be sequenced at once, and plenty
of modulation and effects are on-hand.
Stroke Machine is out now, priced 14.
App watch
Read more about the Renoise 3 beta on page 23
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 23
How did you get into programming
plugins? How did ToneBoosters form?
JB I have always been fascinated by sound,
signal processing and human perception,
both from a scientific as well as a creative
perspective, and I really like to build stuff. The
development of audio processing plugins is
therefore a lot of fun. ToneBoosters
represents a personal spare-time activity,
with occasional help from others.
Your plugins are mostly core mixing
tools like EQ, compression, etc. Were you
not satisfied with existing mixing effects?
JB Some indeed result from dissatisfaction
with existing plugins, a desire to better
understand how a certain process works, or
ideas I may have to improve a plugin or
process with my knowledge of human
auditory perception and auditory models.
A good example of the latter was the
development of Barricade, a peak limiter [a special version of which,
Barricade CM, is included in our own Plugins]. The process of peak
limiting generally introduces audible changes, eg, harmonic distortion, a
change in perceived timbre It is quite an intriguing challenge to design
and optimise that process so that the overall effect is as perceptually
transparent as possible while giving maximum signal peak amplitude.
Tape simulators like TB ReelBus seem popular lately. Are there
serious reasons as to why tape sounds good, or is it pure nostalgia?
JB Before the age of digital recording, I used tape a lot. Although I liked
certain aspects of its sound, I could not explain what that was or what
caused it. More recently, I decided to buy a couple of reel-to-reel decks
and started to meticulously model each aspect or property of tape I came
across. I concluded that the characteristic tape sound is not caused by
one specific process such as waveform saturation, but instead it is the
result of a wide variety of modifications that are all applied at the same
time, including their complex interactions. Whether that sound is
desirable or not is mostly a
matter of taste and context.
TB Isone brings a virtual
monitoring environment to
headphone users. What do you
think the future of monitoring
environments will be?
JB An increasing amount of media consumption is via headphones, yet
most of us are taught to mix and master on speakers. I wouldnt be
surprised if other monitoring environments, either real, simulated, or a
combination of the two, became more prevalent. Simulating a monitoring
environment brings flexibility Isone allows one to work on a mix virtually
anywhere, without using acoustic treatment or disturbing others.
Whats next from ToneBoosters? Whats your long-term goal?
JB I think there is quite a large group of people that have the capabilities
and talent to produce and work on audio and music of their own but may
not have the luxury of the budget that large studios have. The main aim is
to provide very high quality tools to everybody. So far the focus has
indeed been on mixing plugins, and given the long list of interesting but
unexplored ideas still to pursue, that focus may prevail for some time.
The main aim is to
provide very high quality
tools to everybody
We talk future tech with the founder of the forward-
thinking company behind a raft of clever mixing tools
IK Multimedia iRing
Gesture control on Mac and PC is nothing
new, but with iRing, IK look like being first
to market with an iOS equivalent.
The iRing itself is nothing more than
a double-sided plastic ring held
between two fingers, with three dots
on each side. This is waved about in
front of your iPad, iPhone or iPod
touch camera in three-dimensional
space and the resulting movements
analysed by the free iRing FX/Control
app, which features 16 high quality creative
effects and is AudioBus and Inter-App
Audio compatible. You also get the free
iRing Music Maker app, for triggering loops,
and IKs other apps (AmpliTube, etc) have
been updated to work with the iRing, too.
It costs 20, and well be reviewing it as
soon as we can get our fingers on it.
Inear Display Rmpx4
The latest Mac/PC/Linux plugin from the
bonkers brainiacs at Inear Display is a
multieffects module comprising a
multimode filter, a delay and a
pitchshifter. What sets it apart is its
ability to crossfade between two
instances of each effect, with the
parameters of each one flung
around by a range of modulation
sources to be specific, four LFOs
and two envelope generators, all of which
can be processed by Inears proprietary
mixers and multipliers.
If its anything like their last plugin,
Bowecho ( 199, 8/10), Rmpx4 could be
another winner, particularly at only 10.
Its on our reviews list.
Focusrite iTrack Dock
Focusrites Lightning-equipped new
recording dock for iPad not only looks
awesome, but is fair bristling with I/O.
Guitar, mic (Scarlett preamps with
phantom power), line and USB inputs
deliver audio and MIDI to your iPad apps,
while balanced monitor outputs and a
headphone socket let you hear the results.
Direct monitoring is also supported for
latency-free record monitoring, and the
included Tape by Focusrite app offers
instant recording, mastering and sharing
without the complexities of traditional
music-making software.
The iTrack Dock will be available in May,
priced 170.
PSP X-Dither
Definitely not the most viscerally exciting
release of the last few months, but still a
potential paragon in its field,
PSPs X-Dither plugin for Mac and
PC aims to be the ultimate
dithering solution. Built to cover a wide
range of situations when dithering or noise
shaping is the way to maintain the quality of
an original mix, group or individual track,
its already earned plaudits from mastering
legend Bob Katz. You can get it now for $107.
Get with the
24 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> news
news <
Last month we outlined our list of wishes
for 2014, and one of them has already
come true in the form of a brand new
feature-smashing beta for Renoise 3.0. To
kick off, the new multimonitor GUI has been
completely overhauled with Ableton Live-
style collapsible panels, making it a breeze to
customise your workspace. Sample-based
instruments now have assignable
modulation devices for key parameters such
as volume, pitch and pan, and these can be
used in tandem like building blocks to create
highly complex and evolving modulations.
You can also assign multiple effects chains
directly to samples which, when combined
with the all-new assignable macros, adds a
layer of mesmerising intricacy for
automation. The new tempo-independent
phrase editor is essentially a tracker within a
tracker, enabling the creation of polyphonic
riffs for later playback. There are new effects
devices to play with, and also the brand new
MaYbe command, which involves the
probability of certain notes playing, opening
the door to a kind of generative music.
As if this wasnt enough, the Renoise team
have also announced a brand new product
called Redux, a standalone plugin that
harnesses the power of Renoise instruments
for your favourite DAW. Exciting times,
indeed! Head to for more info
and the beta.
NVite by Kewlers
This super-glitchy, dubstep-infused Android
production placed 2nd at The Ultimate
Meeting in Griesheim, Germany. NVite
mainly features things breaking apart in
spectacular fashion with a soundtrack
synced pleasingly with the visuals.
The future looks bright as
we take our first gawp at the
beta version of Renoise 3
The Renoise team have
also announced a brand
new product called Redux,
a standalone plugin
Check out NVite, another slick demo from Kewlers
Trackers &
Ins & outs
Good news for anyone eyeing
up the new Mac Pro: far from
being the sealed unit we
feared, it turns out its relatively
easy to take apart. Replacing or
upgrading RAM looks easy and,
if youre feeling brave, it seems
you can even change the CPU.
Were sad to report that,
after a decade of producing
acclaimed sample collections
and a final closing down sale,
Nine Volt Audio decided to call
it a day at the end of 2013. So
long, guys, and thanks for
the libraries.
The theory goes that perfect
pitch isnt something you can
acquire later in life, but research
by Takao Hensch at Harvard
University indicates that taking a
drug valproic acid might help
adults to acquire it. Coming
soon: the wobble bass vaccine.
We thought wed seen every way
possible to release an LP, but
Beyonces choice to release her
latest as an unannounced visual
album on iTunes was a new
one. Its become the fastest-
selling record in the history
of Apples music store.
Heavyocity DM-307
As one of the leading developers of high-
end Kontakt instruments, a new Heavyocity
release is always something to get excited
about. Their latest, the DM-307 Modern
Groove Designer brings together a wealth of
classic analogue drum machines, modular
synth drums and live percussion in an
interface that enables both straight-up
triggering of individual sounds and highly
customisable loop-based playback. Over
1200 loops are included, along with 100+
kits and 250+ multis, and going on previous
form, we anticipate huge sounds galore.
DM-307 is due out in February at a price
yet to be confirmed, and its powered by the
free Kontakt 5 Player for Mac and PC, so you
dont need Kontakt 5 to take advantage of it.
Sony Creative Software
Acid Music Studio 10
Acid Music Studio just hit version 10,
introducing a raft of nifty new goodies to
Sonys easy-to-use, auto-timestretching PC
DAW. The first and perhaps biggest is track
freeze its good to see Acid finally
empowered with the long overdue ability to
render/unrender virtual instrument parts.
Then theres a new custom drum editor,
MIDI input filtering, the ability to apply
effects to individual audio events,
SoundCloud upload, and event grouping for
moving and slip editing of multiple clips at
once. Finally, the range of supported sample
rates has been increased to 192kHz.
Acid Music Studio 10 is out now, priced $60.
Heavyocitys latest is fit to burst with loops
and beats both recorded and synthesised
Weve got nothing against the
rework concept when a
producer subtly alters a track
rather than remixes it but if
youre going to do it, can you do a
little more than shout your name
and the year over the intro and
then upload it to SoundCloud?
Bad news for those
wanting to create
VST 2 plugins: Steinberg have now
withdrawn the development kit
(SDK), choosing to focus on the
development of VST 3 from now
on. Their hosts remain VST 2
compatible, though.
Sony update their PC-only DAW into double figures
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 25
The largesse of developers continues to astonish as another month brings a
bevy of brilliant bobbins ranging from simple effects to a full-blown soft synth
freeware news
A feature-laden synth that could
rub shoulders with its paid-for rivals
A sound-generating powerhouse thats easy to use, Kairatune is made for musos
> news
26 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Freeware synthesisers are cheap as
chips (well, cheaper, actually), but
every so often, a free instrument comes
along that makes us wonder why on Earth
the developer didnt charge for the thing.
Such is the case with Kairatune.
This is no cut-down, peeled-back chip off
of a more powerful commercial plugin; nor
is it a spurious knock-off of some pre-
existing design. Its quite obvious that a lot
of time and effort went into its creation, and
the proof is in its excellent selection of
preset patches.
Yet theres something naggingly different
even refreshing about Kairatune. Nearly
everything about it seems musician-friendly.
You wont find parameter settings spelled
out in Hertz or absolute time, but rather in
pitch and beat division. You can leave your
pocket-protectors at home, you boffins this
one is for the musos.
At its core, Kairatune employs a single
multioscillator comprised of five stacked
waveforms, each of which may be
independently modulated and manipulated.
There are familiar mod sources to play
with LFO and ADSR-style envelopes and,
naturally, filtering and effects. Its cross-
platform, too, in VST and AU formats!
Code Audio,
creators of
BeatBurner, have
re-entered the scene
after a prolonged
absence with a
brand new plugin
for Windows users. Its called WrongMod, and it
combines three different but related methods
of modulation to create sonic mayhem from the
most unassuming sources. Divided into three
sections, you get Peaky, FM and AM sections, each
with a trio of sliders for controlling parameters.
Code Audio
Many of the classic
compressors of the past share
a singular simplicity, with
spare front panels providing
potentially bewildering
options. With DC1A, Klanghelm
have combined some of the
best settings of bigger sibling
DC8C into a simple package
controlled with only a pair of knobs and a handful
of switches. The result? An effect that lets you get
in and get the job done in a hurry. Mac and
Windows versions are available.
The once-commercial
Basic 65 has now been
made freeware. This
Windows-only gadget
is a step up from the
developers Basic 64, a
gritty, grainy masterpiece
of chiptune (im)perfection. A ground-up redesign,
Basic 65 employs triple oscillators, dual LFOs and
a pair of arpeggiators to recreate the ever-
popular SID chip of the Commodore 64.
Co-designed with sinkmusic, who also provided
the presets, Basic 65 is a retro dream come true.
de la Mancha
Basic 65

LMMS is an acronym for Linux MultiMedia
Studio, but dont take it too literally this
open-source music production powerhouse
is available for Windows, too. Released
under the GNU GPL, LMMS began as a
means to provide Linux users with a
software studio akin to FL Studio. In fact,
it can even import FL Studio project files.
With piano roll and grid-style editing,
sample import (including SoundFont 2),
MIDI and VST support (even in the
Linux version) and loads of built-in
instruments and effects, LMMS
provides everything you need to get
your groove on.
I started producing with Emagics Creator/
Notator on the Atari 1040ST around 1990.
That was the predecessor software of Logic
and Ive stuck with it since then. I can see
some handy advantages of Ableton Live, but
I appreciate Logic Pros fantastic effects and
its far better sound quality.
I tried out Traktor Scratch Pro just for fun
and fell in love with it. As I still like to control
my music via vinyl, Traktor is the perfect
solution for me.
My studio partner in crime Andr Winter and
I are huge fans of the Arturia stuff.
I have owned this collection for a very long
time its a great thing having all these
classic synths available on the computer. The
Minimoog and the ARP [2600] are in most
of my tracks; theyre always good for basics
and the biggest basslines.
This is another great software synth in our
basic studio setup. It has some cool preset
sounds that are easy to process just a few
edits and you have a unique lead sound. Its
very good for white noise hi-hats, too.
Ive been playing with the original Reactable
during my Paranoia album tour, which was
big fun not easy to handle but very intuitive
to work with on stage. I enjoyed it very much
and I still like to play around with the
Reactable iPad app.
Oliver Huntemann
The prolific techno producer reveals the
software taking pride of place in his studio
5nf Five Years Ideal Audio is out now on Ideal Audio
By April 2004, even established
music technology hardware
manufacturers were realising that this
computer music thing wasnt going away.
Korg announced their Legacy Collection
of soft synths (which shipped with a
diminutive MS-20-styled controller, which
subsequently proved to be the inspiration
for the MS-20 Mini hardware synth that
everyone raved about last year), and we
reviewed Yamahas collection of effects
plugins. Yamaha also developed the
technology behind Zero-Gs Vocaloid
Leon virtual vocalist, which, according to
us, sounded a bit like a drunk bloke with
a speech impediment. Oh dear.
Elsewhere, it was time to break out our
gatefold sleeve as we brought you a free
sample CD to accompany the regular
disc. On our Q&A pages, one reader asked
for help resolving IRQ conflicts like the
smallpox virus, we assume that IRQ
issues can now be considered a plague of
times past. Finally, we showed Apple
users how to make the switch to
Cupertinos new Power Mac G5 tower. It
didnt propose any solution to the biggest
problem of all, though: how to raise the
two grand or so to pay for the thing.
Our 71st issue saw hardware
manufacturers caving in to
the software onslaught
With 71, we gave away multisampled guitars,
bass, drums and keys on top of our usual offerings
Whats on your
hard drive?
Korg announced
their Legacy Collection
of soft synths
I started producing
with Emagics Creator/
Notator on the Atari
1040ST around 1990
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 27
Doinga spot of DIY at the weekendis as
Englisha traditionas a morningcupof tea
or a chat about the weather, but for most
people, it usuallyconsists of puttingdown
some newgravel inthe gardenor re-doing
the grout onthe bathroomtiles.
In high-tech music-making circles, however,
the termDIY has recently taken on rather
more exciting connotations. Recent months
have seen a slewof products being launched by
small companies and individuals whove taken it
upon themselves to bring their creations to
market. And in a nice piece of symmetry, many
of these products are designed to help users
come up with their own controllers, synths or
other devices.
Of course, its been possible for pretty much
anyone to have a go at building their own music
software creations for a long time (via platforms
such as Max, Reaktor, SynthMaker and
SynthEdit), but as far as hardware goes, the
game definitely seems to have changed.
So whats going on? Why is everyone
suddenly looking to build their own gear
whether theyre handy with a soldering iron or
not and what effect might this DIY boomhave
on your music making?
If youre a computer musician, arguably the
most notable area to be hit by the DIY
juggernaut is that of the MIDI controller. Were
seeing homebrewed designs leaking onto the
internet on what seems like a daily basis, so you
may have started wondering if its worth taking
the plunge and coming up with your own.
Given howmany off-the-shelf controllers are
available, however, is there really anything to be
gained by doing this? We spoke to Dave Cross,
Head of Research &Development for Dubspot,
Inc, and a customcontroller expert.
Just for you
The key benefit is choice, he tells us. Off-the-
shelf products must, by their very nature, cater
to multiple usage scenarios. Its inherent to the
economics of manufacturing. But a device that
caters to multiple users wants cannot cater to a
single users needs without that person also
making concessions to their workflow. So
choice actually represents pain towards the
status quo: customis a reasonable option if your
frustration with the existing market of MIDI
controllers is extraordinary.
Note the word extraordinary here unless
youre really unhappy with whats on offer, a
customcontroller might not be worth the effort
and expense. But if you dont have any previous
electronics experience, howeasy or difficult
is it to go about designing and building one?
It has gotten quite easy to wire up a knob or
a slider to a circuit board and have it send MIDI,
explains Dave Cross. At the end of the day, its
just a bit of wiring. What remains difficult are the
non-electronics challenges of designing
enclosures, creating faceplates and sourcing
parts. This second layer of detail is what turns a
jumble of wires into an instrument.
Perhaps in recognition of this last point that
a load of wires and components does not a
functional itemmake the last fewmonths have
seen a boomin products based on hardware
modules that can be clipped together. Weve
seen littleBits and Korgs Synth Kit, which
enables you to build your own analogue synth;
the similarly themed Patchworks system, which
should be available soon; and Palette, which
offers a way for you to buy a MIDI controller in
kit form(as a box full of individual knobs, faders
and buttons) and then stick it together as you
wish. Solutions like this, somewhere between
building your own gear and buying it ready-
made, seemto have struck a chord with
consumers. Why are they so popular?
The products you mention combine two
themes: our insatiable fascination with building
things, plus technology that turns a physical
connection into a specialised electrical
connection, reckons Dave Cross. This is a
Why has DIY
gear become
so popular?
Were seeing homebrewed
designs leaking onto the
internet on what seems
like a daily basis
/ burning question
30 / Computer musiC / March 2014
recipe for creating quick wins a framework
that allows someone to succeed with only a
novice understanding of the system. Childrens
museumexhibits employ this technique
extensively; its a genius way to teach and to
encourage creativity. That said, these products
struggle with their toy-like perception.
This is an interesting point; although these
Lego-style platforms are proving popular with
consumers, its hard to knowwhether people
are attracted to thembecause they think theyre
going to be able to build something genuinely
useful with them, or just because they like the
idea of going through the building process itself.
A click-together controller might sound like a
great idea, but is it really going to be something
that youll use in your studio, or will it turn out to
be yet another distraction?
That said, it seems likely that modular platforms
that ease the DIY process are going to become
increasingly popular, not least because its going
to get easier and easier for people to create
them. No longer can would-be manufacturers
simply design products thanks to 3Dprinting,
they can create them, too.
I would bet my first-born that home
fabrication will significantly disrupt existing
models of production and distribution, says
Dave Cross. But I cant be sure which major
industry will be disrupted first because right
now, the most well-known market for 3Dprinted
designs is filled with novelty items. 3Dprinting is
a revolution for tinkerers with 3DCADexpertise.
It wont be a revolution for the masses until
theres a library of useful 3Dfiles to print from.
True enough, but if 3Dprinting is one
buzzphrase thats associated with small-scale
hardware production, crowdfunding is most
certainly the other. When a DIY project is
launched, it almost feels inevitable nowthat itll
have a Kickstarter (or similar) campaign behind
it, so are these platforms making it easier for
newcomers to get into the market?
The 3Dprinting and Kickstarter revolutions
go hand-in-hand: both have the potential to
disrupt the existing models of producing and
distributing goods, believes Dave Cross. 3D
Printing will do it by eliminating the need for
quantity, and crowdfunding will do it by tipping
the scales away fromdistributors and towards
Crowdfunding can solve a prickly chicken/
egg probleminherent to manufacturing. Your
widget may cost 50, but it will cost 30,000
upfront to prepare the machines for your
product. Crowdfunding that initial investment
turns a major gamble into a surefire bet.
That said, many manufacturers seemmore
than willing to take that gamble with their own
funds after theyve achieved initial success. In
other words, howmany companies have put
their second product up for crowdfunding?
What does that say about the current value of
crowdfunding to an established manufacturer?
Its an interesting point, but it does seemthat
a serendipitous set of circumstances has made
it easier than ever for would-be manufacturers
to bring their products to market. This has the
potential to affect not just the types of products
that we buy in the future, but also our ability to
create things ourselves.
On sale NOW! Computer Music Special 64: MASTERING
Print edition: selected WH Smith, Chapters and independent newsagents or
iPad/iPhone Newsstand: Zinio digital edition:
From pepping up basic grooves to creating
full-on 4/4-flouting madness, discover a
world of timing tricks with our guide
34 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
As a musician of any experience
and ability level, it surely wont
have escaped your notice that the
concept of time is intrinsic to all
forms of music, as language is to
literature and colour is to painting.
However, ask yourself how much
you really think about it, in a truly
contemplative sense, as opposed to
just figuring out where the taps of
that eighth-note delayed lead synth
are going to land in relation to your
drum track.
With the vast majority of modern
Western music being composed in 4/4
and adhering to a fairly standard set of
unwritten rhythmic rules in order to
maximise its mass appeal, anything
that breaks from the norm and finds its
own groove can surely only be a good
thing, and when it comes to bending
musical time, there are many ways in
which this simple goal can be achieved.
With all of this at the forefront of our
mind, we invite you on a journey into
the furthest reaches of the fourth
dimension to explore a galaxy of
techniques for bringing a touch (or an
enthusiastic punch!) of temporal
intrigue, spectacle and wonkiness to
your tunes. Well cover everything
from gravity-defying odd time
signatures and brain-melting
polyrhythms to dancefloor-igniting
tempo changes and groove-shifting
beat displacement, all with the aim of
sparking your creativity.
We promise to keep things as
unacademic as possible therell be
no heavy theory or stave-based
notation to negotiate, just practical
DAW-based walkthroughs and tips,
complete with audio examples and
video, designed to get you thinking
more deeply about rhythm and metre,
and producing more interesting tracks
as a result, no matter what genre
youre working in. And remember,
these timing tricks arent just for drum
beats they apply equally to any
musical part, from basslines and synth
riffs to vocals and lead guitars!
Now, time waits for no man, and the
clock is already ticking, so lets get to it!
Get audio examples, video and
other files on your PC/Mac at
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 35
Tempo and time signature
Central to the concept of musical time are
tempo and time signature. The first of these
couldnt be more straightforward: tempo is
simply speed, expressed as a number of beats
per minute (BPM). While it might be easy to
understand, though, the tempo of a track plays a
huge part in defining its feel and character, and
even placing it in a particular genre or sub-
genre: dubstep at 140bpm vs drum n bass at
170bpm vs 2-step at 130bpm, for example. Well
come back to tempo shortly, but time signature
warrants more of an explanation
About time
If youve been producing music for a while and
have never heard the term time signature
before, youre probably making all your tracks in
the DAW default of 4/4. Theres absolutely
nothing wrong with this indeed, the vast, vast
majority of Western music today is in that
stalwart sig but by eschewing odd
alternatives such as 3/4, 5/4 and 6/8, youre
missing out on not only a wealth of powerful
compositional possibilities, but also a whole
world of time-based fun.
So, what, exactly, do those two numbers
actually describe? Although unofficially
standardised in text as X/Y, in musical notation,
the time signature (which sits in between the
clef and the key signature) is written as X on top
of Y, kinda like a fraction. Requiring only the
most basic understanding of music theory to
get a handle on, the meanings of X and Y really
arent as mystical or complicated as some may
have led you to believe: the top numeral tells
you the number of beats in a bar, while the
bottom numeral (the denominator) gives the
note value of each of those beats. OK, we just
made it sound more complicated than it actually
is. Allow us to illustrate
To take 4/4 as the most obvious example, the
first 4 indicates that there are four beats in the
bar, while the second (the denominator) tells us
that the note value is a 1/4-note also known as
a quarter-note or crotchet. Thus, 4/4 means four
1/4-note beats to the bar. In exactly the same
way, the time signature 9/8 sees each bar
divided up into nine eighth-notes (aka 1/8-notes
or quavers) for the purposes of performance,
notation and most pertinently for the
computer musician sequencing. Speaking of
9/8, time signatures that divide the beat into
three (three groups of three eighth-notes each,
in that particular case) rather than two are called
compound signatures, and they essentially
define a track as having a triplet feel.
Simple maths
Ultimately, while most of the time you will
indeed find yourself writing in 4/4, dropping a
track into a so-called odd time signature for a
breakdown or middle eight, say, or even writing
the whole thing in one, can pay rich creative
dividends. An odd time signature is any one that
has an odd number of beats in the bar 5/4, 7/8,
11/16, etc. Yes, it would be true to say that 3/4 and
9/8 (and indeed, other time sigs with 3 and 9
on top) strictly qualify as odd time signatures,
but they dont sound odd in the same way that
5, 7, 11 or 13 beats do.
Much of the time, composers will handle odd
time signatures by simply subtracting one from
the number of beats, dividing the remainder up
into its obvious phrasing, then adding one back
onto the last phrase in the bar. A bar of 13/8,
then, could be thought of as three sets of three
eighth-notes followed by a set of four, giving the
feel of three sets of triplets followed by a non-
triplet four-note phrase. This is by no means
written in stone, though, and you could equally
subdivide your 13/8 bar into two four-note
phrases and a five-note one. Lets look at some
examples of odd time signatures in action
A bar of 13/8
could be thought
of as three sets
of three eighth-
notes followed by
a set of four
The Beatles
All You Need Is Love
1967 was the year of mixed up
time signatures in pop, and The
Beatles take on the concept
turns out to be even more out-
there than Bacharachs.
Everyone knows this anthemic
classic, but you what you may
not have noticed immediately
is its off-the-grid nature, laying
out two bars of 7/4, two bars of
4/4 (or one bar of 8/4,
depending on who you ask)
and another bar of 7/4 for the
verses, then seven bars of 4/4
capped with one bar of 6/4 for
the chorus. Utterly mental,
totally awesome.
Pink Floyd
Although in technical terms not
in the same over-indulgent,
pyrotechnic league as the
time-bending shenanigans
of prog rock peers King
Crimson and Genesis, Floyds
less muso approach to odd
time is arguably more
successful. Money is in 7/4
(and 4/4), and like Take Five,
its easy for even the most
cloth-eared listener to keep
up with, thanks to the cash-
clinking tape loop intro that
sets out its stall, and the
aurally intuitive phrasing
used throughout.
Dionne Warwick/Aretha Franklin
I Say A Little Prayer
While the chorus of this Burt
Bacharach number is definitely
in odd time 11/4, phrased 4/4,
3/4, 4/4 its the less obviously
wonky verses that make for the
weirdest sections. Comprising
two bars of 4/4, followed by a
bar of 10/4, then two more bars
of 4/4, on paper they look like a
temporal train wreck waiting to
happen, but in practice they
work nothing short of perfectly.
Oh, and the bridge between
chorus and verse is a quirky
three bars of 4/4, although
that feels positively
conventional in comparison!
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Take Five
When you think of famous
choons in odd time signatures,
Take Five is probably the first
one that comes to mind and
understandably so, since it still
stands as the best selling jazz
single in history. Its got an
awesome 5/4 groove, an
unforgettable piano riff, a
cracking drum solo and a
beautifully considered
approach to its time signature.
Whats more, the album from
which its taken, Dave Brubecks
seminal Time Out, packs in six
additional non-4/4 tunes.
Essential listening.
Recommended odd time listening
36 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / radical rhythms
Although we dont really consider 3/4
to be an odd time signature due to its
conventional feel, in literal terms it is one,
so here it is: 1. 3-4 time.wav (our audio
clips are in the Tutorial Files folder). With
its characteristic lilt and swing, it can seem
anachronistic these days unless handled
with care, since the main thing it brings to
mind is that decidedly old-school urban
dancefloor movement, the waltz.
Although you might think it would
sound the same as 3/4, 6/8 divides the
bar into two sets of triplet eighth-notes,
rather than one set of quarter-notes,
which implies a different sort of rhythm.
Demonstrated in 2. 6-8 time.wav, it could
be a double-time, march-like feel, or a half-
time beat.
The 5/4 time signature adds an extra
beat to your regular bar of 4/4,
generating a staggered, drunken sort of
rhythm. In 3. 5-4 time.wav, weve taken a
standard four-to-the-floor groove and
made it five-to-the-floor, with the second
snare hit shifted over a beat to the right.
After converting our 5/4 groove to a
7/4 one, 4. 7-4 time.wav, our beat
comes across as a four-beat phrase
followed by a three-beat one. Since our
bar is now quite lengthy, we can
effortlessly drop to a half-time feel by
thinning out and moving the snare hits.
The longer the bar, the more space
you have within it to mix implied
time signatures. Our 11/4 example here
(5. 11-4 time 1.wav) sounds like two
bars of 4/4 and one of 3/4, but we could
have gone for three bars of 3/4 and one
of 2/4, say.
5. 11-4 time 2.wav is an alternative 11/4
phrase, comprising a DnB/2-step
pattern for the first ten beats of the bar,
then a one-beat kick drum fill on beat 11.
Odd time signatures dont have to be
overtly bonkers they can also be used
subtly, adding a twist to the end of an
otherwise standard pattern.
> Step by step
1. Odd time signatures in action
You might well be wondering at this
point what the practical difference
between certain time signatures is.
Why, for example, state a time
signature of 6/8 rather than 3/4,
when both have the same number of
quarter-note beats (three) in the bar?
Like many things in music theory and
notation, there is no scientific answer
(this is an art form, remember!)
rather, each brings with it its own
style of notation and suggests a
particular feel.
To resolve that specific example,
3/4 would be used for a waltz, while
the pacier-by-implication (eighth-
notes being twice as fast as quarter-
notes) 6/8, with its two triplets to the
bar, would be more applicable to a
march. Your DAWs quantise grid will
be of more than high enough
resolution to render this difference
irrelevant, except for the speed of the
metronome, which will click away at
the chosen note value and obviously
encourage a different vibe when
recording, depending on whether its
sounding three quarter-notes or six
eighth-notes in the bar. If youre not
sure if your piece is in 3/4 or 6/8,
consider how you would tap your
foot or fingers along to the beat
the answer should immediately
become apparent.
In reality, the only signatures
youre ever likely to encounter for
which the above is really relevant are
in fact 3/4 and 6/8, thanks to the
aforementioned waltz/march
variation of the tutorials first two
audio examples, which is significant.
While it might well seem like a good
plan to put your latest retro jungle
track together in 8/8 because of its
double-time sensibility, wed be very
surprised if you actually did, since it
really is exactly the same thing as
using a load of eighth-notes in 4/4.
Incidentally, although non-power-
of-2 denominators (referred to as
irrational time signatures) such as
4/6, 8/10 or 5/12, say, are theoretically
possible, theyre extremely unusual,
largely academic and unsupported
by any DAW we know of, so you can
pretty much forget about them.
Anomalies and
If you think 3/4
and 6/8 are the
same, this could
be your next gig
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> Step by step
2. Time signature changes in Ableton Live
Ableton Live can work in any time
signature with a denominator of
1, 2, 4, 8 or 16 and a numerator of 1-99.
Yes, 99! The time signature is entered
into the Time Signature field next to the
metronome, and automating changes
to it is a piece of cake. Lets look at how
start a new project in Live, which will
default to 4/4.
Right-click anywhere in the Scrub
area below the timeline and select
Insert Time Signature Change. A marker
is created with an active field into which
you can enter a time signature as two
numbers separated by a slash, space,
comma or full stop. When that point in
the project is reached, itll switch to that
time signature weve gone for 3/4.
If you add your change within the
preceding bar, as opposed to on the
bar line at the end of it, a Fragmentary
Bar will be created to fill the space,
indicated by a dark grey strip. This can be
left as is, or you can right-click it and select
Complete Fragmentary Bar (Insert
Time) to extend it back up to a full bar of
the previous time signature.
Similarly, if you edit a time signature
marker (right-click and select Edit
Time Signature) that is followed by
another marker, such that the first
section no longer fits exactly in the same
timespan, a fragmentary bar will be
placed at the end to fill the orphan
space. Keep it there or fill it out the
choice is yours.
Be aware that changing time signature
has no bearing at all on tempo or the
warping of audio clips, which will simply
roll on regardless, as originally recorded/
inserted. So, if youve already laid out your
4/4 drums, for example, youd need to edit
them to fit the new 3/4 timescape, as
weve done in 5. Edited drums.wav.
Rather cleverly, Live even enables
time signature changes in the
Session view. Simply rename a Scene to
the time signature you want to have it
automatically switch to when that Scene
is triggered. Note that any Scene not
named in this way will play back at the last
signature chosen!
There are many reasons why you might want to
work tempo and/or time signature changes into
a track. The most obvious one would be to
dramatically change the feel of a song
switching from 4/4 to any odd time signature is
about as dramatic a temporal change as you
could ever hope to pull off mid-track. And the
signature to which you change doesnt have to
be an odd one, either. Throwing a fill bar of 2/4
into a 4/4 project can be a more subtle way of
throwing the listener a curveball.
Tempo changes are considerably more
varied in their potential usage scenarios. Of
course, like time signature changes, they can be
just the thing to push a track in a totally new
direction, whether applied suddenly (blasting
into a half-/double-time section, perhaps) or
gradually changed over a number of bars.
Some DAWs feature the ability to slave the
project tempo to that of a chosen audio clip,
enabling, for example, a live drum loop that
varies in tempo to be set as the master for every
other track in the project to follow (assuming
the DAW in question also facilitates automatic
timestretching of the audio on those tracks).
Gently raising and lowering the tempo as a track
progresses (known as rubato) in order to add
pace to choruses and ease off in the verses is an
age-old technique dating back centuries
originally the job of the orchestral conductor,
these energy-giving fluctuations can now be
drawn right onto the tempo track in your DAW.
In the next two walkthroughs, well show you
how to apply both time signature and tempo
changes in Ableton Live. If youre using another
DAW, the creative principles will be the same,
though you may need to consult its manual to
find out exactly how its achieved.
Manipulating time signature and tempo
Timing tricks are
straightforward to
employ in modern
DAW-based productions
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> Step by step
3. Tempo changes in Ableton Live
1a. No changes.wav, comprises verse,
bridge, chorus and verse parts, eight
bars each at a constant 127bpm. In 1b. Up
into chorus.wav, weve taken the bridge
and chorus only, raising the tempo from
127 to 129 during the transitional drum
break, then increasing it to 130bpm as the
chorus progresses. This increase really
drives the song along, though we wouldnt
recommend more than a 3bpm change.
While the one-bar drum break at the
end of the bridge enabled us to hide
our tempo change over the course of the
bar, we have no such camouflage
dropping from the chorus into the second
verse. It doesnt really matter, though, as
the sudden drop from 130bpm back to
127bpm is perfectly effective, applying
the brakes as we go back into the verse.
2. Down into verse.wav.
Of course, theres nothing stopping
you from ramping the tempo up and
down more dramatically. In 3. Long
slowdown.wav, were gradually slowing
all the way down to 20bpm through the
chorus section, then equally gradually
coming back up to the full 127bpm to lead
back into the bridge. Its retro, certainly,
but done well, this sort of thing can have
a great impact on the dancefloor.
So far, all of our audio clips in Live
have been set to Beats (for the drums
and percussion) and Tones (for the bass)
warp modes. By changing everything to
Pitch mode for our slow-down/speed-up
section, we can get a pretty awesome
turntable manipulation-style effect. We
wouldnt generally stretch this out over
such a long time, but to demonstrate,
4. Pitch mode.wav makes the point!
Live can read the tempo of an audio
clip and use it to create a tempo
automation envelope so your project
follow its timing. Heres a drum loop that
slows down and speeds up throughout its
four bars, and a perfectly in-time
programmed percussion part that we
want to match up to it. 5. Wonky drums.
wav showcases one, then the other, then
both together.
The first thing to do is Warp the drum
loop so that it lines up perfectly with
the beat. With that done, click the Slave
button in the loops Clip View to make it
the tempo Master.
Reveal the Song Tempo automation
lane on Lives Master Track and youll
see that a series of project tempo changes
have been created to match the loops
tempo. Our percussion is now perfectly in
time with our (totally out of time) drums!
Right-click the Song Tempo envelope and
select Unslave Tempo Automation to
make it editable but bear in mind that
this puts the clip back into Slave mode.
In the previous walkthrough, we
showed you how to apply time
signature changes in Lives Session View.
It should come as no surprise that tempo
changes can be triggered in the same way:
simply name each Scene as the tempo you
want it to switch to. Want to change the
tempo and time signature at the same
time? Of course you do! Just name your
Scene using both 5/4 127bpm, say.
Lives project tempo parameter can
be assigned to a knob or fader on
your hardware MIDI controller for
hands-on manipulation of BPM. It
also makes a highly entertaining
target for Max For Lives awesome
LFO device, and ranging up to a
maximum tempo of 999bpm, this
particular combination is a great
one for glitch and electronica
producers. In fact, why not combine
the best of both worlds, assigning
LFO to tempo, and your MIDI
controller to the LFOs Rate and
Depth controls?


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> Step by step
4. Basic syncopation of a drum part
Heres a truly simple example of
syncopation the good old backbeat!
1. Backbeat.wav starts with a non-
syncopated 4/4 kick drum pattern; then we
syncopate it by adding a snare on beats 2
and 4. With beats 1 and 3 (the onbeats)
considered the strong beats in the bar,
emphasising 2 and 4 (the offbeats)
qualifies as syncopation, at least in a purely
technical sense. It aint that funky, though
We can syncopate our beat even
further by adding an offbeat hi-hat.
The term offbeat has two meanings in
music: beats 2 and 4 (in a bar of 4/4)
and any note that falls in between the
main beats. We go for the latter, placing
a hat on every second eighth-note. Our
drums are now syncopated on two levels.
2. With hats.wav.
So far, so predictable. Lets turn our
mundane 4/4 beat into something a
little more interesting. There are countless
ways in which we can do this, but one of
the easiest is to just move one of the snare
hits off the beat were really getting
syncopated in 3. Move the snare.wav.
Every element of our drum kit can be
syncopated, so lets move on to the
kick drum. By syncopating the kick, as
heard in 4. Move the kick.wav, we greatly
up the perceived pace of our groove and
give it a much more funky feel than we
were getting with that rigid four-to-the-
floor pattern.
Finally, the hi-hats, which need to drive
the groove along but can still be made
more rhythmically interesting via the
magic of syncopation. First we double up
the hits, then we accent certain ones and
quieten others, paying attention to their
interplay with the kick and snare. Check it
out in 5. More hats.wav.
Fundamental to just about all modern music
(and a great deal of older material, too!),
syncopation is in literal terms the placing of
accented notes on the weak beats of the bar.
This is an extremely open-ended definition,
however, given that those weak beats could be
considered to be beats 2 and 4 (which,
technically, makes the common or garden
backbeat a form of syncopation) or the eighth-
notes that fall in between the four main beats of
a bar of 4/4, or even the 16th-notes that fall in
between those, and so on.
To put it in non-technical terms, syncopation
is what puts the funk, groove, skank or other
rhythmic feel into a piece of music. Although
its been a quantifiable concept in all genres and
styles since man first took stick to log, its always
been particularly important in dance music,
which just wouldnt work without it imagine, if
you will, a dancefloor full of people just
stomping along to beats 1 and 3. Not our
idea of a fun night out. By dance music, we
mean all the way back to the tribal beats of
pre-history, then up through medieval music,
classical, jazz, rock n roll, and on to house,
hip-hop, jungle, trance, electro, dubstep and all
the rest of em.
Weve no doubt that youre already using
syncopation in your productions, whether
youre conscious of it or not youd certainly
know if you werent using it, as your tracks
would sound mechanical, entirely on the beat
and rhythmically dull. To make things crystal
clear, however, were going to walk you through
some specific examples of it that will hopefully
inspire you to think more about where youre
placing those accents and, consequently, up the
funk factor of your tracks.
Funk is built upon syncopation James Brown wouldve
been a decidedly stiff and ungroovy fellow without it
>Solid foundations
When working on syncopating
drum patterns, dont forget that the
first priority for drums most of the
time is to absolutely nail the rhythm
of your track to the floor, as it were.
Be careful, therefore, not to detract
from or overly lighten the kick and
snare with your filigree offbeat
flouncery ghost notes are meant
to lead into and out of your main
snare hits, rather than replace them,
for example. Of course, if overly
busy is the vibe youre going for,
feel free to disregard this advice!
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> Step by step
5. Exploring deeper syncopation ideas
Although syncopation is a rhythmic
thing, melody and harmony can also
come into the equation, thanks to our
expectations of where strong chords
ought to fall within a bar. 1. Harmonic
syncopation.wav showcases a Rhodes
part in which the two chords are
syncopated at the end of each four-bar
phrase to strange psychological effect.
Extending or shifting notes or chords
within a phrase so that they cross over
into the next bar is another form of
syncopation that can really change the
feel of a track. 2. Crossing the bar.wav,
has both the Rhodes part and the bassline
crossing the bar lines at various points.
Syncopating drum parts by moving or
adding kick and/or snare hits and
accenting the hi-hat is all well and good,
but for maximum groove, you need to be
adding ghost notes, too. These are quiet
notes played by a drummer in between
the main hits usually on the snare to
add movement. Compare 3. Without
ghost notes.wav
to 4. With ghost notes.wav. This
time, with ghost notes in place, (the
green notes on the snare in Logics Matrix
editor note D1). When it comes to feel
and humanity, the difference between an
acoustic drum track with ghost notes and
one without can be like night and day.
Perhaps the most intrinsically
syncopated collection of genres of all,
Afro-Cuban and Latin music weaves
intricately layered percussion parts each
one heavily syncopated together to
create complex rhythms over which all
the other equally syncopated instruments
do their thing. 5. Latin percussion.wav is
a Latin-esque percussion jam built up
layer by layer.
Although not traditionally considered
syncopation in itself, the triplet that
is, three regularly spaced notes squeezed
into the same time span as two (ie, three
eighth-notes played over the course of
one quarter-note) certainly spices up
any non-triplet-based part. In the second
half of 7. Triplet synth.wav, the synth
arpeggio switches to a triplet pattern.
By knocking out certain notes from a
triplet pattern, a shuffling, swung feel
can be created. In the first half of
8. Triplets drums.wav, you can hear a
straight triplet-based drum track. In the
second half, every second note of three
has been removed from the hi-hat part
and snare fill quite a difference!
>Everybody salsa
Many styles of dance music can
benefit from a bit of sampled (or
live!) Latin percussion. Even if it only
comprises a few hits, a tastefully
programmed conga, shaker, timbale
or cowbell line can exponentially
funk up any drum part. And dont
worry about authenticity while
wed certainly recommend getting
your ears round some live
percussion performances on
YouTube to make sure your MIDI
editing heads in the right direction,
as long as you capture that essential
syncopation and flow, youre golden.
>Triplet trouble
Unless youre composing in a triplet-
feel time signature such as 6/8,
exercise restraint with your triplets.
As our synth audio example
demonstrates, constant triplets
against a regular non-triplet backing
can easily become hard to listen to
and somewhat bewildering for the
listener. If working triplets into a
part separates it from the overall
groove of the track too much or for
too long, shorten the triplet section
or switch your MIDI editor back to
its regular two/four-based grid.
While Tremor makes programming
polymetric patterns easy, doing the
same thing in your DAW across multiple
audio and MIDI tracks wont be quite so
effortless a process. Lets start with a
conventional 4/4 drum part at 100bpm in
Logic Pro. Hear it in 1. 4-4 drum loop.wav
Lets record a 3/4 bassline. First, switch
the time signature to 3/4 and activate
the metronome. Then mute the drum
track so that it cant distract you back into
4/4, hit record and play your 3/4 bassline.
2. 3-4 bass.wav showcases our recorded
two-bar pattern.
We set Logics time signature back to
4/4 and record a bit of percussion,
muting the bassline so as, again, to avoid
getting dragged into a 3/4 feel
(3a. 4-4 perc.wav). We then drag the
end of the clip back to shave off the last
eighth-note, putting the part in 7/8 time.
Check it out in 3b. 7-8 perc.wav.
Finally, lets extend a 4/4 audio clip to
make it 5/4. Import a 4/4 sample (we
used 4a. 4-4 synth sample.wav), set the
time signature to 5/4 for visual clarity, cut
your chosen extra beat out of the sample,
place it at the end of the clip and join the
two together to make a five-beat phrase.
Hear our final piece, with all elements
together in 4b. Final polymetre.wav.
> Step by step
7. Polymetric MIDI and audio in a DAW
What are
Without going into too-technical
waters, a polyrhythm is made
from two or more rhythms that
havent been designed to work
together, played at the same time.
Were classifying polymetre as
a form of polyrhythm for the
purposes of this tutorial, although
some would argue that it doesnt
really qualify, since a polymetric
piece of music doesnt necessarily
have to be polyrhythmic. Famous
examples of polymetric music
include Led Zeppelins Kashmir (in
which the drums and vocals are in
4/4, while everything else is in 3/4
for much of the track) and
numerous tracks by Swedish
metal outfit Meshuggah.
African and Latin music is
heavily polyrhythmic in the more
traditional sense of the word, as
demonstrated by the Latin
percussion section discussed on
p42, in which each individual
instrument basically does its
own thing, emphasising and
accenting specific beats and
sub-beats (syncopation) in the
same time signature, with the
ensemble coming together to
create its rhythmically intricate
overall effect.
The influence of African and
Latin styles on jazz, pop, rock and
dance music is evident in the
involvement of polyrhythmic
techniques in all of them. No
matter how simple or complex its
execution, several disparate
elements combining to form a
single, multistrand whole is
central to polyrhythmic
composition and performance.
> Step by step
6. Polymetres in FXpansion Tremor
Polymetre is the use of more than one
time signature at the same time
usually on a per-instrument or per-
element basis but with everything
playing at the same tempo. FXpansions
Tremor drum machine has an ingeniously
simple way of implementing polyrhythms.
1. 4-4 drums.wav is a simple one-bar
drum pattern in 4/4.
By dragging the white triangular
pointers on each sequencer lane to
the left or right, we can adjust the length
of that lanes loop, effectively changing its
time signature. In 2. Polymetric drum kit.
wav, the closed hi-hats are in 7/8, the open
hi-hat is in 15/16, the kick drum is in 3/4,
while only the snare remains in 4/4.
Head-spinning stuff!
All four lanes wont land on the 4/4
downbeat together again until bar 106
(without that 15/8 hi-hat part, mind, theyd
sync up again every 22 bars). Finally, lets
hear how it sounds with some added
percussion in 8/4, 7/4, 5/4 and 11/8
astonishingly, these eight elements wont
all land on 1 together again until bar 2311!
3. Polymetric madness.wav.
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> make music now / radical rhythms
Apart from doing it entirely manually
(dont go there its a nightmare), the
easiest way to work up cross-rhythms
(read the sidebar opposite for more info)
in MIDI is by timestretching clips. Lets
make a 4-against-5 pattern. We start by
programming a bongo hit on each beat of
a 4/4 bar as in Audio: 1. 4 beats.wav.
Next, we create a new track triggering
a bell sample and draw a series of five
quarter-note beats. Now we have a
polymetric pattern: bongo in 4/4, bell in
5/4. This is not a cross-rhythm! To turn this
into one, we need to somehow squash the
bell part so that five equally spaced notes
occur in the space of one bar.
All that remains, then, is to timestretch
the 5/4 bar down to the length of the
4/4 bar. How you do this will depend on
your DAW, but in Logic Pro X, its a simple
matter of holding down Alt and dragging
the bottom right-hand corner of the bell
clip back until it snaps to the barline.
3. 5 against 4.wav demonstrates the two
playing together.
Finally, well add a three-beat clave
pattern using the same technique. As
before, we simply draw in a new clip
comprising three quarter-note hits before
timestretching it to fit the bar. 4. 5 against
4 against 3.wav.
> Step by step
8. Programming cross-rhythms
Crossing the streams
While a polymetre comprises
multiple parts in different time
signatures chugging along at the
same tempo, and thus only
coinciding on beat 1 (the
downbeat) every certain number
of bars, a cross-rhythm is what
you get when two or more parts
each comprise a different
number of evenly spaced beats,
all starting together on the
downbeat of every bar.
If any one part was soloed,
youd hear a perfectly
metronomic pattern at a tempo
determined by the number of
beats it contains, but play them
all together and the results are
anywhere from decidedly funky
to seemingly chaotic. As the
numbers of beats played by each
part rises, things can get pretty
complicated. While beating out
2-against-3 on the desk with your
hands is a piece of cake, how
about 13-against-7 or
5-against-21? Dont feel bad
even a seasoned drummer would
turn pale at the thought of either
of those two
In the second walkthrough on
this page, rather than just
programming a regular pulse of
evenly spaced notes for each
instrument, we trimmed and
timestretched the existing
patterns from the main groove.
Consequently, the phrases (and
the tempo grids behind them) are
cross-rhythmic, although the
notes and accents within them
are irregular and thus somewhat
looser than your hardcore music
theorist might be comfortable
with. Hey, were not trying to
pass a music degree course here,
you know?
> Step by step
9. Using cross-rhythms to create a fill
Its all very well knowing how to make
cross-rhythms, but what can you
actually use them for? Well, you could
base entire tracks on them, but that might
get a bit mind-altering. Perhaps a better
application is to throw them into your
regular 4/4 tracks as fills and punctuation.
You might recognise 1. Straight track.wav
from earlier.
Lets turn the last bar of our eight-bar
drum part into a cross-rhythm fill, with
each element contributing an
independent rhythm. Like many DAWs,
Logic cant timestretch lines of notes
within a MIDI clip, so we duplicate the last
bar a few times and delete notes within
the clips until each one only contains one
kit piece line (tabla, hats, ride, kick, snare).
We can now shorten or lengthen each
kit element part to our required time-
base, then use the previously described
timestretching process to fit them all into
the 4/4 bar, before merging them all back
into one clip. 3. Cross-rhythm fills.wav
contains our fill at original speed the first
time round, then doubled in tempo the
second time, which we think works better.
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> make music now / radical rhythms
> Step by step
10. Beat displacement
Heres a dubby groove with a synth line
on top. Our first displacement is very
straightforward: in the section from bar 5-9
we just drag the left hand edge of the clip
to the right until it meets the first snare
(two beats), then move the whole clip back
to the left. The result (1. 2-beat shift.wav) is
the snare and main kick drum beats
swapping place, reversing the groove.
We can get an even wonkier vibe by
shifting the drums to the left by just an
eighth-note. This really pulls the beat
away from the main groove, most notably
with the hi-hat accent at the end of the
phrase. (2. Eighth-note short.wav).
16th-note shifts need to be applied
with care, as they can knock the whole
rhythm off-centre, creating a sea-sick
feel. In 3. Shifted hats.wav, only the
hi-hats have been moved, and although it
certainly breaks up the flow of the drums
from bar 5 to bar 9, it doesnt make for
particularly easy listening.
As mentioned above and, indeed, as
with all the other rhythmic tricks
weve explored throughout this article
beat displacement doesnt only work on
drums. By nudging our synth line back an
eighth-note, its relationship to the pulse
changes and the track takes on a wholly
different character. Hear it for yourself in
4. Displaced synth.wav.
In step 1 we pseudo-reversed the
groove by shifting the snare over to
beats 1 and 3, but by literally reversing the
beat (using Logic Pro Xs MIDI Transform
Reverse Position function), we get a rather
different effect, and not it must be said
quite what we were expecting before we
hit the Operate button.
Finally, we bring the whole sordid
exercise to its logical conclusion by
displacing our reversed beat an eighth-
note to the left. As you now hopefully
appreciate, making profound changes to a
drum track really can be as easy as sliding
it left or right by a musically meaningful
amount. 6. Reversed and displaced.wav.
So far, weve aimed our rhythmic telescope at
odd time signatures, tempo manipulation,
syncopation and polyrhythms, but perhaps the
easiest (and often most effective) of all temporal
tricks is beat displacement. As the name
suggests, this is the technique of shifting
patterns forwards or backwards in time so as to
knock them off the beat, the idea being to make
the listener think that some dramatic change
has been made to the rhythm, before resolving
the pattern by putting it back how it was.
The amount of displacement applied will
depend to some extent on the layout of the
pattern (theres little point displacing a four-to-
the-floor kick drum by a quarter-note, for
example), but youll usually want to keep your
displacements to a 16th-, eighth- or quarter-note
shift smaller note values (or in between ones,
such as a 24th-note) will see you straying into
experimental territory. Feel free to go there,
though, if thats your bag
Obviously, beat displacement is most
effectively employed on drum tracks, since the
whole point is to shift the feel of the underlying
groove of a track, which is predominantly
defined by the ol tubs. However, highly effective
changes of pace and direction can be spoofed
by knocking basslines and melodic parts off-
axis, too or how about pushing your lead line
forwards at the same time as kicking the drums
backwards, while leaving your lead line or vocal
where they are?
And although not strictly speaking a
displacement, mirroring the beat horizontally
can have a similar effect. Well look at all of these
techniques in the walkthroughs that follow
Incidentally, although the concept of beat
displacement is presumably as old as music
itself, the credit for formalising it goes to Brit
drumming legend Gavin Harrison (Porcupine
Tree, King Crimson, Lewis Taylor and many,
many more), who explores the concept
amongst may others in depth in his book
Rhythmic Illusions (originally a tutorial series
in Rhythm magazine). Although absolutely
intended as a manual for drummers, MIDI
programmers (who know how to read music!)
looking to really take their percussion patterns
to new and extremely esoteric places should
seek this seminal text out its available through
the usual online book retailers.
Beat displacement and mirroring
Pull the rhythmic
wool over your
listeners ears with
Gavin Harrisons
Rhythmic Illusions
There are several tried and tested
ways of smoothly segueing into a
time signature or tempo change,
rather than just instantly switching
to it, which can be jarring. One of them is to
end the bar before the change with a fill
(most likely on drums, but any attention-
drawing instrument should be up to the job)
that heavily features triplets. The reason this
can make for an effective transition is that
the triplets work as a disruptive, ear-catching
intermediate stage of rhythmic oddness
leading into the more obvious rhythmic
oddness that follows.
Another good way to lead into a
tempo change is to again put a fill
at the end of the phrase preceding
the switch (not necessarily
featuring triplets, unless you want it to, of
course) and make the tempo change at the start
of that bar, rather than the one at the beginning
of the new section. This could potentially work
with a time signature change as well, if your fill is
designed cunningly enough to feel like a
transition from one to the other. Or, if youre
switching to a longer time signature (from 4/4
to 5/4, say), try putting a fill at the end of the
transitional bar that just makes up the extra time
(one beat in our 4/4-to-5/4 example).
When working in odd time
signatures with a numerator
greater than 4, it can be very
helpful to have the metronome
Tips and tricks
If your DAWs metronome just wont cut it, you can craft
your own to help you keep in your newly jaunted time
emphasise the phrasing of the bar as well as the
downbeat beat 5 in 7/4, for example, or beats 4
and 7 in a bar of 9/8. Its highly unlikely that your
DAWs metronome allows for this, though, so
why not program your own click track in MIDI,
with different sounds, pitches or levels for these
emphasised beats, using a sampler or drum
machine as a sound source?
If you play an instrument but just
cant get your head or fingers
around playing the thing in odd
time signatures, try recording
your riffs and other parts in good old 4/4, then
creatively cut and paste to edit them into your
desired signature. For example, record two bars
of a 4/4 guitar riff as you normally would, then
chop off the last (or first) beat of the resulting
If that odd time signature or polymetric
section of your latest track is proving a bit
too disorientating, making it hard for the
listener to follow the groove, theres no
shame in placing an obvious sonic marker of some sort
on the downbeat (beat 1) of your pattern or riff a crash
cymbal or piano stab, perhaps.
If your rhythmic offerings are a bit too complicated to be easily understood, emphasising the downbeat with a crash cymbal can keep listeners grounded
48 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / radical rhythms
Tips and tricks
Name your unconventionally timed samples appropriately
Since the vast majority of clips in your
sample library will be in 4/4 time, it
makes sense to label those that arent
with their time signature 5/4 Funky
Drums.wav, for example. Similarly, within
projects featuring time signature changes,
labeling MIDI clips by signature can help keep
confusion to a minimum.
audio clip to turn it into a 7/4 riff of one bar.
Obviously, its more satisfying and effective if
you can actually play your odd-time parts for
real, but until you get those chops up to scratch,
editing in your DAW will do the job just fine.
We mentioned Swedish metal
band Meshuggah on p44, but their
particular approach to polymetre
is worth highlighting again, since it
works so well with beat-driven music and has
been imitated by so many other acts. Their
particular approach often involves the drummer
combining time signatures on various elements
of the drum kit. For example, with a simple 4/4
rock beat rolling on the hi-hat and snare, a 3/4 or
5/4 repeating figure might be placed
underneath it on the kick drum(s), with the
downbeats accented on crash cymbals.
Polyrhythms between individual instruments
are one thing, but the drum kit (acoustic or
electronic) is essentially a self-contained
polyrhythm machine, so make it the first port of
call in your mixed-meter adventures.
When recording new parts and
punching in on existing ones,
many musicians actually prefer a
straight 4/4 count-in, even when
playing in odd time signatures. Fortunately,
some DAWs offer the option to tailor the
count-in metronome behaviour, enabling you to
set up a 4/4 count-in rather than a potentially
confusing 9/8 one, say. So, if your drummer is
having trouble feeling the downbeat of a 5/4 bar
with a 5/4 count-in, try changing the latter to 4/4
and see if that helps. If your DAW doesnt offer
that degree of metronome adjustment, you
could always place a four-beat MIDI clip just
before the punch-in point and route it to a
sampler loaded with a metronome-type
sound instead.
You can create the illusion of
using weird time signatures by
turning the snap-to-grid function
off in your DAW and avoiding the
grid to whatever extent works for the particular
track in question. Even though this wont result
in any actual odd time signatures (unless youre
incredibly clever in your programming and
bloody-minded enough to do it that way rather
than actually switching to an odd time
signature!), the effect on the listener will be
similar slightly disorientating and utterly
groove-transformative. Classic 90s IDM is often
held up as an example of the use of odd time
signatures, but actually, a great deal of it is in
plain old 4/4. Producers such as Squarepusher,
Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin were just
very good at programming MIDI in a way that
makes the underlying sequencer grid extremely
hard to perceive and follow, often weaving
chaotic and intricate grid-shunning drum parts
around more conventional synth parts.

While virtual instruments and
effects automatically syncing
LFOs, delay times and other
parameters to the tempo of the
host DAW is a distinct advantage over their real-
world counterparts, it can actually be creatively
liberating to turn it off. By running your time-
based modulators and processors free rather
than slaved to the grid, all sorts of polyrhythmic
possibilities reveal themselves running
multiple LFOs of a synth at different unsynced
speeds, for example, or generating off-kilter,
evolving rhythms from a single sound source by
running it through an unsynced filter delay.
When programming gradual tempo
shifts, remember that the transition
does not have to be a linear one
consisting of a straight line between
tempo A and tempo B. Some DAWs have
features to create curved transitions between
automation nodes, but if not, you can add more
nodes along the length of a straight line and
adjust their positioning to approximate a curve.
While theres nothing wrong with a linear
transition, a curve can sometimes sounds more
natural or appropriate, so give it a go.
Weve not delved into the use of
groove, swing and shuffle in this tutorial,
as while timing is intrinsic to these, they
arguably do not constitute rhythms in
themselves but rather are temporal/dynamic
modifications that can be applied (or not) to a
given rhythm. Thats not to belittle the
importance of groove, though indeed, weve
delved right into it numerous occasions, such as
174s In The Groove, and even issues 200
Techniques, which featured a selection of
groove-centric suggestions in its Drums section.
Combine such teachings with our Radical
Rhythms and youll be well on your way to
metrical nirvana!
Throwing off the rhythmic yoke of your DAWs host synchronisation leaves you free to experiment
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 49
radical rhythms / make music now <
These dance music upstarts fuse deep house with garage
and techno influences to create their sexy, soulful sound
Producer Masterclass
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 51
Apple Mac Pro
Mackie Big Knob
Behringer B2030A x2
Korg M3
Apple Logic Pro 9
GForce - Oddity
LennarDigital Sylenth1
Native Instruments
Komplete 8
Sonic Academy ANA
SSL Duende Native
Sonalksis plugins
Tone2 plugins
Waves plugins
Selected kit list
Scoring an international club smash
with I Wish a funky, minimal take on
Angie Stones neo soul classic Wish I
Didnt Miss You Electronic Youth have
quickly become nothing less than a deep
house sensation. In the past 12 months,
Trevor King and Rustem Rustem have
remixed house heroes Soul Avengerz and
Michael Gray, and theyve also produced
a debut album to capitalise on their
newfound notoriety. We caught up with
the duo at their Essex studio to find out
more about their rise to stardom and lift
the lid on the production tricks they use
to set dancefloors alight.
I got into music from an early age; my
grandad taught me how to play piano,
Trevor reminisces. From the age of 11 or 12,
I was listening to pirate radio stations. Later,
when I went to college, a couple of the guys
on the course started doing a pirate station,
so I got involved with that.
When I was about 22, someone in the
industry said that if I wanted to make
progress as a DJ, I needed to start making
music. The first bit of software I ever bought
was Reason 1.0, and I started producing
music in my garage. Yes, It was garage
music! It was funny, we had [legendary
garage MCs] Sparks and Kie come down
there. I told them I had a studio, but they
arrived to find I had a PC, a crap monitor, a
really cheap mic from Argos and a pair of
tights wrapped around a coat hanger for a
pop shield!
Back then, I was using an engineer Id
make my music in Reason, then bounce all
my files and go to an engineer in London. I
was doing radio and DJing out too, and I
We went down from
128 to 120bpm, and
that was the birth of
Electronic Youth!
realised I wanted to get into music more
heavily, so I set up my first studio with a
friend of mine in Essex. After about three or
four years, we parted company, and I moved
the studio to Kent, left my job and started
engineering full time.
Rustem had a similarly early start in the
dance music scene. I started going out at
about the age of 13 and got into old
hardcore like The Prodigy, he begins. As I
got a bit older, I moved into garage a little
bit, started DJing, and I was on pirate radio
for years on the South London circuit. I got a
few residencies, then I started working in a
record shop.
I got in with a guy who was producing
with all the old gear Ataris, Roland W-30
keyboard, Akai samplers and I started
producing with him. I got made redundant
from the shop and started working for a
distributor they did all the big garage
tunes and a lot of big house tunes. That
was where I got my business training. I
worked my way up from the warehouse
to head A&R. Then I ran Hoxton Whores
label. Then vinyl died. So, there was
no industry and I got made redundant
from that!
I was on my own. I needed to make
some music, and a mutual friend introduced
me to Trevor. I used him as an engineer at
first, and our chemistry was spot on. We
started collaborating using our existing
names but then decided to go for a new
name, new image and new sound we went
down from 128 to 120bpm, and that was the
birth of Electronic Youth!
In this exclusive tutorial, Electronic Youth
put together a mini-track from scratch,
complete with pumping 4/4 beat, groovy
bassline and uplifting synth chords. Be sure
to check out the epic video to see the boys
in action, check out their production tricks
and hear the track in all its glory.
Apple Mac Pro
Mackie Big Knob
Behringer B2030A x2
Korg M3
Apple Logic Pro 9
GForce Oddity
LennarDigital Sylenth1
Native Instruments
Komplete 8
Sonic Academy ANA
SSL Duende Native
Sonalksis plugins
Tone2 plugins
Waves plugins
Selected kit list
52 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / producer masterclass
In our exclusive
Electronic Youth video,
Trevor and Rustem make
a fresh deep house
track from scratch!
02:53 Using Logics Enveloper effect to
tighten up drum loops
29:16 Layering a beat with delayed 808 claps
34:16 Creating a solid deep house bass with
FM synthesis
1:06:58 Sending the bass to a reverb return
channel with automation
Video masterclass
Dont miss
If youve been hooked
by Electronic Youths
bouncy beats and
seductive basslines,
theres plenty of
material to satisfy your
cravings online. Hear
more on Soundcloud,
become a fan on
Facebook, and stay up to date on Twitter.
Electronic Youths latest single, I Would Leave,
featuring Shanaz, is out now.
Twitter: @electronicyouth
Trevor and Rustem kick things off by
loading up a bass drum sound sourced
from another track. If you like a track and it
sounds massive when youre out, and you
really love the sound of that kick drum, you
can sample it. Thats what we tend to do!
grins Trevor. The kick is arranged in a 4/4
pattern on an audio track in Logic, with
fades on the end of each sample to ensure
that they all sound clean.
Next, the lads audition some house
loops to build up a rhythm. Potential
goers are loaded onto a new audio track,
where Logics Enveloper effect is
applied to make them sound less roomy.
The loops are sliced to create exactly the
right rhythm.
With a vibe slowly emerging, those
classic house open hi-hats and claps
are added next. The clap combines three
layered samples to get just the right impact
and texture. Trevor has used a template for
the project with effects sends already set
up, and these are used to apply reverb to all
three clap channels.
All the drum channels are routed to a
group buss. To create some interest at
the end of each 16-bar section, automation
is used to increase the level of reverb on
the buss. Simultaneously, an automated
channel mute is used to take out the last
eight kick drum hits. These tricks create a
drum fill without actually moving or editing
any of the samples. Clever!
To get that funky deep house feel,
Trevor plays in some snare samples via
Logics EXS24 sampler. He triggers these
live from a MIDI controller, and the
resulting sequence is quantised to Logics
16C Swing setting for a shuffly groove.
To fill out the rhythm further, some
TR-808 clap sounds from Logics
EXS24 library are added. These are
recorded in via MIDI controller and
quantised as before, and this time Logics
Stereo Delay plugin is applied to create a
techno-style synced delay effect.
The bass sound in the track comes
courtesy of Logics EFM1 synth. Trevor
and Rustem start out with the instruments
default sound, but to give it a heavier feel,
they tweak the envelope parameters, FM
level, Stereo Detune amount, and Sub Osc
Level. This results in a contemporary-
sounding deep house bass tone.
To create a melody, the pair audition a
pack of LennarDigital Sylenth1 presets
until they find something that they like.
They opt for a mellow house-style chord
and copy the MIDI part over from the bass
track so that it plays the same melody as
the bassline. The filter Cutoff and the
Release times of the synths various
envelopes are then tweaked to get the
patch sounding just right.
> Step by step
Producing a deep house track in Apple Logic Pro
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 53
producer masterclass / make music now <
Tired of the same old fixed-path instruments? With a modular
synth, you can design your own, and its much easier than you
may have been led to believe
Out there, beyond the cosy confines
of the software studio, in the world of
hardware, modular synthesisers havent
just been revived, theyre thriving. There
are more manufacturers of hardware
synthesiser modules out there than ever
before, and thanks to exposure by acts
like Deadmau5 and LCD Soundsystem,
theyve succesfully penetrated the
music production mainstream. With
their laboratory styling and seemingly
impenetrable complexity, theyre the
ultimate expression of geek music culture.
However, the same clearly isnt the case in
the virtual world. Where once modular synths
were all the rage, their development seems
to have slowed to a trickle in recent years.
Even Native Instruments mighty Reaktor gets
updated at a snails pace nowadays, and Arturia
seem to have done little with Modular V lately
besides stripping the Moog brand from its
pixelated panel.
Nevertheless, there are a few developers still
in the game, with new ones cropping up on the
rarest of occasions. These developers know
that hard-wired, fixed-path synthesisers just
arent enough for some musicians, who long to
get their hands dirty building their own virtual
signal paths. They dont want to be limited to
a fixed number of oscillators, or told that they
have to settle for a specific 24dB low-pass
filter with which to shape their sounds. Youre
not going to convince these forward-thinking
creatives that the reverb has to go last !
If you, too, find yourself feeling stifled by
that staple recipe of two or three oscillators, a
subtractive filter and a basic modulation setup,
you might well benefit from rolling your own
synth. Indeed, perhaps youve always dreamt of
trying your hand at modular synthesis but have
been intimidated by the potential complexity.
Were here to make that dream a reality,
with a collection of tutorials to get you up and
running. Well explain everything you need
to know, from the differences between the
various types of modular instruments to how
theyre actually patched, and by the time were
done, youll have created your very own synth
and effects processor. So, lets dive into the
deep end of synthesis
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 55
Get the tutorial files for this
article on your PC/Mac at
The main idea is that
the user decides
upon the signal path
56 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / modular synthesis primer
> Step by step
1. Going semimodular with Aalto CM
A semimodular synthesiser offers
a good way to get your feet wet
before moving into deeper, fully modular
waters. As luck would have it, weve got
a terrific one in the Plugins collection
(see p14). Aalto CM is inspired by Buchla
instruments of the 60s and 70s. Lets load
it into our host DAW.
Well start with the -default patch.
Aalto uses virtual patch cables,
stretched across the central dark blue
field. Only two cables have been used: one
routes incoming Key Pitch to the Complex
Oscillator, the other connects the Gate and
Envelope 1 modules. Hover your mouse
over the dot at the bottom of the LFO as
shown here. This is the LFOs output.
Click that output and drag a wire
from it to the knob over the Timbre
section of Complex Oscillator (just to the
left of the knob into which the red cable
is patched). The small circle you just
connected the cable to is a knob; turn it
up to increase the amount of incoming
modulation. Now, go back up to the LFO
and turn the Level knob up to 0.64.
Audition the sound. As you can hear,
our once-simple sine wave is now
slowly changing in timbre as the LFO
cycles. Push the LFOs Frequency knob to
its maximum. If youve done everything
right, the resulting sound will be complex
and clangourous. Note that the Oscillators
Timbre display is animated accordingly,
showing the movement of that parameter.
Now lets modulate our modulation.
Route a patch cable from the output
of Envelope 2 into the right-most input of
the LFO and turn that input knob all the
way up. Now, set Envelope 2s Attack knob
to around 0.084 and its Release to 18.5.
Return to the LFO and turn the Freq knob
down to about 0.20.
Envelope 2 now controls the rate of
the LFO, causing it to change over
time, resulting in a fairly typical modular
synth sound. Lets add one last thing. Take
another output from Envelope 2 into the
left-most input (Reverb) of the Output and
turn the amount up. Now set the Reverb
knob to 0.31 the envelope controls the
reverb level.
What distinguishes a modular synth from a
non-modular? There are as many answers as
there are developers. The main idea is that the
user decides upon the signal path. Most fixed-
path synthesisers route a few oscillators
through a filter or two before sending the signal
out to an amplifier, which is, in turn, modulated
by an envelope generator and/or LFO.
A modular instrument, though, leaves the
signal path up to the user. Maybe you want to
route the output of your filter back into the
oscillator to modulate its frequency, or perhaps
you want one LFO to control the rate of another
a modular allows you to set up such routings
with ease. Fully modular instruments even allow
you to determine what kind of components you
might use and how many of each. Want 12
oscillators and ten envelope generators? No
problem, assuming your CPU can handle it. One
of the benefits of software modulars as opposed
to hardware is that you arent limited to how
many physical modules you can afford.
Some synths are semimodular, meaning
that parts of the componentry are fixed or are
completely so but the routing scheme enables
you to patch things freely. Korgs MS-20 and the
ARP 2600 spring to mind. Some instruments
combine elements of both Arturias Modular V
has a relatively fixed number of modules, but
you can swap some of them out for alternative
ones, and the whole lot can be patched willy-
nilly. Playing a little loose with the definition, you
could class any synth that uses a modulation
matrix for routing as semimodular. Well start
with a semimodular setup in our first tutorial,
before moving on to fully modular setups after.
Though many virtual modular synths stick
closely to hardware paradigms, some
developers have elected to do their own things.
For instance, Jasuto Pro offers a wide variety of
modules (or nodes, as it calls them) in various
categories that can be patched together using
virtual cables. However, the modulation amount
is determined by the proximity of one node to
another. This would be difficult and expensive to
achieve in the hardware world, obviously.
Getting modular
modular synthesis primer / make music now <
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 57
> Step by step
2. Building a patch in a fully modular synthesiser
Right, lets stray into the deep end
with a fully modular synth! Were
going to build a modular patch from the
ground up. KarmaFX Synth is an ideal
modular for those learning the ropes, and
a 30-day demo is available from karmafx.
net. Lets fire it up and load the CMBasic
patch from the Tutorial Files folder.
Theres a single Amplifier routed into
a Controller (for keyboard control)
and then straight to the Output. We cant
get any sound out of it since no sound
generators are present. Lets start by
adding one. Right-click in the background
to bring up the Add Module menu. Select
Osc 1 from the Generator category.
The Oscillators waveform is set to
Saw, which is a good place to start.
Yet it still doesnt make a sound as its
not connected to the rest of the circuit.
Well fix that soon, but first right-
click in a blank area and select Add
This new ADSR can be routed to
virtually any destination we like, but
well stick to the basics for now and use it
to control the Amplifiers level. To connect
it, right-click the Amplifiers Amp knob,
select Input from the drop-down menu
and choose Modulator1.
Weve made our first sound, but its
pretty dull. Lets get on with the good
stuff. Add another Osc 1 module by right-
clicking in an empty area and choosing
Osc 1 from the Generator sub-menu.
Now, right-click Generator1s Frequency
knob, select Input and choose
Generator2 as its input.
You should now see a patch lead
running from Modulator1 (our ADSR)
to the vicinity of the Amp knob on
the Amplifier. The Osc 1 module is still
unconnected, though, so route it to the
Amplifier by right-clicking the Amplifiers
title bar, selecting Input and Generator1.
Play the sound. As you can hear,
our once-simple saw has been
transformed into something much
more aggressive. Use the dropdown
Wave menu on Generator2 to select a
Sine wave. This improves the sound,
but wed like the sine to change over
time. Add an LFO module from the
Modulator category.
You can now play the sound from
your keyboard controller or within
your DAW. You wont hear much, since the
ADSRs Decay (D) and Sustain (S) knobs
are turned all the way down by default.
Turn up the Sustain knob and try again.
Theres our sawtooth wave! Very nice.
Right-click Generator2s Freq knob
and select Modulator2 (our LFO)
as the Input. Turn the LFOs Rate up to
24 (the value is shown in the modules
display). Now try playing the sound. The
frequency of the modulation produced
by our second oscillator should slowly
rise and fall. Were not done yet, though
In our walkthroughs, weve stuck closely to
the hardware paradigm, patching together
dedicated modules to form greater
instruments. All of the modules were using
are self-contained, meaning they have a fixed
number of parameters.
Modular programming environments
such as Reaktor, SynthEdit and Max/MSP,
however, allow a much deeper level of
control and customisation. These are actually
more akin to graphical programming
languages, but with a focus on audio, and
their lineage goes back to some of the very
first computer music applications. Not only
can you to patch together modules, but you
can even create the modules themselves.
Some, like Symbolic Sound Corporations
Kyma, enable you to write code directly into
the modules, or to write the modules
themselves. Others, like ChucK, Pure Data
and the near-legendary SuperCollider are a
codeheads dream.
Some modulars combine aspects of both
hardware and software. Applied Acoustics
Systems Tassman, for example, comprises a
low-level programming environment called
the Builder and a front end called the Player
and although you can define many specific
values in the Builder, the Player modules
have a fixed number of available parameters.
Some environments go as far as allowing
you to export your creations (complete with
pixel-perfect GUIs) as plugins to use in your
DAW. This includes Jeff McClintocks
Windows-only SynthEdit, as well as
SynthMaker (Windows) and SonicBirth (Mac).
Additionally, there are modular DAWs,
such as energyXT2 or Usines Hollyhock, that
allow you to edit and manipulate signal paths
via a patch-cord modular environment. Some
modular hosts can even load third-party
plugins as individual modules. These run the
gamut from simple effects chainers meant
for live performance to deeply flexible
environments like Plogue Bidule, which gives
you everything you need to create vast and
complex signal paths.
Is it a sequencer, a DAW or a modular synthesiser?
If it's energyXT, it can be any and all of them
58 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / modular synthesis primer
> Step by step
2. Building a patch in a fully modular synthesiser (continued)
Weve already set up a buzzing,
modulated patch, but thats only the
start of what we can do. Beginning where
we left off on the previous page, lets add
another module via a slightly different
method. This time, right-click Generator2s
Out slider, choose Input, then New.
A new Modulation module will
instantly appear, tethered to
Generator2s Out slider. Swap it for an
Envelope module by selecting Envelope
from the new modules title-bar menu.
The Envelope module is a big one, so you
might have to move things around to
make room for it.
The patch isnt particularly dramatic
it just produces a quick rise and fall
of the modulation between oscillators.
Clicking the Envelopes Bipolar switch
gives us a slightly different sound,
enabling both positive and negative
modulation to be applied. Give it a try.
Experiment a little with the new
Envelope by dragging nodes in the
display to hear how it affects the sound.
Weve set ours to a very fast attack and
decay. Lets do some good old-fashioned
subtractive synthesis. Right-click to add a
module and choose FilterSVF (a state-
variable filter).
Right-click Amplifier1s title bar, choose
Input, deselect Generator1 and
choose Filter1 instead. Next, right-click
Filter1s title bar and choose Generator1
as its input. Our first oscillator is now
routed through the new filter and into the
amplifier. Turn the filter Cutoff to 30 or so
and hear how this affects the sound.
Its now pretty dark. Turn the filter
Resonance knob up to 80 to get a
more nasal sound. Now, right-click the
filter Cutoff knob to add a new modulator.
Choose an ADSR. Use its Attack, Decay,
Sustain and Release knobs to modulate
the filter Cutoff over time. Experiment
and have fun!
Modular programming environments
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 59
modular synthesis primer / make music now <
> Step by step
3. Making custom effects processors in a modular environment
Brian Eno and Pete Townshend knew
that modular synths made excellent
effects processors and employed them
as such. You can, too, assuming you have
one that permits audio input or can be
opened as an effect. Were using Audulus
here (in Logic Pro 9), but you can use just
about any modular synth or platform that
features an audio input: Jasuto, KarmaFX
Synth, Void or Reaktor, for example.
Open your DAW. To start, well need an
audio signal to process. You can route
an external instrument into your DAW
or bring up a softsynth. Weve created
a new Instrument track and called up
Logics Ultrabeat drum machine. Once its
opened, we activate its built-in sequencer
and click the Play button to get it going.
Insert Audulus or whatever plugin
youre using instead. While Audulus
is a synth, it appears as an effect when
inserted onto a track thats currently
generating sound, as should your
alternative modular processor.
If youve been listening to your drum
beat or other instrument playing
back, it will go silent when Audulus opens.
Thats because it launches with just
unconnected Input and Output modules
loaded. As with a modular synth, Audulus
produces no sound until you make
some connections.
Click the circle labeled Filter. A Filter
Node will appear. Using the same
method as in step 5, connect a lead from
the Input module to the lowest red patch
point on the Filter, then connect another
lead from the Filters blue output patch
point to the Output Node. You should now
hear your sound.
Click the blue output circle on the
Input Node (Audulus terminology for
a module) and drag a cable over to the red
input circle on the Output node. A purple
patch lead will join the two and youll hear
your signal passing through Audulus.
You can click and drag on the filter
slope graphic to adjust the Filters
cutoff and resonance. Lets modulate that
filter. Right-click to get an Osc node from
the Synth options, then right-click the
top-most red patch point (pitch) on the
Osc node and choose Set Default. Set the
value to .1, as shown here.
Satisfied that the signal is indeed
passing through, click the Outputs
connection and drag the lead off into
the background to delete it. Lets add
a module to process our signal. Right-
click the background to see a display of
Audulus various Nodes. Click the one
called Effects to reveal some options.
Get a Level node and route your Osc
through it and into the Filters middle
patch input (frequency). Click the Levels
yellow knob to set the Minimum and
Maximum to 500 and 5000 respectively
(values are in Hz). Youve just made an
LFO-controlled filter effect! Adjust the Osc
knobs and waveshape to hear what you
can do with it.
Abletons FM-powered synth is bursting
with sonic possibilities far beyond typical
DX7-alike tones. Fire up Live, load up
Operator and well show you how!
Get the samples, video and
tutorial files on your PC/Mac at
61 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Frequency modulation (FM) synthesis
allows for the creation of a huge array of
sounds, ranging from tuneful and harmonic to
dissonant and chaotic. This is all made possible
through the interplay between so-called
oscillators designated as carriers and
modulators. The frequency of one such
oscillator also called an operator in FM
terminology is modulated using another that
is also in the audible range, resulting in a more
complex waveform. Even using simple sine
waves as the raw waveforms of the operators
can result in timbres that are rich in harmonics.
Increasing the amplitudes of the modulators
will give increasingly harmonic-rich signals.
Taking the template laid down by classic digital
FM synths like Yamahas DX7 and SY77
considerably further, Ableton adapted this
concept for their own Operator instrument, which
is a 79 add-on for Live, or included as standard
with Live Suite. Combining the concept of FM with
both additive and subtractive synthesis (which,
curiously, do not cancel each other out), Operator
is your gateway to a universe of complex timbres,
all dialled in via an interface that is intuitive and
simple to, well, operate.
With a solid selection of basic waveform types
to choose from and the option to create your own
using the waveform editor, you can arrange
Operators four oscillators in several predefined
routings known as algorithms, in a nod to the
very similar system employed on the DX7 to
synthesise a wide variety of musical and non-
musical tones.
In this guide, we will explore the breadth of
sonic possibilities of Operator, using different
algorithms for different use-cases. From designing
kick drums to sculpting evolving pads and
expressive lead sounds, each of the tutorials will
introduce you to further features of Operator as
well as giving you the techniques to use them for
designing your own sounds from scratch.
Chowning came
across the concept
during the 60s
62 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / smooth operator
> Step by step
1. Designing a kick drum in Operator
Create a new MIDI track in Live. Load
an Operator device from Lives
browser. Create a one-bar MIDI clip and
put a C3 on every quarter-note. Play the
clip and youll hear a simple sine wave on
every beat this dull sound is the
initialised patch, the starting point for our
final kick drum. First, we need to change
the way that Operator routes signals.
Clicking the bottom-right section
(including Time, Tone and four
coloured squares) opens the Global
control section. At the top of this section,
choose the rightmost diagram (four
horizontal squares) to change Operators
routing to Additive. This gives us four
independent oscillators (with no
frequency modulation) that we can layer
to create a richer Kick sound.
To start shaping the sound, first set all
the oscillators to Fixed in the left
section. The frequency of each will now be
the same, regardless of any incoming MIDI
note. Set the Oscillator As Frequency to
50Hz, then back in the centre panel, set its
Attack to 12 ms, Decay to 300 ms and
Sustain to the lowest value (-inf dB).
Kick1.wav showcases this foundation of
our Kick.
We will use Oscillator B to add more
body and a beater (click) sound to the
kick. Set its Frequency to 94 Hz and bring
the Level up to 0.0 dB. Leave Attack at
0.0 ms, set Decay to 100 ms and Sustain
to -inf dB. Then set Phase to 5%. Shifting
the phase off the zero-crossing point like
this is what will cause the clicking sound.
Well add more body to our Kick with a
third oscillator. Change Oscillator Cs
waveform to Sw3 (a saw wave). Adjust
the envelope settings set the Attack to
25 ms, Decay to 600 ms and Sustain to
-inf dB. Then, set Freq to 42 Hz and bring
the Level up to -16 dB. As you can hear in
Kick2.wav, this adds more low end to
the sound.
Finally, to add more punch and
character to the kick, turn on the
pitch envelope and set Pitch Env
parameter to 15%. To prevent the pitch
envelope from modulating Oscillator C
the sounds body remove Oscillator C
from the Dest.A section of the pitch
envelope as above. Hear the finished
result in KickFinal.wav.
Frequency modulation has a history with music
technology owing to its use since the 1930s in
broadcasting FM radio. However, John
Chowning takes the credit for inventing FM
synthesis. Whereas FM radio uses super-high,
inaudible carrier frequencies in order to
transmit content (music, speech, etc) that must
be decoded upon reception into a signal in the
audio range, FM synthesis operates very much
in the audible range, as youd expect.
Chowning came across the concept during
the 60s while studying the characteristics of
vibrato at Stanford University. Vibrato is
frequency modulation: we use one oscillator
an LFO in the inaudible range to modulate the
pitch of an audible oscillator, producing a
noticeable wobble in pitch. Chowning noticed
that increasing the rate of the LFO into the
audible range produced a complex new tone,
and further pursuit of this phenomena led him
to formalise and patent its use for sound
creation as FM synthesis. In 1967, he became the
first person to compose a complete piece of
music using FM for all sound generation tasks.
Check out to hear him explain
the discovery in his own words.
Famously, Yamaha licensed Chownings
invention and enlisted his assistance in creating
a series of instruments based upon his
technology, eventually leading to the legendary
Yamaha DX7, which is one of the best-selling
synths of all time. It was a very difficult device to
program, though that didnt deter determined
synthesists from mastering it, using its powerful
operator-based synthesis and multiple routing
algorithms to sculpt spectacular new sounds.
As we just alluded to, the oscillators in the
DX7 are referred to as operators. Inspired by
old hardware FM synthesisers, and adapting
these concepts to the modern DAW
environment, Ableton came up with their own
hybrid approach to synthesis, combining FM
with additive and subtractive synthesis,
introducing Operator in 2005. While there have
been major improvements to the device over
the years such as the major makeover in 2008
seeing drawable wavetable features added
alongside new filter types and routing options
the interface has remained consistent
throughout the years following Abletons
philosophy of fusing depth and usability into
one creative whole.
Operators ancestors: FM history
March 2014/ COMPUTER MUSIC / 63
smooth operator / make music now <
> Step by step
2. Analogue-sounding bass with Operator
Drop an Operator device to a new
MIDI track in live. Were going to use
Frequency Modulation techniques to
create a bass sound, so its helpful to
visualise the changes we make to the
sound over time. Drag a Spectrum audio
effect device after Operator in the chain.
Click on the bottom-right section to
open the global controls. We will use
an signal path in which Oscillator A is our
carrier signal (ie, the audible oscillator),
modulated by oscillators B, C and D.
Choose the three on one schematic.
Also, since we are creating a
monophonic bass sound, change the
number of Voices to 1 and set the
(bottom-right) Volume to 0dB.
For Oscillator A, we select the default
Sine wave this will mostly be used
for our sub-bass information. Change
Coarse to 0.5. This will tune the oscillator
to the lowest octave possible. Set Attack
to 0.35 ms, Decay to 590 ms, Sustain to
-6.0 dB and Release to 3.00 s. Hear the
sound start to take shape in Bass1.wav.
We employ Oscillator B to add more
harmonics to our timbre. Change the
waveform to Sine 4 a retro, 4-bit, C64-
style sine wave. Set its Coarse to 0.5, and
bring up the Level to -25 dB. Set Fine to 8
to fatten up the sound by detuning the
modulator. Set Attack to 2.87 ms and
Release to 3.00 ms.
For our second modulator, Oscillator
C, we will use a harmonically richer
waveform, Saw D (D stands for Digital),
which is particularly good for bass design.
Set Fine to 10 and bring the Level up to
-35 dB. You can hear that this detuning
causes more movement. Set Attack to
200 ms and Release to 3.00 s.
We use Oscillator D to add some
excitement to the timbre during
longer sustaining notes. Choose another
Saw D waveform and set a long Attack
and Release time of 10.0 s. Set its Coarse
to 2, Fine to 5 and bring the Level up to
-40 dB. You can hear that subtle
modulation will happen on longer notes.
Next well use the pitch envelope
generator to imbue the sound with
more punch and attack. Change the pitch
envelope parameter to 60%. We stop the
envelope from affecting oscillators B, C
and D using Dest. A section. Now the pitch
envelope will only be applied to the carrier
signal (oscillator A). Set Peak to +30 st
and Decay to 200 ms.
We add some stereo width by setting
the Spread to 15%, panning the
oscillators a little. One of the issues with
FM synthesis is that you can easily end up
with a lot of high harmonics. Operator has
the Tone parameter which lets you control
the amount of these easily. In Bass4.wav,
weve brought it down to 55% just to
control the top-end.
Finally, to add some filter modulation,
Turn on the LFO, set its Rate to 65 and
Amount to 45%.Set a long Attack and
Release of 9.00s. De-assign the LFO from
all the Oscillators and assign it to Filter in
the Dest. A section. Set the Filters
Frequency to 8.00 kH and Res to 5. Hear
the finished product in BassFinal.wav.
> Step by step
3. Creating ambient pads using Operator
Drag an Operator device onto a new
MIDI track in Live. Click on the global
section on the bottom-right. For this
sound, we will use an algorithm that has
two carriers and two modulators. This
means Oscillator A and Oscillator C are
going to be our audible signals, and theyll
be modulated by Oscillator B and
Oscillator D respectively.
First were going to create a sustained
pad sound. Change Oscillator As
waveform to Sq4, and adjust its Attack to
6.00 s and Release to 10.0 s. Now to add
some unison using Oscillator B. Bring up
its Level to -35 dB and detune it by setting
Fine to 10. Youll hear the detuning cause
some movement, especially when playing
chords as in Pad1.wav.
Now lets add our second sound. Set
Oscillator Cs waveform to Sin 8 a
retro sine wave that has more character
than a more hi-res sine wave. Set its
Coarse to 3, Attack to 0.92 ms, Decay to
1.20 s and Sustain to -inf dB. Bring Level
up to -4.0 dB.
One of the most useful features of
Operator is its ability to loop
envelopes. Select Oscillator Cs tab, click
on Loop, select Beat and set the Repeat
parameter to 1/6. In Pad2.wav, youll
notice that the envelope re-triggers itself
while the note is being held. This effect is
particularly interesting if you play several
delayed notes.
Now to add some harmonics to our
second sound for more character.
Change Oscillator Ds waveform to
Triangle, set its Coarse to 2, Fine to 5 and
bring its Level up to -35 dB. This will add
some higher harmonics to our bell sound
helpful in giving more brightness to the
sound in higher octaves.
Some final touches. Set Spread to
40% for some stereo width, and bring
the master Volume to -17 dB to prevent
clipping. Drop a Reverb Effect after
Operator, setting its Decay Time to 6.00 s
and Dry/Wet to 30%. The sounds effect is
best brought out by slowly introducing
sustained notes from different octaves.
Check out ours in PadFinal.wav.
Envelope generators are one of the key tools for
creating spectacular and interesting sounds
with FM and additive synthesis, and Operator
has seven of them one for each oscillator, and
dedicated envelopes for filter, pitch and LFO
giving you a wide range of sonic vistas to explore.
One of the most useful features of Operators
envelopes is their Loop Mode. If an envelope is
in Loop Mode, the envelope will retrigger upon
reaching the sustain stage so long as the note is
being held. The loop can be set to run at a free
rate or can be synced to the tempo of the
current Live set.
The Loop Mode has four modes to choose
from. First is Loop, where you can set the
envelopes Time parameter to a value in
milliseconds after reaching the end of the
decay stage, the synth will then wait for the
specified time before looping back to the
beginning of the attack. Since this value will be
affected by the synths global Time parameter
(in the lower-right of the interface), you can
achieve interesting results if you modulate the
global Time value using the LFO.
The next modes are Beat and Sync modes,
which reset the loop using rhythmic values such
as quarter-notes or eighth-notes, synced to the
tempo of your project particularly good for
creation of rhythmic patches. In Beat mode,
while the loop length itself is perfectly
quantised, if you play the note slightly out of
time, each repetition of the loop will be off-grid
by the same amount. In contrast, Sync mode will
snap the loop repetitions to the nearest
16th-note for a tighter, more musical sound.
Note that Sync mode only works if the set is
playing, otherwise Sync and Beat modes will
behave the same way.
Finally, the Trigger mode is ideal for
percussive sounds, triggering the envelope
while ignoring a note-off message, meaning that
the length of the sound is not affected by how
long you hold the note down for.
Operators Envelope Loop Mode
Operators seven envelopes dont just have to
be one-shots loop them in one of four modes
64 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / smooth operator
> Step by step
5. Rhythmic FX design in Operator
Drop an Operator device in a new
MIDI track in Live. Change Oscillator
As waveform to Noise White (NoW). Set its
Attack to 0.40 ms, Decay to 755 ms and
Sustain to -inf dB. Set envelope Loop to
Beat and the Repeat parameter to 1/16.
This will re-trigger the envelope generator
on every sixteenth-note.
Well add a filter envelope to the patch.
Set the Filters cutoff Frequency to
500 Hz and Resonance to 7.00. Now set
Attack to 1.25 s and apply the envelope to
the filter by setting the Envelope
parameter to 100%. This will open
the filter gradually while the high
resonance value creates an exaggerated
sweeping effect.
A multi-tap delay will give our
sound more rhythmic movement.
A Filter Delay device can be used to
create more interesting filtered delay
effect. Drag one from Lives browser
and drop it after Operator. Operators
noise generator is also a really good
tool for creating percussive sounds
such as claps and hi-hats. Check out
the end result in SFX.wav.
> Step by step
4. Phat sawtooth chords with Operator
To create a lead chord sound, we open
a new instance of Operator using the
additive algorithm. This mean we will have
four independent (shown horizontally)
audible oscillators without frequency
modulation. Click on the global section on
the bottom right, select this routing and
set Voices to 1 for a monophonic sound.
Choose Sw32 a sawtooth wave with
32 harmonics for every Oscillator.
Bring the Level of each oscillator up to
0.0 dB. Also, set the global Transpose
value to -12 st. This will transpose the
whole patch one octave lower.
Well use the Fine control of each
oscillator to generate a chord, but
tune them slightly off to achieve a unison
effect. We will set Oscillator Bs Fine to 198
cents instead of 200 (a major second),
Oscillator Cs to 500 cents (a fourth) and
Oscillator Ds to 790 cents (a minor sixth).
Now lets use the filter envelope. In the
filter section, set Freq to 1.00 kH and
Res to 3.00. Set the Filter Envelopes
Attack to 10.0 s, Decay to 4.00 s and
Sustain to 30%. Now, to apply the
envelope to the filter, set the Envelope
parameter to 40%. This will open the filter
slowly, resulting in an evolving sound as
heard in Lead1.wav.
Click on the pitch section. Turn on
Glide by clicking on the yellow button
marked with G and set its Time parameter
to 100 ms. This will slide the pitch
between notes that overlap. Set Spread to
100%, resulting in a richer stereo sound
by detuning the left and right signal.
The lead patch is ready, but some
effects processing can help achieve a
more interesting result. Drop a Reverb
effect after Operator. Set its Decay Time
to 4.00 s and Dry/Wet to 40%. The result
is a smoother sound, especially after the
release stage now that weve added a
longer tail to the sound. LeadFinal.wav.
March 2014/ COMPUTER MUSIC / 65
smooth operator / make music now <
There is a built-in waveshaper in Operators
Filter panel. You can select the waveshaping
curve via the Shaper menu to access the
Drive and Dry/Wet controls.
One of the main controls in Operators
oscillators is their Coarse parameter. Note
that Coarse is a frequency multiplier and
not an octave selector. This means that the
frequency of the oscillator will be multiplied
by its Coarse parameter. So if Coarse is at 1,
an A4 note will be 440Hz; if the Coarse is at
2, the frequency will be 880Hz (an octave
higher: A5); if Coarse is set to 3, the frequency
is 1320Hz E5; and so on.
Digital FM synthesis techniques can result
in aliasing artifacts when creating timbres
with a lot of high frequency information
sometimes desirable, sometimes not,
depending on the patch youre creating.
To this end, Operator has a togglable high-
quality antialiasing filter in the Global
section, as well as the global Tone filter
that can be used to curtail runaway treble
frequencies as much or as little as you like.
Take the chisel to your waves with Operators waveshaper
One of the other useful global controls
in Operator is the Time parameter. Using
this knob, you can scale all the envelopes
timing up and down. This can be used to
change the sound drastically or can be
modulated using the LFO for a more
dynamic effect.

Playing with Operators envelopes, you will
notice that some parameters can be set to
negative values; for example, you can apply
-50% in the Filter Envelope. You can think of it
as flipping the envelope upside down, so that
a slow attack will cause the filter to gradually
fall from its initial position, rather than rising,
as with a normal, positive modulation setting.
Operator is an optimised native Ableton
instrument, and its CPU usage is pretty low.
Even so, when using several instances of this
instrument, you might need to maximise
CPU usage for a better overall performance,
such as when performing live. You can do
this by disabling the features that are not
used, and most of Operators CPU-intensive
features such as Filter and Spread can
be disabled.
We already know that we can modulate
an oscillators pitch using one or more
of the other oscillators, but there is another
option: any oscillator that is not being
affected by the others can modulate
itself. You can control the amount of this
modulation by adjusting the Feedback
parameter in the envelope section of
each oscillator.
Export your custom operator waveforms as AMS files
for later use or to import into other Live devices
In addition to the simple waveforms
available in Operator, you can create custom
waveforms using the waveform editor.
You can also save these custom waveform for
later use as .ams files by right-clicking on the
waveform editor and choosing
Export AMS. One of the advantages of this
feature is that you can drag these AMS
files into other Ableton devices such as
Sampler for use with their modulation
capabilities and other processing functions.

Usefully, Operator lets you map the algorithm
selector to a Macro control or a MIDI
controller. As you already know, changing
the algorithm will have a significant impact
on the result since it changes the global
behaviour of the instrument. Therefore,
you can start experimenting with changing
the algorithm on the fly try mapping the
algorithm to a MIDI controller or an LFO for
far-out results.

Operators LFO can be set to output a
range of waveforms, and one of the more
interesting available waveforms is Sample
And Hold (S&H). This signal uses random
values chosen at a rate determined by the
LFO, to create sci-fi-style sound effects as
well as introduce random, unpredictable
modulation to your sound.
Typically, Low Frequency Oscillators (LFO)
have subsonic frequency values. This means
we will only hear their effect and not their
actual sound. By setting Operators LFO
range to HIGH, you can push the LFO into the
audible range, as for as 12kHz. You can think
of Operators LFO as the fifth oscillator.

Tips and tricks
Operators LFO can be pushed into audible frequencies useful if four oscillators werent already enough
Get experimental and mess with your envelopes
even further by applying negative amounts
Is the top end of your FM patch grating on you? Cut
out high-frequency artifacts with the Tone control
Push an oscillator into self-modulation by adjusting
the Feedback parameter in the central section
66 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / smooth operator
Once responsible for electronic musics rigid feel, grid-based
sequencing still has its place in modern music. Explore these
rhythmic pattern generators with us and find out how
Lets face it: we all take modern music
software for granted. With a few clicks, we
can place notes in any musical or rhythmic
order we like, cycle the pattern and edit it to
our hearts content. We still refer to this
process as sequencing, named after the
traditional hardware box from which our now-
ubiquitous note ordering and reordering
methods originate. The first step sequencers
revolutionised the way synthesised melodic
phrases were approached.
The original concept behind the hardware step
sequencer is a simple one: instead of relying on a
human physically pressing keys over and over, a
repeating series of steps can be preprogrammed
using a hands-on interface (which can include
buttons, knobs and sliders). These user-defined
sequences are played back and sent to control
parameters on other equipment a prime
example of a step sequencer is the method used
to program classic drum machines, though their
outputs can be used to control much more.
Traditionally, the output messages were
electrical charges called control voltages (CV),
then later, the universal language of MIDI data
brought the step sequencing design to countless
drum machines, synths and grooveboxes.
Nowadays, our virtual environments allow us to
assign and route signals in a whole host of flexible
ways, but the step-based programming ideology
remains as vital as ever.
On a similar (but fundamentally different)
bent, theres a synths arpeggiator. While a step
sequencer requires the user to predetermine an
order of notes/steps to be played back, a synths
arpeggiator will play back an arpeggio (see
page 74), the notes of which are taken from an
input chord (played or programmed).
Over the next few pages, well get stuck in with
both types. Well only use synth and sequencer
plugins found in the Plugins collection, so its
a breeze to follow along with our walkthroughs
and video tutorials for yourself. Now without
further ado, lets step to it!
Get the Plugins and Tutorial
Files on your PC/Mac at
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 67
Here were going to run through the
basic functions of a simple
arpeggiator section of a soft synth to get
to grips with the concept. Open up XILS-
labs PolyKB II CM on a new MIDI channel
in any DAW, then drop Basic Chords.mid
onto the synths track and set it to loop.
Now load up the synths LD Andro K
preset a thick lead patch.
PolyKB II CMs Arpeggiator section is
the row of five buttons over on the
synths left. Well toggle its On button to
get it going notice how our synth now
turns the polyphonic chords into a
monophonic sequence. The notes of the
chords are now played one at a time
rather than simultaneously.
The Clock dial sets the speed of our
sequence, so move it around and
notice how our pattern gets faster or
slower. In its default state, we can set the
Clock speed in Hz. Toggle M. Sync to
synchronise the sequence to our hosts
BPM, then set Clock to Tempo*4.
By default, the arpeggiator is
repeating notes from our chord in a
random order. Hit the Up button (the
arrow pointing up and to the right).
Weve now set our arpeggiator into Up
mode this means the synth will now
play each incoming MIDI note of the
chord in a repeating sequence, starting
with the lowest note and ending with
the highest note.
Now switch off Up mode and activate
Down mode (the button labelled with
an arrow pointing to the left). This plays
the highest note of our chord then runs
down through them to the lowest note
before repeating from the top again. If we
enable both Up and Down buttons, our
sequence will play our notes from low to
high, then to low again before repeating.
Finally, well revert back to Up mode,
then activate the Octave button. Our
sequence now plays over once, then again
an octave higher, giving us a longer, more
elaborate sequence. At speed, this allows
us to perform patterns that would be very
difficult or impossible for a keyboardist to
play through traditional means.
> Step by step
1. Basic arpeggiator functions with PolyKB II CM
Nowadays, we can meticulously draw notes
onto a piano roll with a mouse, jam notes in
live with a MIDI keyboard, or reorder audio
regions on our timeline. So its reasonable to
wonder why arpeggiator and step sequencer
methods of programming are still provided.
Undoubtedly, old-school step sequencing
will always draw synth fans in thanks to the
nostalgia it evokes and gratifying, button-
punching programmability it encourages. No
matter how music technology advances, a
simple 16th-note arpeggio flourish or a
cycling eight-step sequence will have its
place in synthesised music, and there really is
no quicker way to program in such simple
and repetitive sequences than with
sequencer and arpeggiator functions.
Step sequencing remains particularly
useful for drum programming. Electronic
music often requires a basic kick pattern, a
snare or clap on the second and fourth beat
of the bar, perhaps an offbeat hi-hat, and so
on. Punching these hits in on a grid-style
sequencer is extremely quick and allows for
creative experimentation on the fly make
one change, and that change will be made for
all bars in which the sequencer is playing. The
classic step-based design can be observed in
beat machines old and new, from the iconic
Roland drum machines of the 80s through to
modern music-making tools like Reason,
Maschine, various soft synths and iPad apps.
As new soft synths are developed, we also
see the modification (and occasional
reinvention) of the arpeggiator, allowing
highly complex, flowing sequences of notes
to be performed and replayed from a single
chord press. Some synths, such as PolyKB II
CM, used above, only offer basic features for
cycling through the notes of a chord; other
synths house advanced arpeggiator sections
with multiple playing modes and control over
swing and note length. In fact, modern synths
are increasingly blending elements of
arpeggiators and step sequencers together,
blurring the lines between the two.
One small step
Arturias ARP 2600V, complete with ARP sequencer!
68 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / step secrets
Were going to use SynthMaster CM to
investigate the arpeggiator-meets-
step-sequencer functions that are
increasingly found on todays synths. Load
Backing Track.wav onto a new audio
track in a new 124bpm project, load Arp
Chord.mid onto a fresh MIDI channel,
then load SynthMaster CM on its track and
open the Arp-FM PysBass factory preset.
The synths Arpeggiator section can
be found at the bottom-left of the
Effects tab. It combines traditional
arpeggiator functions with a modern step
sequencer interface for greater control.
Each vertical bar represents a step, (the
number of them is set in the Steps tab
below), and the bars can be dragged up or
down to determine each steps velocity.
Observe that some notes have their
Hold tabs activated. Pull the Duration
parameter down to around +0.19, and hear
how those notes without their Hold tabs
activated will shorten. Hold can be likened
to a tie function, causing a note to sustain
into the next (effectively joining the notes).
Well deactivate all of these to create a
short, plucky pattern.
Now set the Swing knob to around
+22.5. This shifts every other 16th-note
back for a familiar swung feel that adds
groove to the pattern. Try re-toggling a
couple of Hold tabs for variation. Changing
the amount of Steps can also add rhythmic
interest weve gone for 6. Finally, we set
the Mode to Chord so instead of
arpeggiating our chords, the entire chord is
played on each active step.
> Step by step
2. Arpeggiator sequencing with SynthMaster CM
But why?
You might still be questioning
how or why youd use this rigid
division-based approach rather
than programming MIDI notes.It
can be tricky work to draw in
highly complicated musical
sequences and chord patterns
into a piano roll, and the process
can be a real creativity killer.
Often youll want to jam ideas
quickly and flesh out a
composition before youre bored
of your idea, and a synths
arpeggiator will allow you to
experiment with various
complex sequences and musical
patterns with only a couple of
key presses. An arpeggiator also
allows us knob twiddlers to lay
down some basic MIDI notes and
then elaborate on our pattern
from within the synths interface.
Rather than just a musical
shortcut, however, the live
manipulation or automation of
time-based parameters such as
beat divisions, number of steps
and note lengths can introduce
unique pattern variations and
improvisational flourishes to
your riff or sequence that
would take hours to draw in
by hand. The sequences in the
two walkthroughs on this very
page would have taken far
longer to program by hand,
thats for sure!
These performance functions
epitomise why music technology
has been so influential in the
development of many musical
styles and genres, giving
composers and synthesists the
ability to extend their
performance range far beyond
physical instrument playing.
> Step by step
3. Rearranging a drum loop with Cumulus step sequencer
Step sequencing is an ideal way to
sequence drum elements, so were
going to rearrange slices of a drum loop
using Loomers Cumulus. Load up a
124bpm project, drag Backing Track.wav
onto a new Audio Track and set it to
loop. Open up a new instance of
Cumulus on a MIDI Track and load the
Vilbel Beats preset.
Cumulus divides an audio file up into
eight colour-coded Scenes. The centre
grid is the step sequencer, where these
Scenes can be rearranged. Here, click
along the top red row to create 16th-notes
of the first slice, giving us a straight
running pattern. Now well draw in the
seventh (purple) scene on two offbeats in
the bar, and the (yellow) third scene in the
other two offbeats.
We can go into Scene 1s editor and
alter that slices characteristics
independently of the others. We Pitch it
up to +24 semitones and shorten its
Decay to roughly 140ms. Finally, we can
change the time division of the step
sequencer to completely alter the feel of
our rearranged loop try it at eighth-notes
or even dotted eighth-notes for some
alternative rhythms.
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 69
step secrets / make music now <
A step sequencer can be used to change
parameters over a user-defined time in the
same way as a regular LFO, so why not
employ your synths sequencer or
arpeggiator as a complex LFO? Take
Aalto CM as an example you can patch
its sequencers output into any
parameters input, just like an LFO, except
you can also draw in your own custom
pattern! Draw in crazy cutoff sweeps,
zig-zagging pan movements or wild
sweeping envelope modulation.
Your arp or sequencer may also offer a
way to turn off its looping function, so it will
cycle through your sequence only once. Use
this feature to turn your pattern into a
custom envelope shape that will only trigger
each time a new MIDI note is pressed. These
step-based modulation methods are
especially useful for creating synced and
rhythmic modulations remember this when
synthesising drum patterns or regimented
percussion loops!
For our walkthroughs, weve synced our
sequencers and arpeggiators to our DAWs
tempo, which is great when you want
everything to stay locked to the grid and in
time with your song. This is especially useful
when re-sequencing drum slices or beat
elements, which you generally want to keep
quantised to the beat. But its also worth
turning this off once in a while and running
your pattern from your plugins internal
clock. When cycling in Hz values, you can get
some warbling, buzzing and stuttering
effects; off-kilter patterns can sit nicely when
underpinned by more rigid drum elements.
If your plugins step sequencer has a
smoothing or glide parameter, try applying
it to get rid of the harsh jerkiness that
jumping from step to step can create. Having
said that, this distinctive stepping sound can
be effective in itself!
Finally, consider automating your
arpeggiator or sequencers parameters
throughout an arrangement. You can switch
up your fast 16th-note melodic sequence to a
half-time eighth-note pattern for an edit or
switch halfway through a track, then abruptly
bring it back for the second chorus section.
If your synth or DAW allow MIDI CC
assignment, try hooking up your sequencers
clock speed or step amounts to a knob or
fader and hit record as you perform some
real-time rhythm shifting you can
encourage some happy accidents by fiddling
with time-based parameters in this way.
Tips and tricks
70 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / step secrets
>Aalto advice
Click on the waveform icons in the
centre of Aalto CMs sequencer, and
the shape of the waveform you
clicked will automatically be drawn
in on the multi slider area for you. If
youre feeling uninspired, just hit
the question mark icon to generate
random patterns!
By turning up the Glide
parameter, the shape produced
will have a smoother transition
between steps, allowing the
sequencer to be used as a sort
of makeshift LFO.
> Step by step
4. Aalto CMs modular step sequencer s
Aalto CM is a powerful monophonic
soft synth inspired by traditional
modular designs. Here were going to get
to grips with its analogue-style step
sequencer. Fire up a new project in any
DAW and load a new instance of Aalto CM
on a new MIDI track. Well create a MIDI
region on the track, draw in a note at E1
and loop it up. Now load up the Raw Saw
preset file (found in the Tutorial Files
folder) into Aalto CM.
Aalto CMs sequencer is similar to an
analogue step sequencer module,
generating and outputting control signals
that can be patched into other modules to
affect their parameters over time. Lets
connect our step sequencers output to
the pitch parameters input. Click and drag
from the rightmost node on the bottom of
the Sequencer section to the Complex
Oscillator sections left (curved) pitch
input dial.
The main, multi-slider area is where
we change the values of our steps.
Click and drag the first vertical slider up to
maximum, then leave the next at its
default minimum, then repeat the pattern
for the rest of the steps, as shown above.
If we increase the Rate parameter, we
can hear how the sequencer is now
determining the pitch of our synth tone.
Flick the int/host switch to Host,
syncing the sequencers clock to our
host BPM. Change the Range parameter
to +24 semitones so our sequencer values
span two octaves instead of one. Activating
Quant locks value selection to semitone
increments, and Glide bends pitch
between two steps. Try experimenting
with different patterns.
Finally, well use the sequencer to
control the low-pass filters movement
for some acidic action. Drag from the
Sequencers bottom-right output node to
the Filter Cutoffs, then drag the input dial
to increase the modulation amount to
maximum. Push the Q parameter to
maximum, then move the Cutoff around
between 30Hz and 800Hz to hear some
sequenced squelch.
Weve explored the sequencing
methods implemented by some of
our own free bundled Plugins,
but you might also want to explore
other commercial software step
sequencers out there, or even get
hands-on and invest in a hardware
interface to program steps by hand.
In the music software world,
Reason now in its 7th incarnation
is known for its analogue-style step
sequencer modules. Its Matrix
pattern sequencer, Redrum drum
machine and RPG-8 arpeggiator can
all be patched into samplers, synths
and sound modules in an almost
limitless number of ways using
Reasons flexible hardware-
influenced modular design.
If youre looking for a plugin to
use inside your DAW, then
FXpansions Geist and Tremor offer
sampling and drum synthesis
sequencing respectively via their
intuitive grid-based interfaces. Also,
dont forget your DAWs bundled
MIDI effects, if it has them, which
can be placed before a synth or
instrument on their channel and
enable you to re-sequence
incoming MIDI notes creatively.
In the hardware domain,
Abletons performance instrument
Push allows you to sequence your
beats and sounds using a traditional
step sequencer mode. Adjust beat
divisions, loop length, timing,
velocity and tons more directly
from the controller, with your
composition arranged inside Live.
Its 9.1 update now even features
brand new melodic and parameter
step sequencing modes!
The iPads hands-on method of
touchscreen operation breathes life
into the simple light/pattern-based
grid sequencer concept. Step
sequencer-based iOS apps include
Yamahas TNR-i and Korgs iElectribe,
and you can even hook hardware
gear up to MIDI-sequencing apps
like Genome and Koushion.
Yamahas TNR-i app gives you masses of
step-programming fun with its 256 buttons
Unlike some of the more visual
sequencing modules weve explored
in the past few tutorials, Dune CMs
arpeggiator uses a numerical list system,
almost like youd find in a tracker. Lets
dive in load up a new instance of Dune
CM on a MIDI track in a blank project,
create a looped MIDI region and draw a
note at A2.
Load up the 025: Electro Kittly RL
preset. Well turn this standard single
synth pluck into a more interesting
sequence. In the synths right-hand Output
section, toggle the ARP button to activate
the arpeggiator. Here well also bring
Glide down to 30% so our notes pitches
dont bend into each other too noticeably.
In the centre panel, open the ARP PAT tab
to view our arpeggiators pattern editor.
We need to set up the arpeggiator
first. Initially, we determine how many
notes should play and at what speed set
the number of Steps to 8 and the Rate to
1/16. Were not hearing any audio as we
havent sequenced any note data yet. To
assign a note for each step, click and drag
up on the first dotted line.
As you move through the list of
options, youll first see the numbers
01-08 (which are used for normal
arpeggiation of notes within chords), but if
you keep scrolling through, you can
instead select a MIDI note (relative to C-1,
ie, the note you play controls the start
note) for each of the eight steps to trigger.
Here weve created a simple melodic
pattern that runs over two octaves.
Hit play and youll see the small black
triangle cycle down through steps
01-08 then repeat over and over as our
sequence loops. At the bottom of this
section, we can also add some shuffle to
our pattern via the Swing parameter,
delaying the odd 16th-notes of our pattern
for a lazier groove.
Finally, lets set the arpeggiators
Mode. Simple gives us a traditional
monophonic arpeggiator when a single
key is pressed; One Shot is the same but
wont repeat the sequence. Voice 2/4/6/8
sequences DuneCMs even-numbered
voices, panned to the left, but leaves the
odd-numbered voices unaffected. The
remaining modes offer new patterns using
multiple MIDI notes at once.
> Step by step
5. Custom step sequencing with Dune CM
step secrets / make music now <
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 71
Any device that combines two or more signals
and sums them (adds them together) to a single
output (and/or several sub-outputs) can be
termed a mixer, but by far the most common
mixers youll come across are the project-
controlling one in your DAW and the oscillator/
sample blending ones in your synths and
samplers. The mixer in your DAW is a thing of
truly incredible power compared to its hardware
forebears, with no ceiling in terms of the number
of channels and effects it can host, precision EQ
and perhaps compression built-in, and limitless
signal routing potential for creating subgroups
and auxiliary effects loops.
The bringing together and balancing of the
individual tracks that make up a song is called
mixing, and far from being just a technical or
corrective exercise, its an art form that requires
understanding of the principles involved and a
lot of practice. At the most basic level, getting a
mix together means setting volume levels for
each sound and their positions in the stereo
panorama, but thats really only the beginning.
EQ, compression, limiting, reverb, delay and all
manner of other effects processors are called on
during mixing in order to get your disparate
track elements sounding like a cohesive piece of
music with depth, character, punch and just the
right frequency balance.
Dating back to the middle ages but with roots
in ancient Greece, in music theory, the seven
modes are a set of scale/key types, each
comprising its own series of intervals and
characteristic sound. Named Ionian, Dorian,
Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and
Locrian (after seven different peoples of the
ancient Greek world), theyre still used in many
styles of music and are well worth investigating
by anyone looking to go beyond the
conventional major and minor scales which
are in fact the Ionian and Aeolian modes.
The mode of an audio filter (see 193)
determines the range of frequencies that it
attenuates beyond the cutoff point a low-pass
filter reduces frequencies above the cutoff,
while a high-pass does away with those below it,
for example. A multimode filter, then, is simply
one that can be switched between more than
one mode, and youll be hard pressed to find a
modern filter plugin that doesnt offer at least
low-, high- and band-pass modes.
In 1970, Moog Music changed the world of
synthesis with the release of the Minimoog,
the first self-contained, relatively portable
analogue synthesiser. Prior to that, synths
were entirely modular, with each component
module (oscillators, filters, envelopes,
sequencers, etc) constituting a discrete box
of circuitry that required connecting to other
modules via cables called patch cords. They
were also enormous, heavy and expensive.
Although the modular synth is still very
much alive and kicking in both software and
Get M-powered as we pick up where we left
off with 199s M: Part One and get your
head around mixers, modes and more
computer music
Mixers come in all shapes, sizes and forms, but
generally follow the same operating principles
In simple terms, to modulate means to exert
change over time, and in music technology,
modulation is a key element of synthesis,
sampling and effects processing. Within your
synth, sampler or effects plugin, a modulator,
such as an LFO, envelope or MIDI Continuous
Controller, can be assigned to control a target
parameter, such as filter cutoff, oscillator
frequency or pan position. With an LFO
running at 10Hz assigned to a filters cutoff
frequency, for example, said frequency will
be moved up and down ten times a second,
with the distance travelled in each direction
determined by the modulation depth. How
these assignments are made and depth-
adjusted will depend on the instrument in
question, but many soft synths do it via an
interface called a modulation matrix,
typically with menu-driven selection of
sources/targets, and numeric entry of depth.
While modulation is a key feature of all
synths, FM (frequency modulation) is a type
of synthesis based entirely on the technique.
With FM (see definition in 193), each of up
to eight pairs of digital oscillators combine to
form operators, in which one oscillator (the
modulator) modulates the frequency of the
other (the carrier), often to create a
characteristically hard, bright sound. Other
forms of modulation that youll come across
in synthesis are ring modulation (outputting
the sum and difference of the frequencies
contained in two signals), amplitude
modulation (the level of one signal being
controlled by the level of another) and phase
modulation (modulation of the phase of a
signal, also involved in FM).
Several types of effects processor
including phasers, flangers and chorus are
also based on modulation, with input audio
signals shifted in time and/or pitch by LFOs,
envelope followers or other audio signals.

72 / COMPUTER MUSIC March 2014
Three of
the best
hardware forms, it would be accurate to say
that fixed-path and semi-modular (in
which a limited range of modules can be
mixed and matched) instruments dominate
the market.
A loudspeaker designed to facilitate critical
listening and appraisal in the music studio, as
opposed to the pure recreational listening of a
domestic playback system, is a monitor. The
technical difference between the two is that a
monitor is built to be as flat and neutral-
sounding as possible (for the price paid in
general, you pay more for greater accuracy),
while most hi-fi speakers are made to flatter and
improve the sound. Monitors come in many
shapes and sizes, with the number and type of
woofers, tweeters, mid-range drivers and ports
on board varying. They all fall into one of two
categories, though: active or passive. Active
monitors have matched amplifiers built in (and
thus cost more), while passives require
amplification by a separate unit.
A mono (short for monaural) signal is one that
only comprises a single channel, usually as a
result of being recorded via a single
microphone. The stereo mixes of most modern
music tracks actually comprise numerous mono
sounds, each positioned within the stereo
spectrum and processed with effects that put
them in a stereo context of their own. A mono
sound is moved between the left and right
channels of a stereo mix using the pan control
on its mixer channel when placed directly in
the centre, its represented equally in the left
and right channels. Stereo signals placed on
stereo channels, on the other hand, may be
balanced rather than panned ie, the relative
levels of their left and right component channels
are adjusted.
A monophonic synthesiser is one that can
only play one note at a time. Monophony was
once a technological limitation that synth
manufacturers raced to overcome, but although
almost all hardware and software synths
designed today are polyphonic, switching them
to monophonic behaviour can be advantageous
when playing bass parts and lead lines in
particular, as many synths feature a glide or
portamento function for smoothly sliding the
consecutive note pitches of a monophonic part
into each other.
Abbreviated ms, a millisecond is a thousandth
of a second, and its a unit of measurement that
youll come across time and time again in music
production. From audio interface latencies and
channel offsets to compressor envelope speeds
and delay times, time-based parameters within
your DAW and its plugin instruments and effects
are commonly set in milliseconds, hundredths
of seconds and seconds.
Any effects unit able to operate independently
on multiple frequency ranges at once is a
multiband processor. The most ubiquitous
multiband effect is the multiband compressor,
with which you can, for example, compress the
low end of a mix heavily, while leaving the highs
dynamically open. The width of the bands
within a multiband unit are adjusted by
moving the crossover frequencies between
them, and each band has its own set of
parameter controls with which to apply the
particular effect.
An effects plugin offering more than one
kind of processor within a single interface.
Notable examples include Camel Audio
CamelSpace (delay, filter, reverb and trance
gate), PSP N2O (filters, EQ, delay, reverb,
pitchshifting, distortion and more) and
Sugar Bytes Artillery and Turnado (too
many to list!).
A collection of audio samples recorded,
compiled and mapped in a sampler as a set,
usually with the aim of virtualising a real-world
instrument as realistically as possible. For
example, to create a multisampled guitar, youd
record samples of every string on your guitar
playing every possible note at a range of volume
levels and perhaps via several playing
techniques, then map those samples in your
sampler with pitch corresponding directly to
note position, and volume levels corresponding
to velocity. With todays computers boasting
vast amounts of RAM and fast drives for
handling high volumes of data, the current
generation of multisampled instruments can
reach multi-gigabyte sizes and sound
staggeringly convincing in the hands of a skilled
player or MIDI programmer.
Despite having seen little
development love in almost a
decade, AAS modular physical
modeling synth still sounds good and
is great fun, but its not exactly cheap.
75 8/10 $349
We said: Unique acoustic modules
and excellent presets
Also rather showing its age these
days, Arturias Moog Modular
emulation was developed in
partnership with Moog Music
and still stands as the definitive
software version of the original
classic modular.
58 9/10 99
We said: This
is truly a
Moog no ifs,
ands or buts
An affordable, powerful modular
analogue synth and effects plugin
with an intuitive interface, plenty
of modules and a sound that belies
the pricetag. Its PC-only, though.
134 9/10 92
We said: Easy to learn, superb
sound and loads of presets
Audio monitors are designed primarily to
provide a flat response, not to flatter the signal
Multiband plugins split the signal into frequency
bands and apply independent processing to each
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 73
a to z of computer music / make music now <
>Step by step
Working with fast broken chord arpeggios
This technique has had its ups and downs over the
years, but its still relevant to modern music production
Taken from the Italian word arpeggiare
which means to play on a harp, the most
basic definition of an arpeggio is a quick run
of notes. Arpeggios are also known as broken
chords: if the notes of a chord are played
separately, one after the other, as opposed to
all at once, the resulting sequence can be
classed as an arpeggio.
Originally a technique to enable monophonic
instruments to play chords and add an element
of rhythmic interest to their parts, arpeggios
offer many different ways to bring flavour to
your tracks. You can use twinkly synth
arpeggios to add a disco-tastic flourish to a
dance tune; underpin a 60s-style ballad by
mirroring the chords with gentle piano or guitar
arpeggios; or inject pace into a dubstep track by
throwing in some intricately programmed fast
arpeggiated synth riffs.
Many DAWs, including Logic Pro X and
Ableton Live, feature built-in arpeggiators that
take the hard work out of producing arpeggios,
with variable parameters such as note length,
rate, range and direction. These devices are
capable of quickly producing complex
patterns based on notes held down on your
MIDI keyboard. Still, theres a great deal of merit
in knowing how to create your own arpeggios
from scratch, as sometimes only something
that youve programmed yourself will exactly
fit the bill. This month, then, Im going to walk
you the theory of what an arpeggio is,
demonstrating how to program a basic example
by hand, followed by a couple of neat tricks that
can help you tweak your programmed
arpeggios to perfectly fit your track.
Heres our old friend the C major
scale. If we take the 1st (Root), 3rd
and 5th degrees of the scale C, E, G
and play them simultaneously, we get
a standard C major triad. This is the
perfect base chord from which to build
our first arpeggio. Weve supplied audio
examples and video in the Tutorial Files
and Tutorial Videos folders respectively.
Splitting up the notes of the C major
triad and playing them one after the
other rather than simultaneously, we get a
really basic C major arpeggio. Not very
inspiring, but then were just playing three
quarter-notes time to speed things up
a bit, methinks.
Lets shorten the notes and speed up
the arpeggio so that were playing
16th-notes. You can do this manually by
setting the quantise grid to 16ths and
dragging the notes into position with the
mouse. If we then extend the same C, E, G
sequence of notes through the following
two octaves of the keyboard, we get the
extended arpeggio shown above.
After hitting the top G note, we can
continue forming the arpeggio by
reversing the direction of the sequence
and playing the same notes again in
reverse order until we arrive back at the
starting point. This now forms a one-bar
arpeggio with a two-octave range and a
standard up/down pattern.
At this point, well change the sound
for something a bit more interesting
weve gone for KV331 Audios Synthmaster
CM synth, playing the ARP Bass Jarre
Style MK preset. Notice how the delay
effect thats a default part of this preset
does a lot to liven up the arpeggio.
If we were to add more notes to the
original C major chord, this would have
the effect of lengthening the arpeggio too.
For instance, if we added a dominant 7th
note (B
) to our C major chord to make a C7,
our arpeggio would consist of a repeated
sequence of four notes: C, E, G, B
Download the accompanying
video, MIDI and audio files at
Dave Clews
74 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Programmed arpeggiated sequences like the ones
shown here can be further enhanced and modified by
means of your DAWs MIDI Transform or Numerical
Editing type functions. These can alter or randomise
the length, position and even frequency of the notes in
the sequence, completely altering the feel of the
pattern. You could even try randomising the note
pitches or velocities for more interesting variations.
When it comes to choosing a sound with which to play
synth arpeggios, your generic analogue synth bass
preset, complete with a bit of squelch by way of the
filter envelope, usually works particularly well when
played high up the keyboard. One classic example of
this technique is the arpeggios at the end of George
Michaels Fastlove Pt.1, which were generated with the
onboard arpeggiator of a Korg Prophecy, MIDId up to a
bass synth patch on an E-mu Vintage Keys module.
There are actually multiple versions of this song that
use arpeggios in totally different ways. The recent
London Grammar cover of Nightcall uses gentle piano
arpeggios to make up the main Am, G, F, Dm verse
progression each triad is broken up into eighth-notes
and spread across the bar. The superb Robotaki remix,
meanwhile, features fast 16th-note arpeggiated synth
sequences as a main component of its overall sound.
This pop/rock crossover hit from Paramores Paramore
album features a solid example of how an arpeggiated
chord sequence can beef up a section harmonically,
both driving the rhythm and providing an alternative to
just holding down synth pad chords. Fading in towards
the end of the second bridge and continuing
throughout the chorus, this part also demonstrates
how arpeggiating a five-note chord over a 4/4 beat can
create an interesting shift in rhythmic emphasis.
>Step by step
Working with fast broken chord arpeggios
In a studio career
spanning almost 25
years, Dave has
programmed and
played keyboards on
records for a string of
artists including
George Michael,
Kylie Minogue, Tina
Turner and Estelle.
These days, in between writing
articles for , he collaborates
on occasional songs and videos
with singer/songwriter Lucy Hirst,
aka Polkadothaze.
Dave Clews
OK, now lets try a different chord
shape for the basis of our arpeggio.
We shift the E up to an F, using the fourth
degree of the scale rather than the third
for that step. This gives us a suspended
chord (C7sus4 C, F, G, B
). Suspended and
extended chords nearly always work well
when arpeggiated.
If we add another note (E
) to our basic
chord to produce a five-note chord
(C, E
, F, G, B
), the arpeggio we end up
with is basically the same sequence of
notes as a C minor pentatonic scale.
If we repeat this longer, five-note
sequence over four bars, the cycle
now offsets the point at which the root
note falls within the bar, due to the extra
notes. So we now have an interesting
pattern developing, where each bar starts
on a different note within the sequence.
Changing the length of the notes in an
arpeggio can have a big impact on how
it sounds. If we select all the notes in the
arpeggio part and shorten them by half, it
sounds a lot spikier and more bubbly.
Shortening them further still produces an
even more staccato effect.
Short arpeggios can make great
ornaments. In this dubstep-inspired
example, we have a synth part doubling
the bassline until the second half of the
final bar, which contains a gap just right
for an arpeggio to be squeezed in. We
start by inserting four 16th-notes, starting
from beat 3 of the bar, framing an F
chord (F
, A
, C
, D
For the downward half of the
arpeggio, lets change the quantise
resolution to a triplet grid, as seen in
199s Easy Guide. 16th-note triplets
in Logic equates to a grid resolution
setting of 24. We fill the last beat with
six notes taken from the same F
6 chord
as before.
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 75
easy guide / make music now <
Get audio examples and MIDI
files on your PC/Mac at
This months Keep It Real is all about the
characteristics and playing styles of the
flute. Mainly, Ill be concentrating on the
traits of the standard concert flute, but
quite a few of the techniques discussed can
also be translated to other fingered
woodwind instruments like the oboe, clarinet
and recorder.
The flute is a essentially a long tube, usually
made of metal, with finger holes that can be
covered to control the pitch. While the majority
of wind instruments are played by blowing
directly into them, the flute is actually played
by blowing across an open hole called the
embouchure. The playing technique and lip
position is similar to that which youd use to
conjure a noise out of an empty bottle by
blowing horizontally over the opening.
The range of a concert flute is generally
accepted to be from the B below middle C (B3 on
a standard MIDI keyboard) up to D7. However,
skilled players can use a technique called
overblowing (see below) to play even higher
notes but sacrifice control and dynamic range
in doing so. Lower pitches than B3 are possible
with other instruments in the flute family
such as the alto and bass flute, which have
longer tubes.
Precious metal
The fingering of a flute is similar to most other
woodwind instruments in that the fingers of
both hands are used to cover the holes in the
tube. The open-key variety of flute allows for
greater ease of playing pitches between
semitones, especially useful for microtonal
playing, glissandi and other techniques.
Flutes have moving mechanical keys that
can be heard clicking when recorded with a
near-field microphone. If youre trying to
emulate an intimate, close-miked flute
recording, be sure to add in some key-click
samples for realism.
Because of the very small movements that
are required to change pitch, its usually easy for
flute players to alternate very quickly between
notes to create trills and tremolos. Some note
combinations are more difficult than others for a
real-life player to pull off. Concentrating on the
specifics of these combinations when
programming a MIDI flute is probably overkill,
but theres a fingering chart at
if youre striving for absolute realism.
Flutes are also great for playing fast runs up
and down the scales. Some woodwind ROMplers
even contain specific patches designed for this
purpose with sample scripting used to slur the
notes into one another. During legato playing,
vibrato is often introduced by the player on held
notes after half a second or so. Some sample
libraries already have vibrato baked into the
samples. If not, you can always emulate it with a
pitch-modulating plugin in your DAW,
controlling the intensity to increase after the
initial attack portion of the note.
Breathing space
The flute can be quite a breathy-sounding
instrument, which lends the tone an airy quality
as you dont only hear the note from the flute
but also the breath noises generated by the
players mouth. Use breath noise samples
between phrases and even some breaths during
the playback of notes themselves to emulate
this. The initial attack of the note is often
accompanied by a short, pronounced breath
sound, particularly if the note is staccato, loud
or overblown.
Like the trumpet, which I covered in 199,
its essential to not sustain the notes for longer
than a real-life player could without taking a
breath. Also, the harder the player blows (either
to achieve overblown notes or just a louder,
more aggressive sound), the less breath theyll
have left in their lungs. For example, this means
that quieter legato passages can be performed
for a longer time without taking a breath than a
series of loud staccato notes.
With more
pies on the
table than he
has fingers to
put in them,
Reuben is an
DJ, composer
and long-
contributor to . In this ongoing
series of tutorials, he imparts a
wealth of advice aimed at helping
you program more realistic
instrumental MIDI parts.
Reuben Cornell
Reuben Cornells
keep it
This classical piece is a movement from Griegs Peer Gynt.
Although you may not know the whole score, this part
has been used in adverts and TV shows galore. The
melody alternates between solo flute and oboe and is a
great example of both legato playing and trills.
The flute had something of a revival during the 70s as a
lead instrument in disco music. In fact, the spring of 1975
featured several flute-based tunes in the Billboard singles
chart, including Herbie Manns Hijack and The Blackbyrds
Walking In Rhythm. But The Hustle sticks in the mind as a
dancefloor classic and the perfect example of disco flute.
This track by New Yorks hip-hop megastars samples
several recordings, including a performance from
comedian Richard Pryor. But its the wholesale cribbing
from Flute Thing by The Blues Project that provides the
backbone to the track. Its notable for the overblown
staccato playing style typical of jazz and blues.
There are two distinct types of flute construction: open
and closed key. The key holes for flutes can either be
open and covered with the fingertips, or closed,
where the finger presses against a metal key with a
soft pad attached to cover the hole and stop airflow.
This is a technique specific to wind instrument players,
where the direction and intensity of breath is altered
so that a note jumps in pitch to an upper harmonic.
Vibrato is often introduced
by the player on held notes
after half a second or so
76 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
Emulating real instruments in MIDI can put the wind up
some, but not Reuben, whos tackling the flute this month
When youre programming an instrument
you dont play or know much about, one of
the best aids to realism is getting the right
sample library, and this is particularly
important with the flute. In the walkthrough
above, Ive gone as far as I can with a basic
flute patch from an inexpensive library,
but you can get much quicker and more
effective results using a ROMpler with more
velocity layers, round-robin samples and a
dedicated engine designed to reproduce
flute performance accurately.
Ive included example audio files in the
Tutorial Files folder of the same MIDI phrase
from step 1 of the walkthrough, but played
through other libraries. The flutes in Berlin
Woodwinds (549 at
are light and bright, and the library includes
patches for runs and measured trills, which
sync to the tempo of your track. Passion
Flute ($129 at
is a great all-rounder and the only library I
know of that reproduces the overblown
sound of jazz and disco. The engine also
automatically inserts breaths at natural
breaks in the performance. ProjectSAM
Alto Flute (part of the 849 Lumina
package at is a more
full-sounding instrument that handles
legato passages realistically.
The best ute libraries
>Step by step
Programming a realistic flute sound
There are many different styles of
flute playing, but here Im going to
focus on quite a slow, legato passage. A
non-vibrato solo flute patch is used to play
a riff while I move the mod wheel to
control dynamics. The MIDI notes are
quantised and then slightly overlapped to
give an impression of legato.
Many instruments use vibrato in their
slow playing, so I emulate this with
MeldaProductions free MVibrato plugin.
I set a Sine LFO shape with a Depth of 10%
and the Synchronisation set to 1/8. Phase
difference is set to 0, producing a straight
vibrato rather than a pseudo-stereo effect.
With a real-life flute performance,
applying vibrato when playing would
also cause the volume of the note to
fluctuate. Handily, this, too, can be
emulated within MVibrato. I set the
Tremolo dial to 11% so that the volume
modulates slightly along with the pitch.
At this point, the vibrato effect is
playing continuously. In the real world,
this wouldnt happen the performer
would first attack the note then introduce
vibrato half a second or so later. I program
some automation of the Depth parameter
on some of the longer notes after the
initial attack to replicate this.
Next, I add an additional track on
which to use some extra samples. I
scatter some key release samples
throughout the track, ensuring that they
only trigger after the end of a note. I also
overlay some airy whistle-like samples
playing at the same time as the attack
portions of some of the shorter notes. This
gives these notes the impression of being
played more forcefully.
Lastly, I add longer breath intake
samples to another track, which
emulates the player breathing naturally in
between each legato phrase (6a). I also
add some hall reverb over all three tracks,
as the flute would rarely be heard this dry
on a real recording (6b).
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 77
keep it real / make music now <
Thomas Shaw
Its beena hectic couple of years for
Canadianprogressive house duoProject
46, aka Thomas ShawandRyanHenderson.
Fendingoff competitionfromTisto(no
meanfeat!) toclaima covetedBeatport
Number One slot withthe suitablysoaring
Reasons in2012, theywere immediately
embracedbythe big-roomcrowdandsoon
foundthemselves workingwiththe likes of
Paul Oakenfold, Kaskade andGrammy-
nominatedprogger MorganPage.
The duo are also behind the highly respected
Pancake Radio podcast/show, not to mention
remixes for The Killers, Usher and a recently
released reworking for Headhunterz and
Billboard Dance Chart darlings Krewella (Project
46s twist on United Kids Of The World came out
at the tail end of last year).
This is gonna sound weird, but I never
imagined that music was going to be a career,
laughs Vancouver-based Shaw(left). At 23, Shaw
is ten years younger than his Ontario-based
partner Henderson. Just over a couple of years
ago, I was still living with my parents, messing
around on an old HP laptop and wondering if I
could afford to buy Nexus.
Some things havent changed: I still live with
my parents, but I have bought a newcomputer.
And I did finally get a copy of Nexus!
: So, younever dreamt of a music career
whenyouwere a kid?
Thomas Shaw: Oh, I dreamt about it! I played in
a fewbands when I was younger, but I never
took it too seriously. After I dropped out of
university, I got a job at Costco. Although Id
Thomas Shawtalks about the rise to fame and
the path ahead for this progressive house duo
80 / Computer musiC / March 2014
been making music for several years by then, I
didnt think anyone would be interested in
listening to it.
: Is it true that youusedtobe anIron
TS: I still am! I grewup with rock music
Maiden, the Chili Peppers, Green Day and
Metallica. Those early bands I played in were all
traditional rock guitar, bass, drums, some
acoustic stuff. I also sang in the choir at school
and acted in musicals.
: Obvious question, but howthe hell did
youendupmakingprogressive house?
TS: When I was at uni, a friend of mine showed
me Logic Studio, and he kinda made me
understand that computers and music were
more or less the same thing. There wasnt this
divide between the traditional music world over
on one side and computers over on the other
side the two were living in the same space.
When I first sawsequenced drums, I just
thought, Wow You can have drums that stay in
time. Thats amazing! I guess that gave me a
glimpse of the musical power that was available
with a computer.
I started searching
out music on Beatport
and found it pretty
tough at first I grew
up with loud guitars!
Loren Wohl
The dance music epiphany came a little bit
later when I was working at Costco. A friend of
mine was big into things like Avicii, Deadmau5
and Swedish House Mafia, and he was really
pushing me on this stuff. He kept saying, You
gotta listen to this, its amazing.
I started searching out music on Beatport
and found it pretty tough at first I grewup with
loud guitars! But the more I listened, the more I
understood. I would literally sit there for hours
digging through different genres, working out
howthis music fitted together. One day I got it
it made sense. And progressive house was the
one that really, really appealed to me.
: Withthat rockbackground, wouldnt it
have beenmore logical togofor dubstep?
Somethinga bit noisier andnastier?
TS: Maybe, but I was never that crazy
about wobbles.
: Canyouremember howyoucomposed
your first progressive house tune?
TS: Oh, man, those early days were just awful. It
was a complete gong show. I knewI had to start
with a 4/4 kick drum, but then what? I had no
idea about synth sounds or anything like that.
Last week, I dug out a fewof those tracks and
they are just a bunch of noises set to rhythms.
The big change came when I got hold of FL
Studio and really learned my way around it. The
piano roll and the sequencer in FL are just so
simple, so intuitive and so quick that I was able
to very easily transpose songs that I heard on
Beatport into the computer. Id pick themapart
and re-assemble themusing my own sounds,
learning howto actually construct a song.
In many ways, dance music and electronic
music mirrored what I knewin the rock world.
The drums are the drums, the bass is the bass,
the synths are the lead guitars, the organs and
pads are the rhythmguitars. Musics just music.
project 46 / interview <
March 2014 / Computer musiC / 81
: AnyreasonyouendeduponFL Studio?
TS: Ive used most of the major platforms over
the years. Logic has got all those exotic hot keys
and can run a billion plugins; Ableton has 9000
chaining routes; I worked on Pro Tools and
Cubase for several years but FL Studio is just
better for writing music. I can write on the FL
piano roll faster than I can input notes on a MIDI
keyboard! Sure, there are some annoying quirks
with the bussing, but it loads in a heartbeat. It
feels like a very light, agile platform.
: Areyouuptoversion11 withFL?
TS: I have got 11, and theyve added tons of
cool stuff, but they changed what the right-click
does and messed around with some of the hot
keys, which really confused me when I was
writing. I actually emailed themabout that.
At the moment, I still use FL10for writing
and project work, and then transfer the whole
thing into 11 for mastering. We use 11 for the
radio show, too.
: YoumentionedNexus earlier. Were you
interestedinother plugins inthe earlydays?
TS: I didnt have much, simply because I
couldnt afford it. I had some monitors, my
laptop and that was about it. Oh, and any free
sample packs I could find. It was only after I
hooked up with Ryan and things started to
happen that I started to extend the studio at bit.
: Howdidyoutwomeet?
TS: We didnt really meet. Like a lot of people, I
started putting a fewof my tracks online
SoundCloud, that kind of thing. I noticed I was
getting a fewfollowers and, almost out of
nowhere, I got a track signed. Fromthat point, a
fewmore people started getting in touch with
me, and one of themwas Ryan. He lived right
over on the other side of the country, but we
seemed to be on the same wavelength. We said,
Lets do something. There were a lot of hours
on Skype, but we didnt actually see each other
face to face until we had our first gig.
It wasnt ideal, but it didnt cause problems
for us because were both on the computer all
the time anyway. The only thing that wouldve
been different if hed lived in Vancouver is that
wed have gone on more snack runs!
: Youlive 2700miles fromeachother
Howdoes songwritingwork?
TS: Like I said, lots of Skype, lots of screen
shares and lots of emails. Ryan brings big-
roomideas to a song, and I tend to work on the
melodies. We both like to work with vocals
and, in the early days, we were always
messaging producers and singers, asking
themif theyd got a vocal we could use.
I dont knowabout everyone else, but I get
ideas at the craziest times. I can be mowing my
parents lawn and something pops into my
head. I immediately run inside and stick it into
FL. Maybe it will turn into something, maybe it
wont. One of the greatest pieces of advice that
Ive ever heard is: All computers come with an
Undo button. If you dont like an idea, you
dont have to keep it.
: Progressive house is probablyone
of the most oversubscribedgenres out
there; there are literallymillions of tracks
floatingaroundthe worldat anyone time.
Howdoyouget a Project 46tune tostand
out? Doyouknowwhenyouve written
TS: There are tracks that sound good on the
iPod and there are tracks that sound good in
the club. We have written stuff that sounds
mind-blowing on the iPod, but when it comes
to playing it at a show, it does nothing. The
trick is getting something that works in both
situations, and to be honest, you never really
know if a track will cut it. Music is not a
science you just have to trust your instincts.
: Youve workedwithsome incredible
names over the last couple of years. Doyou
always learnsomethingnewwhenyoure
collaboratingwithsomeone like Oakenfold
or Kaskade?
TS: Music is about ideas. If youve got a
good idea, then collaborations are usually
a lot of fun. If you dont have any ideas, they
usually end in disaster. Working with Paul
Oakenfold or Kaskade is so cool because
theres a ton of great ideas that get sent back
and forth, back and forth. Oakenfold sent us
some amazing sounds; I had no idea howhe
got them, but they were immediately inspiring.
With Kaskade, we were sending stuff to each
other for over a year, just enjoying the music.
Is there one particular tip or trick that
weve picked up fromevery different
collaboration? Probably not, but you are
learning all the time. You learn just by talking
to people and listening to their ideas.
: Whats the current 46setup?
TS: Obviously, there are two different setups,
but we both use FL Studio. Imnowrunning a
custom-built desktop with ADAMA7Xs [main
monitors], Yorkville YSM2Ps [secondary
monitors] and a sub. Lots of samples, but
[flicks through the folders on screen], most of
themseemto come fromthe Vengeance and
Hydrogen sample packs.
There are literally thousands of kicks and
percussion sounds in the 46 folder, but I tend
Imsureeveryones heardthesayingthe
creamrises tothetop. Toacertainextent,
thats true if your trackis goodenough,
someonewill noticeit.
But youvealsogot toput inthehours
andeffort toactuallyget it out thereinto
theworld. WhenI first startedmakingmy
owntunes, I usedtosit inmyparents
basement for hours anddays at atime,
just emailingeverylabel andblogand
websiteandmagazineI couldfind. It was
just simplehustlingHey, will youhavea
NowI lookafter thePancakeRadio
show, peoplearehustlingme, andits
interestingtoseethequalityof music
thats out there. Man, therearesomesick
tunes beingmade, andI cant understand
whytheyarent beingsigned. Thereis
alsoalot of stuff thatWell, let me
put it this wayTherearetwokeythings
I thinkabout whenImlisteningtoa
song: thequalityof thesoundandthe
qualityof thesong. Theres nopoint in
havingsomethingthat sounds fantastic,
but thesongis sopoor that noonewill
want tolistentoit.
Peopleworrytoomuchabout the
production. Most of thetime, it doesnt
matter; it doesnt matter if youreusing
presets; it doesnt matter if thekickdrums
not quiteright. All of thosethings canbe
tweakedat alater stage. What reallycounts
is that youvegot astrongsong.
Thomas tips on getting your tracks noticed

82 / Computer musiC / March 2014
> interview / project 46
Custom-built PC
ASUS Xonar Essence STX
Grace Designm902 DAC
Yorkville YSM2Pmonitors
Dada Life Sausage Fattener
LennarDigital Sylenth1
Native Instruments Massive
iZotope Ozone 5
Image-Line Gross Beat
Camel AudioCamelPhat
Hydrogensample packs
Vengeance sample packs
Selected kit list
to rely on the same two or three kick drums
most of the time. If you find a kick that has a nice
neutral tone and doesnt clash with other bits of
the song, its tempting to keep using it with a
fewtweaks, of course.
Synth-wise, Ima huge Sylenth1 fan, and I use
a lot of Massive.
: Eventhoughyoudont like wobbles?
TS: Ha! Yeah, its easy to see why Massive
became the wobble-synth of choice you can
LFOeverything 20times over but there is
much more to Massive than LFOs. You can get
great house basslines, incredible big-room
synths Ive made some beautiful percussion
sounds on there, some very angry synths. You
can crisp up your existing synths, widen existing
basslines. Look beyond the obvious and Massive
is an endlessly useful tool.
On the production side, theres iZotope
Ozone 5. Take your pick fromthat I love using
the limiter and compressor; the multiband
compression is faultless, and the Harmonic
Exciter is great for crisping things up in the mix.
Most of our tracks go through a three-mix
process. We mix as were writing, keeping
everything to no more than about -6 or -8dB,
with the lead synths around -12. Everything
then gets exported as a set of 20or so stems,
and we master each stemindividually. These
are then mixed down into a newversion of
the track.
That version gets sent off to Wired Masters
[in London], and it comes back sounding tons
better! We have had tracks that weve mixed
ourselves and played in clubs, and weve said,
Yeah, that sounds great. We send it to Wired, it
comes back and we think, Howcome we cant
do that?
Its not just about turning the bass up and
making everything sound louder, its about
finding some space, too. Hopefully, the way
we mix helps when it comes to the final
master. If we push everything to the max in
the studio, it doesnt leave the master
anywhere to go. You simply cant have
everything at maximumall the time.
: People have tried!
TS: And they still do! Weve done remixes, and
we receive project files that are mixed to
positive levels! This is big name artists were
talking about. Howcan you mix something like
that without it sounding like mush?
Sure, if thats the kind of music youre
making, go for the Loudness Wars, but I like to
hear some dynamic in a song, and I think youre
going to hear more people going back to that.
Dance music needs some space.
Project 46s collaboration with Laidback Luke,
Collide, is out now on Mixmash hear
more, see more and find out more online at:
project 46 / interview <
84 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
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Note: Producer Masterclass in-studio videos not currently downloadable via Vault.
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See exactly how
its done in high-
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Fuel your productions
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appraisals of the latest computer
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the same stringent testing methods
to all gear, no matter how much
hype or expectation surrounds it.
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that should be avoided
5 This products problems
outweigh its merits
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held back by a few flaws
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and executed product
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A product has to really
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features to win this one
The German synth legends unleash a new
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but will it live up to our high expectations?
Slate Digital
Trigger 2
J37 Tape
Humanoid Sound
Systems Enzyme
Cubase 7.5
94 96
UA Fairchild Tube
Limiter Collection
LSR Audio
Mini Reviews
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 87
reviews <
The latest computer music gear tested and rated!
While some would say that spectral and
additive synthesis are not quite the same
thing, the terms are often used interchangably.
So what is LinPlugs latest plugin, Spectral (VST/
AU)? Well, its not an iZotope Iris-style spectral
synth but instead one built on an additive
architecture, fronted by a subtractive interface,
making it easy to use but capable of potentially
more interesting sounds than a virtual analogue.
A Spectral patch starts with four oscillator
sections, each with its own filter and amp/filter
envelopes. Further modulation is on tap in the
shape of three more envelopes and five LFOs,
assignable in the modulation matrix. There are
also six effects slots with 14 types, from regular
Reverb, Delay, Flanger and Chorus to the more
creative Gator, Wah-Wah, Filter and Crusher, plus
a dedicated Master EQ. A powerful 32-step
Arpeggiator with modulation-only mode, and a
chord memory finish off the main furnishings.
Each oscillator hosts two waveforms,
morphed into each other using the Mix control
in order to create a final waveshape. Each wave
is chosen from a library of 65 preset (but fully
mix-and-matchable) pairs, including the familiar
subtractive tropes, made by loading the same
wave into each slot (Sine/Sine, Saw/Saw, etc),
but dominated by more creative combos,
ranging from the obvious (Pulse/Saw, Saw/
Triangle, etc) to the far more esoteric (Rich Saw/
Saw Bass, DblPulse/Spec Thin, etc). Many of
these shapes draw directly on LinPlugs Alpha
and MorphoX synths and are named as such.
As well as the waveform Mix knob, each of
Spectrals oscillators also allows adjustment of
Detune, Stereo spread, Symmetry, Phase and up
to six-voice unison. They also each feature two
cross-modulation slots, with a choice of three
types of modulation Phase (PM), Amplitude
(AM) and Frequency (FM) sourced from any of
the four oscillator or filter outputs. However, the
big gun in Spectrals oscillator arsenal is the
Spectral $149
Combining subtractive sensibility with additive functionality,
could this powerful new synth become a sound design hit?
Set any envelope to tempo sync
mode by clicking the note button
Each filter gets
its own envelope,
and five LFOs are
also available for
general assignment
Each oscillator has its
own amplitude
envelope, and there are
three more assignable
envelopes and an
overall output envelope
Six effects slots, each routable
to other effects or the output,
enabling separate effects to be
applied to each oscillator section
Adjust the phase and
symmetry of the oscillator
Amplitude, frequency or phase
modulation, sourced from any
of the oscillators or filters
Assign up to 15
modulations from a
choice of 35 sources
and over 100
Adjust the settings
for the main filter
and the additional
18dB/octave low-
pass in this section
A 32-step arpeggiator/sequencer
with all the typical settings as
well as a modulation only mode
for use with the Mod Matrix
Select one of four oscillators
the shading indicates active,
inactive and selected
View oscillator waveform A or
B, or a mix of both
Route to any of the six
shared effects or
directly to the output
Spectral Editor, enabling you to precisely edit 256
harmonics for each wave and blend in other
waveforms (see The Spectral/Filter Display).
Filter freak
The filter follows the same conceptual path as
the oscillator, with cutoff and resonance
augmented by two cross-modulation slots,
enabling the filter frequency and resonance to
be modulated by a signal sourced from any of
the oscillators or filters. There are 57 preset filter
shapes available, and again, these are fully
editable in a graphical display that lets you
shape a curve across 121 filter bands. You really
can create any filter shape you like with this,
which is obviously a very powerful feature.
As Spectral has no mixer, the filter section is
also where the output routing for each
oscillator/filter block is specified. You can
choose two simultaneous destinations any of
the six effects slots and/or the main output and
88 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / linplug spectral
mix them with a balance control.
Spectrals oscillator and filter are additively
linked, rather than simply chained in series, and
oscillator cross modulation can result in
harmonics that wont be quelled by the filter. To
remedy this (should you wish to), an additional
low-pass filter, LP+, is onboard.
Sounding off
Spectral comes with a library of over 850
presets divided up into a broad set of categories.
The overarching flavour is very crisp and
upfront bouncy bass sounds, bell-like pads and
keys, and even a serviceable set of synthetic
drums. However, the synth is most at home
producing evolving and textural sounds, thanks
to the easy modulation of the oscillator
waveform mix and the cross-modulation
options. The majority of presets reside in the
various pad, drone, ambient and effects banks,
and the excellent arpeggiator and sequence
patches also boast some lovely tones of a
similarly organic nature. One brilliant inclusion
is the Arpeggiators modulation only mode,
under which its Transpose, Length or Velocity
output are used as modulation sources. This
really pushes the sound designer towards highly
animated textures rather than punchy, static
sounds although Spectral can do those too.
Feel the power
All of this additive power comes at a price:
significant processing overhead. When editing
shapes in the Spectral display, theres a brief
delay as the waveform or shape of the oscillator
or filter is analysed and applied. Its something
you quickly get used to and indicative of the
number-crunching going on. Multi-oscillator
patches and high polyphony can be pretty
taxing on the host system but we cant
complain about a synth being designed with
future CPUs in mind, as long as its sound warrants
the DSP expenditure, which, in this case, it does.
Other points of note are that theres no noise
generator (although the manual shows how to
fake one), and that external audio resynthesis
isnt a feature. Also, with no centralised mixer or
global filter, balancing oscillators and shaping the
overall output is more hassle than it needs to be.
Overall, Spectral probably isnt a synth to be
called on for bread and butter sounds, and its
high resource usage could vex owners of older
computers. But if the idea of hand-designing
unique textures right down to the raw oscillator
level appeals, with its friendly interface, easy
learning curve and superb, characterful sound,
Spectral could well be the synth for you.
For Great core-level oscillator options
Layout disguises underlying complexity
Amazingly flexible filter
Powerful modulation
Against CPU-hungry
Not ideal for standard sounds
No resynthesis
The fun and accessibility of subtractive
synthesis meets the power of additive in
this beautiful if rather specialist instrument
Rob Papen Blade
178 8/10 119
An approachable additive with
plenty of rich and sparkling sounds
Image-Line Harmor Channel
174 9/10 110
Powerhouse additive synth offering
resynthesis and many more features
Spectral enables detailed editing of
oscillator waveforms and filter shapes
via the Spectral/Filter display. Clicking
in an oscillator waveform or filter shape
window opens the appropriate editor.
There are various features common to
both, including the Frame tool, a
cleverly designed system for isolating
and manipulating a range of partials/
bands. You simply set the area
encompasssed by the frame by
dragging the edges inwards, then
shape the edges and centre of the
selected range using the handles at the
sides of the frame.
Alternatively, you can change the
Edit Mode to limit drawn changes to
specific groups of harmonics or
bands (single, odd, even, or a defined
pattern), or just shift the existing curve
up and down by octaves for the
oscillator, or octaves and semitones for
the filter. Individual oscillator
harmonics can also have their phase
adjusted, and filter shapes or
waveforms can be loaded from the
library and merged into your edited
shape in the editor.
Its truly awesome stuff, and
incredibly easy to use great for
tweaking existing waveforms and
filters or creating them from scratch.
And with such limitless wave-shaping
potential at your fingertips, youll
frequently appreciate Spectrals
multi-step undo/redo function.
The Spectral/Filter display
Surgically edit your oscillators frequency content to create powerful, bespoke timbres
The synth is
most at home
evolving and
textural sounds
Spectrals 121-band filter editing is just one facet of its absolutely massive tweakability
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 89
linplug spectral / reviews <
The last-minute announcement of Cubase 7.5
was a nice surprise from Steinberg at the end
of 2013. But can a point release offer enough to
pry more of that hard-earned dough from our
pockets? Surprisingly for a point upgrade (even
a paid one), Cubase 7.5 comes armed with new
instruments and effects designed to appeal to
those new to the world of desktop recording, as
well as the more experienced. However, its
actually the less obvious tweaks and additions
that are the real headlines here, as they
represent truly significant improvements to
Cubases long-standing core workflow.
The new Re-record mode is a perfect
example. With this active, you can hit the record
button again during a recording to instantly
start the recording over from the original
position, count-in and metronome included
(assuming you have them set up). It seems like a
fairly throwaway addition until you use it, after
which youll wonder how you ever got along
without it before, particularly if youre
engineering your own recording sessions it
saves a great deal of frustration and repeated
hammering of the stop/delete/record keys.
Although the record button on Steinbergs
iOS remote controller Cubase iC Pro doesnt
currently change its appearance to indicate
Cubase 7.5 488
Without warning, the mighty German DAW gets upgraded with some
exciting new features but is this a point release worth paying for?
Its actually the less
obvious tweaks and
additions that are the
real headlines here
Make tracks visible
or not with the
Visibility tab
Record and edit
multiple versions of the
same track
Lets you instantly jump
back and re-record a
part with a single click
You can now save and load the
Inspectors Quick Controls settings
This track is currently
in Re-record mode,
recording a new
All recorded, imported
and bounced audio now
profits from automatic
Hitpoint detection
Give your tracks and
mixes vintage
authenticity with the
new and improved
version of Magneto
Cubase 7.5 comes with this
exquisite algorithmic reverb
Brings stuttering,
tapestop and
more to your
effects rack
that re-record mode is active, you get the
same result when controlling Cubase from the
app nonetheless.
New view
Also new to v7.5, track visibility management
works in a similar way to the mixers channel
visibility management, allowing you to show or
hide any tracks in the Arrangement view that
you may or may not need to see at any given
time. Again, it seems insignificant, but itll soon
become a workflow essential for those working
with large projects, doing a lot of rendering but
wishing to retain access to MIDI clips, or working
with remixes. The View Agents help you get the
most out of the feature, giving specific
commands for showing or hiding tracks based
on various criteria inverting the view status of
all MIDI tracks, for example.
90 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / steinberg cubase 7.5
One of the most potentially transformative
additions is TrackVersions. This enables you to
create multiple versions of various track types
that can be easily switched between within the
track itself. Perhaps you want to record alternate
lyrics for your vocal track, or present a few
versions of a guitar solo for narrowing down
later TrackVersions allows you to store
multiple takes or versions on a single track lane,
without having to copy over the entire track and
all its plugins wholesale, saving CPU and time.
Not to be confused with comping Take Lanes, a
TrackVersion actually includes all of the
individual Takes and comping for that version.
However, TrackVersions can easily be created,
accessed, and switched from a dedicated area in
the Inspector.
Also in the track-related features category,
you can now save and recall a tracks Quick
Controls, and copy them over to other tracks,
regardless of track type.
Scoring the hits
Cubases Hitpoints system has long enabled
transient detection for loop manipulation, audio
quantise and more. Prior to v7.5, using Hitpoints
has involved selecting a target audio file and
subjecting it to a process via menus or the
sample editor. Now, all audio brought into the
Pool (via recording, import or bouncing) is
instantly subjected to Hitpoint detection. Better
still, you can now navigate audio clips in the
Project window by using key commands to
jump to adjacent Hitpoints. Its worth
mentioning that Hitpoint detection is a
calculation rather than a destructive process,
meaning it has no audible effect on your tracks
data unless you employ further processing, so
no harm is done if you dont need it but its
fantastic having it there instantly when you do.
The formally schooled muso will be glad to
learn that Steinberg have given the Score Editor
a much-needed once-over, bringing in a new
tabbed Inspector for switching between the
regular musical symbols and newly-enhanced
MIDI functionality. Very helpfully indeed, MIDI
functions from the Key Editor have been added
to the Score Editor, giving access to quantise,
transposition, length and chord editing. It really
is the best of both worlds.
Point made
Some cynics have been quick to brush off this
paid point upgrade as a hurried money-grab, but
theyd be missing out on some excellent
enhancements.. Cubase 7.5 has a lot to offer, and
the upgrade fee is quite reasonable for what you
get. Maybe its wishful thinking to expect all of
Cubases bugs to have been ironed out, and
some early adopters have reported carry-overs
from version 7, but it performed very well for us
on our test machines, never hiccuping,
stuttering or crashing. The new features all
worked as advertised, adding up to an easier
and more enjoyable workflow than ever before.
Those with plugin folders filled to bursting
might not be fussed about the additions and
enhancements to the bundled instruments and
effects, but newcomers looking for an all-in-one
solution will (some would say at long last) get it
in Cubase 7.5. An unmissable upgrade for all
Cubase 7 users, not to mention those still on
earlier versions.
Upgrade from v7, 41; from v6.5, 162
For Track visibility management
Automatic Hitpoint detection on all audio
REVelation sounds fantastic
MIDI integrated into Score Editor
Re-record mode makes life easier
TrackVersions are great
Against Still a few longstanding bugs
The best Cubase yet, 7.5 provides solid
and impressive new features that belie
the fact that this is merely a point version
Cockos Reaper 4
170 9/10 $225
Cross-platform and well priced, but
fewer fancy plugins and no scoring
Ableton Live
190 9/10 349
Powerful and functional, but a very
different environment to Cubases
The bundled plugin package has
improved in recent versions of Cubase,
and 7.5 is no exception.
An overhauled old favourite returns
in the shape of the Magneto II tape
emulator, which now has a Dual mode
to simulate running the signal through
a pair of decks and the ability to specify
the affected frequency range.
LoopMash FX provides DJ-style
processes like tape-stop, stuttering and
gating. Fun, but we imagine its lean list
of effects might grow tiresome quite
quickly. REVelation is far more
impressive, being a quality algorithmic
reverb with oodles of control and a
thick, rich sound plucked right out of a
high-end studio rack. To our ears, this
ones clearly the best of the bundle.
VST Connect SE 2 adds the ability
to transfer MIDI as well as audio over
the internet. HALion Sonic SE 2 gets
some new features including a decent
built-in synth (though were not sure
why Cubase needs another virtual
analogue). Groove Agent SE 4 qualifies
as a major step up from the previous
version, with its many new goodies
including bit reduction, new effects and
pattern tools. Oh, and the Instrument
Rack itself has been beefed up with
dedicated Quick Controls and direct
integration with Instrument Tracks,
allowing the latter to use multiple outs.
On the rack
Cubases new and improved Score Editor now
offers useful MIDI functions in the Inspector
All audio brought into
the Pool (via recording,
import or bouncing) is
instantly subjected to
Hitpoint detection
Our old friends Groove Agent and HALion Sonic SE have been given some slick new features in v7.5
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 91
steinberg cubase 7.5 / reviews <
When Humanoid Sound Systems unleashed
their debut Scanned Synth Pro ( 128, 7/10),
we were taken aback by its utter strangeness.
Here was an instrument based on an obscure
and underrepresented form of synthesis, and
the sounds coming out of it were well, almost
too unfamiliar.
Now, the developer has taken everything
great about Scanned Synth Pro, upped the
ante with all manner of new features, and
further sweetened the pot with sample import.
The result is Enzyme (VST/AU, with AAX in
the works).
A scanner darkly
With some similarities to physical modeling,
scanned synthesis starts with an exciter in
Enzymes case, a mathematically modeled
hammer that stimulates and continues to
influence various nodes, which have mass but
no size. The nodes are strung together, pushed
and pulled with springs. The hammer
whacks the nodes and springs into action, and
the pitches of the nodes are then seen as an
ever-changing wavetable. Confused?
Understandable. Fortunately, Enzymes intuitive
interface invites experimentation, and it isnt
long before youre knocking out interesting,
unusual and, at times, quite musical timbres.
Humanoid Sound Systems
Enzyme $49
Does your sonic taste tend towards the bizarre? If so, this new
take on scanned synthesis may satisfy your peculiar hunger
Scanned synthesis
starts with an exciter
that stimulates and
continues to influence
various nodes
Enzyme is spread across a handful of tabbed
pages be glad of it, as you wouldnt want to
try to take it all in at once!
The exciter that stimulates Enzymes
node models into action. You decide
the hammers shape and heaviness
An animated wavetable
display giving an
indication of whats
happening to your
sound as you work CENTRE WAVE
The Centre Wave is
the shape towards
which the centring
force tries to push
the nodes. You can
use a sample here
The Mass Shape defines the curve
along which the nodes are distributed.
This can be a sample, too
One of the parameters
in the Hammer Group,
this one determines how
heavy a hammer is used
to excite the nodes
Decide how Enzyme
distributes the
frequencies of its
oscillators here. Theres
the usual Unison mode,
and a wide variety of
more esoteric choices too
Push this button at your peril! It removes
the restrictions that prevent the
wavetable from spinning out of control
Choose your FM modulator wave
shape here sine, square or saw
The GUI is divided into four tabbed pages,
each one sharing the same volume and stereo
width knobs, as well as a waveform display and a
trio of buttons labeled Psycho, Danger and
Randomize. The last is self-explanatory, the first
enables the wavetable to be driven out of
control, making the sound harsher, weirder and
more metallic (or sometimes having little
discernible effect, depending on the patch),
and the second adapts Scanned Synth Pros
signal path for what the developer calls a less
refined sound.
The Master page includes controls for
adjusting pitchbend, polyphony, tuning, tuning
scale and portamento, plus 16 assignable
Performance controls that can be tied to various
parameters for quick and easy tweaking.
Chemical reaction
Then theres the Synthesis page, on which you
can adjust the heaviness of the striking hammer
92 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / humanoid sound systems enzyme
and its shape. You can also affect the node
positions update rate and the force of the
springs, as well as their resting positions (Centre
Wave). One of the most effective features is the
Osc Freq setting, which allows you to choose
various means of distributing frequencies. The
options comprise Unison (slightly detuned),
Harmonic (harmonically related), Harmonic
Hammer (harmonic, with amplitude determined
by current hammer shape), Mass Hammer
(harmonically related, but oscillator amplitude
determined by Mass shape) or Centre Hammer
(harmonically related, with amplitudes
calculated from current Centre waveform,
unless a sample is involved). The Connection
Matrix lets you determine how the nodes are
connected by the springs, offering such mad
choices as Small World Networks, Random,
Circular, Bubbles and NextBut5, to name a few.
Samples can be imported as Hammer, Masses or
as the Centre wave.
After all of that, Enzymes FM parameters
seem downright familiar and friendly and
thankfully, so is the user manual. Ditto for the
familiar matrix-style routing found on the
Modulation page. Impressively, an unlimited
number of modulators can be applied, meaning
you can keep piling on LFOs, AHDSR envelopes,
Note Property (pitch, velocity) and Audio
Property (the amplitude and pitch of various
signals) sources until your head explodes.
A quick perusal of the presets will give you
only a vague idea of what Enzyme can do. The
factory patches are primarily experimental,
tending towards sound effects and
atmospheres, although there are a good
number of leads, basses and pads, too even
standard fare like electric pianos and guitars
exude a sort of inner electrical chaos.
Radiophonic and industrial fans will love it, as
will purveyors of IDM and dubstep.
Strange brew
Just how weird do you want to get? It used
to be that synthesisers were all about
creating new and never-before-heard sounds.
That was the impetus behind the early
experimentalists, as well as the pop and r
ock musicians who embraced the first
commercially available synths they were
reacting against what they considered
standard, played-out instrumentation.
Yet somewhere along the way, synths
became run-of-the-mill, as musicians began
imitating their favourite sounds or simply
gravitating towards popular preset patches.
Now many developers cater to this retro-
fetishism with most if not all of their releases,
churning out variations on an overplayed
theme. Thus, were always inclined to champion
any developer bold enough to stray from the
well-trodden path and even more so when
their wares are priced reasonably enough to
minimise the risk of disappointment to the
intrepid customer. Enzyme is affordable enough
for even the casual experimenter, who will bag
themselves an instrument that challenges ideals
and preconceptions and although it might not
at first be obvious is capable of producing
sounds of staggering beauty as well as knee-
wobbling, teeth-grating terror. For some of us,
thats all weve ever asked for.
For Unusual synthesis technique
Excellent modulation options
Superb Effects Rack
A necessarily good manual
Sample import and FM
Great price
Against The sound is not for everyone
Might lead to head-scratching
Scanned synthesis remains esoteric and
unconventional, but Enzyme makes it
easier, more powerful, and sonically better
Scanned Synth Pro
128 7/10 $25
HSS previous scanning synth is a
good introduction to the technique
Steinberg Padshop Pro
184 9/10 65
Another means by which samples
are used to produce far-out timbres
Its become a given that any synth
released these days will include effects,
and often theyre worth a cursory
mention at best. However, Enzymes
Effects page is a bit different. First of all,
its where youll find some of the
instruments only recognisable
parameters, in that it also houses the
dual multimode filters, which can be
run in series or parallel. These have
seven modes from which to choose
low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, notch,
peak EQ, low shelf and high shelf all
sharing the same three controls: Cutoff,
Drive and Bandwidth.
The Effects Rack is very nice indeed.
It may only comprise the basics delay,
reverb, distortion, flanger, etc but
you can pile on as many of them as
you like, and chain them in any order.
With each module boasting enough
controls to provide a wide range of
effects, its rather like having access
to an infinite pedalboard.
As we say, theres nothing really
new in the effects themselves its
the flexibility of the rack that gives
them their power, enabling you to
easily get everything from deep
ambient groans to careening
noisescapes, or work yourself into
a meter-peaking feedback frenzy
from which the only escape is to shut
them off.
After effects
Weve seen plenty of modulation matrices in our time,
but very few with an unlimited number of sources
and industrial fans
will love it, as will
purveyors of IDM
and dubstep
The spice of life! A variety of effects can be mixed and matched in any number or order you like
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 93
humanoid sound systems enzyme / reviews <
Tape deck emulations seem to be very much
in fashion at the moment. Over the past few
years, weve seen all kinds of machines and
many types of tapes mimicked in software, and
the quality of some of these has been nothing
short of astounding.
Waves latest is unique in the fact that it
emulates the first ever Studer multitrack tape
machine, built for and subsequently modified
by Abbey Road Studios in 1965. If you know
your recording history, youll appreciate the
significance of this particular unit, which
recorded many a classic record, including
The Beatles seminal Sgt Peppers Lonely
Hearts Club Band.
Tape it down
J37 Tape (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) emulates the
fundamental qualities of that very machine,
including controls for Wow and Flutter (Rate and
Depth), Noise Level and Saturation amount. It
runs a selection of three emulated oxide tape
formulae at either 15ips or 7.5ips: the 815 from
the 70s (clean but characterful), the 811 from the
mid 60s (slightly less sharp and more distorted),
and the 888 from the early 60s (quite grubby in
comparison to the other two). The audible
differences between the three tapes are pretty
subtle (especially on the cleaner 15ips mode,
and even more so if you dont drive the input
level), but thats reflective of the real thing. And
this is, after all, a plugin more suited to the tone
connoisseur than the casual producer just
looking for a quick, obvious fix.
Exploring the presets makes it obvious that
the delay section is one of the most valuable
parts of the J37, expanding the sonic palette on
offer from gentle saturation and colouration to
wild delay effects (see Delays Expected). In this
respect, the J37 reminds us of Waves Kramer
Master Tape, which features a similar variety
of presets although the J37 is certainly a lot
cleaner, brighter and harder-sounding than
the Kramer.
In fact, the plugin has a nice general tone to it,
regardless of which tape formula is selected. It
does a good job of making whatever you run
through it sound slightly firmer and more
present. Sometimes it can be quite hard in the
upper-midrange in a way that we havent heard
in other tape plugins. And its a sensitive beast:
push it even a little too hard and the resulting
effect can be quite irritating but then hard,
driving distortion wasnt a desirable mix
characteristic in the 60s, hence the Bias settings
for reducing the level of distortion.
J37 Tape probably isnt an effect youll want
to splash all over every channel unless youre
specifically emulating a 60s-flavoured mix in
which case youd better have a pretty fast
computer, since it demands more CPU power
than other, similar plugins. Having not worked in
J37 Tape $249
Cloning a specific Studer tape machine from Abbey Road Studios, can
this tape emulation stand proud alongside the likes of Satin and VTM?
For Flexible as a delay effect
Good tape compression
Authentic tape hiss
Easy to use
Against Needlessly bulky interface
Very taxing on the host CPU
Not the best tape emulation out there
Yet another tape emulation, with a
solid vintage character and great
delay implementation

u-he Satin
198 10/10 $154
The king of flexible tape effects, but
a different character to J37 Tape
Waves Kramer Master Tape
N/A N/A $200
A similar offering with softer highs
and a darker, fuller overall tone
Tape delay has long been a favourite effect
of mixing engineers. J37 Tapes delay
section features three distinct modes for
recreating a selection of classic effects:
Slap, Feedback and Ping-Pong. Since the
basic tape saturation usually works best
when used subtly, we reckon the addition of
a delay section is a huge asset to the plugin.
But why not just use a regular digital
delay line? Well, the juicy character of the
tape emulation is enhanced further in the
delay path by the inclusion of high- and
low-pass filters that cause the signal to
sort of disintegrate over time. The
results sound really cosy and mix-friendly
you never get the feeling that the delay
is intruding on the space of the source
sound, but rather that its sitting behind
and complementing it. Waves have also
provided the option to run the plugin in
either Insert mode or Send/Return mode,
the latter muting the dry signal.
Delays expected
Abbey Road Studios in the 60s, its hard for us to
judge how closely it replicates the nuances of
the real thing, but we can say that, applied
lightly, J37 Tape definitely evokes at least some
of the essence of the classic records that were
recorded with its hardware ancestor.
94 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / waves j37 tape
Slate Digitals original Trigger plugin
( 153, 10/10) already represented the state
of the art, enabling a high degree of accuracy in
triggering samples from recorded drum tracks
a common studio technique used to embolden
the sound of acoustic drums by mixing them
with sampled ones (or even to replace them
altogether). Trigger 2 (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) builds
on the precision and features of its predecessor
and is a free upgrade for existing users.
Trigger 2 comes in EX and Platinum editions,
the only difference being that the former
includes a much reduced sample library. You
use the plugin by inserting it onto a channel in
your DAW and feeding it a drum track
containing a single close-miced drum kit
element so, kick, snare or tom mics that you
want to replace. The replacement samples come
either from the supplied library or your own
collection, and you can now load up to eight of
them for velocity layering or simultaneous
triggering, rather than the six of v1.
Initial setup tweaking begins with the Detail
knob, which should really be called Threshold,
as it sets the input level at which the triggering
takes place. The Leakage Suppression feature is
handled by feeding the target track into Trigger
2s left input and the source(s) of the problem
bleed into the right input useful in ensuring
that strong snare hits coming through the kick
drum mic dont get misinterpreted as kick hits,
for example. The engine intelligently analyses
the difference between the two to suppress the
bleed on the target signal. Leakage Suppression
isnt new to version 2, but the engine has been
improved to make triggering more accurate,
and the Sensitivity knob can be used to make
even greater distinction between grace notes
and bleed. Its a resoundingly successful system
in our testing, it handled a snare track on which
the hi-hat spill seemed louder than the delicate
snare detail with aplomb.
Take aim
The trigger signal can be further refined using
the low- and high-pass filters, which are useful
for rolling off general boom and rumble from
loose toms and kicks, or for cutting out top-end
transients from bleeding hi-hats on the snare,
thus tightening the triggering accuracy. With a
range up to 100ms, Retrigger is the final
refinement tool, setting the minimum time that
needs to pass before the next trigger event is
allowed through, thus preventing unintended
flamming and stray double hits.
Once youve got your triggering set up, you
can focus on the dynamics. As mentioned, each
of the eight sound slots can be assigned a
velocity range for grading softer and harder
sounds. Each slot also has an ASR envelope and
a knob for scaling the dynamic range of the
replacement sound relative to the level of the
Slate Digital
Trigger 2 $199
The new version of this drum triggering plugin boasts even more
precise triggering and comes bundled with a powerful sample library
For Amazingly precise triggering
Bleed suppression is incredible
Works as a terrific gate too
Two more sample slots than version 1
MIDI output for triggering other sources
Against No drag and drop of samples
The definitive drum replacement system
gets even better, with an improved engine,
more slots and MIDI in/out. Stunning.

WaveMachine Labs Drumagog 5
159 8/10 $89-379
A huge sound library, but lacking
the pinpoint precision of Trigger 2
Steinberg Cubase 7.5
201 9/10 488
Some DAWs offer basic yet useful
triggering Cubase is one of them
Trigger 2 Platinum comes bundled with
a wide selection (2.3GB) of Steven Slate
acoustic drum samples (mostly with an
American rock bias) recorded to 2" tape
through vintage analogue gear. They do
indeed sound expensive and have been
endorsed by many top mix engineers.
The sounds are arranged into presets,
which can be loaded from the built-in
browser for instant dynamically layered
multisampled drums. You can use your
own samples, too, but they have to be
transferred into the assigned root folder
and loaded via the browser. While theres
no drag-and-drop facility from OS X Finder
or Windows Explorer, if youre building
multisamples from your own library, you
can save them as presets for future use.
Each slot has pan, tune, fader and phase
controls for balancing the drums, as well as
an envelope for each sample to help contain
wayward decay tails.
Loading the barrel
trigger signal. It takes time to set all of this up,
but the quality of results are absolutely amazing.
Theres also an impressive new noise gate
feature, driven by the detected hits but applied
to the dry, miced signal (which can be blended
in with the triggered sound with a dry/wet mix
control), enabling incredibly tight and accurate
gating when set up correctly. Also new for v2 is
MIDI input/output.
While Trigger 2 might not be the most radical
update ever (it is a free one, after all), its on the
inside that the big changes have been made.
The precision with which it defines, captures
and replaces drum tracks is intelligent and
effective to the point of feeling magical.
Info Trigger 2 EX, $99
96 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / slate digital trigger 2
MeldaProduction have gradually expanded
their core multiband technology into ever
more interesting territory, the latest area of
operation being that of the comb filter. Meldas
standardised MMultiBand architecture (on
which over 20 of their plugins are now based)
features up to six independent frequency bands,
four global modulators, smart randomisation,
auto gain compensation, limiting, adjustable
upsampling (x1-16) and various channel setup
options including mid/side and surround.
How is this implemented with regard to comb
filtering in MMultiBandComb (VST/AU), then?
Well, you get four filters per band, configured in
series or parallel, with controls comprising
fundamental frequency, feedback, high-pass
filter, low-pass filter, gain, pan, limiter attack and
release, and individual channel phase inversion
for both the main and feedback signals. Filter
frequencies can be adjusted in the display at the
bottom of the interface, where you can also drag
the handles around to adjust gain and panning.
The multiband side of things is dealt with in
the upper display. You can adjust crossover
frequencies and band levels, and mute, solo and
bypass each band. Further settings, including
crossover type (Analogue, Linear Phase and
Hybrid) and slope can be found in the Settings.
The four global modulators (at the bottom)
can be used to modulate the crossovers or
pretty much any other parameters, while for
quick editing, you can assign multiple parameters
to each of the four Multiparameter sliders.
Sounds interesting
Comb filtering an audio signal particularly
when control is given over to the feedback
level results in a distinctive, metallic, ringing
sound that can be a bit too colourful for most
musical applications. However, with the
multiband setup enabling independent
processing of discrete user-defined frequency
ranges, its easy to take control of the effect
and make it more mix-appropriate.
MMultiBandCombs presets include 4-, 5- and
6-band patches, as well as single-band ones.
Some of the latter sound not unlike spring
reverbs, while the multiband presets vary from
ringy to phasey to flangey and beyond.
Testing MMultiBandComb on pitched sounds,
we found that if we kept the filters away from
the note frequencies and steered towards the
higher frequencies instead, we could add
fabulously edgy metallic top end great for
pads and leads. However, truth be told,
MMultiBandComb works best on unpitched
material ie, drums and percussion. Here, the
filter resonance can add pitches that werent
there before, and through careful tuning of the
filter frequencies, its quite possible to give loops
and beats completely new musical purpose
matched to the key of your track. For fine-
MMultiBandComb $49
If youre searching for something a little out of the ordinary,
this wacky new filter plugin could be just what you need
For Flexible multiband design
Interactive graphical displays
Extensive modulation options
Easy but powerful interface
Against CPU hit can be heavy
Very specific effect
For special effects and considered
background usage, MMultiBandComb is a
powerful, colourful sound design tool

Ohm Force Quad Frohmage
57 9/10 99
A perennial favourite featuring a
range of comb filter presets
MeldaProduction MComb
N/A N/A Free
If you dont need the multiband
options, Meldas single-band comb
filter is in their free effects bundle
Comb filtering involves combining a signal
with a slightly delayed version of itself,
resulting in some frequencies cancelling
each other out and others being reinforced,
creating the characteristic comb shaped
frequency response graph. These peaks
and troughs follow a harmonic series, so
the process differs from phasing, whereby a
non-linear phase response is established.
The best way to describe the sound
of comb filtering is hollow with obvious
resonances. The overall effect and the pitch
of the resonances is very dependent on
the delay time and the frequency content
of the original sound. Anything from 1ms
to 35ms should work, being fast enough
for the sound to still be perceived as one
signal. Longer than 35ms and it begins to
be perceived as two separate sounds. As
an aside, slowly modulating the delay time
results in flanging, with its characteristic
jet plane effect.
Comb ltering, anging and phasing
tuning, bands can be bypassed or dry/wet-
balanced, and with a global dry/wet control also
on hand, MMultiBandComb can be subtle, too, if
you want it to be.
On the downside, the CPU hit can get pretty
hefty, although the Oversampling and internal
Resolution settings can be adjusted to help keep
that in check.
With MMultiBandComb, Melda have
delivered yet another high-quality, tightly
focused plugin with some excellent presets and
enough depth to bring a smile to the face of
even the most jaded sound designer.
98 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / meldaproduction mmultibandcomb
The classic Fairchild tube compressor/limiter
was first modeled by Universal Audio back in
2004, but due to the limited DSP of the UAD-1
system and the less sophisticated modeling
technology of the day, the transformer and I/O
distortion werent included. This new Fairchild
Collection (VST/AU/RTAS) for UAD-2/Apollo
comprises new emulations of the Fairchild 660
and 670, as well as the original (now called
Legacy) 670. Faithfully modeled on units
housed at Ocean Way Studios, these new
reproductions employ an up-sampling
technique that, while sonically superior, results
in greater latency than the Legacy version.
Although the 670 was a stereo unit and the
660 was mono, UAs software versions both
work as mono or stereo plugins, depending on
what type of channel you put them on. This is
definitely a plus, as each model sounds and
behaves in a subtly differently way. The 670,
however, has additional stereo capabilities, and
is capable of mid/side, left/right stereo and dual
mono operation.
By nature, valve compression is soft-kneed,
but the width of the knee ie, how quickly the
input above the threshold approaches limiting
can be controlled using the DC Threshold pots.
Additional niceties that werent found on the
hardware include convenient linking of the
controls, filtering the sidechain signals of low
frequencies for smoother operation, mixing
between wet and dry signals for parallel
compression, and controlling the output level.
Perhaps the best one, though, is the tiny
Headroom pot, which lets you control the
internal operating range and thus the amount of
colouration applied.
Apart from the dedicated stereo ones, the
660 has a very similar control set. Both also
offer a selection of six preset Attack/Release
times, the first four going from fast to slow, and
the last two with fixed attack times and
automatic release dependent on the envelope
of the input signal.
Two of the best
The Legacy 670 is a favourite with many
producers for its smooth and invisible level
control, particularly on vocals and basses, and
A/B-ing it with the new models reveals that
theyre all remarkably similar in that capacity.
Where the new ones differ sonically is in their
colouration. Its difficult to describe its not
necessarily warmth, although vocals seem
fatter. You could call it glue, but that doesnt
cover it fully either. Essentially, it imparts more
fullness, substance and dare we say it 3D
space. The 670 is the easier of the two on
transients, making it slightly more aggressive,
while the 660 has more total gain on the input,
allowing lower thresholds to be set for more
colourful compression artifacts. Each has its
Universal Audio
Fairchild Tube Limiter
Plug-in Collection $299
The rejuvenation of previously modeled classic processors
for UAD systems continues with two of the all-time greats
For Classic valve tones and colours
Smooth compression
Headroom feature to control colouration
Both units run in stereo and mono mode
Against Subtle tonal improvement
may not be appreciated by all
A marked improvement over the already
impressive original UAD Fairchild
emulation, this dynamic duo hits the spot

Waves PuigChild 660 & 670
N/A N/A $400
More comparable in tone to the
Legacy UAD version, and rather
more expensive
IK Multimedia Vintage Tube
Compressor/Limiter model 670
N/A N/A 80 CS Credits
A popular, cheaper alternative,
available through the T-RackS
Custom Shop
The Fairchild is one of the few vintage
compressors that fully deserves the epithet
legendary. Introduced in the 50s, it was
intended as a mastering compressor, but
it quickly found a place in the recording
studio thanks to its very musical valve tone.
The more well-known of the two Fairchild
models, the 670 is a stereo compressor
with mid/side operation a feature known
as Lateral/Vertical back then, referring to
the grooves of a vinyl record. By judiciously
compressing side and mid signals
separately, louder signals and longer
playing times could be achieved. Nowadays,
this isnt a factor for most producers, of
course, but M/S compression still has a
place both in the mastering studio often
for correcting dodgy mixes and during
the recording and mixing process, for
emphasising or narrowing stereo spread, or
reducing the level of the centre signal (on
drum kit overheads, for example).
Lateral thinking
own vibe and both sound amazing.
The new models look much more like the
original hardware, too, and give more detailed
control than the Legacy version. Those with
good ears will appreciate the broader palette of
saturation colours. And if youve had the
privilege of using an original hardware Fairchild,
youll definitely get a familiar feeling from this
pair, delivering full, assured and musical tones
that can ultimately add up to a great mix.
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 99
universal audio fairchild tube limiter plug-in collection / reviews <
Until now, LSR Audio have focused on
original analogue-inspired plugins. VLB525
(VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) sees them moving into
classic emulation, being a full-on virtualisation
of APIs classic 525 desk compressor.
VLB525s main panel (on the left side) looks
very similar to the API original, while the
supplementary right-hand panel adds extra
functionality, including adjustable attack and
stereo linking, level calibration and an overall
Analog level control for hum and noise. The
plugin can be deployed as a 2:1 ratio compressor
(C Mode) or a 20:1 ratio limiter (L Mode) with
four Release settings (0.1s, 0.5s, 2s and 2.5s). The
In(put) level controls the threshold, while the
Out(put) control handles make up gain. The
circuit can also be used in de-esser (D-S) mode,
whereby a fixed EQ curve is applied to the
sidechain. Working in conjunction with the Input
control, the Ceiling knob fine-tunes the
threshold and gain make up (see below).
Just below the Mode (ratio) setting, the Off
switch bypasses the gain reduction but leaves
both the output amp and transformers in line,
delivering the sound of the circuitry without the
compression. And rounding things off is a tiny
gain reduction VU meter, the ballistics of which
are independent of attack and release times.
The VLB525 follows a feedback topology,
with the sidechain tapped post gain reduction.
This results in a slightly more laidback response
than a feedforward (pre gain reduction) design.
However, as you dig deeper, the 525 reveals
even more idiosyncrasies. The best way to
approach it is to select a very low Ceiling 2, say
with one of the faster Release times, then
adjust the Input threshold to achieve the desired
gain reduction and bring the level back up using
the Output gain. Thats your basic compression.
Giving feedback
The fun begins, though, when you gradually
increase the Ceiling to introduce more and more
gain reduction, which is compensated by the
automatic internal gain make up.
As you approach the highest settings, things
start to get pretty strange, with the signal
pumping in weird and wonderful ways. The
release stage of the original hardware is
frequency-dependent (higher frequencies are
released faster) and that could be whats
happening here; but also, very fast transients
seem to slip through slightly and give a bit of
extra push to the auto gain make up. So, sharp,
short sounds actually become louder and
snappier at the very highest Ceiling settings, but
are far more pumping and coloured at the mid
to high ones. Its an intriguing architecture that
ultimately breaks down into three very distinct
flavours as you step through the Ceiling
settings. The behaviour can be tweaked further
using the Input threshold and the settings are
LSR Audio
VLB525 $159
Does this emulation of a classic 70s feedback compressor
successfully capture the individuality and character of its sound?
For Super-fast response
Great compression flavours
More flexible attack than the original
Off adds flavour without compressing
Against Can be tricky to get into
Not cheap
No parameter legending on knobs
A character compressor with a unique
flavour and capable of great results, so
long as you can get the hang of it

Waves API 2500
N/A N/A $400
Flexible API-endorsed plugin with
feedback and feedforward options
Tokyo Dawn TDR Feedback
Compressor II
N/A N/A Free
If funds are tight, check out this
excellent feedback-style freebie
The 525 has a very novel threshold and
gain make up system governed by the
multifunctional Ceiling knob. This controls
gain reduction and gain make up, meaning
that as you turn it to the right, the threshold
lowers, the gain reduction increases and the
gain make up is modified accordingly.
This way of functioning enables a
constant level to be maintained while the
amount of compression is adjusted. The
Input threshold and manual gain make up
(Out) controls also have a bearing on all this,
of course.
The Ceiling knob is detented, with 11
discrete settings, and at 0 no compression
is applied. Unlike the original hardware,
theres no helpful Less and More
labeling on the dial, so until you get used to
the way it works, it can be a tad confusing.
Finally, at the highest Ceiling settings, the
VLB525 can go beyond pumping into almost
brickwall behaviour.
Raising the roof
very sensitive, so care needs to be taken.
The ability to run VLB525 in Off mode just for
colouration is useful, but all level controls are
bypassed, so you have to adjust the input signal
level to control the amount of drive applied. The
de-ess option is too subtle for vocal de-essing
but great at softening harsh signals like cymbals.
LSR have done a solid job with VLB525,
capturing the character of the original and
expanding on its functionality. It needs to be
understood, though, that it does require rather
more skill on the part of the engineer than other,
more forgiving classic compressor/limiters.
100 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / lsr audio vlb525
Featuring an exclusive video interview with the man himself
plus analysis, video tutorials, free samples and more
Meet the ultimate synth icon
Available now from the iPad apps of
Numan_app_A4.indd 1 06/10/2013 19:57
Hardware manufacturer Elysia are known in
discerning production circles for their
excellent studio dynamics and EQ processors.
Some of their units have already been converted
to equally excellent plugins, and now its the
turn of museq.
This five-band EQ and filter plugin (VST/AU/
RTAS/AAX) comes in Master and Mix versions,
and for this review were focusing primarily on
the Master version. See Mix or master for info on
the differences between the two.
museqs middle three bands are notch EQs
with two Q settings available: Wide (1.3) and
Narrow (0.5). The Gain controls switch between
boost and cut modes, offering a higher degree
of precision than a standard combined control
with half of its range dedicated to each. The
highest and lowest bands can be toggled
between shelving and cut modes, the latter
effectively turning museq into a high-/low-pass
filter with a small resonant peak around the
cutoff frequency. Used purely as a filter, in fact, it
sounds lovely and is equally effective for both
mixing and creative uses.
The centre section houses controls for output
level, separate bypass for the left and right
channels, mid/side and left/right operation
modes, and Link on/off. Finally, the Warm setting
models an analogue slew-rate limiter, very
subtly softening sharp transients. For most
electronic and pop mastering, youd think this
would be an undesirable feature, but the effect
is quite gentle, so it can be good for bringing
overly punchy sounds down a bit. Perhaps more
usefully, though, it does a great job of softening
individual mix elements to create a subtle sense
of separation.
To keep the signal quality as high as possible,
museq uses varying levels of oversampling,
depending on the host project sample rate:
under 50kHz it uses 4x, at 51-100kHz it uses 2x,
and for rates higher than 100kHz, oversampling
is disabled.
museq to our ears
museq sounds, as the name suggests, notably
musical and to cut to the chase absolutely
superb. The quality of its output is perfectly
transparent, but with a touch of warmth in the
bottom end that doesnt suck out any punch or
clarity. Meanwhile, the calibration and design
lifted directly from its hardware parent, of
course make for a wonderfully flexible, smooth
EQ thats perfect for adding life to any sound
without introducing unwanted harshness.
Graphical EQ plugins with frequency analysers
have all but become the norm in recent years,
but many producers still appreciate the purer,
listening-based approach of the old-school
knob array. We arent about to take sides in
this debate as its very much a matter of opinion,
but we will say that we really enjoyed using
museq $249
Hard becomes soft as these boutique outboard manufacturers
port another of their high-end boxes to the digital domain
For Gorgeous sound
Nice design
Master and simplified Mix versions
Mid/side operation
Fine control
Against No level meters
Not an essential purchase, but a very
worthwhile indulgence for those in
need of a highly flexible, brilliant EQ

Maag Audio EQ4
N/A N/A $229
Not a big all-rounder, but its Air
control beats museqs High band
Fabfilter Pro-Q
148 9/10 124
For a more high-tech approach, this
EQ offers more features and bands
museq comes in two versions, each a
separate plugin: Master and Mix. Master
offers greater stereo control with its
choice of standard stereo operation or
mid/side mode. In both cases, the EQ can
be set to Linked mode or run unlinked for
independent control of each channel.
The most basic way of describing mid/
side mode is that it decodes the stereo
signal into the mid (present equally in both
speakers the mono signal, essentially) and
sides (the components of the signal that
differ between left and right) elements. The
mid component generally brings the attack
and weight, while side gives the sound that
sense of space and location.
Switching between M/S and L/R is mainly
there for mastering purposes, hence the
simplified Mix version. Sometimes, though,
you might want to use the Master version
on a stereo channel at the mixing stage to
increase or decrease stereo width.
Mix or master
museqs traditional-style interface.
If we had any suggestions for improvement,
theyd simply be to add input and output meters
(as modern plugin insert paths are so easy to
overload), and band solo buttons, which would
be useful and creatively beneficial. Such minor
points made, though, no matter what kind of
music youre making, museq would make a truly
luxurious (in both the price and quality sense of
the word) addition to your plugins folder.
102 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> reviews / elysia museq
FMU275.ad_hbz24.indd 1 12/19/13 1:33 PM
A rapid-fire round-up of sample libraries, ROMplers and more
mini reviews
Format Mac
In our review of the original Torsion in 191, we
scored Artemiy Pavlovs intriguing Audio Units
hybrid monosynth 8/10, highlighting its deep
modulation setup, versatile additive oscillators
and nifty Chaos oscillator. Now, less than a year
later, version 2 (a free update for registered
users of v1) is with us, heralding a significant
number of improvements.
The most obvious change is the GUI, which
has been redesigned to bring it in line with
Sinevibes current streamlined ethos. Its
calmingly grey, covered in legending (making it
much easier to use) and does away with the
previous dotted-line controls in favour of
regular sliders and text-based LFO rate
descriptors. While the animated LFO wheels
have been lost in the simplifcation process, at
least the oscillator levels are now reflected in the
waveform displays, which may be more useful.
The oscillators now each feature fine pitch
control and three octaves of pitch modulation
range, while the LFOs
can be run at 1/48 rate
and have a mad new
trapezoid wave option.
Perhaps the most
significant new addition,
though, is a pair of all-
new effects modules.
Distortion is satisfyingly
comprehensive, offering
adjustment of bit depth
and sample rate, as well
as analogue-style
saturation and a wicked
modulatable Bode
frequency shifter. Delay
is similarly well-conceived, with the Modulation
slider introducing chorusing, the combined
low-/high-pass filter enabling a good degree of
tail frequency shaping, and Feedback and mix
controls onboard.
Just like everything else in the Sinevibes
catalogue, Torsion is focused, quirky,
surprisingly intuitive and genuinely different. Its
perhaps not the most flexible synth in the world,
but it sounds ace, particularly when put to work
on character basses, leads and effects
analogue with a digital edge. And with its new
GUI, improved oscillator control, and tasty
effects modules, version 2 makes it even more
appealing a proposition than it was already.
Format iPad
When we heard that Cakewalks iOS debut was a
tempo-synced loop player rather than any sort
of Sonar spin-off or controller, we were a little
disappointed. Hopefully, something along those
lines is on the to-do list, because ScratchPad HD
feels like a directionless attempt to get a
foothold in the App Store and flog some IAP.
ScratchPad HD gives you nine sample slots
into which audio clips from a small categorised
library (Drum and Bass, Dubstep, Hip Hop, etc),
five 1.99 IAP expansion packs and your
Dropbox account can be loaded. Slots can be
swapped by dragging, although we experienced
quite a few crashes doing that (amongst other
things). Samples can be played looped or one-
shot, and there are three trigger modes to
choose from: Normal, Momentary (the sample
plays back until the play button is released) and
Re-Trigger (the sample restarts every time the
play button is pressed). Individual slots can be
set to trigger in accordance with the global
quantise Resolution or have their own sync
settings established; and the three clips in each
vertical column can be
triggered as a group.
A modicum of
manipulation is on hand,
starting with the circular
control pad in each slot.
Here, you can stutter the
audio at 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32
resolution, scratch the
waveform vinyl-style, and
apply a tape-style slow/stop
effect via a button that has
to be held to work (oddly, the
per-column equivalents are
toggled). Volume and pan
are adjusted in the slot-
contextual Inspector column
on the left, which also hosts a decent enough
low-pass/high-pass filter with X/Y controller.
Performances can be recorded as audio and
uploaded to Dropbox.
ScratchPad HD is not a serious production
tool, but nonetheless, it needs more effects; and
when importing your own loops, as theres no
timestretch function, you have to hope that the
app reads the tempo correctly, rather than
doubling or halving it. This isnt the only loop
player on the App Store with this problem, but
we expect better from a developer of Cakewalks
stature. Ultimately, ScratchPad HD is a very
casual experience indeed. Looking on the bright
side, now that Cakewalk have dipped their
coding toes into the iOS waters, we hope theyll
wow us with more serious and practical apps.
ScratchPad HD 5
Torsion 2 $49
104 / COMPUTER MUSIC March 2014
> reviews / mini reviews
SPC Plugins
Gater-Pro 3 $39
Format Mac/PC
SPCs VST/AU trancegate plugin is a gate sequencer that
can be run in 16-step split (independent patterns for the left
and right channels) or 32-step linked stereo modes. Three
basic gate envelope shapes are on offer (square, triangle and
saw), each of which can be skewed by dragging the Shape
graphic. Two Tied modes set strings of tied notes triggering
the gate to conventional 100% open behaviour (Fill), or with
the envelope applied across the length of the series (Stretch).
This is one of GP3s best features, introducing a level of
rhythmic expression that your average trancegate cant
match. Beyond that, youve got Rate (1/4 to 1/128), Mix and
Swing controls, a Randomise function and buttons for
activating and deactivating all steps and turning all Ties on
(but not off, for some reason).
Gater-Pro 3 is a fabulous little plugin simple in concept
but powerful in realisation, and highly recommended to
producers of all kinds of dance music, not just trance.
UVX-10P 78
Format Mac/PC
The sequel to UVIs UVX-3P
Roland JX-3P emulation, UVX-
10P is fuelled by 9GB of samples
of Rolands JX-10, JX-8P (half a
JX-10) and MKS-70 (rackmount
JX-10) synths from the late 80s,
both with and without chorus,
and including all the raw waves.
Mercifully, the interface
(housed in the free UVI
Workstation of MOTU MachFive)
is modeled on the PG-800 programmer, rather than the
hideously impractical JX/MKS fascia, and UVI have added to it
with their usual niceties step sequencer, LFO, phaser, delay,
etc. Although clearly not meant to be a 1:1 facsimile of the
original, the removal of the dual LP/HP filter for a conventional
(but lovely) multimode design feels like a bit of a loss.
The JX-10 (or Super JX) was one of the most acclaimed
analogue polysynths of its day, and UVI have done a stunning
job in capturing its warmth, power and essence. The 150+
presets (tediously crafted, according to the website) deliver
a ton of solid starting patches, and programming your own is a
cinch its hard to get a bad sound out of the thing, in fact.
Format Mac/PC
Following their impressive debut plugin, the
ANA synth, and developed in conjunction with
Dutch house DJ/producer Nicky Romero, Kick
aims to be the ultimate kick drum generator
Sonic Academy describe it as a game-changer.
With its independently handled click
(sampled) and sub (synthesised) sections, Kick
packages the age-old concept of treating your
kick drum attack and sustain elements as
separate entities into a friendly, straightforward
plugin (VST/AU). 180 click samples are onboard,
covering a wide range of categorised flavours
(Hard, Noise, Live, etc), 32 of them from Romeros
personal collection. You can load your own
samples, which get rolled into saved preset files
for portability. Static adjustment of the click
sample is limited to volume and pitch, and it can
be muted/soloed for easy auditioning.
Three multi-breakpoint envelopes (with no
apparent limit to the number of breakpoints that
can be added) enable shaping of the Click
volume, sub Amp(litude) and
sub Pitch over time. Handily,
each breakpoint in the latter
envelope is tagged with its pitch
(both note name and frequency),
and sections can be curved by
dragging. Each envelope also
has a Length slider that sets its
duration (50-3000ms).
Kick is intended for
generating raw kick drums
rather than fully processed
ones, so its not exactly bursting
with effects. You get a limiter, a
single-band cut/boost EQ and a
searing Distortion module to
apply to just the sub or both the sub and click.
The Keytrack switch activates pitched
playback, making the plugin good for sub-bass
tones, too. The Gate switch forces Kick to
acknowledge MIDI note length, keeping the
sounds length constrained to your preference.
Kick definitely fulfils its brief of making
electronic kick drum design fun and fruitful.
With the synth being just a sine wave generator,
its also very easy to use. Even so, the lack of a
manual needs addressing. It often feels like a bit
more EQ wouldnt go amiss, either, although
given the price, thats not a major omission. A
game-changer? Of course not, but certainly an
excellent tool for building kicks from scratch.
Sonic Academy
Kick 25
March 2014 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 105
mini reviews / reviews <
Soundware round-up
Critical Mass 60
Over 700 samples and sampler patches make up this
epic library of construction kits, loops, hits and lengthy
textural beds, put together with sci-fi and horror sound
design in mind. Packed with bells, clangs, ambiences,
whooshes and other FX/riser/impact type sounds,
though, Critical Mass also succeeds as an expansive
resource for electronic music producers.
Royal Drops 35-60
Drumdrops latest album of complete drum tracks
(available as loops, mixed stems and multitrack sessions
for numerous DAWs) is in a 70s soul style. Vintage mics
and gear have been used to capture the drumming of
Timmy Rickard, and the feel and production are
authentic and appropriately retro throughout. Good stuff
for singer-songwriters and library producers.
Eddie Amador & Danny
Cohiba Present A Journey
Into House 25
Taking in pretty much every subgenre of house, this
small but hugely joyous library of beats, basslines and
music loops holds no surprises but sounds fantastic
particularly the diverse, punchy drum loops.
Sony Creative Software
New Retro Dance Excursions 28
13 dance music construction kits (averaging 15-odd
samples each) in a variety of retro-influenced styles.
Presumably aimed at media producers looking to put
tracks together in minutes, the production is good and
the sounds certainly work, but theres just no real
substance to it. Even the included 368 decent one-shot
drum hits cant save this one from mediocrity.
DFS Blue $49
Goldbabys new scripted Kontakt 5 instrument (EXS24
version also included) captures classic synthesisers
including the PPG Wave 2.2, Ensoniq SQ80 and DSI
Prophet 12. Covering the full gamut of synth sounds
(mono basses and leads, poly pads and keys, leads, FX,
etc), the samples are as phat as they come, and the
interface, with its built-in step sequencer, is a joy to use.
Paper Stone Instruments
PSI Vibraphone 30
Seven multisampled (three velocity layers) Kontakt
instruments built on 2GB of gorgeous 60s Premier 751
vibraphone samples. Separate Close, Stereo and Room
mics, an amp envelope, HP/LP filters, reverb and, of
course, tremolo (per mic, cleverly) enable a degree of
sound shaping. If a vibraphones what you need, this one
certainly does the business!
Sample Magic
Berlin Techno 17
Sample Magics latest budget-priced library takes us to
the darker side of techno with 360MB of bouncy
analogue basslines, spacious drums, dystopian
atmospheres and more. The music loops being sets of
progressively stripped back mixes rather than
individual stems is annoying, but fortunately, the
stemmed drums dont suffer from the same problem.
Earth Moments
Laya Project - Ambience Vol. 1 25
Spinning off from EarthSyncs 2004 Asian tsunami
documentary project, this compilation of 163 real-world
background ambiences from India, Indonesia, the
Maldives and Myanmar is just the thing to bring a touch
of humanity and organic texture to any production. From
rain forest atmospheres to urban soundscapes, monastic
beds and more, its an evocative trip from start to finish.
Rhythmic Robot
Spark Gap 20
Kontakt instruments dont get much more esoteric than
this. A multisampled maintained tuning fork
(electrically driven to make a constant sound) from the
20s with adjustable sine tone and damping noises,
filtering, amp envelope, and delay and reverb effects,
Spark Gap sounds hauntingly beautiful and just very
cool. Its a tough one to score, though, as its very much a
one-trick pony, and quite pricey because of it.
Mini Sketcher 18
Is there a place in the software studio for a 90s-style PCM
bread and butter sound module? Luxonix clearly think
so, and perhaps surprisingly, their keenly priced, Kontakt-
powered take on the concept works well. With a 127MB
footprint, a GUI offering nothing more than on/off
buttons and depth knobs for its five onboard effects, and
100 generic instruments in six categories, this is a useful,
lightweight, hassle-free compositional tool.
106 / COMPUTER MUSIC March 2014
> reviews / mini reviews
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Back issues
Catch up on what youve missed
by downloading a recent issue
Issue 198 December 2013
FREE multieffect plugin: Eurydice CM; 800
VIP Series: Optiv & BTK samples + 1900 bonus
Plug In Your Hardware: integrate external
gear with your computer music making setup
Tutorials: Figuring out Filters / Automation /
Melodic Minor Scale / Randomisation in Live
Maison Sky video / Markus Schulz interview
NI Maschine Studio + 21 more reviews
Issue 199 January 2014
FREE intelligent limiter plugin: Barricade CM
Over 900 8-bit samples + 2900 bonus sounds
The Art of Layering: create your biggest
sounds ever with our guide to stacking them
Tutorials: Ableton Live Secrets / Classic rave
masterclass / Trackers Explained
Black Sun Empire Producer Masterclass video
Ohm Studio, Sonar X3, BFD 3 reviewed
Issue 200 February 2014
FREE full PC software: Cakewalk Rapture
200 Techniques nearly 8 HOURS of expert
video to boost your production skills
FXpansion SingleMault CM distortion plugin
850 high-quality Goldbaby samples
Headhunterz Producer Masterclass video
Commodore 64 musical legends interviewed
Feature: A Brief History of Computer Music
Issue 195 October 2013
FREE Spiral CM visualisation plugin, 900
Modular Madness samples + 3600 bonus
The guide to FL Studio 11, inc. 11 videos
DAW to DAW / Open Source software /
Focus: FX design / Easy Guide: Syncopation
Basement Jaxx interview and Om Unit video
Logic Pro X, Pro Tools 11, XILS-lab XILS V+,
Sinevibes Cluster + 20 more reviews
Pro X
Autumn 2013 / CM196
Master Apples DAW
withexpert guides on
TrackStacks, Drummer,
In-studio video masterclass
Issue 196 Autumn 2013
FREE plugin: Kuassa PreMix CM, 900 Modular
Mayhem samples + 1900 bonus dub samples
The Guide to Logic Pro X: how-to + videos
Tutorials: Cubasis for iPad guide / Build a
House Track / Easy Guide: Minor Scales
Drumsound & Bassline Smith in-studio video
Vengeance-Sound Phalanx, HALion 5, Arturia
Minilab, Zynaptiq Unfilter + 19 more reviews
Issue 197 November 2013
FREE transient enhancer plugin: SKnote Snap;
4000+ FREE samples including Epic Fantasy
Clean Up Your Recordings: Make rough
recordings sound rich and powerful
Tutorials: Get more from Thor / Mixer Basics /
Create your own Loops / Realistic Strings
Kell On Urth in-studio video / Noisia interview
KMI QuNexus, Waves RS56 + 20 more reviews
We computer musicians are positively
spoiled for options. Our synths offer
effectively unlimited voices and instances,
and we enjoy total recall of each and every
knob, slider and button. Yet there was a time
when monophonic instruments were pretty
much all we had, and full programmability of
patches was the stuff of dreams. Sure, there
were some attempts to offer more
Oberheims Two, Four and Eight Voice synths
had polyphony (assuming you were able to
match up the parameter settings of an entire
SEM module for each voice), and Yamahas
contemporaneous CS-60 and CS-80
synthesisers were somewhat programmable
but by and large, extremely limited mono
instruments were the norm.
Fortunately, American Dave Smith was
working on something that could solve both
problems, and that instrument would become
an unprecedented success. His company was
called Sequential Circuits, and the instrument
was the Prophet-5. Released in 1978, the
Prophet-5 offered five complete voices of true
polyphony not the divide-down paraphonic
behaviour of string machines or Moogs
Polymoog. No, the Prophets voices had
complete, individual signal paths hiding under
its stylish black panel. More than that, the
instrument was, indeed, fully programmable.
Every knob, switch and setting could be saved
and recalled, making it a sure winner with live
performers and sessioneers alike.
Racking up massive sales (and seemingly
perennially on back-order), the Prophet-5 was
the synthesiser to own that is, if you could
afford it. Those five voices didnt come cheap,
with a sticker price of nearly 3000, but that
didnt stop the company from shipping out
8000 of the things, and virtually everyone who
was anyone had one: Gary Numan, The Cars
Greg Hawkes, Phil Collins, Vangelis, John
Carpenter The list goes on and on.
Double header
Of course, the luxuries of programmability and
polyphony wouldnt have been worth more
than a look-in had the thing not sounded good.
But that it did superb, in fact, thanks to dual
oscillators, a 24dB resonant filter, an LFO and a
wicked poly-mod section that enabled Oscillator
B or the filter envelope to be routed to the
frequency and/or pulse width of Oscillator A, as
well as to the filter itself. That might not sound
Sequential Circuits
Three great emulations
The aces of analogue emulation had already
cloned Moogs, ARPs and more when they
unleashed the Prophet-V. An uncannily
accurate imitation of the Prophet-5, it also
includes a dead-ringer for Sequential Circuits
later Prophet, the digital Prophet-VS, and
even allows elements of the two to be
combined. A lovely tribute to Smiths work.
Like Arturias Prophet-V, Memorymoons
Messiah is much more than an emulation. It
looks like a souped-up Prophet-5, sure, but a
handful of buttons swap the vintage panel
and keyboard for various modern niceties
like an arpeggiator, graphic envelopes and
advanced LFOs. The oscillators also include
enhanced options.
Polyphony and programmability were virtually
unheard of when Dave Smith and co unleashed an
instrument that would help define the early 80s
like a lot, but it gave
P-5 owners abilities
that were hard to
come by outside of
modular systems
at the time.
Add to this the
raw power of those
five voices in
unison mode and
you had a sound fit
to fill an arena. Even the later (and
reputedly thinner) Rev 3 models had
a sound that could peel the enamel off your
back teeth.
Today, our plugins folders are stuffed with
instruments that offer as much or more than
the dear old Prophet-5, some even directly
influenced by its designs. There are, of course, 1:1
emulations if you want the experience of the
real deal and, like the original, they make
versatile all-rounders. Dave Smiths brainchild
seemed to hit exactly the right balance between
flexibility and friendliness, and its still an
excellent template today. A Prophet-5 can
provide a lifetimes worth of new and interesting
sounds. It was a triumph of design.
Who says you cant get something for
nothing? Not us, of course were always up
for a bit of freeware. If youre looking for a
Prophet-5 emulation, you might want to
check out this beauty from EFM. Added
arpeggiator and effects enhance a note-for-
note copy of the original Prophet-5s signal
path. Get your new wave on the cheap!
114 / COMPUTER MUSIC / March 2014
> make music now / blast from the past
Years produced
Number produced
Approximately 8000
Original sale value
Current price