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JUNE/ JULY 2006 - VOL. 2 NO.

USA $4.95
CANADA $6.50
Audeon UFO softsynth Cycling 74
Cycles vol. 4 IK Multimedia Classic
Studio Reverb PSPaudioware Neon
HR precision mastering EQ Linplug
Octopus synth Ueberschall Urban
Jointz sound library
VSLs new Vienna
Instruments player
harnesses their
vast orchestral
library under
real-time control
From the
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Contributors: Jim Aikin, Peter Buick, David Das, Doyle Donehoo,
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his magazine would be nothing without the great writers
whove been contributing to it, and Im happy to welcome a
few new ones this issue.
First but not least, its a real thrill having a second writer who
was on Keyboard magazines staff back in the 80s heyday (the
first being Jim Aikin; that incarnation of Keyboard was what
inspired me to get into this field). Michael Marans is one of the
most knowledgeable people around when it comes to synthesizer
programming, and his first article Control Voltage is great for
beginners and more advanced programmers alike. We look for-
ward to many more.
Next, everyone on the internet forums knows composer
Thomas Bergersens work. There are some very talented people
around, but absolutely nobody Ive heard can do what Thomas J,
as hes usually called, does using orchestral sample libraries.
Check out From Sketch to Score, and be sure to download and
listen to the audio example from our website. Thomas lives in
Trondheim, Norway, but he works in the U.S. and all over.
Also in the international spirit, thousands of TASCAM
GigaStudio users around the world have benefitted from Mattias
Henningsons Windows registry tweaks. Mattias is from Sweden;
Scandinavia is a hotbed for hardcore sample library users. What
Mattias did is figure out how to access a good 25% more
installed memory in GigaStudio 2, and TASCAM incorporated his
tweaks into GigaStudio 3 (which incidentally can often load a fur-
ther 20%, but without installing more RAM). This time Mattias
explains how to use the Windows 3GB switch, allowing programs
other than GigaStudio to access a good 75% more RAM. There
used to be no reason to install more than 2GB in a Windows
machine, but now it makes sense to put in 3 or 4GB.
(Why is RAM access so important? Because it allows you to
have more programs cued up and ready to play in your sampler,
even if you dont end up using all of them.)
The other new writers I want to introduce are Jason Scott
Alexander, who among other things does a great job with plug-
inssomething were now getting around to covering more, as
promised in the inaugural issue; and Orren Merton. Part 1 of
Orrens Logic Pro Ultrabeat tutorial was in our last issue, so hope-
fully its not too serious a violation for this acknowledgement to
accompany Part 2. Orren wrote an excellent book on Apple Logic
Pro (Logic 6 Power) for Thomson Course Technology.
Next issue well announce the winners of the Mungo
Giveaways weve been having. You can enter the current one by
going to our website, www.VirtualInstrumentsMag.com. While
youre there, perhaps youd like to subscribe. This might also be a
great time to renew your subscription; the rates have been artifi-
cially low while we launched the magazine, but were going to
raise them in the near future. Enjoy the issue. VI
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Standard disclaimer: Virtual Instruments
Magazine and its staff cant be held legally
responsible for the magazines contents or
guarantee the return of articles and graphics
submitted. Reasonable care is taken to ensure
accuracy. All trademarks belong to their owners.
Everything in here is subject to international
copyright protection, and you may not copy or
imitate anything without permission.
2006 Virtual Instruments, Inc.
Logic Pro Ultrabeat
pt. 2
by Orren Merton
Part 2 of a 2-part tutorial on the built-in groove machine.
3GB Switch
by Mattias Henningson
The superhero responsible for increasing GigaSamplers mem-
ory access by a third explains how to tweak Windows XP so
other programs can access about 75% more memory for
loading samples.
Introductions, updates, news
June/July 2006
Voltage Control
by Michael Marans
A new series on programming synthesizers from the
ground up
From Sketch to Score
by Thomas J. Bergersen
Translating sequenced music to a score for live players pres-
ents some unique challenges. The highly skilled and talented
young composer Thomas Jwhos also unparalleled at
orchestral MIDI programminggoes over his process for
doing that, offering pointers along the way
Jerry Gerber
interview by Nick Batzdorf
A very different kind of poster boy for the V.I. medium.
Symphonic Cube
by Nick Batzdorf
The Vienna Instruments player is not
your fathers sampler, nor is VSL his
sampled orchestra
IK Multimedia
Classik Reverb
by Lee Sherman
Real-time control meets the charac-
ter and flexibility from the glory days
of outboard
Linplug Octopus
by Jim Aikin
A boatload of distinctive and highy
programmable electronic tones
Neon HR Linear
Phase Precision
Review by Jason Scott Alexander
Sometimes a guest that takes over
your machine is welcome
Loop Librarian:
Uberschall Urban
Jointz; and
cycles vol. 04:
by Chris Meyer
A collection of useful modern hi-
hop and Rnb flavas, and the latest
volume in a unique series of sound
design elements
Audeon UFO
by Jim Aikin
Something old, something new
June/July 2006
Trends scripting
The craze over customizing Native Instruments Kontakt 2
Random Tips
Getting Steinberg V-Stack to wake up
Buick Sessions:
Sound design in music
by Peter Buick
Part 2 of our look at inspiration and production: a free algo-
rithmic rhythm generator program.
1 0 V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S
Studio Farms article
I was very interested to read Jesse Whites
article Studio Farms in the April/May edi-
tion. I have been interested in creating a serv-
er-based system for some time now and
appreciate the helpful info Jesse included in
his article.
I am running a Windows DAW with
Steinberg Cubase SX3 as my main recording
and sequencing environment. I have delved
fairly heavily into plug-ins and V.I.s for some
time now and realize how these can tax my
system, so a studio farm set up would be per-
fect for me. I also run multiple accelerator
cards in my setup (Universal Audio UAD-1
Studio Paks and TC PowerCore FireWire).
My question is, in the studio farm setup,
where would these units be placed? I assume
that my DAW would be able to access the
cards if placed in the server. Please clarify.
Gary Janzen
Vancouver, Canada
If youre using FX-Teleport (www.FX-
Max.com) to run audio over ethernet, youd
want them on your sequencing DAW rather
than the server. The reasons for this arent
philosophicalthats just what works.
Hi Jessie: First of all, the Studio Farms
article you wrote was an epiphany for me on
the way to set up my studio. Between the
benefits of reliability (if something goes
down) and workflow (only using 1 comp), I
little bit of a pain with these applications. Im
hoping that bringing this reality to the table
with articles like this and composers wanting to
migrate to this system that companies will real-
ize their need for a solution.
NB adds: This is likely to become an increas-
ingly important issue as more and more musi-
cians start using multiple computers. Copy pro-
tection schemes need to make it possible to run
software on an entire subnet, i.e. a studio
farm network.
Perhaps dongle manufacturers could offer
developers sub-dongles that require the pres-
ence of the main dongle on the same subnet,
and challenge-response schemes could do some-
thing similar. Theyd have to figure out how to
ensure that multi-user facilities still purchase site
licenses, but that shouldnt be an insurmount-
able detail.
Back issues and subscriptions
I am thoroughly enjoying Virtual
Instruments since I subscribed.
What a great magazine! Im certain that
you will have much success and Ill do my
part to ensure that by continuing to sub-
Any decisions yet about offering hard
copies of previous issues?
David Noll
Harlingen, TX
Thanks very much David. Yes, back issues are
now available in the US for $5 each plus $5
shipping/handling per order (regardless of the
number of issuesa policy that will obviously
have to change when weve been around a little
longer and there are more back issues). The
exception is that the premiere issue is $20 + $5;
we have only a handful of them left.
International shipping/handling depends on the
country, but its going to be in the $9 range.
Please visit www.VirtualInstrumentsMag.com.
While were on the subject of back issues,
theres some confusion about the PDF down-
loads of all our issues. The PDFs are exactly the
same as the print edition, page for page, ads
and all. We have no immediate plans to remove
our back issues from the download account
area, so if you subscribe you can read all the
issues youve missed on your computer (or you
can print them out).
Now, we offer download-only subscriptions to
overseas readers for the same price as a US sub
(because overseas delivery is expensive). Whats
confusing people is that every subscriber to the
print magazine can also sign up for a download
account as part of the service.
If youve subscribed and havent signed up
for a download account, please go to our web-
site and click on Download Subscription. We
have to approve the accounts manually, so
please be patient if its the middle of the night
when were out of the office. VI
l e t t e r s
write to:
was so thrilled by the theory behind it all. I
have currently been using five PCs and one
Mac all slaved to a main Mac running MOTU
Digital Performer. Each of the comps, howev-
er, has a dedicated set of V.I.s that it runs and
if one goes down.... Well you know.
This concept of using Fx-Teleport as a dis-
tribution system, having everything fed from
a central server and working off one box is so
My question: immediately after reading
your article, I went right out and bought a
RAID card and some drives and began recon-
figuring one of my PCs as a server. The prob-
lem I ran into, however, was that whenever I
would request a V.I. be on a farm machine,
it wouldnt work because the farm machine
wasnt authorized for that plug-in.
Do you have to have a license for every
plug-in for every farm machine? If so, thats
just going to be too cost prohibitive for me. Is
there something Im missing? I installed the
plug-ins on my main computer, but installed
the *.dll file and the libraries onto my server.
It works fine if Im using the plug-in on my
main comp, but as soon as I farm it out to
one of the other comps, it wont come up
and says (on the farm comp screen) that its
not authorized.
If licenses end up being a problem, then
we need to start bugging the manufactures
to provide some type of farm licenses. The
way this works is in no way a violation of any
existing license because this system acts as
one computer with one user.
Patrick Rose
via email
Jesse White responds: Im glad my article is
helping people understand how to streamline
their studios better. As far as authorizations, a
lot of the time you can just use the same serial
number on multiple machines. There isnt really
an answer for dongles.
The reality that these companies dont under-
stand is that their software works great for net-
working applicationsbut they dont offer an
easy way to set it up. The authorizing can be a
1 2 V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S
Steinberg HALion Symphonic
Based on Steinbergs HALion sampler, this new orchestral library ($499, crossgrades
and upgrades available) is over 27GB and includes 1250 patches. A Crescendo controller
feature lets you blend samples with different dynamics in real time, there are keyswitch
instruments, you can adjust the recorded ambience, and the library is designed to be
playable and efficient.
The cross-platform instrument works in VST, AU, DXi, ReWire, and stand-alone for-
Introductions, updates, news
l a u n c h
Ableton Live Lite Enhanced:
free upgrade for Digidesign and
M-Audio users
The new Enhanced edition includes many features from Abletons Live 5. Live is a
unique digital audio sequencer that lets you string together layers of loops and pattern
arrangements in real time, drag and drop effects and instruments, and much more.
Some Digidesign and M-Audio products are bundled with a light version that has
been upgraded. New features include plug-in delay compensation, MIDI remote con-
trol, full ReWire support, hi-def recording and rendering (up to 32-bit), Mackie Control
support, Track Freeze, and their Complex warp mode for time stretching.
ILIO Ethno
Xpander for
Stylus RMX
Ethno Techno ($99) is the first in a
series of four S.A.G.E. expanders for
Spectrasonics popular Stylus RMX
Realtime Groove Module, featuring the
playing of Bashiri Johnson. Produced
by Spectrasonics Eric Persing, the
library features rare instruments and
unique rhythms and textures, from
broad and spacious ambient explo-
rations to radical heart-pounding
These new sounds can be used on
their own or as a complement to other
RMX libraries.
V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S 1 3
l a u n c h
BIAS Peak Pro 5.2
The latest upgrade ($179) to BIAS top-line audio editing, processing, and mastering pro-
gram features 100% native compatibility on Intel-based and PowerPC Macs. It also offers a
new authorization method that doesnt require a USB dongle.
Watch for a full review of Peak 5 in our next issue, but the major new features include an
advanced playlist with Red Book premastering features (CD Text, ISRC, track indexing, cus-
tom gaps, cross-fades). Peak also hosts V.I.s, which makes the program especially interesting
in our context.
Toontrack EZDrummer
This $179 acoustic drum library was recorded at Avatar
Studios in NY by Nir Z and produced by Neil Dorfsman,
Mattias Eklund, and Henrik Kmellberg. It has the same
layer depth as Toontracks dfh Superior, with 7000 16-
bit/44.1kHz sound files, but its designed to reduce system
requirements to a minimum, while providing entry-level
usability and professional flexibility.
Features include multiple mic controls, an internal mixer
for stereo and multitrack routing into the host from one
plug-in, preset mix modes for quick sound changes, a visu-
al interface that combines kit construction and auditioning,
instant access to a drum library of patterns you can drag
and drop, and instant loading into RAM to cut down sub-
sequent loading time. Toontrack has announced three
expansion packs: Latin Percussion EZX, Drumkit From Hell
EAH, and Vintage Brushes EZX.
PACE Anti-piracy
InterLok 5.4 for Intel
Macs and PowerPC
PACE copy-protection, whether software-based or using
their iLok USB dongle, now works on Intel Macs.
Izotope XRB
Expansion for
iDrum and
XRB ($29 until 7/23, $49 thereafter) is a col-
lection of 2057 drum grooves triggering 256
playable kits. iZotope also offers a free set of
16 iDrum kits and 74 Apple loops.
Submersible Music
DrumCore 2
Submersible DrumCore 2 adds new audio engine features, and
more A-list drummers and styles to its loop librarian/player (reviewed
in our premiere issue). New features include continuously variable
tempos down to three decimal places, tempo sync with ReWire
hosts, separate outs with pitch and pan controls for its MIDI drum-
sounds, and REX export capability. It can also work as a librarian for
REX2 and ACID format libraries intermingled with its own.
The neew loops, fills, and drum kits, include country grooves from
Lonnie Wilson; odd meters (5/4, 7/8, 9/8) from Alan White; double-
kick pop/rock/progressive grooves from Terrio Bozzio; more jazz
brush content from Jon Bishop; and pop grooves from Ben Smith.
f e a t u r e
1 4 V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S
A new series on programming
synthesizers from the ground up
Not everyone has to (or should) go out and sample
a grand piano every time they put a new track
together. But what about your synth sounds? Do
you really want to use Toto Horns III and Steviess
Moog Bass IX on your track? Great sounds to be
sure, but 30 years later, are they original, compelling,
andmost important of allyours?
Voltage Control
Our First DAW beginners series is
on temporary hiatus, since this article
fills its role. But it shall return.
by Michael Marans
V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S 1 5
We strive for innova-
tive creativity in our
compositions, so why
do we settle for using
factory presets to real-
ize them? Lots of rea-
sons, to be sure: synths
these days can be
enormously complicat-
ed; their interfaces
most often accessed
via a mousesome-
times dont exactly
invite creative experi-
mentation; and lets
face it, the majority of
factory presets are
ridiculously good,
often created by the
top sound designers in
our industry.
Then again, maybe
weve all become just a
little bit lazy. (Sorry.)
So our exercise
today is to poke, prod,
and cajole you into
digging into your virtu-
al synths and creating
your own unique
sounds. Not just any
sounds, mind you, but
killer sounds on par
with the best of em.
Well start by explor-
ing classic subtractive
analog synth program-
ming. Before your eyes
glaze over and you
break into a big yawn,
remember that some
of the greatest synth
players ever made their
marks with signature sounds created using
some very simple analog toolsand in fact
these players made their unique sounds using
the same tools.
News flash: you can make your mark too.
And were going to prove the point by show-
ing you how to create and customize sounds
using a pretty basic downloadable freeware
synth, called, appropriately, Synth1.
You can use any analog subtractive synth
to follow along in this article. But using
Synth1 can help you realize how even the
most basic toolswhen properly applied
can yield great results.
Knowing which knob to turn
Theres an old joke where a repairman fixes
a broken fridge by kicking it, then presents
the owner of the fridge with a bill for $100.
When the owner complains about paying
$100 for a kick, the repairman scrawls on the
bill: Kicking the refrigerator, $5.00. Knowing
where to kick, $95.00.
In the synth world, knowing where to kick
means knowing which (onscreen) knob to
turn. Yeah, that sounds so basic, but if some-
one says to you, I want a brighter sound,
that result can be realized in dozens of differ-
ent ways. So knowing which knob to turn is
critical for finding the most direct path to the
desired result.
In the old days, analog synthesizers consist-
ed of electronic circuits connected together
manually in various ways to produce the
desired sounds. Those circuits, despite being
specialized for sound generation, were really
nothing more than user-controllable voltage
In todays virtual instruments, the voltages
have been replaced by bits and bytes, but the
concepts remain the same. Voltages generat-
ed by one circuit are applied to another to
create some type of effect: apply voltage to a
filter, and the filter opens or closes according-
ly. Apply voltage to an oscillator and the pitch
rises or falls accordingly. Apply voltage to an
amplifier and the volume raises or lowers
So in the spirit of getting a handle on pro-
gramming your virtual instruments, a brief
visit to the old days of voltage control is in
The basics components of subtractive ana-
log synthesis are:
Sound generation (oscillators)
Fig. 1: Pop quiz: Can you spot the assigned parameter in the oscillator section that has absolutely no effect on
the sound? (Answer below).
While some virtual instrument interfaces may appear cryptic on the surface, Synth1s front panel actually reveals
a wealth of information about what is going on in the patch. In the patch Solo 1 shown here, key elements of the
sound are immediately obvious: the oscillator waveform shapes (both sawtooth), LFO1 routed to create vibrato
(notice its assigned to both oscillators and engaged via the LFO1 Wheel Sens control), and the use of a 12dB per
octave (2-pole) lowpass filter. Clicking on a control reveals a pop-up with the actual parameter valueuseful for
examining in detail how the patch was created. (Here the Filter Decay has a value of 36.)
Pop quiz answer: The M. ENV parameter LED is lit, indicating that the dedicated oscillator modulation envelope
is in use. However, as the red LED next to p/w reveals, the modulation destination is oscillator pulse width. Since
both oscillators are assigned to sawtooth waveforms, the output from this modulation source is simply going off
into the ether.
Our exercise today is to poke, prod, and cajole
you into digging into your virtual synths and
creating your own unique sounds.
f e a t u r e
1 6 V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S
Downloading the freeware Synth1 and the
Patches Used in This Article:
Synth1 is compatible with Cubase SX, Fruity Loops 3.5, and Sonar (v1.0 and above).
It can be found at:
synth1107beta.zip at the top of the page. The site is in Japanese, but installation
instructionsand an English language operators manualcan be found at the
Installation(english) link on the same download page. We highly recommend print-
ing the manual.
Go to www.VirtualInstrumentsmag.com and click on the More Online tab, then
download the Synth1 Patch Banks. Be sure to load What Knob to Turn.fxb so you can
follow along with the examples used in this article (and get some cool sounds too!).
The custom patches are located in Bank 2 of the download.
Harmonic/tonal shaping (filters)
Amplitude/volume shaping (amplifier)
Dynamic/real-time control (assorted modu-
lators, such as envelopes and LFOs, and real-
time controls such as mod wheels and key-
board velocity)
Effects processing (reverb, delay, chorus,
So back to our hypothetical: I want my
sound brighter. If we work our way through
the above list, we can accomplish that desired
effect at every step of the way using different
Please check out the sidebar Synth Filters
101. With an oscillator, we would choose a
waveform (the Waveform Selector knob) with
greater high harmonic content, e.g. a saw-
tooth or narrow pulse wave versus a square or
sine wave. At the filter level, we would open
up the filter (the Filter Cutoff knob) to allow
more of the oscillators high harmonic con-
tent to pass through, or use the Filter Select
knob to choose a filter with a gradual roll-off
(e.g. 12dB per octave, or two-pole) rather
than a steep slope (24dB, or four-pole).
At the amplifier level, we would open the
amplifier (the VCA Gain or Amount knob) to
allow the full waveform to be heard (as
opposed to keeping it soft, which would
affect its perceived brightness). At the dynam-
ic control level, we would open our filter and
amplitude envelopes (Filter and Amplitude
Amount knobs) to allow the desired harmonic
content to come through, and also adjust our
real-time controls, such as keyboard velocity,
to similarly open the filter and amplifier.
Effects processing could include EQ-ing the
sound, adding some high-end glistening
reverb, and so on. (Knobs too numerous to
mention at this point, but almost sure to be
found in your synths Effects section.)
Now weve laid out a very basic roadmap
for what knobs you might potentially turn to
achieve a particular result. But what if you
grab the right knob, twist it madly, and dont
hear any effect on your sound?
Welcome to one of the biggest frustrations
in synth programming.
Nothing happens
This common roadblock illustrates why its
critical to understand the voltage control
parameters of your synth. Lets start with per-
haps the most fundamental analog synth
parameter of all, filter cutoff.
In basic analog subtractive synthesis, the fil-
termost commonly a four-pole 24dB per-
octave lowpass designis used to remove
harmonic content from the oscillators wave-
form. In other words, you start with a wave
with all of its inherent harmonics intact and
playing unfiltered at 100% of their amplitude,
and then subtract harmonic content to create
the desired sound.
Dynamic control over the filter, i.e. chang-
ing the waveforms harmonic content over
time, is generally accomplished using the fil-
ter envelope. This is most commonly imple-
mented in an ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain,
Release) format, which allows for fairly sophis-
ticated control, despite its simple design.
Lets say you want to create a simple blown
horn sound. If you imagine a real horn, you
can hear that in the initial blowing the
sound is softer and less rich harmonically. You
can approximate that blown sound in your
virtual instrument by adjusting the filter enve-
lope to have a somewhat prolonged attack
time; in other words the filter will open up
over time, allowing the sound to become
more harmonically rich (brighter) after note-
So you turn up the filter envelopes attack
time parameter. And your turn it up more.
And you turn it up morenow to maxi-
Fig. 2: Some users (including this author) may find Synth1s default mustard green
color a bit off-putting. Its easily changed in the Option screen (accessed by clicking
the Opt button at the bottom center of the front panel). You can enter your own hex
code to pick virtually any color; we choose red (990000), since Synth1 is reportedly
modeled on the Clavia Nord Lead 2 red synth; to go with that, we changed the text
from black to white. (Do an internet search for hex color number 990000, and youll
see how this works.) We also set the panel size to 200% to make on-screen program-
ming a bit easier.
f e a t u r e
1 8 V I R T U A L I NS T R U ME NT S
secret of analog synthesizer pro-
gramming officially revealed! If
you want to hear the effect of
your programming, you need to
turn the appropriate receiving
control to its minimum value so
that the incoming voltage can
A practical example:
In the custom Synth1 patches
weve provided at www.virtualin-
strumentsmag.com, call up Bank
1, Preset 10, French Horn. Play a
few notes to familiarize yourself
with the sound we are going to
Now call up Bank 1, Preset
11, Voltage Experiment. In this
preset the filter is wide open and
the Attack Time parameter is set
to its minimum value. Play a
note or two, and youll hear a
basic percussive pad sound.
Using this pad as a starting
point, well work toward creat-
ing our Preset 10 French Horn
sound. Start by turning up the
Filter attack time knob (A) to
maximum. Notice thats theres
no effect on the sound. Now
turn the Filter amount knob
(amt) to its maximum position;
this routes the full output volt-
age of the filter envelope to the
Still nothing! So weve proven
the concept outlined a couple of
paragraphs earlier: once the filter
is wide open, no amount of voltage we throw
at it is going to make a difference.
With the Attack and Amount parameters
set to maximum, lets use our minimum value
technique and turn the Filter Cutoff (frq) con-
trol fully counterclockwise, effectively setting
the filter cutoff frequency to 0Hz. Now play a
note and hold it (dont give upyoull need
to hold the note for quite a long time).
Notice that the long attack time is fully real-
ized, due to the fact that the filter was com-
pletely closed, so the voltage from the filter
envelope is able to work to maximum effect.
When the attack time comes to its end, the
harmonic content of the note decreases
rather quickly. The rate of decrease is con-
f e a t u r e
Fig. 3: Patches saved in Synth1 can be color-coded, providing a useful way to organize groups of sounds. Shown here is the
mini-bank of 15 patches created for this article.
Turn it up to 11
n our main story weve explored the importance of setting a receiving parameter
to its minimum value so that incoming control voltage can yield the desired effect.
But an equally important programming technique is selecting a parameter and turn-
ing it up to 11. The idea behind this approach is to exaggerate a parameter grossly so
that you can home in on the effect youre looking for precisely; once dialed in, you
simply back down the parameter to the appropriate level.
For example, lets say you wanted to adjust the rate of LFO vibrato. By setting the
LFO amount to 100% you would hear wild vibrato, and youd have no problem hear-
ing tempo of the vibrato as you adjusted it. Once the desired tempo was attained, you
would simply back down the amount to the desired level. This technique is applicable
for setting virtually any parameter, from envelope attack and decay times to pulse
width modulation to tempo-based delays.
mumand still hear absolutely no effect on
your sound.
You look at your synths front panel and
notice that the Filter Envelope Amount knob
(amt in Synth1), which controls how much
voltage is sent to the filter from the filter
envelope, is set to minimum. Aha! So you
crank it to 100%but still nothing! How is
this possible?
Going back to the all-important concept of
voltage control, the filter envelope is sending
voltage to your filter. If the filter is wide
open, that is, if the filter control (usually
labeled as Filter Cutoff, FC, or in the case of
Synth1, frq) is set at maximum, the filter is
already open 100% and passing full, unfil-
tered audio. You could give it a bona fide
electric shock and its not going to open any
more. So whatever voltage youre sending to
it from the filters envelope generator is sim-
ply being ignored.
And there, my friends, you have it: the
Kicking the refrigerator,
$5.00. Knowing where
to kick, $95.00.
Synth filters 101
filter is the most basic sound-shaping component in a traditional analog synthe-
sizer, since it fundamentally determines the harmonic content of the sound that
will be produced. A filter shapes that content by attenuating (reducing the volume)
of specific frequencies of the waveform being fed into it from the oscillator(s)
which is why this is called subtractive synthesis.
Which frequencies are attenuated and by how much is determined by the type of
filter used. Heres a basic overview of the filters available in Synth1 and commonly
implemented in other synths.
Lowpass: As its name implies, this filter allows frequencies that are lower than
the cutoff frequency to pass through unfilteredset the cutoff frequency to 0Hz
and no frequencies pass; set it to 20kHz and all sound passes through unfiltered.
Lowpass filters are generally implemented in 2-pole and 4-pole designs, with the
number of poles determining the steepness of the filters slope, i.e. how effective
the filters performance will be. Each pole represents 6dB of attenuation per octave
of frequency. So a 2-pole filter provides 12dB of attenuation per octave and 4-pole
filter provides 24dB. The musical result is that 2-pole filters tend to favor sounds
that have a relatively high degree of harmonic content such as bowed strings, while
4-pole filters are generally associated with fatter sounds such as basses.
Highpass: A highpass filter operates in the exact opposite manner of a lowpass
filter by allowing frequencies higher than the cutoff frequency to pass through unfil-
tered, while attenuating those below the cutoff frequency. Its primarily useful for
thinning out a sound and/or for getting rid of unwanted low end noise, such as
subsonic frequencies (thumps, pops, and the like).
Bandpass: Combine a lowpass and a highpass filter, and you get a bandpass filter.
This filter attenuates frequencies both above and below the filter cutoff point,
allowing a band of frequencies to pass through. In addition to being a sound sculpt-
ing tool, a bandpass filter can be very useful for homing in on the primary frequen-
cies that define a sound, so when mixing, extraneous frequencies that might clash
with other sounds can be eliminated or minimized.
Resonance: A filters resonance control boosts the frequencies at the filters cutoff
pointthe equivalent of the Q control in an equalizer. We all know the classic
Rez Bass sound; its created by boosting resonance, then sweeping the filter using
the Filter Envelope Decay parameter. As with a bandpass filter, the resonance con-
trol can also be used to accentuate a sounds primary frequencies to help create
clean mixes.
trolled by the filter envelopes Decay (D)
parameter, and the level to which it decreases
and stays for as long as the note is held is
determined by the Sustain (S) parameter.
Armed with this knowledge, we can quite
easily transform our percussive pad sound
into a blown horn simply by adjusting the
attack time to a natural level (try 60 - 70 in
Synth1). Further refinement of the sound is
accomplished by adjusting the Filter amount
(lower settings reduce the sounds brightness,
but also lessen the effect of the envelopes
settings) and the Filter Cutoff. The balance
between the Filter Cutoff and the Filter
Amount will determine both the overall har-
monic content of the sound and its dynamic
harmonic content over time.
There is no right combination of settings;
its all up to your individual taste and the
musical application. So experiment with vari-
ous values to see their effect.
Playin around
The mini sound bank developed for this
article was designed to illustrate the basic
concepts weve covered, and give you a start-
ing place for developing your own cus-
tomized sounds. Three groups of sounds in
particularLeads, Basses, and Wurlitzer
pianosdemonstrate how subtle changes in
parameters can often yield dramatic results.
As you move from one patch to another
within a group, take note of the sonic
changes and the parameters that were adjust-
ed to create them. (Clicking on a knob in
Synth1 will yield a pop-up so you can see the
exact parameter value.) The Wurlitzer electric
pianos, for example, make use of simple
changes in the oscillator waveforms (from soft
triangle to harmonically rich sawtooth) and a
gradual opening of the filter to create increas-
ingly brighter and edgier sounds. The solo
tones use the same technique, and also play
with the filter decay control to lessen the per-
cussive knock at the beginning of the
sound gradually.
Were not going to tell what changes were
made in the bass sounds to morph them from
one to another. Hopefully, youll have gleaned
enough knowledge from this article to figure
that out for yourself! Keen-eyed synthesists
will also notice that many of the patches
make use of pulse width modulation, key-
board modes (e.g. unison, mono, poly),
detuning, effects, and so on.
The voltage soundscape
Synthesizer sound design using the voltage
control concept is a lot like painting: there are
thousands of ways to mix paint, and millions
of ways to create trees, clouds, people, and
the like. No one approach is correct; no one
technique is absolute, and no one aesthetic is
universally accepted.
LFOs and envelopes and ramp generators
and wheels and ribbons and keyboards are
just voltage generators, and those voltages
provide a nearly unlimited palette for creative
sound design. Well explore more of this con-
cept in the future. In the meantimekeep
twisting those knobs! VI
Michael Marans fell in love with synthesizers
immediately upon seeing (and hearing) his first
onea Buchla Series 100back in 1966. Hes
been programming them, writing about them,
and consulting on their designs ever since.
r e v i e w
he Symphonic Cube series, the flagship
sampled orchestra product that Vienna
Symphonic Library has been working
toward since they released the first edition a
few years ago, is here. That is, most of its
herewere covering the initial release of the
first five instrument Collections. The remain-
ing five have since come out, and we hope to
cover them soon.
VSLs Vienna Instruments Collections
include a large amount of new material, and
all the files are now in 24-bit format rather
than the original versions 16; the difference
in sound quality is definitely noticeable, espe-
Vienna Symphonic Library
Symphonic Cube
The Vienna Instruments player is not your fathers
sampler, nor is VSL his sampled orchestra.
VSL Vienna Instruments,
Standard/Extended/Both Libraries:
Solo Strings, $415/535/950;
Chamber strings, $595/715/1310;
Orchestral Strings I, $595/715/1310;
Orchestral Strings II,
$535/655/1190; Woodwinds I,
$595/715/1310. (Not yet reviewed
but now available: Harps,
Woodwinds II, Brass I & II,
www.VSL.co.at. US distributor:
Ilio Entertainments, P.O. Box
6211, Malibu, CA 90265. 818/707-
7222, 800/747-4546,
Platform: Mac OS XAU, VST;
Windows XPVST. Can also oper-
ate stand-alone.
License: Uses a Syncrosoft USB
dongle (sold separately for $23, or
included with the complete
Symphonic Cube) that limits one
Collection library to one machine;
licenses can be moved (if you pur-
chase additional dongles) in order
to divide the orchestra among mul-
tiple machines, and you can pur-
chase additional dongles.
Review by Nick Batzdorf
cially when you add up an entire orchestra.
But the most important addition is VSLs
remarkable new Vienna Instruments player,
which we previewed in the December/January
This player is sure to have an impact on the
playback features in all software samplers.
Rather than being a tool for creating pro-
grams, its design is entirely focused on mak-
ing VSLs huge library manageable. It also
makes it much faster to work with.
Vienna Instruments takes the complete
workflow into account, from organizing this
gargantuan library to making its original
Vienna Instruments Control Edit screen. Each cell in the Matrix on the middle left of the interface contains a
different solo cello Preset. The top row contains progressively faster legato transitions, called up seamlessly as
you increase your playing speed (the Speed control at the upper right). You cant tell from this screen, but
the middle row has marcato bowings and the bottom row has spiccatos; this Matrix is using the mod wheel
to choose which row (i.e. which playing technique) you want to play. Notice the eye. The inner meter
displays MIDI velocity, the outer one shows the audio level.
Performance Tool features automatic: insert-
ing various types of legato transition samples,
and avoiding repeated samples of the same
note. Above all, the player brings the vast
quantity of VSL articulations under real-time
Well, the last point may be overstating
things just a little, since in the real world
youre still likely to do some tweaking to get
the most out of VSL. But you could theoreti-
cally call up every articulation you need and
play it live; the only practical limit is memo-
rythe computers for loading programs, and
your own for remembering which controllers
or keyswitches bring up what programs.
The other advance in Vienna Instruments is
that instead of loading one articulation per
MIDI channel and sequencer track, you can
now just load everything you need for an
instrument in a single instance of the player.
So for example the entire solo violin can now
be on one sequencer track and one MIDI
channel, no matter how many articulations
youre using.
But Vienna Instruments most dazzling trick
is its Speed controlthe ability to switch pro-
grams based on how fast youre playing.
The Vienna Instruments Collections are
available as ten separate libraries that can
stand alone. So you could start with, say, the
woodwinds (which are exceptional) or solo
strings (also very good, and great for layering
on top of other section strings to make use of
VSLs recorded legato transitions for added
realism). Given the size of the investment
required to purchase the entire Symphonic
Cuberoughly $11,000it makes a lot of
sense to offer it this way.
All the Collections come on Mac/PC DVDs,
and the ones being reviewed range in size
from about 30 to 55GB. That includes the
Standard library for each, as well as an
optional Extended library with a lot of addi-
tional material. You install both versions
(theyre bundled together in the same files),
and the Extended versionwhich you will
almost certainly lust afteris unlocked for a
30-day trial period if you havent bought it.
Please go to VSLs site (www.vsl.co.at) for a
list of whats included in this library; suffice it
to say that even the Standard libraries are
remarkably comprehensive.
We ran Vienna Instruments on a 2.8GHz
Pentium 4 custom VisionDAW machine
(www.visiondaw.com) with 2GB of RAM, and
a dual 2.5GHz PowerMac G5 with 5GB of
RAM; later we maxed out the G5 with 8GB of
RAM, with some astounding results. The
VisionDAWs processor falls just short of the
recommended 3GHz, but its well above the
2GHz minimum; according to the Macintosh
specs you can run these libraries on a 1GHz
G4, but VSL recommends a G5.
The Symphonic Cube uses Syncrosoft USB
dongles for copy protection (VSL calls the one
they sell for $23 the ViennaKey). As part of
the installation process you download one
license for each Collection you purchase. That
license can go on any Syncrosoft dongle
you can buy extras if you dont have them
from other Syncrosoft-protected libraries
and you can transfer licenses from one dongle
to another at any time.
The content can be spread across multiple
computers or you can access it from one loca-
tion over a network, but only the machine
with the dongle containing a given
Collections license can play it. Of course you
can move the dongles from machine to
machine, but be careful when doing that,
because Syncrosoft gets extremely unhappy if
you attempt to start Vienna Instruments with-
out the dongle attached. (Unlike some other
Syncrosoft-protected programs, it doesnt
actually bring down the host sequencer if you
forget the dongle, but it puts your computer
into a stupor long enough that you will prob-
ably force-quit manually.)
These libraries installed without any prob-
lems on both test machines. The Syncrosoft
dongle is pretty much unobtrusive on the
Windows computer, launching the Vienna
Instruments player in about 15 seconds. The
first time you run the program on the Mac,
however, it takes about a minute and 40 sec-
onds to check in with the dongle and launch;
this delay is the same with the stand-alone
program or the plug-in. But additional
instances of the player come right up and
samples load very quickly, considering the
size of the programs.
The playeroverview
VSL has always been a huge library. Its
known for having a staggering number of
articulations that are pretty much uniform for
every instrument, and its impeccably
The Symphonic Cube has far more articula-
tions than even the earlier VSL editions. In the
Vienna Instruments player these mapped
articulations are called Patches, and they can
still be loaded individually. The only real dif-
ference is that you cant edit the actual sam-
ple files the way you could in the EXS24 and
GigaStudio versions that preceded this one.
To paint the picture of how refined this
library is, take just one of the solo violins 18
main folders: Short and Long Notes. In addi-
tion to the different short bow playing tech-
niques (detach, spiccato) this folder has a
variety of vibrato choices for the sustained
notes: with and without vibrato, progressive
vibrato, marcato with vibrato, diminishing
The problem is how to access all those
articulations. In the past, and with other
libraries including VSLs own Horizons and
Opus series, you program performances by
splitting each MIDI note/group of notes to a
track assigned to the articulation you want
it/them to play. Thats not necessarily a bad
way of working, in fact MIDI programming is
a unique skill. However, I think most people
would agree that the way the Vienna
Instruments player works is a big step forward
even for musicians who prefer to program
than to play. (Never mind that most of us use
a combination of both.)
What this player does is allow you to load
up as many of these Presets as you need and
arrange them into performance set-ups called
Matrixes, where theyre ready to be sum-
moned by a variety of MIDI commands. Lots
of pre-defined Matrixes are included, you can
create your own, and you can customize the
commands for switching between Patches
very easily.
Finally, you can have several Matrixes
ike most modern sample libraries, VSL makes extensive use of keyswitches, which
are notes on an unused area at the very top or bottom of the keyboard. Vienna
Instruments Presets use keyswitches to call up different Matrixes. Theyre an excellent
control source, especially for scale runshit, say, an F# keyswitch and you bring up an
F# scale and all its modes.
Now, almost all sequencers since the 80s have had a note-chasing feature that looks
back to see which notes are sounding at the current location, and then sounds those
notes as soon as you hit Play. The same goes for controller-chasingthey always know
whether the sustain pedal is supposed to be up or down, that the mod wheel is sup-
posed to be in the middle, and so on.
Unfortunately, none of the MIDI sequencers on the market understands the differ-
ence between regular notes and keyswitch notes. Unless the keyswitch note happens
to be sounding at the point youve located to, the sequencer doesnt know to play it
and tell (in this case) the Vienna Instruments player which celli.e. which Presetits
supposed to be on. Naturally, your music will sound all wrong.
One workaround is to extend the length of every keyswitch note up to the begin-
ning of the following one (many sequencers have commands for doing this). However,
this is a nuisance, and it also doesnt solve the other problem: keyswitch notes need to
be kept off sequencers notation screens so they dont appear in the score.
In a moderately ideal world there would be a separate lane for keyswitch notes in
the sequencer, and notes in that lane are excluded from the score. But in Nirvana the
sequencer and sampler actually become one with each other: every keyswitch note is
displayed with a name of the program assigned to it, making it blissfully easy to edit.
loaded, ready to be called up by a keyswitch.
These big set-ups are called Presets.
And thats how youre able to call up any
Program in real time.
Matrix reloaded
One of the first things you notice about the
Vienna Instruments player is that it displays
meaningful information about the Patches,
Matrixes, or Presets youre going to load.
That includes a description of the program
and how much RAM it takes up.
Just this seemingly basic librarian feature
alone makes the library considerably easier to
deal with, since knowing the programs you
have to work with is half the battle (the other
half is getting the sound of all the articula-
tions in your head). The player doesnt stop
there, thoughits interface is very clear, and
it takes no time to learn your way around it.
What does take some thought and (for me,
anyway) constant refinement is how you set
up your Matrixes and Presets. However, every
instrument comes with a Universal Preset that
has all the important articulations already set
up for you.
The Universal Presets dont include every
single articulation in the library, but you could
be very happy using them and nothing else;
they include a lot. There are also Universal
Matrixes that contain legato, slightly accent-
ed, and fast playing techniques, each one in
four different lengths. Consider that not very
long ago, entire sample libraries werent near-
ly as extensive as the Universal Matrixes,
never mind the much larger Universal Presets.
But while the Matrixes are a manageable
size, but there is one problem with the
Universal Presets: they use RAM, RAM, and
RAM. The Extended solo cellos Universal
Preset is 1013MB (the Standard library cello is
552MB); while they arent all quite that large,
you can only run three or maybe four of
these programs on a well-stocked machine.
One way to reclaim RAM is to use the
Optimize functionplay Vienna Instruments
your sequence, and it unloads all the samples
that didnt get triggered. Thats not some-
thing youd want to do before youre finished
with a part, since clearly you cant play sam-
ples that arent loaded, but there is a Reset
button that loads the whole thing again.
It can be shocking how much RAM you
reclaim, even with complicated parts that use
a lot of articulations. One solo violin part I
Optimized caused the Vienna Instruments
RAM usage to drop all the way to 15MB
down from over 900MB.
Still, the real way to save RAM is to set up
programs that arent quite as luxurious. Thats
very easy to do, thanks again to the clever
The Vienna Instruments player uses a sys-
tem of vertical and horizontal cells, which
are slots for Programs. There are up to 12
available in each direction; to load a program
into one, you simply select it and drag the
Preset you want onto the workspace area.
Its also possible to load two Presets into a
single cell and either layer or crossfade them.
Presets in a cell can be assigned independent
level settings, start delays, 4-stage envelopes,
and release sample delays. The settings of
these sliders are reflected in the eye of the
selecting ring when you move them; normally
the eye displays concentric MIDI velocity and
audio level meters.
Theres considerable flexibility in how you
construct Matrixes and set up controllers to
switch between Presets. In a typical set-up,
you might have a few different types of artic-
ulations on the vertical axisperhaps legato,
sustained marcato, and staccato techniques.
Or perhaps you want legato and portmento.
However, theres nothing to stop you from
loading completely different instruments into
adjacent cells (if you have more than one
instrument Collection, of course), or layering
two different instruments in a single one.
That could be useful in live performance situ-
Conversely, its common to use the same
Preset in more than one cell if you want to
keep coming back to it (it only gets loaded
into RAM once). But were jumping ahead.
Now, most of the factory Matrixes use
the mod wheel to switch cells along the verti-
cal axis. While the mod wheels physical loca-
tion makes it a natural choice, you could just
as easily switch Patches using any other MIDI
continuous controller, the pitch wheel (so it
automatically springs back to whatever articu-
lation you have assigned to its middle value),
velocity, keyswitches, or the ingenious Speed
These switches are the same ones available
along the horizontal axis, and you can edit
hen Vienna Symphonic Library came out with their First
Edition for TASCAM GigaStudio and Apple Logic Pros
EXS24 samplers a few years ago, it was hard to believe that any-
one could undertake a sampling project of that scope. Since then
two other major orchestral libraries have been released, making
the whole concept somewhat more believable. But VSLs custom-
built sampling studio, The Silent Stage, has been highly active all
along, and VSL is still the largest sample library in the world.
One of the first things you notice about VSL is that until you
run it through a good reverb, most of it sounds totally wrong.
Thats intentional.
The Silent Stage isnt dry, but it has a very short reverb time;
the instruments arent close-miked, but they dont sound like they
were recorded from the audience perpectiveand in fact they
werent. This allows you to use VSL in many contexts, from con-
temporary to chamber to symphonic, depending on the artificial
space you put it in.
Each of the three major orchestral libraries has a general ten-
dency. If East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra is bom-
bastic and Sonic Implants Symphonic Collection is warm, Id say
that VSL leans toward the subtle and refined side. But of course
its fully capable of getting bombastic or warm, just as the other
two are capable of subtlety.
As much as possible, VSL records the same set of articulations
for every instrument. That helps make the library easy to learn,
and you can generally switch or copy parts to different instru-
ments very quickly.
Two other interesting features of VSL are that in addition to
the standard articulations, they recorded repetitions of each note
so you dont hear the same sample over and over; and they
recorded legato transitions in the same breath or bow from and
to every note of the chromatic scale over a wide range.
To implement these samples they designed a program called
the Performance Tool, which listened to your playing and sent
out keyswitches to summon the appropriate articulations. Its
Repetition and Alternation modes were sophisticated round-robin
players; its Legato mode interpreted your playing. If you held one
note while playing the next, it inserted a legato transition sam-
ple. But if you left a space between the notes, it played normal
articulations. These features are built into the new Vienna
Instruments player and no longer require a special program or
any set-up.
Subjectively, VSLs best instruments are its solo woodwinds and
solo strings. That doesnt mean the other Collections reviewed
here arent goodon the contrary, the strings are very flexible,
and I especially like the new harsh playing techniques. But solo
instruments done well are incredibly impressive; conversely, they
can really stink up the place when they dont work, because
theyre so exposed.
Still subjectively, VSLs greatest strengthapart from the sub-
tlety of expression youre able to achieve with such a vast selec-
tion of articulationsis somewhat intangible: the notes all have a
meaning. This is especially true of the short woodwinds; rather
than just going toot, their possibilities are immediately obvious.
Thats the great thing about sampling as a medium: it has an
inherent life.
The VSL library
f e a t u r e
640kb ought to be enough for anyone.
If Bill Gates really said those words or if its an urban legend is still
held in darkness, but what we do know is that with the fast computers
we have in our studios today the number crunching power is no longer
necessarily the obvious bottleneck in our machines. The increasing
need for RAM memory caused primarily by the modern huge sample
libraries is taking over the role as our main enemy.
As most of us still live in the 32-bit world with 32-bit Windows XP
and 32-bit processors were stuck with limitations induced by the oper-
ating system that we simply cant get around. That said, there are still
things we can do to improve the situation quite a bit.
A primer
The memory space every application (process) in Windows XP has
access to is 4GB. This is simply due to the fact
that 4GB is the largest number that can be rep-
resented with 32 bits. Out of these 4GB the sys-
tem is given 2GB for its own use.
The end result is that a process can access a
maximum of 2GB. This includes all things that
the process loads such as plug-ins and virtual
The 2GB given to the system is used by ker-
nel-mode applications, operating system com-
ponents and drivers. All this means that it does-
nt matter how much memory you install in
your machine; every process will get a maximum of 2GB.
As the system seldom needs 2GB for its own use, Microsoft added a
way to switch from this even split between normal user-mode and ker-
nel-mode applications to a more desirable 3-to-1 split in favor of user-
mode applications. This is done by setting a boot switch that
The superhero responsible for increasing GigaSamplers
memory access by a third explains how to tweak
Windows XP so other programs can access about 75%
more memory for loading samples.
The 3GB Switch
changes how XP configures itself on startup.
When the switch is set, a user-mode application is allowed to allo-
cate up to 3GB memory instead of the previous 2GB. Quite a substan-
tial improvement and a healthy increase for all those memory hungry
software samplers! Of course the switch doesnt make much sense
unless you really have 3GB or more physical memory installed.
Giving it the boot
The 3GB switch is an option you have to add in your boot.ini file.
You can access this file by going into My Computer->Properties-
>Advanced->Startup and Recovery->Settings.
In the following dialog press the Edit button. This should open a text
file with content similar to this:
Before changing anything, please note that if you destroy this
boot.ini file, your computer wont be very happy when starting up. So
take all precautions and medications. If you fail despite this warning,
you can find a way out with a little help from our Microsoft friends by
reading this article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/330184/en-us.
by Mattias Henningson
To maintain a safe route back to the standard configuration if your machine doesnt like the
3GB switch for some reason, copy the last line and edit it by adding the /3GB switch. Also
change the description on the changed line. In the example it could look like this:
Save the file and restart the machine. When
you restart the machine, you will get an option
to start either one of the two configurations you
now have on your computer, your previous con-
figuration or the 3GB-enabled configuration. If
you select the 3GB and the machine starts up
without problems, youre done.
There are cases when a driver, most probably
a video driver, fails to load when setting the
3GB switch since the amount of kernel-mode
memory in the system is too low. If that happens, its good to know that apart from going back
to the even split, you actually have an option to specify the exact relationship between user-
mode and kernel-mode memory by adding another switch in the boot.ini file called /userva.
Setting this to 2.5GB in the example above would make boot.ini look like this:
Nah, it cant be that easy, right?
No, of course not There is one more catch.
The host application (be it your main sequencer,
another host, or maybe a stand-alone software
synth or sampler) has to be Large Address
Obey the LAA
Large Address Aware, from here on denoted as LAA, is simply a single bit in the header of the
applications exe file that tells the operating system whether the application is able or not able to
make use of addresses above 2GB if the system is configured to support them.
What is really cool is that this bit can be set from the outside without having access to the
source code if the application doesnt support LAA already. The fact is that not many applications
are delivered with this bit set even though the programmers seem to be of good breed and
deliver code according to the rules that LAA applications must abide to.
So far the only applications I know about with LAA support as delivered are the latest incarna-
tions of Steinberg Nuendo 3 and Cubase SX3. Some of the other host developers such as
Brainspawn with Forte and FX-Max with FXTeleport have confirmed that they are adding support
in upcoming updates of their products. In any case it may be worth checking with the developer
of the application before hacking it yourself.
On the other hand, people say DIY is rewarding. So how do I add LAA support?
Adding LAA
The standard way of adding LAA support would be to use a command-line utility
called editbin.exe, which is included with Microsoft Visual Studio and some other
development packages. In this article, however, we will use an alternative Windows-
based utility I wrote specifically to back up this article called LaaTiDo.
A link to the utility can be found on the Virtual Instruments Magazine web site,
and directly from me at http://www.musikbanken.se. Using LaaTiDo youre able to:
Check if an application has LAA support
Backup the original file
Add or remove LAA support
The utility will guide you through this 5-step process:
Browse for and select the application executable file. In this example we will add
LAA support to Brainspawn Forte.
f e a t u r e
Check if the application already has LAA support by pressing the Check button under Step 2.
Our Brainspawn forte case gives the following result:
As you can see the application does not have LAA support which means we have to add LAA
support ourselves. First we really need to make a backup of the original file.
When selecting the file in step 1 the application automatically proposed a location and file
name for the backup.
Lets say were happy with the name and location. Press the Backup button. If the backup
operation was successful the I have a backup checkbox is selected and the patching button
for Step 4 is enabled. If we already had a backup we could just check the checkbox and contin-
Press the Enable button and the exe file will be automatically changed to include LAA support.
Upon completion it will look like this:
Check the file once again with the Check button to make sure it reports LAA support.
Test the application and enjoy the added memory space! After all, the worst case is that the
application crashes if it didnt follow the LAA coding rules.
Some remarks
Its important to stress the need for backing up the original boot.ini file. You may need to
restore the original file to be able to apply updates for the product.
There is another way of breaking the 2GB barrier. If you somehow can use more than one pro-
gram at the same time by using stand-alone synths or maybe a second host on the side, you will
be able to use more memory even without the 3GB switch enabled.
Dont expect to ever get access to the full theoretical 2GB or 3GB. One cause for this is that
memory just like hard disks gets fragmented. When the fragmentation gets really bad, XP cant
find a large enough block to give to the application when it requests more memory, and the
request is denied.
Dont enable the 3GB switch on a machine on which youre using TASCAM GigaStudio. As the
sampler engine in GigaStudio is a kernel-mode application, it will suffer heavily from the 3-to-1
memory split. The upcoming Giga Virtual Instrument, GVI, will be a standard user-mode plug-in,
however, and therefore it will to gain from LAA applications.
The future
There is a 64-bit/32-bit hybrid mode in the 64-bit Windows XP version that can raise the
memory limit for 32-bit applications even farther. 32-bit LAA applications running on 64-bit
Windows can access up to 4GB rather than 3GB, since Windows itself is not forced to use this
particular space.
The real solution to our memory needs is a 64-bit world where the current limits are totally
blown away and maximum values are counted in terabytes rather than a couple of gigabytes.
Unfortunately there are still not many alternatives if you decide to go with a full 64-bit solution
right now, in terms of sequencers and hardware drivers.
Cakewalk has already been there since last year with their native 64-bit edition of Sonar, and
some of the major sound card manufacturers have released drivers for their cards, but thats
about it. The support is coming step-by-step and when the time is right the market will probably
Lets hope that time will come sooner rather than later. VI
f e a t u r e
The increasing need
for RAM memory
caused primarily by
the modern huge
sample libraries is
taking over the role as
our main enemy.
i n t e r v i e w
Youve commented that theres too
much emphasis on acoustic realism in
our medium. But youre working with
the Vienna Symphonic Library.
Here are my thoughts. Ive been doing this
for 20 years, and Im still like a beginner.
Every day I learn new things, and this is very
complicatedI would need 200 years to mas-
ter this. I know that.
But I think what happens is a lot of people
compare the virtual orchestra to a live sym-
phony performance, which is absolutely
absurd to me! Its just nuts! Theres just noth-
ing thats comparable to a live symphony in a
hall; thats a unique experience, and no digi-
tal orchestra is ever going to match that.
Now, when I way that it doesnt mean the
digital orchestra cant be incredibly powerful
or musical or expressive in its own right. But
its going to do that with its own attributes
and its own qualities.
If you compare lets say a high-quality digi-
tal recording of the New York Philharmonic to
a really high-quality recording of a virtual
orchestra, now you have a little closer com-
parison. At least now youre dealing with the
same medium: youre listening to the music
through two speakers.
People talk a lot about panning and how
important it is. I just dont agree with that.
Even if youre sitting in the best seat in the
house, right in the center, listening to music
over two speakers is a very different experi-
ence to listening to music live in a hall. So to
me the panning template doesnt make any
Thats what I mean when I say How much
of this do we owe to the symphonic medium,
how much do we inherit, and how much do
we just have to let go and say This is another
medium that requires a different exploration?
There are a lot of similarities, especially
when youre dealing with orchestration,
because youve got the problems of trans-
parency and orchestral weight and blend,
youve got the orchestral problem of how to
get every instrument to soundand thats
really important, and thats what we have in
common with symphonic writing.
Jerry Gerber
A very different kind of poster
boy for the V.I. medium
Jerry Gerber is a highly skilled serious composer
who works with sample libraries and software synthsesizers.
Rather than making mock-ups with these tools, he treats
this as a serious medium of its own, with its own
capabilities and unique challenges.
While he has done a lot of network television scoring in the
past, for the last decade Jerry has been living in San
Francisco, producing extended concert works on CD.
His music combines sample libraries, synthesizers, and live
musicians (especially singers) very skillfully.
Please go here and listen:
Interview by Nick Batzdorf
But other than that its an open field. I
think that the new tools are so new that peo-
ple dont know how to approach it, so we
naturally refer to the symphonic orchestra.
And we should, because its an incredible
musical achievementI mean listening to
100 good musicians playing together in a
nice hall is a profound experience.
So if the focus were more on good music,
good structure, good musical development, I
think these problems of realism would take
care of themselves. There are always going to
be people who reject the medium because
they think its supposed to be a symphony
orchestra, and there are always going to be
people who love the medium whether its a
symphony orchestra or not.
That letter I wrote (Trends, 4-5/06) was
out of frustration. I got this letter from some
supposed musician who was basically telling
me to stop doing what I do! It was just a
bizarre letter. I think to myself, if youre
against this medium or you dont like it, just
dont listen to it!
I imagine photographers got the same flack
when photography first hit the scene and
people were saying Whoa, its trying to be a
painting! But people just have to do what
they love, and do the best they can.
Whatever you put out there gets criticized
anyway. Thats just the way it is. Always easier
to criticize than to create, huh?
I find it easier. :)
Since most of our readers are inter-
ested in songwriting or writing for
media, we deal with short forms. Your
works are extended. Can you say any-
thing about the structure?
I basically start out with two or three primary
ideas. In the movement Im working on right
now, there are three. One is a rhythmic motive:
an eighth and two 16ths. Its repeated.
Another one is a 4-note melodic motive
that goes [he plays]: G, Ab, G, Gb. Just those
four notes. And then the other one is [plays a
series of notes that start with a minor/major7
arpeggiated sound but continue]its that
How I work the form is, those are the pri-
mary ideas and I develop them, make varia-
tions on them, repeat them, take them apart
and turn them upside downall kinds of tech-
niques that composers use, everything from
contrary motion to retrograde to augmenta-
tion, diminution, change of interval, change of
meter, change of accentall that stuff.
How much of that technique is con-
scious while youre doing it?
Half of it. Theres always an intuitive part.
For me, no matter how complicated the
texture is melodically and contrapuntally, it
has to work harmonically. Ive heard a lot
music thats very complex and very intricate
from a contrapuntal point of view, but Im
not crazy about the harmonies.
My favorite harmony sometimes is Irish folk
music. Im a tonal composer, even when I
work with 12-tone rows I end up working
harmonies in a tonal way.
But for me the big challenge composition-
ally is combining tonality with chromaticism.
So much of pop music, for example, uses
seven notes. Youll hear modulations to other
keys, but basically composers are thinking in
terms of seven notes. But there are 12 notes.
I think chromaticism creates some of the
most interesting music, for example the
Mahler symphonic movements.
There are some sections where you
use arpeggiated ostinatos, and people
associate that with minimalism. Is that
how youre thinking?
I think that rather than write minimalist
music or write serial music or write this kind
of music, I think Im a pretty eclectic compos-
er. I try to make styles my own and integrate
them, but there are a lot of times and pas-
sages in my music when Im not interested in
chord progressions, Im interested in building
up a texture and keeping a very pronounced
Fig. 1: The staff view in Cakewalk Sonar of Jerry Gerbers Symphonic Movement 1, a work in progress. He
composes in this screen, entering the notes manually.
Fig. 2: An event list in Gerbers Symphonic Movement 1. Note how many controller moves and patch
changes go with the uncluttered score shown in Fig. 1.
tonal center, and that will create a minimalist
effectsometimes by overlaying four or five
different contrapuntal parts but not necessari-
ly changing chords.
To me, tonality is like gravity: you can play
with it, you can suspend it, you can work
with it, you can hide itbut you cant get rid
of it. Sort of like flying from here to New
Yorkas long as those engines are on and
theyre flying the airplane, the plane is not
going to crash. But you turn those engines
off, and immediately gravity comes into play.
Music is like that in the sense that theres a
natural tendency to resolve tones. I dont
know how much of it is a result of the physics
of sound and the overtone series, how much
of it is cultural bias, and how much of it is just
a result of how our brains have evolved. But I
find that music that never resolves tonally
doesnt reach me deeply.
In some ways, minimalism is a reaction
against serialism. Whereas serialism was an
attempt to completely eliminate tonal gravity,
minimalism is an attempt to affirm the prima-
cy of tonal gravity.
I mix in both directions. Its fun to play
with tonality, though, and suspend it and
hide it and not resolve things, and thwart lis-
teners expectations sometimes. I guess the
trick is to do that and still have it make sense
Youve commented that some of your
less experienced students come to you
with a concept of orchestrationthey
might bring some nice texturesbut
they dont have a concept of the form.
I think form is the last part of composers
technique to mature, and its difficult to
develop form if all you write are short cues for
visual media. Most film music, the cues are
anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds long, some-
times three minutes, sometimes even four or
five, but thats about it.
So its hard to develop long form. Like any-
thing else, you just have to practice over and
over again. I dont know how much of it is
learning and how much is intuitive talent;
theres obviously a combination with every-
I think in some ways the technology is very
intoxicating and very seductive. Just like hav-
ing a fancy word processors not going to
make you into Shakespeare, having the most
elaborate equipments not going to add to
your musical chops unless youve studied
music too.
Where would you have a student
start practicing form?
I would go to the master composers like
Mozart, Mahler, or Beethoven symphonies, or
even Bach fugueswhich are short but
incredibly complete formsand I would ask
the student to just sit there with a score and
just listen to the piece 20 times over a week,
and just absorb the textures and the way
music is developed.
Thats if they want to do that! Most stu-
dents who have come to me want to do film
music. I can understand thatits practical,
its one of the few ways a composer can make
a living. Very, very few, maybe a handful of
composers in the United States make a living
writing serious classical music that isnt for
film or television or computer games.
If youre writing for television, you dont
have to worry about form too much.
The forms dictated. But theres also
speed. Some people crank out ten min-
utes of music in a day.
Well, it may be ten minutes of music, but
what kind of music? When I was doing the
Gumby television series and I had 750 cues
over a year and a half, I wrote very, very
fastI had to do six episodes a month.
But it wasnt my best music. My best music
takes time, it takes time for music to age. I
mean, it took Brahms 25 years to write his
first symphony! Its not uncommon for com-
posers to spend yearsfive, six, nine years on
a work.
Why would anybody want to miss the best writers in the industry, helping you get the absolute
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or $20 for two years. Youll be helping us print more issues and more pages, which will only bene-
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r e v i e w
IK Multimedia Classic Studio
Reverb, $399.
IK Multimedia US, LLC 1153
Sawgrass Corporate Pkwy.,
Sunrise, FL 33323. 954/846-9101.
Formats: PCRTAS, VST; Mac
RTAS, VST, Audio Units.
License: requires included
Syncrosoft dongle.
s the name would imply, Classik Studio
Reverb (CSR) is a suite of four reverbs
modeled on the sound of popular out-
board classics. While they may or may not be
modeled after specific units, but they definite-
ly strive for the quality, character, and flexibili-
ty that was a hallmark of the glory days of
All the classic types are included: the bright
metallic character of 1950s plate reverbs, hall
and room reverbs for simulating the sound of
acoustic spaces, and 1980s reverse reverbs
that can really liven up a rock snare drum.
The software is available for PC in VST and
RTAS formats, and for Mac in VST, RTAS, and
Audio Units; a TDM version for Pro Tools HD
systems is under development. CSR comes
with a Syncrosoft USB dongle, as has become
the norm with high-end audio software. If
you already have one Syncrosoft dongle, you
can consolidate authorizations onto one don-
gle, saving USB ports.
Happy tails
The four plug-insCSR Plate, CSR Room,
CSR Hall, and CSR Inverseshare a straight-
forward common user interface that looks like
a generic effects rack. You can tell which one
you are in by its color, and also by the labels
on the controls, which change to reflect the
type of reverb in use.
The software has two modes. Easy mode
has six knobs that control the most basic
parameters, such as Mix, Diffusion, Reverb
Time, Low Frequency Gain, High Frequency
Cutoff, and High Frequency Damping. And
Advanced mode lets you get under the hood
to access over 100 individual parameters.
These parameters include the size of the
acoustic space, speed at which the reverb
builds up, and modulation. That all of this
can be done in real time is unprecedented in
Advanced mode is also where youll find
the modulation matrix. Four different modu-
lation sources can be routed to up to eight
destinations, allowing modulation of nearly
any parameter from two LFOs or two enve-
lope followers. The A/B comparison switch
comes in handy when youre trying to deter-
mine what affect a parameter has on the
sound. Built-in presets ensure that even
novices can get a great sound from the out-
For added movement, it is possible to cre-
ate Macros that assign a single slider to con-
Real-time control meets the character and
flexibility from the glory days of outboard
IK Multimedia Classic
Studio Reverb
by Lee Sherman
trol up to eight parameters in real time.
Macros allow you to morph between various
settings with the flick of a slider. You can limit
the sliders travel so that only specified mini-
mum and maximum values are allowed.
Real-time control over reverb has been
around since the 80s, but few musicians took
advantage of it since it was tricky to set up. IK
has made it very easy to set up, so perhaps
that will change.
In use
Like the perfect party guest, Classik Studio
Reverb fits into a mix without standing out
too much. Where other reverbs are brash and
obvious, Classik Studio Reverb is lush and
pure. Theres little to no coloration of the
original source material.
Traditional reverb processing cant match
the realism of convolution processing, but it
puts far less strain on your computers CPU
and allows real-time con-
trol. A single instance of the
plug-in in Ableton Live on a
dual 2GHz PowerMac G5
caused my CPU usage to
rise about 10%, a perfectly
reasonable increase consid-
ering sound.
I tested the reverbs on a
variety of source material,
including drums, sampled
grand piano, and vocals. As
expected, CSR Plate and
CSR Hall were outstanding
on vocals, while CSR Room
excelled at adding ambi-
ence to solo piano tracks.
The real surprise in the suite is CSR Inverse.
By applying an envelope to early reflections, it
can turn standard drum loops into complicat-
ed polyrhythms.
A good traditional reverb processor may
not be the flashiest tool in the shed, but for
precise control over the bread and butter
sounds most musicians need daily, it is by far
the handiest. VI
r e v i e w
r e v i e w
t was the late 80s, and Yamaha was sticking
with FM synthesis (in the DX7II) while the
rest of the world went crazy for sample
playback workstations. The way I heard the
story, a Yamaha manager insisted that their
corporate vision was correct because FM can
make any sound!
He was wrong, of course. FM is pretty bad
at realistic emulations of most acoustic instru-
ments, though it does excellent mallet per-
cussion, electric piano, and harp. One is
bound to suspect that either this manager
couldnt hear the difference between the
DX7IIs strings and a sampled orchestra, or
he heard the difference but didnt think it
mattered musically.
If we narrow the scope of the claim to non-
realistic, synthesizer-type sounds, it starts to
make a lot more sense. A good FM synth is
an extraordinary tool for producing a huge
variety of tones and textures. Throw in a cou-
LinPlug Octopus, $149
LinPlug Virtual Instruments
GmbH, Eibischstr. 6A, 12357
Berlin, Germany, www.linplug.com
Formats: Windows VST,
Mac AU & VST
License: emailed authorization
Fig. 1. In Octopus, FM modulation routings are in
the matrix on the upper left, while envelope and
LFO amounts are programmed in the matrix on the
right. Waveform editing is handled at upper right,
and individual envelopes are edited at center left.
The effects and step sequencer are along the bot-
A boatload of distinctive and highly
programmable electronic tones
ple of analog-style filters, additive waveform
editing, some looping envelopes for produc-
ing rhythms, a simple step sequencer, and a
few basic effects, and youve got a power-
house on your hands.
LinPlug Octopus, for instance. While its
not the first software-based FM synth to hit
the market, it puts a lot of desirable features
in an affordable package. Its sound is warm,
icy, fat, delicate, whatever you want. And call-
ing it an FM synth is selling it a bit short.
Basic sample playback is also included.
Linplug Octopus
Review by Jim Aikin
Wrap your tentacles around it
Octopus continues the proud DX7 tradition
in another way as well: its not exactly easy to
program. LinPlug departed from the familiar
FM design, in which each oscillator is tied to
its own amplitude envelope generator, the
pair being referred to together as an operator.
In Octopus, the eight FM oscillators are in
one part of the panel, while the envelope
generators (up to 32 of them) are in a differ-
ent area, as seen in Fig. 1. Each envelope can
control any combination of oscillators, and
any oscillator can be used as an FM modula-
tor for any other. If this synth used patch
cords, you wouldnt be able to see the panel
for the dangling spaghetti.
The two filters have no frills, but they
sound good. Each offers lowpass, bandpass,
and highpass mode (no choice of rolloff
slope). Three controls are included for cutoff,
keyboard tracking, and resonance. The signal
routing matrix allows the filters to be posi-
tioned in series, in parallel, or in a mix of the
two modes. You can route some oscillators
through the filter(s) while sending others
direct to the output, and the filter output can
also be used as an FM modulator.
In another departure from tradition,
Octopus has no LFOs. Instead, since all of the
envelopes loop, any envelope can be used as
an LFO with an editable waveshape.
Im not completely sold on this design.
First, editing the speed of an envelope-based
LFO without altering its waveform requires
moving at least two envelope points. Second,
theres no LFO onset delay (unless you choose
to modulate LFO depth externally using a
MIDI controller), because the attack portions
of an envelope are skipped when its in LFO
mode. Third, the random waveforms found
on many other synths LFOs are not possible.
The effects section includes chorus, delay,
reverb, 4-band fully parametric EQ, and a dis-
tortion knob.
Pushing the envelopes
The manual doesnt say how many seg-
ments the envelopes can havemore than
youre likely to need, its safe to say. Editing
envelopes is easy, and they have most of the
features weve come to expect of multi-seg-
ment envelopes, including tempo sync with
snap-to-grid editing, adjustable curvature for
each segment, and selectable loop start and
end points.
Each envelope is associated with its own
multi-segment keyboard and velocity scaling
curves, which affect the output level. Velocity
and the keyboard can also modulate envelope
speed, but you get only one parameter for
each. This affects the speed of the envelope
as a whole.
Envelope depth can be controlled via MIDI
using mod wheel, pitchbend, aftertouch
(mono or poly), breath controller, foot con-
troller, expression controller, or CC 16, 17,
18, or 19. Theres no scaling or offset for
these control inputstheyre all or nothing.
In practice, this means youll sometimes want
to use two separate envelopes to control the
same signal, one modulated by MIDI, the
other not. This will entail a little extra editing,
but with 32 envelopes available, youre not
likely to run short.
Envelopes can be unidirectional or bidirec-
tional, and amplitude envelopes can be addi-
tive or multiplicative. This is an unusual
design, and very useful.
Octopus maxes out at twelve notes of
polyphony. Twelve should be plenty for
most musical parts, but while using the
synth in a song, I spotted a voice allocation
bug that cut the actual polyphony in half
(or worse) when the main amplitude enve-
lope had a long release time. In a passage
with repeated 6-note chords, some of the
chords would have several dropped notes.
Since I alerted LinPlug to the problem,
theyre working on a fix.
I also found that when synced and looped
envelopes keep looping for long periods of
time, they drift slowly out of sync with one
another. If you strike a new note every eight
bars or so, however, youll never notice the
Davey Tones locker
Each of Octopuss FM oscillators can pro-
duce the first 32 harmonics of the overtone
series in any mix, with separate phase control
for each harmonic. (A trivial bug causes the
overtone display to be incorrect and inactive
until you select an oscillator.) The usual pitch
ratio and frequency parameters are provided.
Keyboard level scaling of oscillator output
level is not available directly, but you can set
it up using an envelope. By programming
sawtooth or square waves and then running
them through the filters, you can easily turn
Octopus into two parallel 4-oscillator analog
subtractive synthsvery nice.
Situated alongside the FM synth is a paral-
lel 1-oscillator sample-playback synth. This
uses the same pair of filters, which means you
can use a sample as an FM modulator (but
not as a carrier) by routing it through a filter.
Eight slots can be loaded with the samples of
your choice, and each can be given a key
zone, but the zones cant be layered atop one
another. Looping can be switched on or off
for each sample, as can keyboard tracking,
and their output levels are adjustable.
Octopus crashed two host sequencers
(Cubase and Live) when I tried to load certain
samples. (WAV file headersdont ask.) Ive
alerted LinPlug to the problem, and theyre
working on a fix. But most of the samples
that I tried loaded and played correctly.
Steppin out
When either of Octopuss two step
sequencers is switched on, the synth becomes
monophonic, but when both are switched
on, two voices sound, playing the two
sequences independently (in sync, of course).
Steps are always a 16th note long, but rests
and sustain steps are allowed. The sequence
editing features, while simple, include shift
left and shift right commands, which are
vital in this type of device.
These sequences always start when you
play a key on the keyboard and stop when
you lift the key. Some sort of quasi-intelligent
keyboard-reading mechanism allows you to
choose minor, major, or diminished patterns
from the same sequence by playing several
keys at once, but its undocumented, so Im
not entirely sure whats going on.
If you want to go even farther out, try
grabbing a microtonal tuning from among
the hundreds installed with Octopus. Tuning
files of your own can be created using the
freeware Scala software (Google scala micro-
Sunken Treasure
Im a sucker for FM synthesis, so I like
Octopus a lot. Its versatile, and it sounds
great. While Id like to see a few enhance-
ments, starting with more modes for the fil-
ters, Octopus is priced very reasonably, so if
youre curious about FM or just need a good
all-around synth, dive right in. VI
Jim Aikin writes regularly for VI and other
music technology magazines. To learn about his
latest novel, visit www.musicwords.net.
r e v i e w
teinberg V-Stack is a popular program
for hosting V.I.s and plug-ins on a
remote computer. Its efficient, it
works reliably, its flexible and easy to use,
and its only a $50 download. (Theres a Mac
version too, but the following only applies to
the Windows version.)
But V-Stack has one bug that persists even
after several versions: for some reason it
stops responding to MIDI input after about
ten hours, after which you have to launch it
again and re-load all your programs. This
happens whether youre using MIDI inter-
faces or sending it MIDI over ethernet using
MIDI Over LAN (Musiclab.com) as we are in
this screen dump.
Given that musicians who still have their
computers fired up after ten hours are usual-
ly on a deadline, this seemingly minor incon-
venience can be quite frustrating.
Did you know that you can often wake up
V-Stacks MIDI input by hitting Play on the
transport (lower right)? It doesnt always
work, but it usually does.
While youre slapping yourself on the fore-
head, we should mention in passing that if
youre trying to assign a channel strip to an
output on your audio interface but only see
the stereo bus, hit F4. That will bring up the
VST Outputs window, where you can turn all your audio interfaces out-
puts on (see the light blue IO symbols to the left of each lighted bus at
the upper right). Now theyll show up.
Waking up Steinberg V-Stack
r e v i e w
PSPaudioware Neon $149;
PSP Neon HR $299
Contact: PSPaudioware; +48 60
196 31 73; e-mail: contact@pspau-
dioware.com; Web: www.pspau-
Minimum System
Requirements: PC P4/Celeron
1 GHz or faster, 256 MB RAM,
Windows XP; Mac G4 1.25 GHz
or faster, 512 MB RAM, OS X
10.3.8; Formats: DX, RTAS, VST,
License: PACE iLok key required
for HR version (not included),
Standard version uses code
Review by
Jason Scott Alexander
button that bypasses the unit, and a zoom
wheel for the waveform display.
Neon is available in two versions. The stan-
dard version operates at 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz
sample rates, or for roughly double the price
you can get PSP Neon HR (high resolution),
which adds support for sample rates up to
192 kHz plus a special FAT (Frequency
Authentication Technique) smoothing algo-
rithm well discuss later.
There are two other differences with the
HR version: it can equalize each channel in a
stereo program separately, and it can work
with mid-side stereo sources. MS is a popular,
mono-compatible stereo recording technique
that uses a cardioid (directional) mic pointing
forward and a figure-eight mic to pick up the
PSP Neon offers eight bands of equaliza-
tion, each of which can be assigned one of
seven filter types. Those are: low cut 12dB per
octave; low cut 24dB per octave; low shelf;
peaking; high shelf; high cut 12dB per
SP Neon is a full-featured linear phase
mastering equalizer. Linear phase means
that the filters delay all the frequencies
by the same number of samples; standard IIR
(infinite impulse response) filters shift some fre-
quencies in time more than others.
Through a nasty little phenomenon known
as transient smearing, that phase distortion is
usually perceived as a loss of space and depth
in recordingsand that includes samples,
which of course are also recordings. There are
many IIR equalizers that sound good in spite
of that, but for applications in which you
want to maintain a pure signal, phase lineari-
ty is a good thing.
PSP Neon opens to a clean and uncluttered
interface; despite having an extensive array of
features, using it is completely intuitive.
Like all of PSPs plug-ins, Neons graphics
are designed to look like a piece of hardware.
This is enhanced with touches like a Power
PSPaudioware Neon HR
Linear Phase Precision
Mastering Equalizer
octave; and high cut 24dB per octave. You
can engage/disengage bands individually, and
each band is given a unique color so you can
differentiate easily between the active bands.
A large soft blue LCD shows you the
curves for active band in its own color, and
the overall equalization curve is shown as a
thick black line. If youre using a stereo
instance of the plug-in with only one channel
active, a thin black line shows the other chan-
nels EQ curve.
Instead of using the frequency, gain, and Q
controls to adjust EQ curves, you can simply
grab a filters adjustment node. These are
shown as small colored dots along the curve
(see Figure 1). The EQ graph also includes an
info bar along its bottom, offering pertinent
information on the current filter settings.
The higher-end PSP Neon HR includes the
standard version, so you dont need to down-
load it separately. System requirements
include a 1GHz Celeron/Pentium PC or Mac
G4 processor or better, running Windows XP
or Mac OS X 10.3.8 or newer.
The standard Neon version uses code entry
authorization, while the deluxe Neon HR ver-
sion uses a PACE iLok hardware dongle that
you must purchase separately (if you dont
already have one). I have long since removed
the PACE iLok drivers from my PC after notic-
ing that they cause performance dips, and
therefore I only tested the standard Neon ver-
sion on that machine (a 3.2GHz Pentium 4
running Windows XP SP2 and using Steinberg
Nuendo as a host).
However, the iLok is fine on Macs, so I
installed both versions on a dual 2GHz G5
with 4 GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.4.3, and Pro
Tools|HD Accel hardware with a 192 I/O
The peak or cutoff frequency for each of
the eight bands can be set from 20Hz to
20kHz in very precise 1Hz steps, with Q
ranges from 0.05 to 20.0 for peak filters and
0.35 to 1.41 for shelving and 24 dB/octave
cut filters. The Q of an equalizer is the fre-
quency divided by the bandwidth; the higher
the Q, the narrower the range of frequencies
that gets affected.
Gain knobs yield 24 dB maximum cut or
boost in 0.04 dB steps, and double-clicking
on any control allows for manual value entry.
I found the Reset tabs to the left of each
parameter row quite handy for clearing all
eight bands in one click.
In order to do its magic, the plug-in han-
dles audio in fairly large chunks called frames.
The optimal size of these frames in samples
depends on the length of the filter, or the
plug-ins operating resolution.
While the standard versions filter size is
fixed at 4096 samples, the HR has two addi-
tional sizes: High mode doubles it to 8192,
and Max quadruples it to 16384. Kicking in
FAT mode doubles the filter length again.
This oversampling mode curbs the warping
caused by digital filtering, as I easily detected
on a variety of source recordings through
A/Bing using the FAT toggle. With it engaged,
music sounded much smoother with more
analog-like high frequency response.
This requires a lot of power, though, so the
instructions advise you to raise the host pro-
grams buffer very high. Larger buffers lower
the CPU load (up to a point), but not all hosts
or audio interface drivers offer a large enough
setting, which makes Neon use a lot of com-
puter power.
Furthermore, because the linear phase fil-
ters are long and their length varies according
to the resolution setting, the latency isnt con-
stant. And its significantdelays can be well
in excess of one to three seconds!
So as to not overtax your host application,
PSP Neon doesnt report its latency correctly,
so the latency cant be compensated for in
linear phase mode. This is typically not a
problem in a mastering setting with every-
thing running through the equalizer at the
same latency, but it is an issue in other appli-
For this reason PSP Neon has a minimum
phase error Infinite Impulse Response (IIR)
mode, in which the latency is extremely low
and is reported back to the host correctly. To
be honest, though, youll have a hard time
going back after listening to Neon in Linear
Phase mode.
[As we went to press, PSP informed us that
version 1.1.0 will include the option to report
latency in LP as well as IIR modes, a fixed
latency mode, and an internal overload for
Pro Tools TDM users.]
Bright lights
I swear by each of the exquisite-sounding
nonlinear EQs I compared Neon to: Sony
Oxford OXF-R3 (7-band), Massenburg
DesignWorks Hi-Res Parametric EQ 2.0 (5-
band), and Univeral Audios Cambridge EQ
(5-band). Yet none comes close to delivering
the transparent high-frequency detail I heard
from PSP Neon HR in Linear Phase mode.
Regardless of the sample frequency,
absolutely no coloration (i.e. phase distortion)
ever appeared, and the material I was master-
ing benefited from Neons open sound. Even
with fairly substantial curves thrown at them,
hi-def recordings seem to pass right on
through with transients left unscathed.
Typically problematic high-dynamic
GigaStudio string ensembles gained incredi-
ble depth and clarity across the stereo field,
quite unlike any digital EQ has afforded me in
the past. With FAT mode switched on, PSP
Neon HR sounded just that much silkier on
the highs with not even a hint of aliasing, and
the double-precision extension of the filters
allowed me to punch up low frequencies with
extremely high Q boost settings.
The 15 - 20% CPU hit to the beefy test
machines with both Linear Phase and FAT
engaged in Max resolution modes shouldnt
come as much surprise, and it shouldnt sway
you at all from considering this plug-in for
your mastering stage.
Used as channel insert EQ in its Standard
IIR mode settings, Neon sounded better than
some processors that cost up to three time
the price. As totally transparent and highly
flexible sculpting tools, PSP Neon and PSP
Neon HR truly shine. VI
Fig. 1: Instead of using the standard knobs to adjust EQ curves, you can simply grab a filter's
adjustment nodes (the small colored dots).
I swear by each of the exquisite EQs I compared
Neon to, yet none comes close to delivering the
transparent high frequency detail I heard from it in
Linear Phase mode.
r e v i e w
f e a t u r e
Translating sequenced music to a score for live players
presents some unique challenges. The highly skilled and tal-
ented young composer Thomas Jwhos also unparalleled
at orchestral MIDI programminggoes over his process for
doing that, offering pointers along the way.
In their traditional role, orchestrators take
composers sketches and flesh them out for full
orchestra. They often get a piano sketch or a
couple of staves worth of music from which
theyre expected to make colorful instrumentations.
In this day and age, however, more and more
media composers are working in sequencer-based
composition environments, doing the bulk of the
actual instrumentation as they go along.
Sometimes they dont even have the training to
write for real orchestra. For these reasons, the
work associated with the orchestrator position in
the film music industry is perhaps in need
of a slight redefinition.
Download the scores, MIDI files, and MP3 that go
with this article at www.VirtualInstrumentsMag.com
From Sketch
to Score
By Thomas J. Bergersen
In this article Ill offer a view into the role of
modern orchestration and go through an
example of the process. People work in differ-
ent ways when transforming a MIDI sequence
into an orchestral score, but what they all
have in common is that there are no short-
cuts. This article describes my way of work-
ing, from the point of view that youre the
composer and youre working with an orches-
trator. However, all this applies if the roles are
reversedand most applies if youre filling
both roles.
As an example, well use the first 12 bars of
the included piece Mojo Madness, com-
posed for this article, and follow the process
as the MIDI file is transformed into a full
orchestral score in the popular notation pro-
gram Sibelius (see sidebar).
You can download PDF versions of the
score and also an MP3 of the audio file at
www.VirtualInstrumentsMag.com, then click
on More Online.
Samples that dont translate
One of the first problems youre likely to
run into when you work out your sketch in a
sequencer is that samples dont always trans-
late directly to a score. Examples of this
include special effects not covered by sam-
ples, player-specific instructions, and irrelative
time signatures. You might use a measured
Figs. 1 & 2: The clarinet part is cleaned up in
Cubase by first selecting the notes, quantizing the
attacks to 16th notes, and finally quantizing the
note-offs to 16ths as well.
tremolo sample that works in 4 but not in 3,
for example; in the mock-up it just appears as
a long note.
When I work with orchestrators I make a
habit of noting these occurrences as they
appear in the work using MIDI markers. This
makes it easy for the orchestrator to transfer
the idea to paper, even if the mock-up is lack-
ing. More on this later.
Similarly, if youre using sampled snippets
of an orchestra playing effects or tutti hits,
etc., you should try to discern exactly what is
going on in the orchestra, and either detail
this in your instructions for your orchestra-
tor/arranger or try to mock it up if time per-
mits. You may also provide a set of isolated
sound bites as an aid for dense parts that may
have drowned as a result of less than ideal
instrumentation, too much reverb, or simply
overly complex writing.
The parts have been transferred into the Sibelius notation program and the work begins.
f e a t u r e
dynamic marking for the passage in question.
The more markers you offer the orchestrator,
the more accurately he will be able to repro-
duce your musical intentions without it turn-
ing into guesswork.
Sorted details
To make the job yet easier for the orches-
trators, its a good idea to keep your tracks in
the order of the traditional orchestral score
layout (picc, fl, ob, cl, bsn, hn, trp, trb, tba,
vln 1, vln 2, vla, vc, cb). In the Mojo
Madness MIDI file, the unused tracks in my
630-track template have been deleted and
only the active parts are left in.
Due to several practical considerations
related to the set-up of my template, the
MIDI file doesnt follow the standard orches-
tral arrangement to a T. However, maintain-
ing a certain structure avoids confusion down
the line, particularly in large-scale projects.
If your MIDI tracks are all over the place,
youll constantly be searching up and down
for that particular track. Chances are youll
even miss crucial parts of the instrumentation.
I know some composers who like to quan-
tize their tracks before they export the MIDI
file. The idea is to make the notation software
represent the music correctly, so you wont
have to input all the parts again.
Since the basic rule of a realistic digital
orchestra simulation is to avoid any quantiz-
ing (in my opinion), your sequence will invari-
ably contain offset notes. For example, if
youre playing a passage with a violin patch
that has a slight attack ramp you may be sub-
consciously compensating for that delay by
playing a bit early on the beat. These notes
will translate into nonsensical notation like
32nd rests, or 64th slurred notes at the
beginning of a bar/beat.
Quantizing the music before you export
the sequence will lock the notes properly in
musical time. Note that no sequencer as of
yet has the ability to automatically detect and
discern between triplets, dotted 8ths, or com-
plex rhythmical patterns. Therefore you will
have to go through each instrument part and
apply the correct quantization setting to the
applicable section.
In Figs. 1 and 2 you can see how the clar-
inet part is cleaned up in Cubase by first
selecting the notes, then quantizing the
attacks to 16th notes, and finally quantizing
the ends to 16ths as well. This can be a long
and tedious process.
Export the sequence to MIDI and import it
into your notation software. When you import
the sequence your notation software will
probably give you a set of options. It can take
some experimentation to get the most accu-
rate representation of the MIDI file, so spend
some time with this until youre happy with
the way things look.
Note that unless you quantized properly,
Mark my MIDI
If you have a good idea what you want, its
a good idea to get in the habit of sequencing
as much of the music as your samples will
allow. This will avoid surprises when you hear
it played by the live musicians. (The excep-
tion is if youre working with orchestrators
whom you want to give more creative input.)
Make notes! Dynamic markings will save
you and/or your orchestrator lots of time at
the notation stage. Please import the included
MIDI file Mojo Madness Uncleaned
Midifile.mid into your sequencer, and take
note of the markers.
Markers are critical in this work situation.
The first marker, 8 clix free, indicates that
the piece is to be performed to a click track
and that the musicians should be given eight
quarter note metronome clicks before the first
bar. This is a count-off, in other words.
Then the second marker, dyn: f aggres-
sive denotes the composers intended
The score has been completed and is ready for part extraction.
f e a t u r e
the notation software will
never represent your MIDI
file accurately. In Sibelius
you are given a standard
set of import options (see
Fig. 3). Finding the right
combination of minimum
note values and triplet for-
matting can be crucial in
order to get the import
looking as neat and clean
as possible.
Create a new orchestral
score (I have created sever-
al manuscript papers/tem-
plates in Sibelius for various
musical purposes), and
import the MIDI file to a
separate window. Unless
you have a very large moni-
tor, for this process its
worth investing in a dual-
monitor set-upone for the
MIDI sketch view and one for
the ochestral score.
Some orchestrators prefer to print out the
MIDI sketch first and transcribe from there, in
which case a dual-monitor setup obviously
isnt necessary. When you create the score, be
sure to use a template that matches the size
of your work and represents your instrumen-
Set all the time signatures and tempo
changes up front. In general, people have
grown accustomed to the use of C-scores
(meaning concert scores that are not trans-
posed) and open key signatures (accidentals
are written in as you go along). The Mojo
Madness score is transposed score with an
open key signature.
Now its time to begin adapting the score.
Starting with the first instrument group, we
move or copy all the parts from the MIDI
sequence one by one into the new orchestral
Lets say the flute is on top of the list.
Therell probably be various flute tracks, such
as sustains, staccatos, runs, flutter etc., so we
proceed systematically until weve transferred
all the parts. We could fix the notation and
add small notestrill begins here, flutter
ends here, etc.as we go along, but I usual-
ly reserve this for the next (and final) stage.
If we didnt quantize earlier, well usually
have a pretty messy reference (see the score
excerpt above and the more complete PDF
version on the VI site: midi import
messy). Since we did quantize, we probably
have a more readable reference to serve as
our base (see midi import - cleaned here
and on our website).
If we encounter parts in the MIDI sequence
ibelius (www.Sibelius.com) is a professional notation program for
Mac and Windows. Whether you need a full-blown composition
tool or a just a means to transfer sequenced MIDI files to a proper
score format, Sibelius offers everything necessary to create profession
scores with a high quality look quickly.
The program is simple to work with and stable as a rock. Its score
layout is as customizable as youll ever need it to be, and the trade-
marked House Style concept provides full control over the look of
the score, with details ranging from preferred positions for articula-
tions, distances between notes, staff justification, and so on. For fur-
ther flexibility, the program is fully object based, meaning that every
score detail (note heads, beams, slurs, braces, etc.) can be resized,
reshaped, and moved around freely on the virtual score sheets.
Sibelius comes with an abundance of predefined templates (called
manuscript papers) for different purposes: Big band, Brass choirs,
various choir configurations, Army band, Guitar, Jazz quartet,
Classical, Modern & film orchestra, String orchestra, Woodwind
quartets, and so on. If you cant find what you need, you can create
your own quite easily.
Inputting notes is also easy as pie, with several options ranging
from real-time MIDI recording to step entry with the computer key-
board or mouse. The software is designed around key commands,
and I strongly recommend a mouse with two buttons for the Mac
version, just to make life easier. A handy floating window called the
Keypad gives you easy access to note values, markings, beams and
accidentals, and the floating Properties window lets you control
the layout aspects of the score, including staff type, font type/size,
playback behavior and much more.
Sibelius supports plug-ins, created with a built-in programming
language called ManuScript. It offers user unparalleled control over
the software since you can program plug-ins to do everything from
proofreading to aiding in the composition process (retrograding,
inverting, and bass figuration are just a few of the plug-ins the soft-
ware ships with).
Another plug-in that creates harp pedaling, one even checks your
score for proper accidentals and/or respells them. Still another one
checks for parallel fifths and octaves!
The software has full MIDI support, should you want to use profes-
sional sample libraries with it. Configurable musical interpretation
rules make sure that your score is played back with true musical
expression, and in accordance with the dynamic markings and other
annotations. You can also purchase a special Sibelius version of
Garritan Personal Orchestra that automatically reads and interprets
performance indications. Sibelius supports video playback for scoring
to picture.
If you need an easy and intuitive program to create beautiful look-
ing scores, look no further. Thomas J. Bergersen
The Sibelius notation program in a nutshell
The imported MIDI performance hasn't been quantized, and it needs some work to become readable.
f e a t u r e
where were unsure what is
going on, we refer to an
audio version of the
sequence. Having an audio
reference is important
throughout the process.
Check it regularly, and
dont forget to listen for
dynamic changes. These
may be subtle but never-
theless play crucial roles in
the overall feel of the com-
position. The orchestra is
extremely sensitive to
dynamic changes, so I rec-
ommend taking advantage
of that and making your
music more expressive by
giving them plenty of
dynamic markings to chew
The actual orchestration
work begins once the parts
have all be transferred (see
the PDF file on the VI site:
Mojo Madness Stage 1; in this stage the
parts have been transferred from the MIDI file
to the orchestral score).
First, we go through the piece and correct
all the notation errors, adding necessary
markings such as dynamics, playing tech-
niques, and tempo indications. Then we
adapt all the special notes (markers) from the
original MIDI sequence, look for mistakes in
voice-leading and harmony, and make sure
no orchestration holes that were present in
the original MIDI file have made their way
into the final score.
At this stage we also make sure the note
distribution among instruments in harmonic
content is satisfactory. Among many other
things, the seasoned orchestrator will make
sure woodwinds and brass have enough
space to breathe.
Note the alternating 1st and 2nd clarinet
passage during the first couple of bars in
Mojo Madness, for example. In that register
the clarinet is at its most hollow, and so dis-
tinctive in sound that even a single clarinet is
enough to color the carrying string section
with a more moody tone. This is also the
stage in which we ensure that the bowings
make sense, and that players with alternating
instruments (and/or mutes) are given time to
make the switch.
Oftentimes a composer without a properly
balanced orchestral template will produce
unrealistic volume relations in their
sequences. This may be due to harmonic
material played with large ensemble samples
(without compensating for the volume drop a
divisi would implicate in a live orchestral set-
ting), or it may be as simple as a woodwind
section overpowering the brass.
It is then the orchestrators job to solve
these problems and achieve the composers
desired relative levels among the instruments
in the orchestra. If youre doing the orchestra-
tions yourself, dont be tempted to make
large modifications to the orchestration at this
point if you havent developed a good inner
ear yet. That is, of course, unless youre using
a sample set (such as East West Quantum
Leap Symphonic Orchestra Silver) that gives
you a fairly accurate representation of the
changes you make within the notation soft-
Be an orchestrating Guy
Adapting MIDI music into full orchestral
scores is a long and cumbersome process that
often leaves a lot of creative decisions to be
made. It usually takes about a day to transfer
one to three minutes of fairly complex orches-
tral MIDI music
to paper or
notation soft-
ware, which is
why most film
dont have
time to do it
In the PDF
Stage 2, the
score has been
completed and
is ready for
part extraction.
Because such
an immense
amount of
work is carried
out in a short
period of time
in the film
music industry,
certain mis-
takes are
bound to slip
past the
orchestrator every now and then, and as such
the scores are sometimes (very rarely, and
usually only with very dense orchestrations)
sent to proofreaders just to make sure theyre
ready for the score preparation process (the
process of extracting parts and creating the
sheet music for the orchestra and conductor).
Thomas J. Bergersen (25) lives in Norway.
He is a composer working in the media music
industry. His credits include hundreds of produc-
tions in film, TV, trailers, radio, and video
games, as a composer, orchestrator, and
Fig. 3: The notation program Sibelius (see sidebar) greets you with a straightforward set
of import options.
After clean-up, what first appeared to be fairly involved syncopated rhythms turn out to be simple eigth notes.
f e a t u r e
r e v i e w
Review By Chris Meyer
Urban Jointz $99.95
(www.ueberschall.com; distributed
in the US by East West:
Formats: cross-platform DVD with
44.1kHz 16-bit Acid-friendly WAV
and GarageBand/Soundtrack-
friendly AIFF files; Rex2 format and
Elastik soundbank also provided
License: Free to use as part of a
musical composition including mul-
timedia and library music, as long
as any sample, loop, or sound is
combined with another sample,
loop, or sound.
140 - 99 bpm half- to 4-bar DJ scratches of
voices, drums, orchestral hits, and effects
most are rhythmic so you can easily fit them
into a song, in comparison to the harder-to-
use freestyle vocals and scratching that come
with some other libraries.
There is also a collection of 80+ 98 bpm 1-
to 4-bar clean and wah rhythm and simple
lead guitar loops (all in C minor), which are
nicely underplayed and as a result again fit in
well with other parts from other libraries. This
also applies to the 35 - 97 bpm 4-bar synth
and electric piano bits, which also resolve
around C minor.
All these samples are duplicated in Acid
(WAV) and Apple Loops (AIFF) folders. Most
of the samples, minus the single hits and MC
vocals, are also available as Rex2 files.
Ueberschall has also created a soundbank to
load into their Elastik VI plug-in (which we
will be looking at in a future review).
The cover declares modern hip-hop and
RnB flavas. Indeed, the styles range from
urgent rap through smooth lounge and R&B
styles, with an emphasis on the melodic.
Even Ueberschalls license agreement is to
be commended for its reasonable, plain-
English approach. For example, You may not
use construction-kit-mix tracks, demo tracks,
or demo songs, or any sample, loop, or
sound that is a full orchestrated, ready-to-use
mix for your musical production without
combining them with another sample, loop,
or sound. These rules result out of the
requirement that at least a minimum of cre-
ativity has to be incorporated into a musical
production before you gain the right to com-
mercially exploit it.
Sounds fair to meespecially when a
library has been designed this well so it could
be commercially exploited. VI
A collection of useful modern
hip-hop and RnB flavas
seful. Thats the
word that kept
coming to mind
while auditioning Ueberschalls
Urban Jointz. From the musical
arrangement of the samples to
the layout of the disc, it
became clear that a lot of
thought went into making this library as use-
fuland easy to useas possible.
The core of the library is a set of 22 song
Construction Kits, ranging from 78 to 114
bpm (most in the mid to upper 90 range),
typically eight bars in length, with the keys
listed. Each kit comes with a loop of the full
mixdown, one of the entire percussion sec-
tion, one of the entire melodic section, and
then breakdowns of these sections (such as
just kick drum, just rhythm guitar, and so
Even if the patterns are repetitive, all loops
in a kit are the same length to make it clear
how to layer them against each other in Acid,
Soundtrack, Live, or similar programs. This
makes it quick and easy to create breakdowns
of the arrangements.
Each kit comes with a companion
Construction Singles folder that contains 5-18
individual hits (such as kick, hat, clap, synth
sting, etc.) from the kits to help you augment
the already-performed loops. The clean, not-
overwrought compositions leave room for
your own additions.
In addition to the kits is an Additional
Content folder. It contains 50 samples of MC
vocals of varying lengthall 99 bpm, all in
the same key (which can then be warped by
your application)that includes solo and har-
monized exclamations and raps, many of
them rhythmic in delivery so as to fit well
against drum tracks. The same goes for the
Urban Jointz
r e v i e w
Review By Chris Meyer
e reviewed the first three volumes
of the avant-garde cycles libraries
back in the premiere issue last sum-
mer; this latest addition contains nearly a
thousand events, hits, FX, and transitions,
ranging from under a second to over a
minute in length. Most of the sounds are one-
shots without a listed key, although Cycling74
continues their tradition of including excellent
documentation, including a PDF and Excel
(Just an aside: more and more vendors are
going away from having a printed or print-
able index, which I sorely miss because I like
to make written notes as to favorites when I
audition a library.)
One of the chief characters that sets the
cycles libraries apart from other industrial,
spacey, or avant garde collections is that a
surprising number of the sounds have an
organic quality and a sense ofwell, tuneful-
ness. Yes, there are also a number of harsh
synthetic blasts and random data streams, but
other sources include horns (including the
percussive quality of the keys and pads on a
saxophone), guitars, percussion instruments,
and other metals, which are then often heavi-
ly processed.
Particularly interesting is the events cate-
gory, which contains a large number of
sounds that would be very effective stings or
sound design elements for logos and other
visual work. Although many of the samples
are squarely aimed as percussive hits, bridges
or interstitials in music, I personally think it is
better to view momentary incursions as a col-
lection of very cool, surprisingly harmonious
sound design elements. VI
momentary incursions, $99
Cycling 74 (www.cycling74.com)
Platform: cross-platform DVD-
ROM of 44.1 and 48 kHz 24-bit
WAV samples, plus audio CD
License: Free to use as long as
combined with other sounds or not
resold as another library.
cycles vol. 04:
The latest volume in a unique series
s software synthesizers proliferate, it
has to be getting tougher for instru-
ment designers to come up with fresh
ideas for new programs. Oscillators, filters,
envelopesweve seen it all before. If any-
thing, the trend seems to be to buckle under
the pressure and code up a software version
of an instrument that first achieved fame
when Jimmy Carter was president.
Bucking the trend, a small French company
called Audeon has come up with a genuinely
new spin on the concept of the oscillator.
Their synth, UFO, simply doesnt sound like
anything else. Its well named; unless coaxed
to produce normal synth tones, it tends to
sound vaguely like something that oozed out
of the soundtrack of a 1950s sci-fi movie.
This impression is reinforced by the deliber-
ately retro panel graphics. Add an unusual 2-
dimensional modulation routing set-up to the
mix, and UFO is anything but a me-too synth.
Plug Me In, Mr. Wizard!
The basics of UFO (the letters stand for
Unique Filters and Oscillators, by the way) are
not exactly esoteric. It has two oscillators, two
LFOs, three AHDSR envelope generators, two
effect processors, and two formant filters in
series. It also has a proprietary filter with a
response that morphs from lowpass
through peaking to highpass. I wouldnt mind
seeing another oscillator and another LFO
added, and a little step sequencer for modu-
lation would be sweet too, but theres noth-
ing essential missing from the voice line-up.
UFO is 4-part multitimbral, so it can play
separate parts on four MIDI channels at once,
but some of the more interesting possibilities
come from layering two or three patches on
the same MIDI channel. (For an audio exam-
ple, visit virtualinstrumentsmag.com. The
phrase in the downloadable mp3 uses three
of UFOs four parts.) Theres no way to save a
multi set-up, but since UFO is strictly a VST
instrument this is not a big dealthe set-up
will be saved with your sequencer file.
Velocity, key number, aftertouch, and mod
wheel are available as modulation sources
r e v i e w
Something old, something new....
Review By Jim Aikin
Audeon UFO: $139.
Light version: $22.
Format: Windows VST (Mac
version under development)
Audeon UFO synth
Fig. 1: The two-dimensional control surfaces on
UFOs panel look very much like low-res CRT
screens, and the signal flow is represented by
jagged blue bolts of electricity straight out of a
Tesla coil. The CRT parameters can be modulated
vector-fashion, as shown by the colored arrows.
(more on modulation below). In addition,
UFO has a standard MIDI Learn set-up, and its
parameters can be automated in the host
UFOs oscillators have two modes of opera-
tion, called K-Osc and V-Osc. K-Osc is less tra-
ditional, so lets start there. The main parame-
ters of a K-Osc are arrayed on two of UFOs
CRT displays. A display on the left has the
words Chaotic, Bright, and Mellow
arranged in a triangle, while the right display
has the terms Odd harmonics, Noise,
Even harmonics, and Periodic arrayed
along the edges.
Each display has a little white dot that you
can drag around with the mouse, thus creat-
ing a waveform that is, perhaps, mellow and
a bit chaotic, with strong odd harmonics and
weak even harmonics but no noise. These set-
tings are not ways of modulating the oscilla-
tor after a basic underlying wave has been
producedthey control the manner in which
the wave is generated in the first place.
Theres also a slider called Transient dura-
tion below the left display. Low values cause
a quick raspy burst of tuned noise during a
notes attack, while long values can be com-
bined with high chaos settings to turn the
tone into a sustained gargle. By modulating a
few of these parameters from aftertouch or a
mod wheel, its pathetically easy to come up
with a tone that sounds like a mad scientists
unstable circuit.
The V-Osc uses only one CRT display, with
the words Saw, Square, Pulse1, and
Pulse2 at the four corners. No points for
guessing how this works. Theres also a ring
modulator, and either oscillators output can
be blended with the ring mod out. The out-
put of each oscillator can then be fed to
either or both filters using a crossfade slider.
The resonant filters are switchable between
12dB and 24dB per octave. They can also
smoothly crossfade from lowpass through
peaking to highpass operation. In addition,
each filter has a CRT for controlling cutoff and
resonance in a 2-dimensional manner.
The formant filters are standard. Each has a
bandwidth slider and a CRT for adjusting
cut/boost amount and center frequency.
Another feature Id like to see added would
be a gain-compensated distortion stage on
the output of the resonant filters. UFO is not
too good at conventional fat synth sounds,
and distortion would help. Theres no distor-
tion in the effects section either, just the usual
chorus, flange, delay, and reverb. I had lots of
fun running UFO through iZotope Trash, a
hugely versatile distortion plug-in.
Modern modulations
When you click on the color-coded button
to the left of any of the modulation sources,
youll see little colored arrows on the CRTs
and sliders that show where this source is
being applied. The arrows can point in any
direction, so an LFO can modulate the filter
cutoff and frequency at the same time, for
example. While the mouse work needed to
edit the modulations is a bit finicky, UFO
shows you whats going on in a clear, intu-
itively obvious way.
A single CRT dot or slider can be modulat-
ed by all eight standard mod sources at once,
in varying amounts and directions, and thats
before MIDI Control Change messages are
added. Using a touchpad controller like the
high-end JazzMutant Lemur to control the
CRTs could lead to some serious expressive
Individual envelope segments can be mod-
ulated from external MIDI sources. The LFOs
offer sine, triangle, square, sawtooth, stepped
random, and smooth random waves. Each
has modulatable sliders for depth, rate, onset
v e r y d e e p c l i n i c
Part 2 of a 2-part tutorial on the
built-in groove machine.
Apple Logic Pros Ultrabeat
By Orren Merton
tarting from the left of the synthesizer
interface, Ultrabeat offers a selection of
three main sound generators: two
oscillators, a noise generator, with a fourth
option being the ring modulator to the right
of the filter section, as shown in Fig. 1.
Logically, you might wonder why the ring
modulator was placed after the filter, since as
a sound generator it feeds into the filter.
Because the ring modulator requires both
oscillator signals (as well describe later), it
does logically come after the oscillators.
These generators allow a mind boggling
array of options for sonic construction, all
based on classic methods of sound genera-
tionbut served up the Ultrabeat way.
More than just a phase
Both oscillators can generate the classic
waveform shapes we know and love from
subtractive synthesizers. But rather than giv-
ing you the same old analog-style selec-
tions of sine wave, square wave, triangle
wave, sawtooth, and so on, Ultrabeat goes
farther by offering you phase oscillators.
Instead of restricting you to selecting a specif-
ic waveform shape, the phase oscillators offer
you the controls to shape the waveform man-
Fig. 1
Ultrabeat offers four sound generators: two oscillators, a noise gener-
ator, and a ring modulator.
Last issue we explored the signal flow,
assignment and drum mixer, and modu-
lation capabilities of Apple Logic Pros
Ultrabeat drum synthesizer. Now were
going to dive into the synthesizer section
itself, specifically its sound generators
and filter. Theres not enough space to
cover absolutely everything in Ultrabeat,
but the end of this article you will be able
use Ultrabeat to build your own drum
ually. If that sounds complicated, dont
worryits not.
When you first click on the Phase Osc but-
ton on either oscillator, you are presented
with a standard issue sine wave that will
sound at the pitch set by the pitch slider. By
clicking on and dragging the Slope knob, the
Saturation slider, and/or the Asymmetry slider,
Ultrabeat lets you shape that sine wave into
other waveforms, standard or completely
Turning up the Slope knob steepens the
waveform, making the wave sharper and the
tone more nasal. Turning up the Saturation
slider flattens the waveform peak, ultimately
changing the sign wave into a square wave.
Turning up the Asymmetry slider tilts the
waveform, changing the wave into more of a
sawtooth waveform and making your tone
more edgy.
As you can see, by adjusting these three
controls you can easily manipulate the wave-
shape into anything you want. For example, if
you want a sine wave, leave the three param-
eters at their minimum value. To transform it
into a square wave, increase the saturation
slider to 1.0 (maximum). If you want a trian-
gle wave, raise the slope knob to about -.17,
and the asymmetry slider to 1.0 (maximum).
But thats kids stuff. Ultrabeat lets you
shape the wave into far more than these tra-
ditional waveforms. Lets say we want an
edgy wave not quite sawtooth-edgy but
close, and with just the peak of the waveform
First click on the Slope knob and drag it to
about -.44. Then click on the Asymmetry slid-
er and drag it almost all the way up, lets say
to about .83. Finally, click on the Saturation
slider and drag it up slightly to a value of only
around -.04 or sojust enough to saturate
the waveform lightly (see Fig. 2).
Now youve created a nasal, edgy sound
with just enough saturation for that extra
punch. This waveform could be the basis for a
nice fat kick drum with a bit of grit, or a
sharp digital pulse, depending on the pitch
you assign the wave.
If you want to give this waveforms edgi-
ness a sense of depth and motion, you can
modulate the Asymmetry parameter of oscil-
lator 1, and the Saturation parameter of oscil-
lator 2. You can also modulate the pitch and
volume of the oscillator. Please refer to part 1
for the clinic on modulation.
Whats the frequency (modula-
tion) Kenneth?
If you click on the FM button next to the
Phase Osc button, you will place oscillator 1
into FM (frequency modulation) mode. In fre-
quency modulation synthesis, the frequency
of one waveform is modulated by another
waveform. In FM mode, oscillator
1 generates a standard-issue sine
wave that will sound at the pitch
set by the pitch slider, and the
frequency of oscillator 1 will be
modulated by oscillator 2.
As you have guessed by now, if
Ultrabeat excels at anything, its
modulation. First off, you
determine how much
oscillator 2 will modulate
the frequency of oscilla-
tor 1 using the FM
Amount knob. The com-
plexity of oscillator 2s
waveform determines
how complex (or how many partials)
its modulation of oscillator 1 will be.
And you can modulate the FM
Amount knob using any of the LFOs
and envelopes, or using parameters.
You can also modulate oscillator 2
itself, which affects how it will modu-
late oscillator 1. In other words, you
can modulate the modulator while
modulating the amount the modulator will
modulate oscillator 1.
The oscillator 1 waveform window gives us
a view of how oscillator 1 is modulating oscil-
lator 2. For example, lets start with oscillator
2 in phase oscillator mode, generating a com-
plex clipped sawtooth-ish wave with its satu-
ration being modulated by velocity. So oscilla-
tor 2s waveform is being modulat-
ed by performance velocity, which
affects how it modulates oscillator
Now lets turn up the FM
Amount knob to about .40. Finally,
lets modulate the fm knob using
LFO2 (see Fig. 3). Now the amount
of effect that oscillator 2 has on
oscillator 1 is being modulated by
both performance velocity and
LFO2. And lets not forget pitch
and volume modulation that we
can do as well!
Sample size
Oscillator 2 offers three different
modes. The first is the phase oscillator mode
described above; clicking the Sample button
next to the Phase Osc button engages
Sample mode. You can load one of the
included Ultrabeat multi-samples, or bring in
your own samples in AIFF, WAV, or SDII mono
or stereo interleaved formats.
To load a sample, click the tiny downward
arrow at the top left corner of the waveform
window to access the sample menu (see Fig.
4). You can even audition sample files from
this window. If you click the play button in
the dialog window, you will hear the
unprocessed selected sample. If you click the
Preview Sample In Ultrabeat Voice checkbox,
then you will hear the selected sample
through the currently open drum voice,
including all its sound generators, modula-
tions, EQ, and so onjust as if it were already
loaded. Pretty cool!
Remember, Ultrabeat is designed to be a
sample playback instrument; its a rhythm
synthesizer that allows you to select a sample
in one of its sound generators. So dont
expect any sort of crossfading or advanced
v e r y d e e p c l i n i c
Fig. 2
By adding a tiny bit of saturation you can clip just the very peak of
the waveform.
Fig. 3
In FM mode you can use oscillator 2 to modulate oscillator 1, and
then you can modulate the FM Amount knob to modulate how
much modulation the modulator is doing. Got all that?
By adjusting these three controls you can easily
manipulate the waveshape into anything you want.
Fig. 4
Click the arrow at the top left of the sample waveform window
to load, unload, or show a sample in the Finder.
sample keymaping or any of that.
In fact, you might have become excited
when you saw the layer slider, thinking that
you could set layer crossfades. Unfortunately,
only the factory samples can have velocity
layers. You can, however, use the little red
Play button to the right of the waveform to
determine if you want your sample to play in
reverse mode or forward.
Still, Ultrabeat does let you adjust how
oscillator 2 will use the sample youve loaded.
Under the sample waveform display are two
sliders: Min and Max. These two sliders let
you select where the sample will start trigger-
ing at minimum velocity, and where the sam-
ple will start triggering at maximum velocity.
You have completely free reign in adjusting
these sliders. For example, lets say you want
your clap sample to play completely through
at full volume, but to completely miss its
loudest attack at low volume. Click on the
min slider and drag it about halfway across
the sample waveform. Leave the max slider at
the beginning of the sample (see Fig. 5). Now
the harder you play, the more of the sample
will trigger; the softer you play, the closer to
the middle of the sample oscillator 2 triggers
the sample.
Building models
Oscillator 2 isnt done giving up its secrets
just yet. Not only can it use an analog-style or
sample waveform as a sound generator, it can
even model a basic vibrating string as a
sound generator if you click the Model button
to the right of the sample button (see Fig. 6).
Again, Ultrabeat is not trying to include all of
Sculpture in its model sectionthis is a basic
percussive model useful in creating drum
Your model string can be tuned up, so to
speak, by dragging the dot inside the X-Y
controller known as the material pad. The
material pad lets you set the relative stiffness
and inner loss of your string. Inner loss (the Y
axis) corresponds to the high frequency
dampening of the string. A higher inner loss
value results in a smoother, more muffled
string. Lower inner loss values will allow your
string to vibrate longer during the decay
phase. Stiffness (the X axis) controls the rigidi-
ty of the string. High stiffness values result in
a very rigid, inharmonic string; low
stiffness values will result a more
vibrant, harmonic string. Both
parameters can be adjusted from 0
to 1.
Your modeled string is trig-
gered, or in Ultrabeat terms excit-
ed, by one of two exciters to the
left of the material pad. Click the
button to select either type 1 (a
tighter, more plucked sound) or
type 2 (a looser, more bowed
sound) to trigger your string.
Finally, you have the Resolution
slider. Sonically, raising or lowering
the value of this slider will increase
or decrease the number and com-
plexity of the overtones. What the
Resolution slider is actually doing is increasing
and decreasing the calculation resolution of
the modeling algorithm; as such, watch your
CPU meter! The resolution slider has a mini-
mum value of 3 and a maximum value of 30.
The modeling oscillator is particularly useful
for creating industrial-sounding percussion
and organic-sounding found drums. For
example, drag the dot in the material pad to
the middle of the inner loss (Y) axis, which
corresponds to a value of .5, and leave the
stiffness at a low value, around .25. Now click
on the type 1 exciter, and raise the resolution
to about 20 (see Fig. 7). When you trigger
your drum, it will sound like you are plucking
a harmonic, loose, percussive string, with
moderate decay.
Does it sound like any actual percussion
instrument? Certainly not any stringed instru-
ment Ive played! But it definitely sounds rich,
percussive, and ready for the rest of
In fact, try using a unique, rich pro-
grammed physical model in oscillator
2 as an FM modulator for oscillator 1
as discussed above. You can create
sounds using Ultrabeat you cant cre-
ate any other way.
Remember, of course, that regard-
less of the type of sound generator
you choose for either of the oscilla-
tors, you can modulate the pitch and
volume just the same.
The other genera-
There isnt enough
room to go into every sin-
gle aspect of Ultrabeat in a 2-part
clinic. But before we explore the
filters, modulators, and step
sequencer, the other two sound
generation engines in Ultrabeat
deserve at least a quick mention:
the Noise Generator and the Ring
The Noise Generator creates
you guessed itnoise, and offers
nearly as many parameters as the
oscillators (see Fig. 8). It has its
own filter, so you can tailor the the
frequency and tone of your white noise. You
can set it to either high pass, low pass, band
pass, or off (bypass). Then you use the Cut
knob to dial in the cutoff frequency, and of
course you can modulate it using its Mod
and Via menus.
The filter also has a Res knob to boost the
resonant frequencies immediately surround-
ing the cutoff frequency. Like most analog-
style filters, lower values offer little resonance,
while higher values make the filter sound like
its self-oscillating (feeding back into itself).
In addition to the filter, the Noise
Generator includes a Dirt knob. This knob lets
you roughen up the white noise and make
it sound more grainy (or dirty). Low values
will keep your white noise pure, while high
values will give you a very grainy, almost dis-
torted noise.
And as if thats not enough, you can even
modulate the dirt parameter! The Noise
Generator is especially useful for cymbal
sounds or buzzing noisy rhythmic sounds.
The Ring Modulator to the right of the main
filter is pretty simplea single volume slider
and two modulation menus. But sonically its
sound is very complex; it modulates the output
of both oscillators to generate its own sound,
which means both oscillators must be on for
the ring modulator to function.
In other words, even if you dont want one
or both of the oscillators themselves to gener-
ate sound for your drum voice, they still have
v e r y d e e p c l i n i c
Fig. 5
Use the Min and Max sliders to use your playing velocity to affect
how the sample is triggered.
Fig. 6
When oscillator 2 is in Model mode, Ultrabeat models the proper-
ties of a virtual string and the virtual exciter that vibrates the
Fig. 7
Drag the dot in the material pad to create your own virtual
string; the results might or might not resemble any actual
string, but its response will be modeled on real world materials.
to be on to trigger the ring modulator. If you
dont want to hear one or both oscillators
along with the ring modulation, leave them
activated, but turn the volume of the oscilla-
tor to zero.
Cold filtered
The big knob in the center of Ultrabeats
synthesizer section is the multimode filter,
which also contains its own distortion unit
(see Fig. 9). This filter is global in that it
processes all the active sound generators
that are sending signal into it. Of course,
not all active sound generators need to send
their signal through the filter, as discussed
in Part 1. The large red arrow in the center
of the filter determines if the sound genera-
tors will first pass through the distortion unit
and then the multimode filter, or the multi-
mode filter first.
The multimode filter offers four filter types:
low pass, high pass, band pass, and band
rejection (band rejection means the bands
inside the band are cut, not the bands out-
side like a band pass filter). You can select
either a 12dB or a 24dB slope for the filter.
Like the filter in the Noise Generator above,
the Cut knob determines the cutoff frequency
at which the filter begins to affect the signals,
and it can be modulated by its Mod and Via
menus. Unlike the Noise Generator filter, in
the main filter its Res knob has its own Mod
and Via menus, allowing the resonance to be
The filters distortion unit can function as
either a bit crusher effect (reducing the bit
rate of the signal) or as a classic distortion
effect (which doesnt reduce the bit rate, but
rather clips the waveform). If neither the
Crush nor Distort type is selected, the distor-
tion unit is not used.
Regardless of distortion unit mode, you
will have the same three controls. The Drive
knob determines the amount of distortion;
lower drive settings produce less distortion
(or bit crushing), higher drive settings
increase the distortion (or bit crushing) of
the filtered signal.
Then the Color knob lets you adjust the
tone of the distortion. Lower values result in a
darker, warmer tone, higher values result in a
brighter, harsher tone.
Finally, the clip knob has a slightly different
function depending on the mode of the dis-
tortion unit. In distortion mode the clip knob
sets the output level of the distortion unit.
But in bit-crusher mode the Clip knob
determines the level the signal needs to be
before bit crushing begins. For example, if
you have the distortion unit in bit-crusher
mode and set the clip knob to -8.000 dB, the
level of the signal into the distortion unit
would need to be -8.000 dB or higher before
the bit crusher would start crushing bits.
As you can see, theres still more to
Ultrabeat that what weve in these two issues.
But by now you should have a firm ground-
ing in how Ultrabeat is organized, how
Ultrabeat handles modulation, and how
Ultrabeat generates sounds. The included
patches in Ultrabeat are a great starting point,
but as with all truly advanced instruments, to
really unleash the ultra in Ultrabeat, take what
youve learned here and get grooving! VI
Orren Merton is the author of a number of
books on audio software for Course Technology,
including three books on Logic.
Fig. 8
Use the Noise Generator to both generate and
shape white noise to use as part of your drum
Fig. 9
All the sound generators in Ultrabeat can feed into
the global multimode filter and distortion unit.
v e r y d e e p c l i n i c
Inspiration 101
Last time we looked at pitch and idea seeds
for melodic lines coming from words and
phrases fed in to the Mind Meld program,
written by yours truly. Well be going back to
looking at pitch later in the series, but this
time lets look at rhythm.
Rhythm is an interesting part of our musical
arsenal, as it supplies a wide gamut of choices
we can apply to our (more limited) range and
sequence of pitches. That is, as long as we can
break out of the rhythmic mould.
There seems to be a current (Western) ten-
dency to follow a club dance mentality of
four-on-the floor, superimposed with quarter-
or eighth-note on-beat guides/posts. There are
of course, examples of off-beat rhythms, per-
haps borrowed from reggae and even 70s
disco, and some intertwining of 16th note
blips. But largely everything fits on the on-
beat 16th note grid.
Part 2 of our look at inspiration
and production: a free algorithmic
rhythm generator program.
f e a t u r e
Buick Sessions:
Sound design in
music production
By Peter Buick
The Mind Meld algorithmic lyric and music program (discussed
in the 12/05 1/06 issue) is still available for free download
www.VirtualInstrumentsMag.com. While this issue is being
printed, the new rhythm utility will be made available there too.
(Hence any screenshots used in this article are subject to
change in the final versionbut were sure youll cope. The
manual is included as a PDF in with the archive. )
download the free Mind Meld algorith-
mic rhythm generator program.
Similarly, arpeggiators in most synths are evenly spaced in time, and
they start on the beat and stay on the on-beat. Only more original
synths like the Wusik Wusikstation, Steinbergs X-Phraze, and the Access
Virus T1, to name just a few, dare to break that embargo. But even
then they cross a fuzzy line called phrase sequencing rather than just an
There are some good reasons for all this rigidity. The danceability of
a structured rhythm and the rhythmical resolution (predictability) of a
rhythm loop causes chemical reactions in the brain.
So when we use clever rhythms in our productions, we need to
consider how they supplement a provided framework. If we dont pro-
vide the grid reference, the intricacies of the clever beat could leave our
dancers with one leg in the air.
Were only using the term clever as a term to describe the concept
of extraneous rhythms that add to the basic grid building blocks. Were
not suggesting intelligence.
Here is the clever percussion beat without the reference present at
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_01.mp3
Once we add the grid framework, the percussion rhythm makes
(more) sense.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_02.mp3
The importance of the reference should be quite apparent. But we
need to add interest and contrast to this with the clever fill beats in
order to maintain interest and originality. A common way to do this is
with grace rhythm notes: the quieter fill notes on the snare beat that
make it skip. Or the off-beat tambourine between the kick drum pat-
tern, which makes it jerk.
These grace rhythms are totally valid, but there should be other
A straight kick drum beat. Solid but boring and lacking any groove.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_03.mp3
By adding an interleaved sound (in this case tambourine) we can
add interest without destroying the dependable beat.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_04.mp3
Here we have a straight snare beat. No Drummer of the Year prizes
.the intricacies of the clever beat,
could leave our dancers with one leg
in the air.
f e a t u r e
for this one.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_05.mp3
By adding grace notes (usually quieter), either using the same sound
or a contrasting one (in this case rim shot), we can transform this pre-
dictable clich and make the feel shift.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_06.mp3
However, without a reference, the snare and grace notes are left
hanging. So we can integrate the kick drum with or without its grace
notes to help define it.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_07.mp3
One of the other ways of adding clever beats is to keep the original
number of basic rhythm beats, but to change the voicings of selected
notes to form a sub pattern that presents the ancillary rhythms. We can
move the beats or copy them, depending on what story we want the
original to tell still.
Remember of course that silence (rests) can also be used as one of
the alternate voicing sounds, leaving the imagination free to fill in the
gap. And like nudity, often the suggestion is more appealing than the
bare truth. Dynamics and effects can work in similar ways. See the pro-
duction section below for more details.
We start with our single (beat-rich) tone pattern, such as hi-hat,
shaker, or tambourine.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_08.mp3
.if you fill in all the gaps, you just
get a hiss, and no longer get to hear
the message
Then we use two other contrasting voices to express some sub pat-
terns by either moving or copying each note.
See the website for the audio example SDMP02_09.mp3
One common error is adding too much! Often people create a fan-
tastic groovebut then they fill in all the holes with extra notes, either
using the same sounds or alternative ones. The point is, they remove
the space and contrast that had originally made the beat groove. Most
unfortunately, they tend to do this to the original, make no copy, and
forget what they had just done before that.
Production 202
In the last article, we looked at the dissection technique to take
parts, or aspects of some clone copies, to produce (simultaneous) per-
formance variations. Now that we have a rhythm in place, were going
to explore using textures to arrange it.
From the rhythm discussion above, you can see that if we added all
the rhythm part beats together and played them all with the same note
and sound, we would end up with pretty much all the holes filled; it
would not be what we call a groove at allmore of a machine gun.
So we have naturally created a textural rhythm, out of our musical
rhythms, by assigning different sounds per beat.
Of course the truth is that this is a pretty straight beat and that it
isnt a groove, even with the textural icing. Most real grooves tend to
have the important fifth element player: silence. So from that produc-
tion viewpoint, once we have defined the songs groove, we should be
very careful about filling in any of those gaps.
Take the analogy of Morse code played with white noise. If you fill in
all the gaps you just get a hiss, and no longer get to hear the message.
Its not a great analogy, but hopefully you get the point!
But we can enhance the role that textures have in making a groove.
Firstly we need to consider the importance of contrast and to review
how we implement it constantly. Blanket and constant effects process-
ing may set the mood, but they may also mask the subtle changes in
the story.
Equally, we dont just want to keep changing things for its own sake.
Repetition and predictability (musical and sonic patterns) do play a role
in maintaining a listeners comfort zone. But that has to be balanced
against boredom and fulfilment.
With synth sound programming there are some common examples
of how the sound can be related to performance and production. The
way the note is played could change the attack or release envelope of
the sound. For instance, short notes could appear to have a longer
decay (or reverb), while long sounds may end abruptly. A filter could
open or close depending on the playing style. Extra oscillators or layers,
could switch or fade in, depending on how many notes are being
played, providing natural thinning on large chords and sound doubling
on more simple parts.
These programming techniques may not first appear to be part of
our rhythmic and textural journey. But from the previous examples, one
can see that using the sound on a per-beat basis can provide sub-
Meanwhile, we need to consider when we should and shouldnt fill
any gaps (with sonic changes or background hub-ub). Most important-
ly, we need to consider whether we are supporting or distracting from
the piece each time we introduce a sonic change.
Getting off the beat
Whilst we tend to use the audio part of our host sequencers as mere
tape machines for live stuff (like vocal and guitar), the audio facility
opens up a plethora of creative production options.
By audio recording the outputs of our (virtual) synths as audio
parts, we can change the rhythm and textures in ways far beyond what
the manufacturer had envisaged.
Whilst there are some plug-ins and synths that cater to this beat-by-
beat processing, they are unlikely to match the originality of the manu-
al method. We can apply this to any sound in our sequence, not just
the enabled few, and we can use or entire arsenal of plug-in processing
of our duly enabled synths. This includes vocoders and processing
audio through synthesizers.
So going back to our earlier example of our on-the-beat and evenly
spaced synth arpeggiators, we can record them as audio for processing.
Then we can time-shift them, insert silences, rearrange the order, sub-
stitute beats with other sounds, add single note-effects processing, and
generally manipulate the phrase.
Because the arpeggio phrase is even, if we keep audio snap on, we
should get glitch-free seams. If not, most sequencers provide crossfades
on overlapping joints, or for gaps you can draw in a false volume fade
(or automation) on each beat.
Until the next time, we hope you have fun considering rhythm and
texture and the role they can play in your music making. VI
Peter Buick is a free-lance journalist, lecturer, and composer (specializing
in interactive music for media) in London. BBC-trained with a strong history
in studio engineering, these days he finds sound design and writing custom
software a seminal part of music composition and production.
.like nudity, often the suggestion is
more appealing than the bare truth
their curve. Its also possible to reverse their
effect, for example if you want one parameter
to go down as another goes up.
So lets say you have a sustained marcato in
the middle slot. If you put progressively short-
er accented articulations along the horizontal
axis, you can use the Speed controlwhich
once again senses how fast youre playing
to switch automatically to the articulation
thats the appropriate length. Or it could
switch from slow legato or portmento transi-
tions to faster ones. The delay incurred to cal-
culate the speed is unnoticeable.
An even more astonishing use of the Speed
control is when you go from performance
legato to performance trill programs along
the horizontal axis. At slower speeds you play
legato notes in one bow or breath, and as
you keep playing faster, the player switches
seamlessly to a trill program. Sometimes its
hard to believe that youre actually playing
what you hearthe transitions are that
smooth. Nothing else can do that.
The cover text of this issue asks whether
the Vienna Instruments player can read your
mind. That feature may be coming in Version
2, but this one does the next best thing.
The Vienna Instruments player is solid and
reliable, but it is still an early release. While I
still give the program the highest recommen-
dation for Mac users, in general the Windows
release feels a little farther along.
For one, I was able to run the Windows
version with a 64 sample buffer vs. 256 on
the Mac. Now, thats a somewhat unfair com-
parison, since the Mac is running Apple Logic
Pro while the Windows machine is just run-
ning Steinberg V-Stack (a basic instrument
and plug-in host, not a full-featured DAW),
and the audio hardware is different.
Nonetheless, the Windows version just
seems friskier in general, and its less prone to
clicking and popping when you start to strain
the host computer. This may well just be a
temporary Logic Pro/Vienna Instruments
issue, though, and that doesnt mean the per-
formance in Logic or on Macs is sub-par. Well
report any significant performance differences
in MOTU Digital Performer 5, which is on its
way here.
As to memory access, I was able to load
1.745 GB of samples into the 2GB installed
on the Windows machine, which is absolutely
phenomenalover half a gig more than any-
thing else has ever loaded on that computer.
More importantly, its loading 29,784 sam-
ples; for perspective, a typical single articula-
tion Patch might be 25MB and 400 samples.
Theres a wide range, but that translates to
maybe 75 patches.
The only Windows issue is that if you
attempt to load more than the program can
handle, it brings down the house, requiring a
restart. It would be nice if it just cancelled
whatever it was loading and threw up a dia-
The Mac Audio Units version works a little
differently from other instrument plug-ins. It
actually runs outside the DAWs memory
space, and it behaves halfway between a
stand-alone program and a plug-in.
With 5GB of RAM, the test Mac G5 was
able to access 3.08GB of memory and 44,225
samples inside Logic (which includes the
memory Logic itself uses). This is not the
exact breaking pointthats impossible to
determine until youve crossed the linebut
its very close to the precipice.
When I filled the G5 all the way with 8GB
of RAM, the VSL figure stayed the same, but
then it was able to load an additional 1.9GB
into Native Instruments Kontakt 2 inside
Logic. It all ran fine! Thats 5GB of samples
loaded inside a single machine, which is sim-
ply unheard of. But that was the breaking
pointattempting to load even one more
plug-in caused Logic to crash.
The way OS X works is that each program
is able to access a theoretical maximum of
4GB, which in the real world ends up being
about 3GB after some overhead. Since Vienna
Instruments runs outside the host program, it
has its own additional memory space. Its
almost greedy to speculate why things break
down at 5GB rather than 6 (3GB for each
program), but my guess is that the total num-
ber of files open on the machine may have
something to do with it.
Having the Vienna Instruments be a sepa-
rate program does have one drawback,
though. When you go to open its window in
Logic Pro, you get a dialog box to click on to
open the Vienna Instruments window; this
takes over the computer, since its running
outside the DAW. If you save a screenset with
the Vienna Instruments window open and
then switch to a different screenset, the win-
dow is gone when you come back.
While its a pretty minor inconvenience,
this unique behavior is still suboptimal. With
so much cell-switching to keep track of, its
often necessary to work with the Vienna
You could theoretically call up every articulation
you need and play it live; the only practical limit is
memorythe computers for loading programs,
and your own for remembering which controllers
or keyswitches bring up what programs.
There it is: 5.13GB of samples accessed on a single machine! The VSL-Server shows 3.05GB, Logic Pro
2.08GB. The DAW isnt straining eitheryou really can work with that kind of a load if you install 8GB in a
G5. Note that the 2.08GB includes Logic itself and other sample libraries, in this case running in Native
Instruments Kontakt 2 sampler; the 3GB is about the most VSL you can run on a single machine.
delay, and fade-in time. A voice sync switch
locks together the LFO waves in all sounding
voices. Neither the LFOs nor the delay times
sync to the host clock.
Lookup in the sky!
One of the big advantages to software syn-
thesizers is that they can all share the same
Instruments window open. Perhaps a ReWire
version of the player would be a solution.
In any case, 1.745 GB on a 2GB Windows
machine and 3+2GB on an 8GB G5 is
absolutely spectacular performanceespecial-
ly when you take into account how efficient
the player is with buffers.
All the major software samplers have
improved by leaps and bounds in many
important areas, but they havent necessarily
focused their efforts on making the wonderful
new libraries they spawned easy to manage.
The Vienna Instruments player sets new
standards in that category, and also in its
memory access performance. That, combined
with the incredible breadth of the library
itself, allows you do to some things nothing
else can do. VI
hardware. Theres no need to limit your music
by buying one instrument that purports to do
it all.
UFO is peculiar enough sonicallyvisceral,
colorful, varied, and unpredictable, but sel-
dom crisp or punchythat I would never
want to rely on it as my only synth. But it
does things no other instrument will do, and
that makes it a welcome addition to my ever-
growing virtual rack. VI
Jim Aikin is the author of Power Tools for
Synthesizer Programming and Chords and
Harmony (Backbeat Books). His online avatar is
I might write 30 seconds of music a day
now. Its 30 seconds that ten years from now
Im going to be proud of!
But if you work six or eight hours a day
and youre a slow composer, youre still going
to produce a lot of music. What slows me
down is not just composing, but sequencing.
That basically adds about twice the time to
everything you do.
What is your working processdo
you scribble and then play, do you
sequence and then scribble
As of the last ten years its changed,
because I used to be a pencil and paper com-
poserId just sit at the piano and compose.
Im a pianist, I still improvise every night at
the piano just to get raw ideas and inspira-
tion. But when I actually start composing, I
just go to the sequencer in staff view and
start inputting notes.
The discipline involved there is to not jump
ahead and start thinking about the orchestra-
tionwell, the orchestration always happens
with the composition. But you have to first
get a melodic idea down that you like before
you start sculpting every note. When youre
sequencing youre not just composing, youre
actually sound-sculpting every note, because
every attack, every velocity, every note length
has to be right, and you have to go in and
make all those changes.
If you start backwards and start thinking
about the mix before you have the composi-
tion donewell, Im not saying thats wrong,
just that itll produce different results.
So you live in the notation editor.
I use the event list a lot and I use con-
trollers a lot, but all my composing is done in
the staff view. All my copying/pasting
How much of what you do is per-
formed and how much is programmed
into the sequencer?
Almost all of it is programmed. A lot of the
percussive and rhythmic tracks are performed.
I will sequence it and produce variations by
putting in lots of program changes and lots
of envelope changes, and create variety.
Sometimes Ill play stuff in, but its not any
faster I find.
Because you have to switch articula-
Exactly. I find switching articulations slows
me down so much that it takes away from
the performance anyway, so I just sequence.
Is the movement youre working on
now the first piece youve done using
Yes, I just got VSL in February. Its a better
library than what I was using before. One of
the things that makes that organ sound is
the woodwinds. But the VSL woodwinds are
the easiest woodwinds to write for, to get
them to sound goodjust the best Ive
heard. Its not only the way theyre recorded,
the crescendos, the decrescendos, but the
other thing about that library, which Ive
never heard before, is the tuning. You play a
chord and it doesnt sound slightly out of
I hear an attitude in all their notes.
I think if the players pour their souls into
every note theyre samplingwhich sounds
kind of oxymoronic in the sense that how can
you pour your soul into one note?but you
can! And theres a big difference between
playing a note and feeling it so strongly that
it comes out with expression.
If you catch that in the sample, you just
have better samples.
What do you do to shape phrases?
If every note in a phrase has the same
attack and velocity, its going to sound horri-
ble. Well, it depends on the texture and the
musical style, because sometimes you want
repeated notes to have a hypnotic effect. But
if you have repeated notes that are part of a
primary melody, man you gotta do a lot to
get them to sound good.
With VSL you dont have to use controller
11 and 7 to shape notes as much, because
youve got so many samples with built-in
crescendos and decrescendos.
Do you use the Repetition Tool in VSL
a lot?
Im running VSL on two computers. They
are both running GigaStudio 3, theyre both
at absolutely full capacityI have no more
room for any samples.
But I have enough technique that I can
accomplish the same thing a different way.
And one of the ways I do that is with velocity
envelope, note lengths, and location of the
note on the beat. You can really get a smooth
legato line, and you can get a repeating note
line that doesnt sound like a machine gun
effect by sequencing it correctly without
using those tools.
I couldnt load the Performance samples
without taking out my single-note samples.
Its a compromise. If you cant produce good
music with four instruments, what makes you
think you can produce good music with 25 or
30 or 100 instruments? When you have all
this gear, the temptation is to make these
thickly-orchestrated works that are actually
over-orchestrated! A good composer can
make a really interesting piece out of just one
If you over-orchestrate music thats not that
complex, it sounds really creepy, really dated!
A master who did this would be Stravinsky. If
you look at scores of his music, theyre super-
complex. But the music is complex. One of
the temptations for younger, inexperienced
musicians is to over-orchestrate with this stuff
just because they can.
Ive heard MIDI composers say youre
always limited by the medium and you have
to write for the samples, and you change the
phrase to fit the sample. To me the answer is
that youre always dealing with the limitations
of the medium. If theyre not technical or
artistic, theyre financial or sociallife is
fraught with limitations.
You have to look at the positive and see all
the options you have. VI
ampler developers are allowing their
instruments to respond to MIDI com-
mands in all kinds of interesting ways.
TASCAM GigaStudio 3 has iMIDI rules, which
are stored with each program. It also has the
Expression Filter
and Portmento
Reshaping Filters
its programmers
discussed in our
The latest craze
is over the script-
ing feature in
Native Instruments
Kontakt 2. Scripts
are programs you
load up to instruct
the sampler how
to respond to
MIDI. This applies
to all the parame-
ters of Kontakt 2s
extensive digital
signal processing,
including its convolution processor.
While you and I can just load them up and
use them, scripts are written in a program-
ming language, and they can be very sophis-
ticated. Youd expect the scripting feature to
be one of those nerdy things nobody other
than professional developers would pay any
attention to.
Not soa vibrant community of people
who write Kontakt scripts has popped up
online. (VI writer Frederick Russ VI-
Control.net forum has a whole section dedi-
cated to Kontakt scripting.) Most of the
scripts around are free downloads, and they
can add some rather amazing features to
existing sample libraries.
The script that really fueled the craze is
SIPSthe Solo Instrument Performance Suite
(available here:
along with many other useful scripts). It was
written by a talented multi-instrumentalist
named Robert Villock (Big Bob), who unfor-
tunately is having some health problems right
now, and who we wish a speedy recovery.
Bob analyzed the transitions between notes
in various instruments, how the pitch shifts
slightly, how they cross over, and in general
what happens when you play legato. This
unbelievably ambitious set of scripts, which
actually comes with a 31-page manual, is his
The SIPS suite has presets for many differ-
ent instruments, since the transitions are
always different. As a result, some samples
that by todays standards are pretty much
unusable have been given new life; the differ-
ence can be astounding.
Meanwhile, a fellow named Nils Lindberg
in Sweden has written a series of scripts
inspired by the Vienna Instruments player
reviewed in this issue. See
One of the scripts is a Speed control that
automatically switches between programs
depending on how fast you play.
Another script is by a fellow named Olivier
Frappier (http://jazzphoton.free.fr/) who
wrote a sympathetic resonance script for sam-
pled pianos to recreate what happens when
you play the sustain pedal. This makes use of
Kontakt 2s convolution processor.
There are quite a few other scripts floating
around the internet, and you should be able
to find them from the links on this page. This
is turning out to be an exciting advance in
sampling technology, and whats interesting is
that its a grass roots phenomenon fueled by
enthusiasts. VI
VIt r e n d s
Scripting: the craze over customizing
Native Instruments Kontakt 2
To insert a script, simply load a program into
Kontakt 2, then click on the wrench next to the pro-
gram name to go into Instrument Edit mode. Click on
the Script Editor tab.