Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Hey all,

I've always been a musician/composer rooted in melodic instruments and structure. Yeah, I've sat in on a few drum circles (I'm part dirty hippy), but outside of a little fiddling in Fruity Loops years ago, I've never really done much in the way of rhythmic composing with regards to percussion. How do you DAW users go about programming your percussion? Do you use the drum editors? Key editors? Do you create a midi loop? I'd love to pick some brains on this process.

Thanks!
-Andrew

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Thanks for your reply!

Though not by my hand, I have seen the power of Fruity Loops in creating amazing electronic beats and loops. However, for my purposes, I'm looking more at streamlining my process for programming orchestral and other odd percussion instruments for orchestral/film score style music. I use Cubase 3 to sequence, and the key editor/piano roll(where I do most of my "click" programming/editing) seems rather laborious and non-intuitive for the process. I've just recently started messing about with the drum editor, and that seems a bit easier.

soundwrx said:
Hi Andrew,
You mentioned Fruity Loops in your introduction. I recently registered for FL Studio 9.0 and for me, this is the program for beats. I hold a fair collection of beats and percussion loops which I use in FL Studio by way of the Slicex plugin, the Edison wave editor and the DirectWave Sampler. In Slicex I track the loop, create regions for oneshots and/or rhythmic phrases. Each audio slice is automatically assigned to the midi keyboard which allows you to jam away and create and record new percussion arrangements in to the piano roll. Once in the piano roll I can adjust the velocities and midi controller information. From there I then route each region/audio slice to its own dedicated mixer channel through the Slicex multiple outs.

Once assigned to individual mixer channels I then process and mash each separate audio region/slice using FX, dynamics and position each sound exactly where I want it to be in the stereo field. Each mixer channel is subject to 8 parallel inserts and 4 FX send returns so you can create quite a musical scene. If I need to further edit the audio of any of the regions I simply drag the audio into a version of Edison and manipulate them in there and drag them back into the FL pattern. Its a very productive work flow that produces great results for me. If you have FL Studio, the updates are free for registered users so you are always up to speed with latest FL technologies. I recommend a revisit to your FL Studio for sure. Hope this feedback helps.

Peace out.
I generally load up samples i like of sounds (not loops) and perform 2-6 parts at a time performing and get a rough idea, then i will break it down and perform each part indifvidually (i.e. tympani, kick drum, hi hat, piatti, whatever). I try and not quantize unless really necessary and if i do quantize then its with usually 80% strength only. Everything I sequence I try and imagine that I am playing each instrument live, whether its percussion or not. I do have a little background in Ghana drumming (3 years studying Ewe and Dagomba drums with Abubakari Lunna) and one thing I learned from him is a respect for each drum and for what the magic is when many drummers each with personality and soul get together to play live. Im sure he would cringe listening to my sequences but at least I try and keep that lesson in mind. Applying to other instruments is the same: strings I may have written all the parts in a score but i will start wth a blank sequence and play each instrument (or minimally instrument section like 1st violin section sample playing a single note) in sepertate performances. Im not really fond of looping ever, even when writing in a style that is repetitive i still prefer to loop only 1 or 2 key elements (which I performed with sounds not loops) and then add stuff linearly over time to give slight nuance of live-ness. Even with electronic or synthetic sounds, i still try and treat them as live instruments. There is just a lot of nuance to samples to nail in performance to make it sound real, as well as the nuance of changing things up slightly.
What I do can be applied to percussion, but I do this with other instruments and instrument combinations. Note that what I describe below can be done only in an improvisation session, not in the writing process, but maybe some ideas can be generalized.

My synthesizer, Yamaha Motif S90ES, has a fantastic feature called arpeggios. On the first sight this may look as a tool for non-professionals, but wait. Imagine a few thousand phrases, meticulously prepared and performed by real performers on real instruments and instrument groups. Each phrase contains 10-20 notes or more and is designed so that it can be applied in a loop. Now, you choose a phrase (arpeggio), play some accord, and the phrase is repeatedly played using the notes you have chosen (and maybe some additional notes); you can change this on the fly and simultaneously play something else using the same and/or additional keyboard. Then you can edit the results using the MIDI result of this session.

This is somewhat simplified picture; there are ways to create new arpeggio phrases, to change the tempo or swing of the arpeggios, to make them more or less sensitive to the velocity of the pressed notes, to apply arpeggios for different instruments etc. As far as I know, in Yamaha they strive to develop this feature, and I heard of instruments containing 6000 arpeggios, and even of the possibility to play 2 arpeggios simultaneously. I am extensively experimenting with this feature now, but so far I succeed to create only one full piece using it - this is "Small Fantastic Dance" presented in my profile here.
Thanks for the reply, Chris...

When you say that you "perform 2-6 parts at a time", do you mean that you are performing these "live" on a keyboard? And if so, how are you keeping your sounds from overlapping (at least overlapping in an unintended manner)? Do you map them to different sections of the keyboard?
AndrewG,
That sounds like a neat feature, with all kinds of time-saving applications. I myself use a M-Audio midi controller keyboard, so no fancy bells and whistles on mine, but perhaps the next time I'm in the music shop I'll see if they have a yamaha equipped with this feature and play with it a bit.

Marius,
*sigh* Yet another reason I need to stoke the fire under my backside to learn notation. I think that your course is badly needed! There are many parallels and cross application opportunities between rock music and classical (and the proper fusion of the two styles can be quite bombastic!).
Yes live on a keyboard, I use a Kurzweil K 2600 sx, but any midi controller is ok. Yea I started doing this in the old days of general midi where a drumset was layed out over 5 octaves or so, with kick starting on C, rimshot C#, Snare1 D, etc. So i got used to playing grooves with hihat, ride, kick and snare with 4 fingers pretty decently. Nowadays with samples, I will either use a 'kit' with different sounds layered over the keyboard, or i will create one using GigaStudio 4 ability to stack sounds and assigne them to keys. I try and not spent a lot of time with this tho, since this is usually only for the relatively short period of groove creation, and the rest will be single sounds loaded on individual tracks/channels that I will replay 1 at a time when I have the rhythm for that instrument set. So in my sequence, for percussion, here is a typical example:
TRACK_xx1: Tympani single hits (MIDI track xx1 triggering GigaStudio port 8 channel 1 via MidiOverLAN playing back via lightpipe to AUDIO input stereo 17 and 18)
TRACK_xx2: Tympani tremolo dynamic (MIDI track xx2 triggering GigaStudio port 8 channel 2 via MidiOverLAN playing back via lightpipe to AUDIO intput stereo 17 and 18 [audio return shared with all orchestral percussion for instance])
TRACK_xx3: Crash cymbal tremolo dynamic felt mallets (MIDI track xx3 triggering GigaStudio port 8 channel 7 via MIDIOverLan playing back via lightpipe to AUDIO input stereo 17 and 18)
TRACK_xx4: Crash cymbal piatti (MIDI track xx4 triggering GS port 8 channel 8 via MOL playback via AUDIO in 17-18)
TRACK_xx5: Taiko drums collection 3, etc
TRACK_xx6: SAM TRUE STRIKE special effect collection 2, etc

The other alternative which i do frequently is to not use the giga machines and just use a virtual instrument, same idea of setup just as a VI instead of routing to GS machine and back

is this what you mean?

Andrew Wonders said:
Thanks for the reply, Chris...

When you say that you "perform 2-6 parts at a time", do you mean that you are performing these "live" on a keyboard? And if so, how are you keeping your sounds from overlapping (at least overlapping in an unintended manner)? Do you map them to different sections of the keyboard?
Absolutely what I meant, Chris, thanks. So it seems that you either use a percussion kit, or build a kit yourself, then kind of "jam" out your basic idea, then break it down to the individual parts when you sequence it. I understand what you're saying about not quantizing, to retain that human element of performance. I like being able to quantize stuff, but I'm also a *very* recent convert to keyboards, so my performance skills and timing are not the greatest. When you say that you only quantize at 80%, what do you mean? What sequencer are you using? Is this perhaps a feature I could access in Cubase (SX3 is what I have)? Sorry to keep hammering you for info, but as I said, I'm trying to learn how to streamline my creative process as much as possible, with the best quality results, since I aim to try and do this professionally at some point. Thanks again for your help so far!

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