Hi there! I'm new to this forum, and haven't had much time yet to look around at all your profiles yet and listen to your music, but I'm very much looking forward to it. :-)
In the mean time, I've been busy working on some test projects to work out the kinks with various components in my system. For those of you who are into reading about gear and how people use it, this is going to be the main focus of my blog.
About a month ago I purchased BFD 2, which was a new release from fxpansion in December. I never got on well with the original BFD, but still needing a new solution for VI drums, I thought I would try it again. Superior Drummer 2.0 is not out yet (it looks like it will be awesome), so I needed something workable now.
My use of these kinds of things is getting better because for the past 18 months or so, I've been taking drum lessons from a great studio jazz drummer here in LA. I never wanted to be a drummer, and I'll always be a lead guitarist in my brain, but I realized long ago that drums were the secret (to me anyway) of making good music. I'm still a pretty poor drummer but the studies have helped my knowledge of the instrument in relation to composing and arranging, which was the original goal. My teacher, Khalil Herbert, has been teaching me odd time signatures all along, so one of the first things I wanted to do with BFD 2 was to apply some of the things I've learned while doing drum studies.
I'm a big fan of Bulgarian and Balkan music in general. So I thought about doing some wedding music in 11/8, and indeed I found a piece of music for that, but it also occurred to me that a less complicated thing would be to do a version of the Bulgarian National Anthem - "Mila Rodino", which was officially adopted as such in 1964, however the melody and composition is from a much older tune written by Tzvetan Radoslavov as he was marching off to fight Serbs in 1885. It's a striking theme and one of my favorites. I figured it would be a good inversion to my song Bulgarian Radio Waves, but you would have to listen to that to get it.
So I opened Nuendo 4 and set the time signature to 6/4 and tempo of 78 which after listening to the original a few times, seemed to work with the midi set I had. For the arrangement I chose instruments from IK Philharmonic, which is from samples not all that far from BG! I used a variety of plugins from the stock installation of Nuendo 4 to pump up the sample parts. Tweak city, typical stuff.
Once I had a mix that I liked, I bounced the thing down to a stereo mix and setup a new project with that file as in imported audio track. Again, set tempo 78 and time signature to 6/4. I had to do this because BFD 2 is memory HUNGRY! Stock out of the box, it will eat up a 1 gb of RAM when you load a 10 piece kit. After setting the streaming rate in half, you can get it to around 500 mb per 10 piece kit, which is workable when you have a 2 GB system like I do.
BFD 2 allows you to select your drum kits, (and they sound great) mix and match pieces from different kits, and do all kinds of room and mic placement tweaking. You can read about those features elsewhere, but what you need to know is how to use it with your sequencer. BFD 2 supports drag and drop of patterns and comes with a bunch of starter groove palletes, which are arranged by beats and fills, and you can browse by genre of beat (including folk and military!), time signature, etc. Pretty cool. I found some good 6/4 beats and used them as the basic to get started. I started dragging and dropping into Nuendo. Now for some reason, whenever I drag and drop into Nuendo 4 like this, it creates a new instrument track as opposed to dropping it into the track where I had the output of BFD2 instantiated. Then you have to drag it back to your track to get it to play (kind of a pain) but I suspect this is a bug in Nuendo or some feature I haven't figured out yet.
For most of the track I ended up just making my own beats in the Nuendo 4 drum editor (which is part of the add-on NEK, kind of pisses me off to pay extra for stuff like that, but hey!). After I had a track I liked, naturally I wanted to render it to audio. Problem is BFD 2 simply does not work in audio export from host. There is an export track function from inside BFD if you build your track inside the standalone sequencer, but I prefer to see my beats in the main host project window. What happens is that when you export to audio from host (does it on my system in either Cubase SX 3 or Nuendo 4), you end up with random audio glitches, particularly things like cut offs on cymbols. At the fxpansion forum, I saw a guy with the same problem with Logic and Apple, so to me this is clearly a bug and a big one at that. Hopefully it will be addressed in the next patch.
The work around for me was to record the playback of the BFD 2 midi (which was flawless on my system) and record it into a new audio track from inside the sequencer. The resulting track was perfect - no latency. Then you mute the midi track and do your project export using the stereo audio as your drum track.
My original idea for this arrangement was do it mostly traditional out of respect for my Bulgarian friends, but also with drums and electric guitar to modernize it a bit (say circa 1967 lol). I wanted to play the trumpet part on an electric guitar, especially on a good Strat, because the best trumpet parts I've always heard just happen to share the sweetest registers on a Strat's fretboard. I used a Marshall Major PA amp driving a 300 watt 1960a Marshall cabinet. Mics were a Shure SM57 and a Beta 57 (love that mic) in stereo going through a simple tube preamp, which then fed into my Presonus Digimax FS, which then feeds into my system through lightpipe. The room mic, recording in mono, was a Groove Tubes GT-66 and it went straight into a preamp in the Digimax FS. I put the room mic on the left to balance things out because the stereo track of the Philharmonic bounce was heavy on the right side. If you hear a gentle pulse in the sound of the guitar, that is a very cool slow rotor setting from a stock Nuendo 4 plugin. It helped give more separation to the mix so you could hear the transient peaks of the trumpets and strings better.
The opening bit, is a bit of a red herring - done for fun with my Korg keyboards and processed loops of radio noise, mastered to sound like AM radio. This is the part which makes it an stylistic inversion of Bulgarian Radio Waves.
Anyway, on this project, aside from being careful with RAM (a typical VI problem) and the export issue (easy workaround), I can say that BFD 2 made drum mapping a delight! I definitely recommend it and can't wait to use it again. Actually I am, in a 11/8 project!