The first instalment of this series gave a general overview of the Logical Edit page of Cubase; this month, I'll be taking a look at more specific uses of this facility.
A problem which has been experienced by almost every MIDI musician is a lifeless hi-hat track. This may be due to the choice of sound, and/or to the feel of the playing. Feel, or groove, will be dictated by the position and accent of notes, and I'll be dealing here with accent, since position is better dealt with using Cubase's Groove Quantize.
A real drummer would obviously accent certain beats, and these accents would relate to how he was playing the rest of his kit. It is, of course, well-nigh impossible to recreate the feel of an excellent drummer but, using Logical Edit, we can make up for some of the deficiencies of a drum track that was badly played or input in step time.
I'm assuming that our hi-hat part is very simple -- 16th notes ticking continuously throughout a four-bar 4/4 pattern -- and I'm also concentrating only on the closed hi- hats. The intention is to accent the first and third beats of each bar and to make all the down-beats a little stronger than the up-beats -- without making the sound mechanical. Once the technique has been mastered in its basic form, you can go on to experiment with more elaborate procedures.
Select a hi-hat part in need of enlivening on the Arrange page, and go into Key Edit, or Drum Edit if you prefer.
While in the editor, select the Master track by double clicking on
the 'Master' button or pressing Control M.
Double-click in the 'Signature' column and change the time signature to 4/16. Why change the time signature? Because we need to prepare the scene for Logical Edit to accentuate certain notes within each beat. 4/16 is equal to one quarter note beat in 4/4 time.
Now go into Logical Edit. Start by setting all the hi-hats to velocity values of between 70 and 80.
Set the FILTER section to 'Equal Note' in the EVENT TYPE column, and the PROCESSING section to a random value of between 70 and 80 in the VALUE 2 column.
Set Logical Edit to 'Transform' and 'Perform' the operation.
You can save each stage of the process as a preset for future use, or you may feel comfortable working on the fly.
Next, we need to put a stress on all the downbeats of the part. Most drummers would naturally do this, though it does, of course, depend on the feel of the music. It's achieved in Logical Edit by using the BAR RANGE function of the FILTER section.
Without changing the previous Logical Edit settings, simply add the following BAR RANGE data: a filter for all notes 'Inside' the range '1.0 to 1.48' . This can be selected directly in the BAR RANGE column, or the range can also be adjusted using click and drag in the graphic BAR RANGE found between the FILTER and PROCESSING sections.
Set the PROCESSING VALUE 2 column to plus 20 and 'Perform' the operation.
The graphic BAR RANGE is a graphic representation of a time segment of your music. With the current time signature set to 4/16, this time segment is equal to 1 beat. If your hi-hat part contains continuous 16th notes, each successive group of four such notes will be acted upon according to how things are filtered.
Now put slightly less of an accent on the third of each group of 16th notes, this time setting the VALUE 2 column to plus 10.
The BAR RANGE filter should read 'Inside 3.0-3.48'.
'Perform' the edit and play your hi-hat part while still in Logical Edit. Your hi-hat track should be sounding slightly more musical already.
Now come out of Logical Edit to Key Edit and go back into the Mastertrack. Change the time signature back to 4/4.
Escape and return to Logical Edit.
Accents on the first and third beats of the bar will finish the exercise. Figure 4 shows the accenting of the first beat of the bar -- notes 'Inside 1.0-1.48' in the BAR RANGE column of the FILTER section are processed with a 'Plus 10' in the VALUE 2 (velocity) column of the PROCESSING section.
Finally, the third beat of the bar is treated similarly but with a subtle velocity increase of 'Plus 5'. As an alternative try accenting the second and fourth beats of the bar instead.
When you're satisfied with the results, go back into Key Edit and 'Keep' the changes to go back to the Arrange page. The hi-hat part should sound more lively and musically expressive but if more 'feel' is required, using one of the grooves in Groove Quantize may be the answer. If the results are not to your liking, you may need to experiment with the velocity values used in our Logical Edit procedure. Not all hi-hats respond equally to velocity data and subtle changes may not register at all in some drum machines. Your knowledge of how your own machine responds to velocity is as important as your knowledge of Logical Edit, if you want to achieve a satisfactory result.
The use of the Mastertrack with Logical Edit greatly enhances the power of the BAR RANGE column. If you ever need to select every other note in a part consisting of equi-distant 16th notes, for example, using Logical Edit with the Mastertrack time signature set to 2/16 makes the process easy. The BAR RANGE can be set to filter through either the first or the second of each pair of 1/16 notes. Experimentation with other time signatures can also prove fruitful. Try changing the time signature to 3/16 and then put an accent of 'Plus 20' on the second 1/16 beat of each 3/16 bar. The result is a kind of continuous 'off the beat' feel.
The procedure for hi-hat parts described here can obviously be adapted to other kinds of musical data. But before you go too wild, remember that while it is easy to improve a very poor-sounding part, it is also fairly easy to ruin a reasonably good-sounding part. So tread carefully and always work with Logical Edit out of Key Edit or one of the other edit windows. Only when you are completely satisfied should you 'Keep' the changes and go back to the Arrange window. This is particularly important if you have decided to process an entire track.
That's it for the hi-hats, but in this procedure we touched upon the use of the random function in the PROCESSING section, which leads on to our next subject.
At first sight, the variation of velocities (VALUE 2), as outlined above, appears to be the only sensible application of the random function. But if we forget Logical Edit for a moment and consider the applications of randomness in modern and electronic music generally, then more possibilities become available.
One such possibility is the application of randomness to synth or effects unit patches in order to produce new and exciting sounds. We can achieve this with Cubase using a combination of Logical Edit and the MIDI Mixer page.
The process is not particularly obvious, so I'll keep things as simple as possible on the MIDI Mixer side. The aim of the exercise is to create a simple Mixer Map and then randomly manipulate the values of the Mixer Objects using the random function of Logical Edit. I've decided to use the Alesis Quadraverb+ as the example unit, since many readers will own one, or will be familiar with the unit. I am also assuming that most Cubase users will be familiar with how to create a MIDI Mixer object.
The Quadraverb will be used in its EQ PITCH DELAY REVERB Configuration, and the following delay parameters will be manipulated:
That's five objects.
First, create a four-bar Mixer part on the Arrange page. Go to the MIDI Mixer page and create new objects using the 'New' tool and select 'Sys-ex' in the 'MIDI message status' menu of each object. .
The five objects should be appropriately named and sized.
Save your new Mixer Map as 'TESTQUAD', or something similar.
Set your Quadraverb to System Exclusive ON in the MIDI menu of the unit and select a patch which uses the EQ PITCH DELAY REVERB configuration -- such as PROGRAM 44 'Echo 2 to the Left', for example.
Test that each Mixer object has an effect on the Quadraverb by moving the faders (each parameter should be seen to change visibly on the unit's display window).
Next, set the song position of Cubase to Bar 2. Go into 'Write' mode and set up a static mix by moving the faders to positions of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 (for example) and 'Keep' the mix.
Now go into List Edit: the five MIDI Mixer events should be visible at bar position 2. Looking at the VALUE columns reveals that VALUE 1 represents the number of the object and VALUE 2 the setting of the fader for each object. If we now go into Logical Edit, it becomes a straightforward matter to alter the settings of the object faders using the VALUE 2 column.
Set up the Logical Edit page as follows: ignore the FILTER section and set a random value of between 1 and 127 in the VALUE 2 column of the PROCESSING section. Logical Edit should be in Transform mode. Save this as a Logical Edit preset under the name of 'Randomix' (for example) and leave the editor.
Now comes a clever move. When the new Logical Edit preset is used, it's best that the resulting changed values are sent out via MIDI immediately. The Options menu contains an item called 'Chase Events'. This should be set to 'Active' for Mixer data. Cubase will now chase the latest status of MIDI Mixer events as they occur in the song. But it will also chase changes in the status of events as they are edited using Logical Edit, if the Song Position pointer is set to later than the position in which the events first occurred. So, set Cubase to Bar 3, since our original MIDI Mixer events have been recorded at Bar 2. Using the 'randomix' Logical Edit preset while in the Arrange page should produce the desired random output to the Quadraverb, the activity of which should be visible in the unit's display. If not, then try jogging some activity by moving the song position pointer forwards a touch.
Try setting up a drum pattern cycling between bars 3 and 4 and treat the sound with the Quadraverb. Use the Logical Edit preset repeatedly while the pattern is cycling, and each time you will have a slightly different effect, according to the new random settings of the objects. If the effect is too extreme, the low and high limits of the random function in the Logical Edit preset could be changed to 10 and 50, for example.
So what's the point of all this? Well, I have found serendipity (ie: stumbling upon something wonderful by accident) to be extremely valuable when searching for new sounds or effects. If a more comprehensive Mixer Map is used, a large number of parameters may be randomly manipulated, and dramatic changes in the character of the effect are possible.
If you don't wish to get involved in creating MIDI Mixer objects, use the pre-written maps supplied by a number of sources, including Steinberg themselves or Club Cubase. Move only the objects required for randomisation while in 'Write' mode on the MIDI mixer page and 'Keep' the mix. These objects alone will be effected by the 'randomix' Logical Edit preset. Try the technique on any Mixer Map and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
It has become evident here that the power of Logical Edit is enhanced when coupled with the strengths of the other editors and the settings of other parts of the program. I have successfully used the above technique to create a whole new bank of effects for my Quadraverb+. I did use a far more complex set of Mixer maps for the job but the added work was worth it. Next month's article explores the control of MIDI Controllers using Logical Edit. Until then, happy hi-hats and many random returns!