Over the next few months, I'll be looking at data selection and manipulation in Digital Performer in some depth. This may sound mundane, but there's a host of tricks and power-user tips that you can use to speed up your everyday working methods. I thought we'd kick off by taking a look at MIDI editing.
Editing MIDI Via The Tracks Window
The Tracks window is where many DP3 users spend a lot of their time, and its great advantage is that it doesn't show lots of detail, but instead gives a broad overview. It's essentially different
Digital Performer: v3.02.
DP creates Phrases according to the settings in the Phrase Setup dialogue box, accessed from the mini-menu in the Tracks Overview window. If you're working with particularly dense, fragmented material you might consider selecting 'Break Phrases After...' here, but most users will find the default 'Dynamic Phrase Parsing' just fine.
Working with Phrases rapidly highlights the two different ways of using the mouse to select items on screen, namely data selection and time-range selection. To see what I mean, try pointing to the middle of a phrase and click once -- this makes a data selection. To make a time-range selection, move the To quickly select an entire sequence, double-click on the word 'Selection' (found on the Selection Bar in the Tracks window). To change tonal colour when using very short delay times in the Delay plug-in, try experimenting with inverted phase feedback, by dialling in negative feedback amounts.
Define time-range selections quickly by using the default function-key shortcuts 'F5' (for Start Time) and 'F6' (for End Time).
To quickly select an entire sequence, double-click on the word 'Selection' (found on the Selection Bar in the Tracks window).
To change tonal colour when using very short delay times in the Delay plug-in, try experimenting with inverted phase feedback, by dialling in negative feedback amounts.
Once you've selected some data (or a time-range), point to the selection; the familiar 'one-finger' mouse pointer will appear. Click and drag, and you'll find you can move the data in the selection to another time location, or to another MIDI track. Hold down the Option/Alt key whilst you do this and you'll see the 'two-finger' hand appear -- now you're copying the data. Data being moved or copied in the Tracks Overview window always 'snaps to grid', with the grid divisions being determined by the Zoom resolution for the window. If you need to temporarily turn this off, hold down the Command/Apple key whilst moving or copying. The same thing applies to making time-range selections, too. This is a handy shortcut to remember in all DP's editing windows.
If you need to select the entire contents of one track, hold down the Command/Apple key and hit 'A' (ie. Select All) then click on the track's name. By dragging over the names of several tracks you can select all of the tracks' contents, and you can add further tracks to a selection individually by clicking on them whilst holding down the Shift key. To select a time range for all tracks at once, you simply drag in the time ruler and by just clicking in the time ruler you can select one grid division for all the tracks. You can also make selections in the time ruler by clicking on Markers (which selects everything up to the next marker), the Memory-Cycle indicators (which selects the Memory-Cycle region) or either of the Auto-Record (punch in/out) indicators.
I mentioned the importance of distinguishing between data and time-range selections, and this primarily affects some of the editing functions in the Edit menu. Specifically, it's the Snip, Repeat and Retrograde (ie. reverse) functions that won't be available if you've only made a data selection. Repeat, especially, is very useful. Try selecting a time range, activating Repeat, and specifying a desired number of repeats (the keyboard shortcut is to hold down Command/Apple and hit the 'R' key). This function enables you to easily construct the sort of repetitious structures that underpin modern dance styles. Snip (Command/Apple plus the 'J' key) is handy, too, and simply removes the selected data before closing up the gap this forms in the track.
Other Edit menu items are also useful whilst working in the Tracks window. Cut, Copy and Paste do what you'd expect, but it's worth looking at how DP handles pasting. Basically, if you've ma
The Selection Bar
The Selection Bar (shown above) is a deceptively powerful feature of the Tracks window. Much of the time it just sits there displaying the start and end times of any selections you've made, but it can also be used to define a selection's time range in a number of useful ways. For example, try selecting a MIDI phrase block -- because this isn't a time-range selection you can't use the Repeat function to duplicate it. However, after selecting 'Set to selection bounds' from the Selection Bar's pop-up menu, you can -- this function creates a time-range selection from the 'bounds' of the data selection. You can also type in a time range using the Tab key (or dot key on the keypad) to go from field to field as normal, or click and vertically drag in the fields to change their values. Clicking on the Start or End buttons enters the current wiper position into the respective field, and you can even do this when the sequence is playing. Double-clicking on these buttons enters the sequence start or end times into the respective fields.
The Selection Bar also works well in conjunction with the Remember Times command. This simply saves a time-range selection so that it can be recalled later on -- which is useful if you need to keep coming back to one section. Storing a selection is as easy as holding down the Control key and hitting the 'R' key. To recall it into the Selection Bar, simply click on the word 'Selection' (or use the keyboard shortcut; hit 'S' while holding down the Shift and Alt/Option keys). You can enter the remembered time into the Memory-Cycle or Auto-Record bars in a similar way, by clicking 'Memory' or 'Punch' as required.
DP3's built-in Delay plug-in (shown right) is one of those blue-coloured serious-looking plug-ins that maybe isn't quite as inviting as some of the others that come bundled with DP3. But for what is in essence quite a simple design, Delay is a hugely useful tool that can help you come up with some great sounds.
Delay shows up in quite a few different versions, depending on what sort of track you insert it on -- there are mono-to-stereo, stereo-to-stereo, and 'n to n' surround-capable versions.
Delay works by offering the same number of delay 'modules' as there are output channels on the host track, and an 'X-feedback' (cross-feedback) send for each, which can then feed one module's output into any of the others. In the case of the stereo-to-stereo version of Delay, that adds up to four separate feedback paths -- one conventional feedback path plus an X-feedback path for each channel. But on the 5.1 surround version there are 25 feedback paths -- each delay module has its own, together with an X-feedback send to each of the other four non-LFE channels. Despite the fact that individual feedback sends can't be set at greater than unity gain, Delay can quickly spiral into chaos, because the normal feedback and X-feedback levels do sum over time. Fortunately, to save your speakers, MOTU have thoughtfully provided all the versions of Delay with a Panic button that clears all the delay buffers and silences the plug-in, just in case things get out of hand. When you're experimenting with Delay, remember where that button is....
Try inserting a mono-to-stereo Delay on a mono Voice (or Aux) track and load up the '1/2 1/4 No FB' preset. As it stands, the mono input is split equally into the two delay modules, one having a beat-based minim delay, and one a crotchet -- this produces a familiar 'ping-pong' effect. Add a little feedback on both channels and the ping-pong rally goes on a little longer -- and if you 'un-bypass' the filters, later delays have less top-end. The filters are very flexible, by the way -- they offer traditional 'tape-style' low-pass modes in addition to high-pass, band-pass and band-reject modes. Adding some X-feedback sends one channel's signal into the other's, and this can really create a sense of movement across the stereo field. The ability to select delay times in tempo-locked rhythmic values makes Delay very useful for modern dance and pop productions, and like many delays, it's also curiously satisfying to jam with.
Performer On The Web
Digital Performer goes from strength to strength, but because it's not as widely adopted in Europe as it is in the States, it's possible for lone DP users to feel a bit isolated, especially when it comes to trou
I'm a big fan of Gmedia's M-Tron VST instrument, and I mentioned a few months ago that it was one of the many VST plug-ins that are now fully supported by Audio Ease's VST Wrapper v3. But anyone who's tried to get M-Tron, VST Wrapper and Cycling 74's Pluggo working together will know that there's a problem, caused by Pluggo claiming the 'VSTPlugIns' folder -- M-Tron's tape bank folder needs to be inside this in order to work. The solution, like all good solutions, is simple -- you simply put the M-Tron file inside the folder you use for VST Wrapper's plug-ins, but put the tape banks folder inside 'VSTPlugIns'. It works -- simple as that!
EMAIL DISCUSSION GROUPS
The biggest and arguably the best of these is motu-mac, moderated by rock musician James Steele. The motu-mac group has quite a long history, and has recently moved to YahooGroups. For more details, and information on how to subscribe, go to www.unicornation.com.
Also at YahooGroups, the Digital Performer list has over 1500 members, and feels somewhat more laid-back than motu-mac, as well as tolerating more off-topic chat. Surf to groups.yahoo.com/group/Digital-Performer for more details.
A much newer list is Motu_Masters, run by New York-based engineer Steve Meyer. Whilst centred around DP, Motu_Masters promises to embrace the discussion of outboard gear, mics and general recording practice that might be deemed off-topic on other lists. Apply to be a member at groups.yahoo.com/group/Motu_Masters.
For the official line, there's always www.motu.com, but it saddens me slightly that this is such an apparently lifeless site, even though it contains plenty of content.
A few individual users have dedicated parts of their web sites to DP, and probably the best of these is www.oxygenhose.com (which I've mentioned several times in this column). Oxygenhose himself is a frequent contributor to the motu-mac list and is renowned for his rather direct manner of communication, so be prepared for some straight talking on the web site. Much of the information there is superb, though -- the Plug Wars section is particularly entertaining. For a less controversial take on DP you can also visit my own site, www.bigwood;digital.com, which continues to grow relentlessly at a snail's pace...
Finally, I must also mention www.musictrack.co.uk, the web site of MOTU's UK distributors. The chaps there really know their stuff, and it's well worth dropping them an email or giving them a ring if you're having problems or need advice.