In last month's Digital Performer workshop, I looked at DP5's new bundled virtual instruments, focusing particularly on their basic functionality and some of their strengths and weaknesses. In general, using the new instruments is very straightforward, but there are a number of 'under the hood' aspects that are worth knowing about, and that's what we're going to cover in this article.
In the way that it deals with organising, loading and saving patches, Modulo is unique amongst the bundled instruments. It's the only one that doesn't load patches from the plug-in window's mini-menu. Instead, you use the Bank and Patch controls beneath the main synth parameter section. While it's slightly irksome that not all the DP synths work in the same way, Modulo isn't just different for the sake of it: for one thing, it supports genuine MIDI patch changes in the MIDI track that drives it. Then there's the straightforward patch and bank management system, accessible from the File button at the bottom left of the window.
All pretty clear — but what's not so clear is where Modulo is storing its patches and banks, and what would happen if you were to program lots on your Mac, then open a project that used them on another Mac. Well, Modulo's patches are actually stored in a specific location on your Mac, as follows:[your hard drive]/Users/[username]/Library/Preferences/Modulo.patches
Because they're not stored in OS X's global Library folder, different user accounts on the same Mac can't automatically access anyone else's patches. Also, if you want to open a project that uses Modulo on another Mac, you need to give some thought to preserving access to your patches in the process.
The key is Modulo's export and import bank functions. If you need all your patches to travel with a project, export any banks you're using first and save them in your project folder. This is easy:
1. Click Modulo's File button at the bottom left of its window.
2. In the lower-left panel, select a bank containing patches you want to export.
3. Click Export, and in the file dialogue box enter a descriptive name and choose to Save in your project folder.
4. Repeat steps two and three for any other banks you need.
When you open the project on another Mac, import these banks into Modulo, one by one. As you import them they'll be added to that Mac's own 'Modulo.patches' file in the current user's Preferences folder, and you should be in business.
All DP's other instruments use the standard plug-in preset system, which is accessible through their windows' mini-menus. Each has a number of 'factory' presets which can be selected, and you can save your own by programming a patch and then choosing 'Save Settings' from the same mini-menu. When you do so, you get a Save dialogue box pre-configured to save your patch to the correct location. This is:[your hard drive]/Library/Audio/Presets/Digital Performer/[instrument name folder]/
Navigate there and you'll see folders for all the DP5 instruments. This is different to the Modulo approach, as the location means that all users on one Mac have access to all patches saved for any instrument, and patches are saved as separate files rather than rolled into one 'patches' document.
But hold on a minute — there's a Modulo folder here too! Yes: weirdly enough, there is a Modulo patch folder, although its own patch and bank management system doesn't use it. You could, if you really wanted to, as Modulo won't prevent you from saving (and then subsequently loading) patches via its mini-menu, just as with the other DP5 instruments, but it clearly wasn't designed to be used that way.
However, given that this is the only way for the other instruments, it's worth pondering what it means for a project's 'portability'. Actually, because they don't have any means to automate patch changes or receive MIDI patch change messages, it's much more likely that you'll instantiate these instruments, choose or program a patch, and stick with it. When you save your project, DP saves all the settings of the instruments with it, so that when you open the project on another Mac you might lose your preset names but you won't lose the actual settings associated with them. That's true for Modulo too — but use any patch changes and you're in trouble.
If you want to build up a big library for, say, Polysynth, note that you can organise patches into user-configured 'banks' by going to their Save location in OS X's Finder, creating a folder and putting patches you want to group inside it. Back in Polysynth's preset mini-menu, this action is instantly reflected by the presence of sub-menu items. You can create as many of these 'folder banks' as you like, and they're a nice way of keeping patches together if you want to send them to another DP user, say.
DP5 Tips & Hints
Instrument Volume: Remember, when using DP5's bundled instruments, that their main volume parameters are controlled by the position of the Mixing Board volume fader for the MIDI track that's driving them. Changing the volume on the instrument doesn't result in the Mixing Board volume fader moving to match, so you may get a shock when you start playback of your sequence and the instrument volume updates to match the Mixing Board volume once more.
Modulo & MIDI Control: All the MAS instruments can take advantage of DP's automation for recording and programming knob and slider movements. However, Modulo can also be controlled with MIDI controller messages sent from a master keyboard or control surface. Right click (or control-click) on any of Modulo's parameters and you get a 'learn controller mapping' option. Select this, wiggle a knob or slider on your master keyboard, and the parameter will be controlled by that knob or slider from then on.
DP5's two sample-based instruments, Model 12 and Nanosampler, manage samples separately from patches. Patch data is simply a set of instructions about what samples the instrument should load and how its other parameters should be set. Patches don't contain audio data — they just reference samples on your hard drive, and DP5 has four sample storage locations: Factory, Shared, User and Project. The Factory samples aren't really accessible or user-tweakable — they're stored in a single, huge 'bundle' file in the main OS X Library's Application Support folder. However, any user on any Mac, working with a standard installation of DP5, will have access to them.
As soon as you start to use your own samples, though, there may be some choices to make. When you load (or drag and drop) samples from your hard drive into Model 12 or Nanosampler, they're copied to a Plug-In Data folder, inside your Project folder. This makes a project portable in that it keeps its own non-factory samples with it.
But what if you've spent time assembling some great drum hits for Model 12, for instance, and you want access to these in all projects from now on? Save them to the Shared or User sample location. Deciding between these is easy: if it's just you that uses the Mac, go with User, but if you have other user accounts that could need access too, choose Shared. To save a sample in Nanosampler, go to its sample display pop-up and choose 'Copy to Shared' or 'Copy to User'. In Model 12, use the pop-up associated with each of the voice locations. To further organise samples you've saved like this, visit their locations in the Finder. If you have a sample loaded in Nanosampler or Model 12, another sample menu item will take you straight there: Reveal in Finder. However, the actual locations are these:User: [your home folder]/Library/Application Support/MOTU/[synth name]/Samples Shared: [your hard drive]/Library/Application Support/MOTU/[synth name]/Shared/Samples
Once you're there, you can make new folders to group samples together, rename samples, and so on. If you've got many new samples or folders of samples from elsewhere, you can drop them here en masse and load them from DP sample-based instruments in future.