Logic's Ultrabeat is more than just a drum machine — so get creative with it and 'glitch up' your dance tracks!
Ultrabeat lets you mix and match between masterfully sampled drums to design your own ultimate acoustic kit, but crazier techniques are also possible, using Ultrabeat's synth engine, side-chain and step sequencer to introduce glitch vocals, stutter effects, and deep doom kicks into your next dance track.
The interface is a bit dizzying at first — a bunch of knobs with red and blue 'swipes' jumping around. You'll fall in love with Ultrabeat if you just ignore all of that, load any factory drum kit and program a beat, or try the built-in patterns in the step sequencer at the bottom of the interface.
Let's go deeper: each kit has 25 independent drum sounds generated by virtual analogue synthesis, FM, component modelling like Sculpture, or sample playback like the EXS24. (In fact, you can load sounds directly from your EXS library.) As you play each drum, Ultrabeat's interface updates to display the parameters of the selected drum voice that you can independently adjust. Be sure to enable the Voice Auto Select button above the drum voices, so that the interface updates as you select each drum sound.
Click on the piano keyboard to the far left of the drum sounds to preview your kick or snare, or trigger from your MIDI keyboard. Dragging the blue bar further to the right of each drum voice will make that drum sound louder. This is Ultrabeat's 'Mixer'. Mute, Solo, Pan switches and multi-output assignments are to the right of each drum sound.
To the right of the Mixer is the daunting drum synthesizer. In the screenshot, the three circular sound generators are individually enabled for whichever drum is highlighted. To enable a sound generator, click the small power button to the left.
The sound generators feed to the Filter in the center of the interface. This section includes Bitcrusher and Distortion. Enable the link from each sound generator to the Filter with the small grey circles. They turn red (with arrows) when enabled. Just by tweaking the controls inside the Filter, you'll make fresh drum sounds fast.
Ultrabeat is not just a killer drum-sound module, but a fully fledged drum machine with a 32-step sequencer, like a vintage drum machine. It's very easy and fun to program. There are 24 patterns per drum kit, selected in the bottom left of the sequencer. The letters 'sq' mean that the pattern contains data, and you can control-click to clear a pattern.
As you choose each drum voice, you see its steps entered in the step grid. Enter new note events by clicking into the step grid or on the step numbers above the grid. Click the Full View button in the lower right of the interface to see and edit all patterns at once for the instruments in your drum kit.
After you finish this old-school drum programming, you can drag the MIDI data to the Arrange window — and this is really the key to using Ultrabeat as a practical beat-making tool. Select the very small button in the lower left, to the right of the 'pattern' button (labelled 'Drag to Arrange Window' when you hover over it), and drag out to the Ultrabeat track.
The MIDI data displays in your project as if you had programmed it in the Arrange window. Now you have all of Logic's MIDI options at your disposal to manipulate it. Split the pattern into regions based on the drum voice from the MIDI menu, separate MIDI events by note pitch, or build the drum track by quantising each element of the kit separately, for example.
Now we're ready for a few of Ultrabeat's real dance-floor tricks:
1. Deep 'Doom' Kicks
The Envelope section on the lower right of the interface has four assignable Envelopes. Envelope 4, by default, is assigned to Amplitude, your secret weapon for deep 'doom' kicks. Try this:
- Load Vintage 08 Kit and highlight Kick 1 at the bottom of the Drum Voice list:
- Select and play the fourth factory step-grid pattern, '(D#-1) sq'.
- Extend the width of the first kick in the step grid out to the fifth step to lengthen the note's gate time.
- In the Envelope section, Env 4 is selected by default. Drag the first node (blue dot) to the right to slow the attack to 4000.00ms, visible in the info display, creating a curve-shaped envelope.
2. Humanising The 'Feel'
This next step-sequencer technique is great for your hi-hats or any short noise samples.
- Select the closed hi-hat.
- Control-click in the numbers above the step grid and select Clear in the pull-down menu.
- Drag your mouse across the numbers to program steady 16th-note hi-hats.
- Control-click into the step grid area and select 'Randomize Vel' or 'Gate' to create a human drummer feel.
- Add accents to any steps by clicking on the dots above the grid numbers.
- Enable Swing next to the numbers and adjust the amount that will be applied, using the Swing knob beneath the play button.
3. Fun With Samples & EXS Kits
Via the Import kit menu, you can navigate to your entire library of EXS24 drum kits. You'll be able to breathe new life into your EXS library or any samples by triggering them via Ultrabeat's step grid.
Oscillator 2 is where samples are triggered, whether your own kicks or snares, or chopped-up door slams! Change the sound-source type from Phase Oscillator or Model to Sample, then drag a sample directly onto this sample window, now visible inside Oscillator 2.
The Drag & Drop Kit is the empty kit into which you can load your own samples. Oscillator 2 defaults to 'Sample' for each drum voice, and the other sound generators are disabled. Alternatively, clear out a single drum voice by control-clicking and selecting Init / Sample. Oscillator 2's sample window will be visible, with 'No Sample Loaded' displayed. Simple enough, but what if we drag a vocal sample in? Read on...
4. Stutter & Glitch Vocals
Playing with vocal samples in the step grid is unadulterated fun, and it's easy to achieve creative results.
- Throw in a vocal sample from the Vocals Apple Loops. Any should work. Try 'Tyson Improv 01' or 'Mikal Lyric 31', or use a vocal from one of your own projects. Just drag from the Loop Browser or your hard drive to the sample window of Oscillator 2. We can reverse it with the red arrow button inside the sample window, but not yet!
- Enable a few steps in the step grid to trigger the sample. Enter a long step on 1, then swipe across the numbers above steps 13-16, then 25-32. Instant stutter vocals!
- Drag the control element in the sample window labelled 'MAX' to a different portion of the region. It triggers the sample from that point, if you play it at maximum velocity. Playing with a lower velocity will trigger the sample somewhere earlier in the file.
- Experiment with dropping in steps with varying velocity and length. You'll quickly produce some cool results.
5. 'Zig-zagging' Samples
Staggering the same sample on different drum voices can create stutter effects with trippy spatial imaging.
- Control-click on the drum voice that has the vocal sample to access the menu and select Copy (Voice & Seq).
- Control-click on a drum voice you aren't using and paste it along with the sequence data from the same menu.
- Reverse the sample playback on the copied voice (in Osc 2's sample window).
- Pan the original voice and copied voice hard left and right, respectively.
- Shift the copied sequence a few steps to the right by Option-clicking on the numbers above the step grid and selecting Shift Right 1 Step.
6. Stutter In The Side-chain
Here's one final vocal stutter effect you can using Ultrabeat's side-chain:
- On Audio 1 in the Arrange window, load Vocal Apple Loop 'Carla Background 1' or a vocal from your drive.
- Set the Output of Audio 1 to Bus 1.
- Load Ultrabeat's Side Chain Processor kit and set Osc 1's Side Chain Input (upper right of interface) to Bus 1.
- Select Pattern 6 (F-1 sq) in the Step Grid.
- Select play in the Logic transport (not by using the Ultrabeat play button).
- Using this setup, experiment with different drum voices.
- For a more dramatic effect, insert Tape Delay on Ultrabeat, using the Ultradub preset.
These tight stutter vocal effects in Ultrabeat may introduce a signature element of your next dance track or just an awesome 16-bar breakdown. Wherever you place them, don't forget to enable the 'Copy Ultrabeat Samples to Project Folder' tick box in your Logic project folder to store these invaluable project assets safely with the song.