Take greater advantage of Drum Machine Designer in Logic Pro X by customising Smart Controls.
Last month we introduced Logic’s new Drum Machine Designer instrument (https://sosm.ag/may15logic). So, this month, let’s take a look at how to make presets containing your own samples with a Smart Control layout configured to control the parameters.
In a new Logic project create a software instrument track. From the Library go to Drum Machine / Drum Machine Designer and then choose the ‘Trap Door’ preset. Open the Mixer and interrogate the contents that make up a Drum Machine Designer patch. To do this, click the disclosure triangle at the bottom of the Drum Machine Designer channel strip. This reveals a multi-output instance of Ultrabeat with 24 output channels, six group buses and two effects buses (see Picture 1).
Let’s replace the existing Ultrabeat kit with our own drum samples. Ultrabeat is a drum sample player and synthesizer where each key on the keyboard has its own settings displayed in the synthesis area. Open the Ultrabeat plug-in editing window and click on the lowest key in Ultrabeat to select the kick drum. Now drag and drop your own kick drum sample onto the oscillator waveform display (see Picture 2). Go through the other Ultrabeat keys and repeat the process, dragging in your own samples to replace the snare, hi-hat and percussion elements. Once you have added your samples you can use Ultrabeat’s synthesis capabilities to process them. For example, if your kick drum lacks a bit of bottom end then you can use the Osc1 section to layer a sine oscillator beneath it.
We can now use Smart Controls to tweak our samples. The way the controls map to different parameters inside Drum Machine Designer is described in detail in last month’s column. If you haven’t read it, try opening the Drum Machine Designer editing window with the mixer open. Click on the title bar to display the Smart Controls for the whole drum kit and click on a single drum cell to display the Smart Controls for just that cell. Take a minute to experiment with the different knobs and buttons, listening to how they process your samples. In this view, also try using the Controls/Sends buttons to toggle between the two different panels.
Let’s now customise the Smart Controls to do different things. First, we’ll edit the Kit Delay knob and accompanying button from the Effects section and change them to control a beat-repeat effect.
Press the Smart Control button located on the left of the top bar to open the Smart Control window. Go to the top left of this window and click the ‘i’ button to display the inspector. Click on the Kit Delay knob and look at the Parameter Mapping area in the inspector where you will see that there are two Stereo Delay parameters that have been mapped. Let’s remove those mappings from the Kit Delay knob and replace them with our own.
Highlight both parameter maps by clicking on the top entry and then shift-clicking the bottom entry. Choose ‘Delete’ from the drop-down menu in the Parameter Mapping area. Now locate the button next to the Kit Delay knob and delete its mapping too. Next, go to the main channel strip and replace the Stereo Delay plug-in with Logic’s Tape Delay. We will use this plug-in to create our beat-repeat effect.
We’ll now configure the Smart Control button we just cleared to turn the beat-repeat effect On or Off. There are two ways to accomplish this. For the first method, click on the Smart Control button to select it. Then, in the Parameter Mapping area click the Learn button. Finally, in the Tape Delay plug-in click the Freeze button.
Alternatively, click on the Smart Control button to select it and, in the Parameter Mapping area, click on the drop-down menu next to where it says Unmapped, and select Tape Delay / Freeze (see Picture 3).
We need to map two more parameters to the button. Go to the Parameter Mapping drop-down menu, choose Add Mapping and select Tape Delay / Wet. Add another parameter and set this to Tape Delay / Dry, but this time go to the Parameter Mapping Range area and set the Min parameter to 100 percent and Max to 0 percent. This will invert the control.
Now, when you switch the button on, it will set the Tape Delay plug-in to freeze the delay buffer and also set its Wet control to 100 percent and the dry control to 0 percent, resulting in a beat-repeat effect.
To round off our beat-repeat effect let’s configure the knob we cleared earlier to control the note division of the delay effect. Click on the knob and set its parameter mapping to Tape Delay / Note. In the inspector click on Note and edit the text to ‘Beat Repeat’. Now return to Drum Machine Designer’s editing window where you will notice that the GUI has updated to display the changes. To save customised presets, make sure the channel-strip setting has focus then open the Library and hit the ‘Save...’ button. Your patch is then stored in your User Patches for the future.
Lastly, we’ll look at customising Smart Controls for an individual cell. To accomplish this we have to create a track on the arrange page for each cell we wish to customise.
Go to the Mixer and control-click on the Kick 1 channel near the kick icon. From the pop-up menu choose Create Track and repeat this for as many cells as you wish to customise. Next, select the Kick 1 track on the arrange page and open the Smart Controls window; we can now edit the Smart Controls for our Kick drum cell. Click on the Sub knob; at the moment this knob adds a sub oscillator to our drum sample and shapes its tonality. Move across to the Parameter Mapping area and delete the existing mappings. Let’s replace this with Logic’s subharmonic synthesizer insert plug-in, SubBass, which will add extra bottom end to our sample.
Go to the Kick 1 channel strip, add SubBass to slot four, and choose the ‘Deep Club Kick’ preset. Now map the Sub knob to the SubBass Wet parameter and rename the control SubBass. Next, configure the SubBass knob to control the Wet parameter across a sensible range. Go to the Range area and adjust the Min to 0 and Max to 198 percent, which should be more than enough bass to ever apply to a kick sample!
Remember that, when working with Smart Controls, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just Logic’s internal effects. For this type of job I would normally use Waves’ RBass plug-in and map that to a Smart Control in the way described above.
Now that we’ve made our assignments we can alter how a parameter responds to a knob. In the Scaling section, click the Open button to reveal the graphical editor. Rather than working in a linear fashion, we can curve or dramatically alter the response of a control. It’s worth noting that, when you have multiple parameters assigned to a knob, the Parameter graph can have unique settings for each. Click through the different curve buttons to try different presets and experiment with changing their response by click-dragging. Also try adding your own nodes by double-clicking in the graph area. Picture 4 displays the response I settled on.
Now you should be able to completely customise your Drum Machine presets to include your own samples, third-party effects and your own Smart Control layout. I hope you have fun with these powerful features and enjoy exploring some of the less well-documented opportunities for experimentation.