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Electronic Musician - May 2018

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Live 10
Tony Banks
Album, 5
Synth Soloing
Organ Bass
so different
about these
software samplers?
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V Collection 6
Strings and
Analog Brass
and Wind
T-Racks 5
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V Collection 6
Synchron Strings
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Sting, Lady Gaga,
and more
Jens Johansson
Bass Pedal
What’s so different about these three standalone software
samplers? Plenty! In this article, we tell you about the unique
capabilities of each as we compare and contrast their features.
On his latest solo project, 5, the Genesis
keyboardist takes a cinematic approach to
classical writing with a handful of pieces performed by
the Czech National Symphony. Orchestra and Choir.
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T-Racks 5
iMPC Pro 2
Xtrax Stems
founder of
Emulating Jon
Hassell’s Trumpet
Ableton Live 10
Checking Vinyl Test
Analog Brass and
Electronic Musician (ISSN 0884-4720) is published monthly by NewBay Media, LLC, 28 East 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10016. Periodicals Postage Paid at New
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Vol. 34 No. 5
May 2018
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Editor’s Note
It’s an interesting time we live in: Early 20th-century predictions of a future
where there are commercially available electronic instruments to fit every way of working have come to pass.
Moreover, many of the products—
DAWs, in particular—attempt to offer
as many creative options as possible,
often taking artists from the initial creative spark through the arrangement,
performance, recording and, occasionally, the distribution phase of a project.
This month’s examination of three
major standalone software-samplers
came about after a series of discussions I’ve had with composers about
what differentiates one deep-fea-
tured sampler from another. Considering price, alone, Falcon, Kontakt 5
and HALion 6 are a magnitude more
powerful than any hardware model
of previous generations, and each
of them is packed with functionality that allows you to make and play
instruments of great complexity. Yet,
each one has a personality, you might
say, which can be traced to decisions
made by the developer, usually the result of specific choices based on aesthetic biases, intended markets, cost
vs. return on investment, and so forth.
Ultimately, this personality will influence how you work and, therefore,
must be considered.
In other words, despite what a developer’s marketing materials may say,
none of the products available today
can do everything, although it may
seem like it when you first open them
up. But the developer’s design choices
can make it feel like there is an infinite
number of options. That’s an important distinction and one we not only
address in the roundup but what we
strive to clarify with all of our gear-related articles. Because sometimes we
might think we want the ability to do
everything when, in reality, the sense
of limitlessness of a software package
can actually have the effect of limiting
our creativity with its top heaviness.
The Prague Synth Library
Bringing the joy of modular to the people
In our March 2017 issue, we introduced EM readers to the Portland Synth Library (s1portland.
com/synth-library). Founded by Alissa DeRubeis
and Felisha Ledesma in the city’s S1 nonprofit arts
center, the Synth Library’s mission is to provide a
community resource for exploring electronic music—and modular synthesis, in particular—that is
accessible to anyone. The organization strives for
inclusiveness, and its class fees and membership
costs are offered on a sliding scale (nobody is
turned away). A special effort is made to engage
women and non-binary people through workshops and hands-on studio time.
In the intervening year, the S1 Synth Library has
grown, both in terms of the number of people who
have taken part in classes and residencies, and in
its collection of instruments acquired through the
generosity of manufacturers such as 4ms, Make
Noise, Erica Synths, and Moog Music, among many
others. The success of this unique form of synthbased community outreach has led its founders to
consider ways to expand it internationally.
“We have been wanting to establish a sister
Synth Library in Europe to further share our mission and vision,” DeRubeis explains. The challenge,
however, was to find just the right location and
person to run it. Enter Mary C, a producer, music
journalist, DJ, and radio host based in Prague.
During a visit to the city in April 2017, where she
was invited to give a talk about gender in modular
synthesis, DeRubeis was introduced to Mary C
through their mutual friends at Bastl Instruments, a synth manufacturer that is also based
in Prague. But it wasn’t until the autumn of 2017
that DeRubeis got the idea of asking Mary C if she
would be interested in organizing S1’s first sister
Synth Library. To her delight, the answer was yes. “It dawned on me one evening that she should to
be the one to run it, and I messaged her, probably out
of the blue,” DeRubeis remembers. “Mary C said yes;
Felisha Ledesma and Alex Ian Smith, who co-founded
S1, said yes. Everything after that happened quite
naturally.” In the synth library, Mary C will be joined
by Pink Noise, a female collective formed from within
the Bastl Instruments community.
“The S1 Synth Library and the Prague Synth Library not only share values, female leadership, and
a passion for education, but we will also work together to help artists travel internationally between
the libraries for residencies,” DeRubeis says. “We
share curriculum and communicate regularly to talk
about our experiences and grow together. We are
working with the Prague Synth Library to provide
information and gear, but also to learn from the visions and experiences of our Czech community.” To celebrate the opening of the Prague Synth
Library, the Portland crew will host Czech Week
at the S1 Synth Library in mid-April and will be
joined by a number of designers from Bastl. They
are planning to hold workshops on soldering and
synth patching, as well as talks, including one
about how music helped fight communism in the
Czech Republic. At Superbooth 2018 ( in Berlin this May, the members of both synth libraries
will hold hour-long workshops each afternoon—
Introduction to Patching—for female and nonbinary people. From there, DeRubeis and S1 Synth
Library facilitator Sofia Acosta will join Mary C and
a lineup of educators and artists in Prague for its
Synth Library’s opening week, featuring shows,
workshops, and gatherings.
For more details, visit and
Running the Prague Synth Library is
Mary C, a producer, journalist, DJ, and
curator of music education events
such as Music Ports (supported by the
Goethe-Institut). Her work focuses on
the empowerment of female artists.
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Need Everything, or Just Everything You Need?
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3/15/18 12:27 PM
Up >>
Wiring Music
Gear to Go
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Two years ago, I sponsored a clever Kickstarter
project called Ripcord (see Figure 1). The developers promised, “You already power your phones
and tablets with USB. Now you can power your
guitar pedals, amps, synths, and whatever else you
need on-the-fly.” Ripcord, from the Irish company
MyVolts, is a power cord with a USB plug at one
end, a barrel plug at the other, and a tiny voltage
booster in between. The circuitry is so small it fits
inside the USB end. Output choices range from
5VDC (the USB standard) to 18VDC, along with
9VDC, the standard for guitar effect pedals.
Ripcord still wasn’t shipping as of this writing,
but the MyVolts people gave me information that
inspired two DIY solutions. They said some of my
4.5V gear, like the Korg mini kaoss pad 2, would run
just fine from 5V; I’d just have to snip off the downstream end of a USB cable and attach the right connector. That connector turned out to be an EIAJ-02
barrel plug (4mm outside diameter, 1.7mm inside
diameter), wired center-positive. Figure 2 shows a
USB battery pack running my mini kaoss pad 2. You
can also buy these cables premade.
Notice the blue box in Figure 2—the wacky
MIDIPlus miniEngine. This $60 General MIDI
module is also a USB battery and host. It can charge
your phone or power a USB MIDI controller so you
can play the miniEngine’s internal sounds. An additional five-pin MIDI input lets you play a second
MIDI controller simultaneously on another channel. Most of the sounds are comically bad, but shine
when layered with better synths.
The reason I originally looked into the Ripcord
was to battery-power my 9V Korg Kaossilator Pro
and Wavedrum, which are terrific jam-session instruments. MyVolts said that would draw too much
current (the Ripcord maxes out at 1,000 milliamps).
I considered wiring a 12V battery to a 3-pin voltage
regulator, but 12V batteries are bulky and traditional
step-down voltage regulators are hot and inefficient.
Then I discovered the DROK digital boost converter, which takes an input as low as 3V and pumps
it as high as 35V (see Figure 3). There are many variations of these boards online; I paid about $8 for the
DROK. Set to crank out 9V, it drew so little current
that my USB battery pack would fall asleep if I didn’t
quickly plug the DROK’s output into another device.
I cut the cigarette lighter plug off a RadioShack
universal car power cord, screwed the wires into the
DROK’s output, added an EIAJ-04 plug—5.5mm OD,
3.4mm ID, center positive—and fired up my Kaossilator Pro (see Figure 4). (Korg Volcas use this plug, too.)
Switching the plug to 5.5mm OD, 2.1mm ID, center
negative, I powered a Digitech delay and lovely Neunaber reverb pedal as well. The battery gauge barely
budged after an hour. Best of all, I didn’t hear extra
noise, a problem that sunk the Ripcord prototype.
Fig. 1. The long-delayed MyVolts Ripcord
promises to power 9V music gear from a
5V USB jack.
Fig. 2. With my DIY cable, this Monoprice
USB battery pack powers the Korg mini
kaoss pad 2 far longer than internal batteries could. The blue MIDI module works
as a battery too.
Fig. 3. The brass screw on the DROK
DC booster adjusts the output voltage,
shown on the LEDs. Pressing the button
displays the input voltage.
Fig. 4. Here I’m battery-powering my
Kaossilator Pro through the $8 DROK
voltage booster. By switching the plug, I
powered guitar pedals too.
3/14/18 4:45 PM
The darkness is intense on Moby’s justreleased new album, Everything Was
Beautiful and Nothing Hurt (Mute). The
new song “The Waste of Suns,” for example, expresses profound loneliness,
and “Like a Motherless Child” relates
personal loss to a broader world of
brokenness. But like the blues, Moby’s
brooding, rhythmic music can spread
joy simply with its beauty and the resonance of his understanding.
The sound of this album is so complex,
with layered and processed synths and
percussion, crooning and spoken-word
vocals, and more, that it’s almost funny to think that the artist recorded his
sounds in a small home studio, but Moby
fleshes out his copious song ideas in a
12x15-foot bedroom space that contains,
among other things, a Pro Tools rig and
some of the artist’s favorite keyboards:
an AceTone Top-5 electronic organ, and
Korg’s M500 Micro Preset and MiniKorg.
“I write around 300 songs a year, and
each song has its own odd and fairly
unique genesis,” Moby says. “Some start
with guitar, some with drums, some with
old broken synths, some with a tape delay feeding back on itself, some with a
vocal sample or other sample. And then
over time I work on them, add things, take
things away, until I end up with something that seems ostensibly finished.”
“Finished” ideas are tracked to Pro Tools
mainly via a Shure KSM44 microphone.
“It’s my go-to for everything,” Moby says.
“For vocals, I keep it simple: just the
KSM44 to an API mic pre to a Neve EQ.
“For the most part, the sounds are processed with tape delays and old spring
reverbs and old analog delays,” the artist
continues. “I don’t mind digital processing, but I prefer older equipment that
doesn’t work very well.”
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt was mixed in Apple Logic X by
engineer/producer Steve Dub (Chemical Brothers, New Order, Slovenlie), who
brought the project to Silver Shark Music,
a studio owned by the production team of
Grant Strang and Pascal Glanville.
In addition to Logic and a Pro Tools 10
rig, Silver Shark is equipped with an SSL
G Series console, Euphonix Mix series
controller, and outboard equipment from GML, Tube Tech,
Summit, Empirical Labs, UREI,
Chandler, and more, plus a host
of plug-ins from most of the major players: Waves, Celemony,
SoundToys, and Arturia among them.
Dub made use of hardware and plugins alike: “The vocals were mostly going through a UREI 1176 [compressor
limiter] or Empirical Labs Distressor,
and then maybe some very subtle delay
to give it space,” he recalls. “EQ-wise, I
was using the BX-Neve VR plug-in.
“On a lot of the tracks, they had also
been printed to tape, so in general most
of the parts already had a nice amount
of analog grit and dirt. So, it was just a
question of bringing that out as much as
possible. Effects-wise, I used a little bit
of chorus for width and an EMT plate reverb on a lot of the background vocals.”
And though he mixed in Logic, Dub also
made good use of the SSL console: “On
pretty much every mix, the SSL bus compressor was used,” he says. “Most of the
drums were processed through the G Series. On many of those tracks, again, things
like reverbs and delays had already been
printed [in Moby’s studio] using plates
and tape delays, so it would be
a question of balancing those
in and getting everything to sit
Find more “In the Studio”
stories at
elm0518_Community_dc3_F.indd 11
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3/14/18 4:15 PM
Multitrack recorder, mixer,
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USB MIDI mallet controller
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Check for Mono Even though it’s 2017
In the old days, one often checked mixes for mono compatibility due to technological constraints of the times. You should still do this today, since your
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seat, or sitting on the left side of a couch).
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Try Out a Manual De-Esser on Vocal Tracks
What is a manual de-esser? The answer is, you. Go through the track and manually gain down each sibilance, either by clip or pre-fader automation. Pretty
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Electronic Musician June.indd 1
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5/23/17 2:38 PM
5/23/17 11:58 AM
Hassell Free
Easily make your guitar sound like ambient pioneer
Jon Hassell’s trumpet
J on Hassell is known for developing a genre called “Fourth
World,” which incorporates influences as diverse as minimalism,
Miles Davis, and world music, filtered through distinctive electronic manipulation of his horn. In the early ’70s, Hassell studied
the Kiranic singing style with Pandit Pran Nath and began using his
electronically treated trumpet to imitate these vocal techniques.
His breathy tone and use of harmonizers
has had an influence on Norwegian musicians,
such as fellow trumpeters Nils Petter Molvær
and Arve Henriksen, as well as guitarist Eivind Aarset. Aarset has played with Hassell
and uses harmonizers to produce a similarly
evocative sound in his own music.
Hassell’s harmony makes extensive use of
fourths and fifths, producing a Gregorian chantlike mystery. There are numerous hardware and
software harmonizers on the market that will add
those intervals to your guitar. Although Hassell’s
Eventide 8000 runs over five grand, you can get a
decent emulation using a Boss pedal that costs less
than a hundred dollars. On the other hand, if you
just want to try out this sound to see if it works for
you, save your money and download Pitchproof,
a free pitch shifting plug-in from Aegean Music.
Pitchproof is a “smart” harmonizer, meaning that you can choose the key in which you
are playing from a dropdown menu, and the
harmonies will all be correct for that key. Although it offers a blend control, I installed
Pitchproof on two separate tracks in Ableton
Live, both being fed by the original guitar
track. This keeps my original tone pristine and
enables me to feed the original guitar signal to
two separate pitch shifters.
I used a Studio Devil amp modeler, set
clean, to fatten the guitar sound. Live’s Auto
Filter let me roll off the top end in such a way
as to produce a brass-like tone (see Figure 1).
There is something about the character of this
type of filtering that cannot be achieved with
an amplifier’s tone controls or even the Studio
Devil’s graphic EQ. If your DAW doesn’t have a
filter, there are many free plug-ins you can try.
I set one Pitchproof track to a fourth below
the original note. This already sounded very
Hassell-esque. Adding some delay and reverb
helped me come even closer to the trumpeter’s atmospheric sound. I installed a second
Pitchproof in track three, tuned a fifth above
(see Figure 2). The combination of the original
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
201 8
note with these two intervals, panned slightly
left and right, gave me a larger, lusher effect. I
set both Pitchproof plug-ins to full wet, adjusting the balance with the track volume sliders.
While you can get some terrific Hasselltype tones from this setup, for an even more
accurate emulation, you will want to use an
EBow. Make sure you are using a clean amp
tone or try just going direct into your DAW.
If you decide you like this sound and want
to take it into the hardware realm, you can go
all in and get an Eventide 8000, though you
can also achieve much the same effect with a
more affordable Eventide H9 or a Boss PS-6.
You will, at minimum, want to reduce your
guitar’s high end by rolling the tone down on
your instrument or
backing off a wah, but a
real filter pedal such as
the Electro-Harmonix
Blurst Modulated Filter or the Source Audio
Stingray Multi-Filter
will sound closer.
In any case, listen to
some Jon Hassell records, because, even if
you don’t want to imitate his sound, you will
find inspiration there.
Hassell draws warmth
and magic out of technology, providing a
great lesson for every
electronic guitarist. n
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3/12/18 5:38 PM
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2/27/18 5:22 PM
Battle of the Super Samplers
Three major sampling platforms duke it out for software supremacy
When you and I talk about electronic musical instruments, we usually
mean synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and MIDI controllers.
Although synthesizers are most plentiful and get the most attention,
samplers are equally essential. With a sampler, you can use readily
available sound libraries in your music and create your own virtual
instruments from any sound you can record. In recent years, the most
versatile samplers are all software. Understanding their differences is
essential to choosing one that suits your needs.
Let’s begin by explaining how a sampler differs from a sample player. Samplers allow you
to organize snips of audio and carefully craft
them into data structures we call instruments
and then organize those instruments into
sample libraries. Multisampling—gathering
related samples and mapping them to MIDI
notes and velocities for intuitive playback—is
precision work that takes patience and skill.
Once the work is done, anyone with compatible software can play instruments you’ve created with a MIDI keyboard or sequencer.
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A sampler player, on the other hand, ignores the first part of this two-part equation. It doesn’t let you arrange and rearrange
samples, but it does let you play instruments
crafted by someone with a sampler.
Either samplers or sampler players are
included with most DAWs, but most can’t be
used outside of their native environment. Apple EXS24, for example, works only in Logic
Pro. Ableton Simpler and Sampler are integrated into Live, and you can’t use Propellerhead NN-19 or NN-XT outside of Reason.
elm0518_Roundup_SamplerRoundup_dc4_F.indd 16
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On the other hand, Native Instruments
Kontakt, Steinberg HALion, and UVI Falcon
run standalone and in various plug-in formats
for both Windows or the Mac, which means
you can use them alone or in whatever DAW
you choose. For that reason, this article will
focus on Kontakt, HALion, and Falcon. Your
criteria for which sampler you prefer will
most likely depend on how you plan to use it.
Without a doubt, the most popular sampler in
recent years is Native Instruments Kontakt. It’s
extremely versatile, and it comes with a massive,
ready-made library of sampled instruments.
Kontakt’s deep and sophisticated synthesis architecture supplies a vast assortment of filters,
modulators, and effects that support complex
routings. Kontakt also has some of the most
robust features available for virtual instrument
designers, allowing them to integrate complex
math functions and emulate multiple-microphone setups, for example. You can get a free
playback-only version called Kontakt Player
with less than half a gigabyte of content included. Although Kontakt Player can play many
third-party sample libraries for Kontakt, many
other libraries play only in the full version.
Steinberg HALion has been around the
longest, but it has definitely kept up with the
times. It’s the only popular sampler software I
know that actually lets you sample (e.g., record
snippets of sound, one at a time, directly into
its memory, and map it as you go, the way you
could with hardware-based samplers of old).
As with Kontakt, you get plenty of factory
content. HALion’s capabilities take it beyond
just sampling, too, thanks to its wavetable and
granular synthesis features. Two players are
available, HALion Sonic ($250 separately, but
bundled with HALion) and HALion Sonic SE
(free), which doesn’t include any samples.
UVI Falcon is the upstart in this sampling
trio. It has been around for fewer than three
years, yet it has won over many enthusiastic
fans. Though marketed as a synthesizer, it is also
a formidable sampler. With Falcon, you can use
sampled material as the basis for granular and
plucked-string synthesis, and its mapping, processing, and playback capabilities are comparable to Kontakt’s and HALion’s. What’s more,
you can map a different type of oscillator to each
note, which means you can combine sampling
and algorithmic synthesis in a single instrument. Falcon plays any sample library formatted for UVI’s free sample player Workstation,
which comes with well under a gigabyte of
content derived from UVI’s sample libraries.
Fig. 1. In this view of Kontakt, you can access an instrument’s insert effects and
change their parameters.
All three samplers have numerous traits in
common. They all stream audio from your
computer’s RAM, hard disk, or solid-state
drive, which means you’ll want to adjust the
audio buffer to match your computer’s resources. All three support high sampling rates
and bit depth, as well as multiple outputs and
surround sound (as long as your DAW supports them). In addition, all three are multitimbral and allow you to load and play many
instruments simultaneously.
Samplers provide the means to create a
multisample map by assigning each sample
to play within a specified range of pitch and
velocity. For example, you could record A below middle C played on a piano with moderate
force and then map that sample to MIDI Note
57 with a MIDI velocity range between 42 and
84. Sample the same pitch played softer and
harder, map the resulting samples to the same
note, and then assign them to velocity ranges
below 42 and above 84, respectively. Repeat
the entire process for every pitch you want in
your multisample. In all three samplers, multisample mapping is just a matter of clickingand-dragging individual samples from your
desktop or a browser to an onscreen mapping
editor that’s laid out on a grid.
All three samplers allow you to automate
musical events and processes though the use
of a scripting language. You can use prewritten scripts or write scripts yourself. Scripts let
you modify instruments to automatically play
glissandos, generate chords, or create instant
harmonies when you play a single note, for example. You can also use scripting to customize an instrument’s user interface completely
or simply to add your own onscreen graphics.
If you want to create custom graphical interfaces without scripting, you can do that with
HALion and Falcon.
Another feature that Kontakt, HALion, and
Falcon have in common is that they all furnish
an outstanding collection of effects processors, ranging from algorithmic reverbs and
guitar amp simulators to unique filters and
multiband EQs (see Figure 1). Each lets you
create a complex chain of effects and place
them at various points within an instrument’s
organizational structure to optimize flexibility and control.
elm0518_Roundup_SamplerRoundup_dc4_F.indd 17
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The most popular sampler by far is Kontakt, from
Berlin-based Native Instruments (NI). Many consider Kontakt the sampler that toppled the long-time
supremacy of hardware samplers, if for no other
reason because it can access mountains of sampler
data. Soundware companies the world over have
embraced this software. Sample libraries formatted
for Kontakt are a de facto standard. Most commercial sample libraries are available only for Kontakt
or Kontakt Player. The full version comes standard
with the Kontakt Factory Library, a 43GB collection
of multisampled instruments encompassing diverse
instrument types and musical styles.
Along with such near-universal support, Kontakt lets you create extensive multitimbral setups
that can host as many as 64 independently addressable sampler instruments and innumerable
effects processors routed any way you want them.
Kontakt also supplies a versatile array of tools for
customizing any sample library, whether it comprises third-party instruments or instruments you
create yourself. Another advantage is Kontakt’s
support for NKS (Native Kontrol Standard), a format that lets you share data with Native Instruments hardware to enhance workflow.
You can buy Kontakt by itself, but NI makes that
a tough choice by offering the
software and soundware collection Komplete 11 for $200
more. (You can upgrade from
Kontakt to Komplete later, if
you’d rather, but the upgrade
will cost you $400.) Komplete
comprises Kontakt and 44 additional products such as Guitar Rig Pro, Reaktor, Massive,
Absynth, Studio Drummer,
and enough high-quality sample libraries to fill almost any
musical need. Komplete has
roughly three times as much
sampled content as Kontakt,
giving you a huge range of
timbral choices.
Other than the occasional dialog box, Kontakt’s GUI is confined to a single window you
can resize to your liking (see
Figure 2). Kontakt presents
three different approaches to
organizing files, depending on
which tab is selected in the
browser and whether a par-
201 8
ticular sample library supports Kontakt’s library
format. With the Libraries tab selected, you have
easy and immediate access to any third-party libraries conforming to Native Instruments specifications, as well as Kontakt Factory Library. Clicking on any library’s Instruments tab will reveal its
contents, and double-clicking on any instrument
listed there will load it into the Rack.
For sample libraries that are not formatted to
appear under the Libraries tab, you can view and
load them by selecting the Files tab. That will allow you to navigate your computer’s file system to
locate Kontakt-compatible instruments. To help
you quickly find the instrument you need, you can
search for file attributes by keyword. Similarly,
you can open any instrument listed under the Database tab, which allows you to find any Kontakt
file arranged by category, no matter where it’s located on your computer’s drives or network.
Another tool for helping you organize and
quickly find instruments is the Quick-Load
Browser. You may select any instrument listed
in the main browser under the Libraries, Files,
or Database tab and drag it into the Quick-Load
Browser, where you can also create custom directories to organize sounds the way you want. If you
frequently use the same instruments, Quick-Load
will speed your workflow considerably.
Once you’ve loaded an instrument, you can
view or hide its main user interface, called Per-
formance View. Performance Views are usually
customized to take advantage of an instrument’s
unique characteristics. For example, an organ’s
interface may display drawbars you can easily access, and a sampled synth’s interface may display
controls for the filter, envelopes, and effects.
Clicking on Kontakt’s wrench icon reveals or hides
its editors. You can choose exactly which editors
are visible by unfolding them. If the library’s developer allows it, you can edit keymaps, individual
samples, modulation routings, scripts, insert and
send effects, and quite a few other parameters
that affect and define an instrument’s sound and
performance capabilities. Use the editors either to
modify existing instruments or to define the parameters of instruments you create yourself.
The Wave Editor displays the sample assigned
to whatever zone you select in the Mapping Editor. View and edit the zone’s start and end points,
display a grid derived from the sample’s rhythmic
content, place markers to divide loops into slices,
and much more. Kontakt can also map slices automatically. In addition, the Sample Loop tab lets
you view, create, and edit as many as eight loops,
each with any of five loop types. The Wave Editor affects only playback and doesn’t change the
sample data destructively. For functions such as
normalizing to peak levels, copying and inserting
contents from the Clipboard,
and reversing or fading portions of a sample, Kontakt
provides a separate Sample
Editor. Whenever you need
additional audio editing capabilities, you can link to an external editor application such
as Adobe Audition or Steinberg WaveLab, which will
open at the touch of a button.
Kontakt’s architecture delivers such an enormous assortment of audio building
blocks within its various editors that it excels at subtractive synthesis, too. Using samples as oscillators, you have
37 filter types to choose from,
along with myriad envelope
generators, LFOs, and other
modulation sources. Available
filters include adaptive resonance filters that vary the resonance amount in response
to changes in amplitude, and
two formant filters that emuFig. 2. Kontakt displays most parameters in a single window. In this screen shot, late the human voice by moryou can see some installed libraries on the left and the Performance Views of
phing between vowel sounds.
two instruments on the right.
elm0518_Roundup_SamplerRoundup_dc4_F.indd 18
3/14/18 4:26 PM
HALion is the oldest surviving major sampling
platform in a field that has seen many competitors
fall by the wayside. Like Kontakt, most of its user
interface appears in a single window by default
(see Fig. 3). The window’s left side hosts the Slot
Rack, which holds as many as 64 instruments. On
the right side is the Program Tree, displaying all the
layered elements that make up the currently selected program and allowing you to alter its structure.
Many functions have dedicated editors that allow you to focus on the task at hand, whether you’re
mapping samples, manipulating wavetables, creating libraries, or whatever. HALion’s user interface
lets you simultaneously open many different editor
windows and distribute them around your display.
You access most functions in the window’s center, where you switch between the browser, various
editors, macro controls, a sample recorder, and much
more, depending on which button you click. Below
that, by default, are eight Quick Control knobs that
you can very quickly assign to multiple parameters
simultaneously. You can split any portion of HALion’s
GUI into as many sections as you need. You can also
undock any section into a separate, free-floating window, or set up tabs to access any section. Whether you
prefer the GUI in a single window or in numerous
windows, HALion lets you customize your workflow.
HALion 6 includes an excellent 30GB factory
sample collection, though it’s rather short on orchestral instruments, in particular. It also comes
with HALion Sonic 3, a multitimbral sample player
and virtual synthesizer workstation. Sold separately, Sonic includes almost all the same content as
HALion, but is more limited in the number of MIDI
and audio channels and lacks any
sampling features.
Like Native Instruments, Steinberg sells an extended software and
soundware bundle. For $150 more
than HALion, you can buy Absolute
3, which also includes HALion Symphonic Library, Groove Agent 4, Retrologue 2, Padshop Pro, and more.
As mentioned above, HALion is the
only popular sampler software that
lets you create samples without any
opening an audio recording application. The technique is very much like
sampling with vintage sampler hardware, except that you can sample
sounds originating in your computer
as well as sources plugged into your
computer’s audio hardware.
If you’ve ever sampled with a hard-
ware instrument, the procedure may be familiar. Start
with a new program and open the Sample Recorder.
Choose an audio source and specify parameters such
as whether you want sampling to trigger manually or
to start and stop automatically when the signal level
exceeds and falls below a defined threshold.
You can set up the Recorder to initiate sampling
when it sees a MIDI Note On and stop when it
sees a MIDI Note Off. In Auto-Next mode, you can
automate sampling so that HALion records and
maps each successive note you play on an instrument. The Fill Gaps feature transposes samples so
that pitches between samples are automatically
distributed across the keyboard—a real timesaver.
HALion 6 also offers a nice range of waveform-generating capabilities using samples as source material. Its wavetable synthesis, in particular, provides
some deep and interesting creative possibilities. Of
the two approaches that HALion takes, the more
flexible type of wavetable synthesis works with
user samples. You begin by opening a sample and
changing it from Sample to Wavetable in the Zone
Editor, which extracts the sample’s spectral data
and resynthesizes it as a wavetable oscillator.
The Wavetable Editor lets you specify as many
as 256 segments in a wave sequence, define markers
and their distribution, determine crossfade envelopes, and change the rate that segments are scanned
(see Figure 4). Enable loops, edit harmonics, normalize levels, shift formants, and more. Display the
wavetable in three dimensions and layer as many as
eight identical wavetables for a thicker sound.
In the second approach, Anima is the easy-touse, dual-oscillator wavetable synthesizer you’ll
find in HALion’s instrument library. It comes with
more than 300 preset wavetables, and its GUI
makes it more like using a typical softsynth, with
a suboscillator, its own modulation matrix, and
other features you’d associate with synthesizers.
Granular synthesis is available, as well, and it also
takes two approaches. As with wavetable synthesis,
the first works with user samples. Once you’ve transformed an audio recording from Sample to Wavetable in the Zone Editor, you can get a lot of mileage
simply by changing the number and duration of the
grains. Experiment with changing the Direction,
Pitch Interval, and Position parameters.
Skylab is HALion’s simplified granular synthesizer. The instrument library supplies a large
variety of Skylab presets, with an especially large
number of sound effects, musical effects, and pads.
Skylab’s Oscillator page presents simplified controls for editing granular parameters, and you get a
variable-state filter, three envelopes, a modulation
matrix, and an integrated arpeggiator.
In addition to giving you the means to create your
own sampled instruments, HALion furnishes all the
tools you need to create and customize an instrument’s user interface. The Macro Page Designer is
an editor that lets you click and drag knobs, sliders,
switches, and other controls from a palette onto a
bitmapped background you’ve imported and map
all those controls to whatever parameters you wish.
Once you’ve created a custom multisampled
instrument, you can export it, along with all its
graphical assets and source files, as a Sonic SE instrument. That means anyone with Sonic SE can
open and play instruments you’ve created, which
gives HALion a tremendous advantage over other
samplers if you want to create and distribute original sample-based instruments.
As you explore HALion, you’ll discover just how much depth lies beneath
the surface. Like Kontakt, it has capabilities you won’t discover unless and
until you need them. If you’re serious
about assembling multisampled instruments, HALion provides all the tools
you may ever need.
Fig. 3. HALion’s interface displays a wealth of user
parameters and information.
Fig. 4. In HALion’s Wavetable Editor, you can create and
edit wave sequences and crossfade envelopes while
viewing its spectrum in three dimensions.
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To create a multisampled instrument, begin with
Although UVI has long been well-regarded as a a new program and drag some samples into the
sample library developer, Falcon is marketed pri- Mapping Editor. The lower in the Mapping editor
marily as synthesizer. That may be why it’s bun- you drag a sample, the smaller its pitch range. If
dled with so much less multisampled content than you drag it to the very bottom, you assign it to a
its competitors. Its total factory content, called specific pitch. If you drag it to the vertical center,
Falcon Factory, adds up to less than 1 GB of com- it gets a 7-semitone range. Near the top, it’s an ocpressed data. Although it has a terrific selection tave, and at the very top, it’s assigned to the entire
of synth patches, you won’t find the type of multi- keyboard. This technique lets you rather quickly
instrument sample libraries that are bundled with map an entire multisampled instrument.
Kontakt and HALion. UVI sells many such librarOnce you’ve imported some samples, Falcon
ies separately, though, and Falcon comes with a gives you lots of ways to massage them. It has sev$100 voucher toward any purchase.
en types of sampling oscillators that treat samples
Until Falcon came along, you needed the free as malleable material. The Sample oscillator simsample player UVI Workstation to play UVI’s ply plays back samples and transposes their pitch
sample libraries. Falcon can open any soundware if assigned to more than one note on the keyboard.
that Workstation can, but instruments created in Unless the sample contains slice data, such as an
Falcon open only in Falcon. You can’t export Fal- Apple Loop or Acid WAV file, transposing also
con instruments to any format other samplers can changes playback speed, as you’d expect. You can
read; nor can it open files created for other sam- change the start point and specify the transposiplers or synthesizers. You can, however, export tion quality, and you can choose whether a specific
sliced loops or individual slices as WAV files.
sample streams from disk or from RAM.
In many ways, Falcon’s GUI resembles HALion’s,
The Slice oscillator automatically detects beats
except that it’s always contained in a single window. and converts them to slices, making it ideal for drum
By default, parts in a multi are listed on the left side- loops and other repeating patterns. Stretch lets you
bar, but it can also host Tree view, which displays transpose pitch while keeping the tempo steady or
a part’s hierarchical structure, or List view, which change the tempo without affecting pitch. IRCAM
displays all the settings for a part and the program Stretch can transpose by greater pitch intervals or
assigned to it. The browser that appears on the right time multiples with fewer undesirable artifacts,
sidebar is where you access samples, programs, even with complex audio content like a full mix, but
modulators, effects, and so on. Between the two it requires more processing power. IRCAM Granular
sidebars, you can choose from several views, but delivers all the usual tools for granular synthesis, and
you’ll probably spend most of your time in Edit view, IRCAM Multi Granular can play as many as eight
which displays editors stacked in levels (see Figure grain streams simultaneously. IRCAM Scrub com5). That’s where you edit parameters for programs, bines IRCAM Granular and Stretch, making it ideal
layers, keygroups, oscillators, and mapping. Like for modulating the play position in real time.
HALion, Falcon also gives you the ability to create
Rather surprisingly, Falcon does not allow you
custom GUIs for the instruments you create.
to use your own samples for wavetable synthesis.
You can select from
an impressively large
assortment of preset
wavetables, but you
can’t import samples
or even slices into its
Wavetable oscillator.
No matter which
you choose, selecting it in the Mapping
Editor will display its
waveform in the Oscillator Editor, which
functions as Falcon’s
sample editor. There,
you can click-anddrag to select portions
FIG. 5: In this view of Falcon’s user interface, you can see Tree view
and then right-click
on the left, the oscillator module browser on the right, and a few
to select actions such
open editors in between.
201 8
as creating loops, normalizing, reversing, fading in
or out, and applying any of Falcon’s filters or effects.
As you’ve probably guessed, each of these three samplers has advantages and disadvantages. Kontakt has
a wealth of useful features and extreme programming depth, but its most significant advantage is its
popularity among sound developers. The sheer volume of content available for Kontakt is staggering. If
you work with third-party sample libraries, needing
Kontakt or at least Kontakt Player is unavoidable.
Even if you never buy another sample, though, Kontakt is the hands-down winner if you want a large
collection of libraries bundled with your sampler.
On the other hand, if you prefer to do your own sampling, Kontakt does not record samples on its own. It
also lacks any tools for wavetable synthesis, and its
granular capabilities are somewhat limited.
HALion is one-stop shopping that delivers user
sampling, extremely versatile editing tools, and comparable programming depth. It has a GUI that lets you
open editors and spread them across your display, and
it has some very respectable synthesis capabilities. It’s
also the only sampler that lets you create a customdesigned, multisampled instrument anyone can open
with a free sample player. Unfortunately, HALion is
not supported by most soundware developers, making it less than ideal if you depend on sample libraries
from companies other than Steinberg.
Neither Kontakt nor HALion comes close to
matching Falcon’s versatility as a synthesizer. With
several sample-based oscillator types to choose from,
you might be surprised how much Falcon can do with
samples. However, it plays only soundware from UVI
and companies that license UVI’s sound engine, such
as MOTU, PSound, and a handful of others, and its
sample-editing tools are less robust than the tools in
dedicated samplers. If you want a sampler for developing sound libraries you can distribute to a large audience, Falcon is not a good choice, but if you want a
sampler with unmatched capabilities as a synthesizer,
it may be your best choice.
As I said, which sampler you choose depends on
what you want to do. If you want the broadest choice
of sample libraries, Kontakt is the obvious choice. If
you want to do your own sampling without relying on
external applications, HALion is the way to go. But if
you want the most versatile software for sampling and
synthesis, you won’t go wrong with Falcon. They’re
all worthy of owning and learning to use, and I don’t
think you’d be disappointed with any of them. n
EM editor-at-large Geary Yelton has been using software to
edit sampler data since 1986, when he first got his hands on
Digidesign Sound Designer.
elm0518_Roundup_SamplerRoundup_dc4_F.indd 20
3/14/18 4:26 PM
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cone, and the latest “M”-shaped Aluminium/Magnesium inverted dome tweeter. Perfect weapon of mass
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U S A w w w. a u d i o p l u s s e r v i c e s . c o m w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / a u d i o p l u s s e r v i c e s
elm535440_0518.indd 1
3/1/18 11:54 AM
Tony Banks
Genesis founder shares his approach
to creating his latest classical work
By Jerry Kovarsky
From the opening strains of “Prelude to a Million
Years,” you’ll recognize the work of famed Genesis
keyboardist, composer, and founder Tony Banks.
The fluid harmonic movement, the lack of clichés,
Banks has always had a cinematic approach in his
best works. And on 5, his third classical release, he
comes across as a confident orchestral composer.
Released at the end of February, 5 features an orchestra, plus a few soloists, with supportive piano
parts played by the composer. Fans might long for
some exposed piano and/or synth showcase moments, but this is a piece for orchestra, and Banks
remains within the ensemble for the duration.
201 8
We caught up with Tony via phone so he could
share his creative approach and methodology for
writing and recording this new music.
How do you approach this kind of writing? Do
you sit at the piano? Do you use technology?
I normally start with the piano and have a string
pad going along with it. I just improvise and let ideas
come. I use [Steinberg] Cubase to record MIDI data,
so I play it back and find something I’m interested in;
that’s my most common way of starting. Sometimes
I start with a string sound or a combination of the
string with the flute, or something like that.
022_elm0518_Interview_TonyBanks.indd 22
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022_elm0518_Interview_TonyBanks.indd 23
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3/14/18 4:22 PM
Are you using the instruments that are bundled in Cubase, other plug-ins, or outside
I use various kinds of things. Doing this orchestra project, I used a lot of the [IK Multimedia]
Miroslav Philharmonik collection. I also use a lot
of Vienna Symphonic libraries, particularly the
oboe and woodwinds. I still use a few old Emulator sounds that I never weaned myself off of; some
French horns and trumpets and such. I know I can
do the whole thing using software now, but I’m an
old fashioned type: I have these old boxes and I
carry on using them.
For my last two orchestral albums, I’d do demos
and then we’d go into the recording studio with
the orchestra and start from scratch. This time I
decided I wanted to try and do it more like I’ve
done a lot of stuff—whether it’s on my own or with
Genesis—where the demo is much more finished.
So, the actual tempo changes and everything that
occur in the piece are all defined and I go into the
studio with my demo. In fact, the piano part that
was on the original demo actually made it right
through. Then we’ll replace a lot of the sounds
with real orchestral sounds, and we’ll add to the
rest of it and record everything separately.
So, I had a trumpet player in, and then I had a
sax player in, and a choir, and then strings. We recorded it in sections, with them each playing along
to my demo. In this way, it’s much easier for me
to control everything as compared to when you go
in and record the whole thing in one pass. When
you record with an orchestra, if you’re recording a
piece they’ve never heard before, you’re expecting
them to both learn it and to play it with some feeling in a session of a few hours, and come up with
something that you can use. But this way, you can
scrutinize each part and get everything just as you
201 8
We recorded in
sections. You can
scrutinize each part
and get everything just
as you want it. I find it
a much more satisfying
way to work and I’m
very happy with the
want it. I just find it a much more satisfying way to
work and I’m very happy with the result.
I also worked closely with an orchestrator, a
chap called Nick Ingman. He’s an experienced orchestrator over here who conducted the orchestra. When he came onboard, I’d done pretty extensive arrangements on all the pieces. So, his first
job was just to transcribe what I’d written. And
then some places we wanted to substitute some of
the piano parts for another part for the orchestra.
Sometimes I had pads going on things because I
can’t stop myself having them. I wanted to make
the string parts so they contained both moving
parts and the more sustained strings. He fiddled
around a bit, and worked his magic on it.
But while we were doing this, we went back
and forth quite a few times. That’s the great thing
about using computers: You can say, “How about
this?” and somebody would say, “No, that’s no
good,” and you change up as you go. We modified a
few things as we went through and ended up with
something we were all happy with.
When we went in the studio, I didn’t have the
shocks that I sometimes had in the past. Many times,
when you go in with an orchestral score, you’re
spending the first half hour working out all the little
errors in the scores. That didn’t happen this time
because we’d already perfected it. You already know
exactly how it’s going to sound. The process sounds
artificial but the result doesn’t sound artificial at all.
It sounds like an orchestra playing together, and
that’s the most important thing.
Being the third classical project you’ve done,
did you find that you were able to get to this
point because you are that much more comfortable now, compared to the first record?
You do get more used to it. Making the first one
was quite a traumatic experience; classical attitudes of classical musicians, not necessarily terribly
accommodating like people from the rock world.
So, the first time around you feel you’re fighting uphill, slightly. But I had an excellent arranger, Simon
Hale, who’s quite a well-known musician in his
own right. As for the second one, I kind of worked
out a way of working, which was much better.
022_elm0518_Interview_TonyBanks.indd 24
3/14/18 4:22 PM
LiKe No OtHeR DeViCe, ThE ToNeWoOdAmP
GiVeS ThE ArTiSt – AnD MySeLf – An InStAnT
FeEl Of HoW ThE GuItAr WiLl SoUnD
ReCoRdEd Or In A LiVe SiTuAtIoN. It
GrEaTlY InSpIrEs To WrItE NeW MuSiC.
elm541125_0518.indd 1
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This time I worked out another way, which I
think is probably the easiest way for me to work, and
if I was ever to do another one, probably the way I
would do it again; or something very similar because
it means I’m in control and I feel more confident. I
didn’t have that kind of feeling, sometimes, that I’ve
let something go by that I shouldn’t have done. By
the time you get to the end of the record, you’ve run
out of time, money, and patience, really. [Laughs.] But
this time I felt still very enthusiastic about it.
Yeah, the clock is ticking and you’re just trying to get it down, period.
That’s true. It’s just one of those things. We
worked out, quite definitely, how we were going to
do this [album] in advance. And that’s one thing Nick
Ingman is very good at, is knowing how long he reckoned each section was going to take. It was invaluable because we don’t really know, sometimes. We
left ourselves a lot of time for certain things.
We spent a long time on percussion because
that was the one area I hadn’t really focused on
in my demos. Orchestral percussion is slightly out
of my zone. Apart from a few timpani and cymbal
crashes, I hadn’t had much going on. So, we spent
a long time doing that and we could perfect it.
When you’re doing everything together, you just
overlook certain things because you cannot concentrate on every single part.
Would you say that the percussionist offered
any insights or collaborated?
I don’t think anybody really collaborated. We
had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted, but, obviously, we asked sometimes what they could do in
little bits and pieces. But to be honest, all the parts
were pretty much written by the time the guys
came in. They’ve got to do their interpretation of
it and they have some ideas.
The chap I’ve worked with quite a few times,
who’s a saxophone player, Martin Robinson, was
very keen to use the instrument the duduk on the record somewhere. So, I have this little bit, which is on
the final piece, “Renaissance,” where he could try it
out and see if it worked, and it actually worked fantastic, so I was very into that. But it wasn’t something
I had done on my demos or anticipated doing. I’ve
got a different sound there. So, you do take onboard
stuff. But when I’ve done solo records with guitarists, people sometimes contributed more in compositional terms perhaps, in terms of their solos, than
anybody did on this particular project. Pretty much
everything was defined before we started recording.
The Pop Filter.
USA — Distribution by // CANADA — Distribution by
201 8
How would you describe your writing process?
Do you play around with harmony? Do you hear
a melody? Is it all of the above at different times?
Normally I just bang around on the piano, really. I think the harmony is very important, and
some degree of melodic movement as well. But
quite often, this is true for songwriting I’ve done;
often the top line is something I do afterwards.
Sometimes it’s very integral to the piece, obviously. But when it’s not, a lot of different melodies
could work on a particular foundation that you’ve
got, and so you improvise various different lines.
For example, on the piece “Ebb and Flow,” where
the saxophone/soprano saxophone has the main
melodic line, the section is repeated a few times, but
each time it has a different melody on top. I just improvised and played lots of different things and then
put them together in a way that I felt made sense and
worked. Sometimes I would try not to use the piano
022_elm0518_Interview_TonyBanks.indd 26
3/14/18 4:22 PM
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so that I’d have something different, and I would just
play strings and keep it very slow. I might introduce
a lead instrument on top of the strings like an oboe
or a flute. But these things may not last in the end.
Sometimes the composition changes very radically
from the original idea. It’s a very fluid process that
slowly crystallizes out into a final piece.
And the technology really makes that so much
more possible nowadays.
It does. The way you can work nowadays is fantastic. In the old days, you had to keep a lot more in
your head and you could forget things; just trying to
remember what you did could be difficult. So now,
you’ve always got it there. And the great ability you
have now, you can try out anything you can think of.
You can instantly change a key, or tempos—all that
makes it so much easier as a writer. The ability to
get inside a piece and just move little bits and pieces
around without having to affect the whole thing.
And you’re conversant enough in Cubase to
do most of that for yourself?
Well, I can do what I do. The trouble with all
these programs is they’ve got hundreds of things that
you can do that I probably never do. I know what I
can do and certain areas that I’m good with. I’m obviously in the basic editing pages and everything, and
I work entirely using the piano-roll editor.
The other thing I use a lot is the tempo track,
because when I’m doing it like I’m doing now,
where I’m actually controlling the whole orchestra tempo, you can add little nuances and some rallentandos, and also sometimes markedly different
tempos and more fluid tempo changes. I got quite
good at doing all that kind of stuff. The only audio
recording I do is when I want to record the MIDI
part as a sound file to take it further, if you’d like.
In the days of
Genesis, I used to
be very much into
whatever was new.
Every instrument
seemed to have a
couple of songs
in it.
U S A w w w. a u d i o p l u s s e r v i c e s . c o m w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / a u d i o p l u s s e r v i c e s
201 8
Do you keep up on technology and gear,
reading or otherwise?
Not really, no. I used to be very dependent on my
roadies and staff back in the day. They’d often say,
“This is something new that’s come out.” So, in the
days of Genesis I used to be very much into whatever
was new. Also, every instrument seemed to have a
couple of songs in it. So, you’d use it, and then the next
one would come out. But now, I have no idea what’s
going on. I don’t like everything on the computer. I’m
very good at certain bits of it, and completely useless
at other bits. I think I’m probably how most people are
actually. You never know everything.
Of course. Your role is the music first and
That’s it. You don’t need to know how to build a
car in order to drive one. n
022_elm0518_Interview_TonyBanks.indd 28
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elm536217_0518.indd 1
3/6/18 9:26 AM
“Sorry about that,” keyboardist, producer and
label head Martin Kierszenbaum jokes, after numerous attempts to reach him by phone failed.
“Believe it or not, I was recording sound effects for
a new Sting song, and I lost track of time!”
Kierszenbaum has certainly made the most of his
time in the music business, inhabiting myriad roles—
from recording artist to industry
executive and founder of the Cherrytree Music Company: an artist
management, label and publishing firm that has sold more than
35 million records and launched
artists such as Lady Gaga, Ellie
Goulding, Robyn, Far East Movement, Feist, and LMFAO. These
days, in addition to running Cherrytree, he’s busy
managing Sting, writing and producing new music,
and above all, staying musically curious.
start taking piano lessons. We had a pretty nomadic
lifestyle in my early childhood—we lived in South
America and Europe. When we got to Connecticut,
near New Haven, I was able to start taking regular
piano lessons, and I studied things like scales and
technique. Then we moved to Michigan, and I studied with a wonderful neighborhood teacher named
Mrs. Green. She insisted that
I study an hour of technique
and performance every week,
but also an hour of music
theory as well. And that just
lit-up my world because all of
a sudden, I could deconstruct
everything I was playing.
It wasn’t long before I
started to believe that I could construct my own
things as well. Soon I started writing for other people in ensembles, thinking “Well, they can play it
better than I can!” I got obsessed with songwriting
and composing, and because I moved around the
world, I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of
music. What seemed to amalgamate all of them was
pop music, and I wanted to learn how to do everything; not just write songs, but produce, record, engineer, and market them once they were done. So,
my trajectory has been fueled by curiosity.
and More.
I read that you grew up studying classical
piano, yet you’ve worked across a wide array
of genres and roles. To what do you attribute
your musical flexibility?
I can answer that in two words, believe it or
not—music theory. My mother’s a pianist, so she
encouraged my sister and me at an early age to
201 8
What accounted for your nomadic lifestyle?
Both my parents are research scientists. The way
that works is that you apply for a grant at a university
or laboratory, and if it’s approved, you “set up shop”
at a place for a couple of years. Then you run your experiment and publish your results.
That went on until my dad was offered a job as a
professor at Michigan State University. I ended up
going to high school and college in Michigan, and
that was great because I was able to start playing in
bands—learning how to arrange, deal with club owners, and do press and promotion. That led to starting
a little record label called Arb Recordings with my
friend Will E.P. in Ann Arbor, where we formed a Hiphop group called Maroon. We were praised by [famed
New York critic] Robert Christgau from the Village
Voice. It’s actually timely that we talk about this because it’s the 30th Anniversary of our debut album,
and we’re reissuing it on April 27th.
How did you get involved in the business side
of music?
I graduated from University of Michigan and
then I drove to Los Angeles because I had gotten
into the Master’s Program at the Annenberg School
at USC. That gave me an anchor to move to where
I thought the epicenter of the music business was.
elm0518_Interview_Kierszenbaum_dc5_F.indd 30
3/14/18 9:35 PM
Far left: JX Riders show, LA Science Museum. (Photo by Micah
Smith) Left: NYC Performing on The Tonight Show. (Photo by
Jerry Fuentes) Right: Sear Sound, NYC, recording on Sting and
Shaggy’s 44/876 album. (Photo by Tony Lake) Below: Sear
Sound, NYC, recording with Sting and Dominic Miller. (Photo by
Salvador Ochoa)
My classes were at night, and USC actually helped
me get an internship at PolyGram Records during
the day. From there I got a job at Warner Brothers
Records doing international publicity, because I
could type fast and I could speak Spanish! I worked
there until 1991, when I was offered a job at A&M
Records. And that was amazing. My record collection was probably one-third A&M, and I was always
fascinated with [label co-founder and trumpeter]
Herb Alpert. The first record I ever owned was by
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.
Is A&M where your relationship with Sting
Yeah. Literally, the second day I got hired, I
was sent to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta to cover
international press from Holland with Sting. This
was back in ’91 for his record The Soul Cages. So
that’s when our relationship started, and he’s been
nothing but generous and gracious to me since.
I’ve worked for him in various different capacities over the last 27 years, and he’s been a mentor,
friend, big brother, a client, and a music teacher to
me. I’m so grateful for that relationship because
it’s changed my life. I’ve been managing him for
the last two-and-a-half years. He was on my label
Cherrytree from 2007 on, and the first record we
put out was his lute album Songs from the Labyrinth. We also released The Police reunion album
and DVD on Cherrytree.
At the time I was taking my label out of the
Universal system, his longtime manager was retiring, so it was perfect timing. We jumped into
the studio right away and we started collaborating. I ended up producing and playing a bunch of
keyboards on his last album 57th & 9th. Then the
idea for a Reggae/Caribbean record came up. I
was friends with Shaggy. He sent me a song, we
played it for Sting and he loved it. When they went
to cut it, they realized that their voices sounded
great together. And lo and behold, now there’s a
new album with both of them on it. [44/876, out
April 20 on Interscope Records] Everything with
Sting is magical, because his compass is musical.
I notice you use an interesting mix of vintage
keyboards and modern modules.
I want my palette to be as wide as possible
when I’m painting musically, but I do a lot of my
work in a mobile way, because I think that’s when
you catch a moment. But when I’m in my studio
at home, I love the comfort and robust sound of
classic keyboards like the Yamaha CP-70. In fact,
I signed a band called Keane whose sound was
based around a CP-70. They used to keep theirs
in my office. And it was my CP-70 that Lady Gaga
played on the acoustic version of her song “Poker Face.” Kanye West later sampled it for a song
called “I Poke Her Face” featuring Kid Cudi.
I also love my Roland JX-3P for analog synth
work. I’ll go to that over the Juno-60 or 106. On
this new album with Sting and Shaggy, I used a
combination of old and new things—from a Roland
XV-5080 module, to the Steinway grand piano and
Hammond organ at Sear Sound in New York. I
also like the plug-ins Keyscape and Nexus, and MAudio’s semi-weighted Axiom 61 MIDI controller.
When I’m on the road, I use the Korg microKey
61 for composing, as well as the Akai MPK mini
which always lives in my bag.
You’re a great example of what it takes to
succeed in the music business today.
Lou Dennis, the head of sales at Warner Brothers, came up to me on my first day of work in February of 1989 and said, “Hey kid, welcome to Warner Brothers. You missed the heyday of the record
business!” [Laughs.] But despite that, for 29 years
I’ve been very lucky. You have to hustle, you have
to be nimble, but music is still a beautiful vocation.
I’m living my dream. n
elm0518_Interview_Kierszenbaum_dc5_F.indd 31
201 8
3/14/18 9:35 PM
Jens Johansson
The OG of Metal Keyboards?
T here are a lot of fine players working in the genre known as Progressive Metal,
and I have covered a few of them in past columns. But credit must be given to the
player who many point to the as the earliest, and perhaps most influential artist to
help establish the role of keyboards in this style. (I am talking about the last few decades, as everyone would point to Jon Lord as keyboardist zero!) That man is Jens
Johansson, a formidable player with a self-effacing personality who would not like
the pedestal I just placed him on.
Jens is a Swedish musician who first came to
prominence during the seven years he toured and recorded with Yngwie Malmsteen (from 1983 to 1989).
Standing toe-to-toe with Yngwie—playing those
virtuosic, classically inspired lines and trading fiery
solos—certainly honed Jens’ chops and helped him
to develop his unique voice, which blends a melodic
style drawing from Bach, Mozart, and Paganini with
the execution and tone of a lead guitar player. After
freelancing in a variety of diverse groups and solo
projects, in 1995 Johansson joined the band Stratovarius, where he remains to this day.
In his early years, his instrument of choice for
lead playing was a Korg Polysix, which is perhaps
a surprising choice. But Jens made it his own and
q = 130
? b4 w
œ œ œ œ
œ œ
Œ œ
œ œ œ #˙
œ œ #œ 4
œ œ ˙
œ œ œ œ #œ œ œnœ œ nœ œ
œ œ œ œ œ œbœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
q = 152
& b œ œ œ œ# œ œ œ
n œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ 11
To bring you into Jens’ world, I transcribed
a 2011 live concert intro that he played before Stratovarius went into their popular song
“Black Diamond” (available at
watch?v=1GULbmm9UfI). This solo excursion
shows his classical (and Yngwie) influences coupled with extraordinary technique. Note that Jens
plays with a lot of tempo changes (accelerandos
developed his signature style and sound with it. He
then moved on to using a Roland JV-1080 module,
driven by a Yamaha DX7 keyboard, used as a controller. Now the rig has evolved, and we’ll discuss the
gear and his sound more in next month’s column.
œ œbœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ#œ œ œ
nœ œ œ
nœ œ œ œ œ œ
œ œ #œ nœ œ
Ex. 1. The opening of Jens Johansson’s live intro to “Black Diamond” makes use of dramatic volume
swells and then progresses into a blistering descending run down to a low A. It is a tasteful way to
show off a bit and get the crowd’s attention.
201 8
elm0518_HowTo_SynthSoloingJensJohansson_dc5_F.indd 32
3/12/18 6:17 PM
&b Œ
&b œ
œ œ bœ nœ
œ œ bœ nœ œ œ bœ nœ #œ œ bœ nœ œ œ bœ nœ
œ œ œfiù œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
17 # œ
œbœnœ œbœnœ
bœ. œ. œ. œ.
#œ nœ œ œ œ œ
19 rit.
nœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
œ 21 œ œ œ œ œ œ
Ex. 2. Continuing from Example 1, Jens uses a familiar Baroque melodic figure for a few bars and then
unleashes another volley of notes before descending down to a low Bb.
nœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
4 œ
œ œ nœ œ œ
& b4
œbœ œ
œbœ œ œ œ
œbœ œ œ œ
bœ œ œ
bœ œ œ œ œ
bœ œ œ œ œ
œ bœ œ
bœ œ œ œ œ™ &
œ œ œ œ œ œ32 œ œ
œ n œ œ œ b œ œ 31 œ b œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
bœ œ œ œ
bœ œ œ
œnœ œ œ
bœ œ œnœ œ œ
bœ œ œ œ ù
Ex. 3. Moving ahead a few bars, Jen’s modulates to get ready for the tune itself. A bar of G7 moves him
into C minor, with a mix of arpeggios, four-note ascending figures, and then a multi-octave scale run to
a dramatic finish.
and ritardandos—the musical terms for speeding up
and slowing down), which is hard to convey in notation. To make the music easier to read, I doubled
the length of the notes; the notated quarter note is
really the feel of an eighth note when listening to
the track. I added some implied chord changes to
make it easier to discuss the note and scale choices
he is playing. Finally, the band tunes down, so Jens
actually plays this a whole step higher, but the notes
I am showing are what you hear.
Example 1 shows the opening bars of the solo.
Jens is using the data entry slider on his DX7 as
a volume control, so each note is swelled into as
I notated with the small crescendo markings. Johansson is playing in the key of D minor and is using the harmonic minor scale, which is all white
notes except for the flatted sixth (the Bb) and the
major seventh (the C#). This creates the sound for
the V chord of an A7 with a flatted ninth.
After the dramatic ritard going through bars
six and seven, Jens breaks loose with the phrases
starting in bar eight. Notice how he keeps changing between using a B-natural and the Bb during the
runs. It is the difference between the ascending melodic minor scale (the B-natural) and the harmonic
minor scale (the Bb), and the changing note choice
makes the lines more interesting. This passage cascades across the range of the keyboard, dramatically coming to rest on a low note. Notice how he
often uses four-note groupings, and some five-note
groupings in the lines. They remind me of my years
working through Hanon and Czerny technique
exercises: Anyone looking to get proficient in this
style of playing should be working on those types of
exercises, along with a healthy dose of Bach.
ternates the B and Bb notes, until descending to
another dramatic low note, this time a Bb.
Example 3 happens a few bars later, and this
is where Johansson moves his key center from D
minor to C minor to set up the song. In bar 27 he is
using the notes that imply a G7 with the added Eb
note, the sound of resolving to C minor. This flurry
of notes moves into arpeggiated figures on a C minor chord, with a few colorful notes added. Starting in bar 30 he plays ascending four-note groupings based on the C melodic minor scale, and then
moves into an ascending scalar run that alternates
in its use of the major seventh (B natural) and the
minor seventh (Bb), finishing with a dramatic resolution of B to C.
Example 2 continues from where we left off, with
another classical figure, which Jens starts slow
and takes off with. Starting in bar 18 he again al-
Next month we’ll get some insights from Jens
himself on his sound and playing, and we’ll look at
a few more of his classic solos. n
elm0518_HowTo_SynthSoloingJensJohansson_dc5_F.indd 33
201 8
3/12/18 6:17 PM
Organ Workshop
Tap into these pedal techniques and warm-ups
B ass pedals are a fun and important aspect of Hammond-style organ playing. Un-
like classical organists, most jazz organists use only the left foot, assigning the
right foot to the expression pedal in order to create dynamic contrast.
For many clonewheel players, the thought
of using bass pedals can be intimidating. But it
doesn’t need to be. After all, the pedals are simply
an enlarged keyboard that is played with the feet,
and adding them to your setup allows both hands
to focus on other duties, including drawbar registration changes, Leslie speed switching, or playing
another musical part and sound altogether.
Using the following concepts and techniques,
you can incorporate bass pedals into your own
playing with a few months of diligent practice.
Before the Internet and YouTube, learning the secret
techniques of your favorite musicians proved very
difficult. For example, according to all the liner notes
I read, the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith played
his bass lines with his feet, chords with his left hand,
and melodies with is right hand. As a young aspiring
organist, I tried to do just that, but the sound wasn’t
right. My bass lines sounded too heavy and clunky,
whereas Smith’s bass lines were languid and smooth.
The tone was completely different, too.
201 8
I eventually learned that Smith played the majority of his bass lines with his left hand and accented those lines with his left foot, a technique
known as “tapping.” Furthermore, tapping is often
done on a single pedal; the Bb in the middle of the
pedal board.
In other words, the notes of the bass line are
played using the left hand, while the bass pedals are simply used to add an attack to the front
of each note, like the pluck from an acoustic bass.
Tapping the Bb pedal in a staccato manner, just
ever so slightly ahead of the left hand, provides
this attack (see Example 1).
How does that work? If you’re constantly playing a low Bb on the pedals while walking a bass line
with the left hand, wouldn’t the two clash?
The reason they do not has to do with the
staccato nature of the tapping and the design of
a vintage Hammond. The pedal system in those
instruments has four separate contacts, two for
each drawbar. Consequently, when you play very
staccato, all four contacts might not close all the
way (or at all). This is similar to the nine busbars
elm0518_HowTo_OrganBassPedals_prod_f.indd 34
3/14/18 4:55 PM
Ex. 1: To get the hang of tapping, start slowly at first, playing quarter notes and a simple walking bass line in the left hand.
Ex. 2: In the first bar, the left foot shadows the left hand, tapping the same notes. In the second bar, rather than overextend, the left foot simply taps on the C until the left-hand bass line goes back down again on beat 2 of the third bar.
Ex. 3: Hold the bass note on that low C, accenting beat 1, while the left hand tackles the syncopation. Notice the
shadowing at the end of bars 2 and 4. That figure could also be played by tapping the Bb pedal.
Ex. 4: Developing the heel/toe technique will make it easier for you to navigate the pedal board. An ‘o’ below a note
denotes that it should be played with the heel, whereas a ‘^’ denotes the note should be played with the toe. Notice
that there are two toes in a row at the end of bars 1 and 3. The toe of the foot should slide off the sharp and on to the
next note, allowing the foot to pivot to the heel for the following note.
in the Hammond manuals and is the reason for
the famous key-click that Hammond players know
and love. This same electrical contact or key-click
happens in the bass pedals, as well.
Shadowing is similar to tapping except that you
play the same notes on the pedals as the left hand,
still very staccato. This allows you to accent specific notes in the bass line by holding down the
appropriate bass pedal longer. Most jazz organists
use a combination of tapping and shadowing, depending on the song and the context (Example 2).
An exception to the rule of playing staccato is ballads. Again, referencing the master, Jimmy Smith,
the approach is either to play all bass notes on the
pedals and chords with the left hand or to shadow
the bass pedals but play slightly longer notes so that
the bass note is actually voiced fully, while holding
down the same note in the left hand for sustain.
Another style is used when playing funky bass
lines or straight-eighth feels. Known as “splitting,”
the idea is to think of the bass pedals as the lowest string on an electric bass guitar and use the left
hand for the upper parts of the line. In essence,
you are splitting the bass line between the pedals
and the left hand, with beat 1 usually being on the
root and played on the pedals (Example 3).
Before a gig or session—even before practicing—I
often warm up my left foot using the heal/toe technique; the heel is used mostly for the naturals while
the toe is used for the sharps/flats. The heel is also the
pivot, allowing the foot to gently turn in anticipation
of the next note. I use this technique to run chromatic
lines up and down the pedal board at a slow tempo
(Example 4). This loosens the ankle muscles while
also orienting the foot to the pedal board.
Another warm up I do is tap quarter notes on
the Bb at a medium tempo while walking a bass line
with the left hand. Again, this loosens up the ankle
muscles and helps lock the two limbs together.
Next, I run some intervals, such as the circle
of fifths, to practice muscle memory. A common
movement in a walking bass line is from the root
to the third and then chromatically up to the fifth
in quarter notes. Another common movement is
from the root down to the dominant seventh and
chromatically down to the fifth.
As you play, let the rhythm of the pedal notes resonant through your body to form an inseparable
link. There’s no better feeling than when the band
is in the groove and your entire body is involved in
the music, from head to toe. n
elm0518_HowTo_OrganBassPedals_prod_f.indd 35
201 8
3/13/18 4:17 PM
Increase your modulation capabilities with these tips
Envelopes as LFOs
Fig. 2
The Subsequent 37 may be one of the most prevalent Moogs ever, thanks to its array of modulation
amenities, including two loopable DAHDSR (delay, attack, hold, decay, sustain, release) envelopes.
Because of the extra envelope segments, you can
create both classic waveshapes and complex parameter articulations that would be impossible to
duplicate using standard LFOs.
The rate of the modulation, of course, is determined by the envelope segment times. For example, it may seem intuitive that a triangle wave is
created by adjusting attack and decay times—leaving the sustain at zero—but to dial in the correct
speed, you’ll have to increase each of their times
accordingly. To get started, turn on the envelope
Loop parameter (Figure 1). A slightly resonant,
low filter cutoff frequency with 30% to 50% envelope depth offers the clearest sonic representation
of the shape, but from there you can experiment
with the amp envelope and other options.
Fig. 3
Live’s Operator was one of the first softsynths to
popularize looping envelopes, which sound fantastic in the context of FM synthesis. Live 10’s new
Wavetable also includes this feature for all three of
its freely assignable envelopes (Figure 2). The only
Fig. 4
201 8
lation breathes life into a sound, adding motion to oscillators, filters, and amplifiers.
Naturally, sound designers want as many options as possible for modulating synth parameters, but as is often the case with instrument design, pleasing every user equally
is a daunting task: Some users want oodles of envelopes; others want LFOs galore.
What’s more, the feature set of a synth is a core
component of its overall sound. While it’s fun to
fantasize about softsynths and modular rigs having unlimited possibilities, the instruments that
stand the test of time have a particular sound. And
that sound is partially defined by the modulation
tools that are available.
This month, I will demonstrate ways to use
envelopes as LFOs. Not every synth supports this
level of versatility, but quite a few mainstream
products—both software and hardware—do. Here
are techniques for three of the most popular synths
available now.
Fig. 1
W ithout modulation resources, a synthesizer is just a sophisticated organ. Modu-
difference between the two synths is that Operator allows the envelope loops to be synchronized
to tempo—perfect for creating rhythmic effects—
while Wavetable’s envelopes are entirely dependent on their segment times.
That said, Wavetable’s envelopes offer adjustable curves and assignable values for start level,
peak level, and final level, giving it the edge for unusual shapes. For example, this looping Wavetable
envelope in Figure 3 would be nearly impossible
to create via traditional LFOs. Applied to pitch,
this type of contour (with very subtle modulation amounts, controlled via the mod wheel or
aftertouch) will yield pitch articulations that are
normally the territory of acoustic instruments like
violin or flute. Alternately, applied to parameters
like cutoff or wavetable position at greater depths,
it’s useful for wild timbral shifts that can be handy
for electro or complextro styles.
Available both in Reason and as a standalone iOS
app, Thor is another classic softsynth with looping options for both the modulation envelope (per
voice) and global (paraphonic) envelope (see Figure 4). Moreover, the duration for each segment
can also be synchronized to tempo. The main difference between these envelopes is that the global
envelope is based on a DAHDSR configuration, so
it can also re-create square and pulse LFO waveforms.
To experiment, set the attack, decay, sustain,
and release segments to zero, and then assign the
envelope to oscillator pitch. From there, adjust the
delay and hold segments to vary the duration for
the “down” and “up” sections of the pulse, respectively, with equal values delivering a square wave.
Note that Reason’s new Europa and Grain synths
also offer envelope looping, but with nearly unlimited breakpoints for designing complex shapes.
Next month, we’ll invert this concept and apply
LFOs as envelopes. n
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2/27/18 12:54
4:03 PM
Fig. 1. One of the new pianos in
Piano V2 models the sound of
a grand piano whose strings
have been plucked, rather
than hammered, resulting in a
uniquely hollow yet organic tone.
Marty Cutler is the author
of The New Electronic
Guitarist (Hal Leonard).
New pianos, keyboards,
and synthesizers, all
with enhanced soundshaping features.
Analog Lab lets you
combine and control
instruments in a unified
Acoustic and electroacoustic instruments
have more conservative
modulation capabilities
than synths. Documentation imprecise at
2 01 8
A rturia has built a solid reputation for accurate software emulations of coveted analog synthesizers,
adding to the collection of vintage models year after
year. This time around, the V Collection (V6) boasts
five more instruments: a revamped acoustic piano
with three new models, a virtual Clavinet, an expanded take on the DX7 and, arguably the two stars of the
new offerings, the Buchla Electric Music Box and CMI
V, a re-creation of the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument. Additionally, Analog Lab, which provides a
real-time control platform that lets you recombine
the instruments in different ways, is now at version 3
with a redesigned user interface.
To my ear, and apart from the presence of three new
models, Piano V2 sounds even more natural than version one. The three new models provide distinctive
additions to the Piano stable. The Japanese Grand,
modeled after a Yamaha grand and perhaps my new
favorite of the acoustic-grand instruments, has a more
pronounced high end balanced by an up-front, full
bodied tone. Plucked Grand is ineffably cool, sounding like a hybrid of piano, koto, and kora (see Figure
1). Quick flicks of the pitch wheel went a long way
toward imparting an Asian flavor to the instrument.
A superb-sounding convolution reverb gives the
instruments a sweet finish, and two new mic arrays
have been added: Player and Under. I especially,
like the player-perspective mic setup, although it is
not available on the upright instrument. That placement might be physically difficult in the real world,
but once you have modeled glass- and metal-bodied
pianos, what concept of realism are we clinging to
here? As terrific as Piano V2 sounds, I’m surprised
that Arturia didn’t bestow some
of the same sound-sculpting
features that grace its synths
and electronic instruments, although Analog Lab has a modest
assortment of effects, including
chorus and flange.
Clavinet V captures the Hohner
model D feature set, and then
some. The basic sound-sculpting switches of a Clavinet sit on
the left-hand side of the keyboard. The instrument’s pair of
pickups are similar to those of an
electric guitar, with the B (near the bridge) pickup
producing a brighter, more piercing tone and the C
pickup, which is positioned closer to the hammers,
producing a more mellow sound. C and D switches
function as taps, and you can choose a single pickup
or both. When you select both pickups, the A and B
switches move the pickups in or out of phase.
Four tone-control buttons model Clavinet EQ
settings, with Soft and Medium buttons acting as
lowpass filters and Treble and Brilliant as highpass filters. As with a physical Clavinet, when all
filters are off, Clavinet V produces no sound and
combinations of the four produce tonal variations.
The Mute slider on the right serves to dampen the
instrument’s attack and tone.
As far as I’ve described, Clavinet V works in the
same manner as its hardware counterpart, but as always Arturia packs surprises under its virtual hood.
A click on the upper panel reveals a top-down view
of controls you won’t readily find in a real-world Clav
(see Figure 2). The pull-down menu of harmonic pro-
elm0518_Review_ArturiaVColl6_dc4_F.indd 38
3/12/18 5:48 PM
files includes Default that furnishes the normal
tonal properties of a Clavinet; Boost 2nd and 3rd
produces a rounder tone; Soft reduces the nasal
qualities of the Clavinet with a sort of lowpass filter effect; Soft Boosted enhances the aforementioned odd harmonics and subtly restores a bit of
the nasal Clav tone; Dark re-creates more organlike tones; and you could easily tweak the Bass
profile into a serviceable Fender Precision-like
instrument. You can also adjust string resonance,
release time, and various artifacts such as key release, hammer, and pickup noises.
Naturally, the character of the instrument
Fig. 2. Clavinet V grants access to sonic variations
changes more appreciably once the virtual you couldn’t achieve with the hardware version,
amp is powered on: Arturia doesn’t state a including a variety of harmonic profiles including
specific amp model, but it looks somewhat boosting of odd harmonics and bass instruments.
like a Fender Deluxe, so that might provide
a clue. The amp’s convolution model of a spring
And if you’ve ever programmed the original inreverb furthers the impression.
strument, you’ll surely appreciate the programming
Though it isn’t depicted, a modeled Shure SM57 layout of DX7 V. At the top is a header that includes
mic is included, with a toggle between on- and off- global transposition, tuning, amplitude modulation,
axis positions. Tonally, Clavinets and guitars aren’t and pitch modulation depth and sensitivity. The four
that far apart, and I was only a step or two away user-definable macro controls can be assigned to tasks
from finding a decent nylon-string guitar when I such as adjusting carrier release time, modulator enmoved the mute slider to the center position, and a velope depth, filter cutoff or resonance, reverb depth,
decent Duane Eddy tremolo electric guitar when I and practically anything else you may find useful.
added a bit of tremolo, spring reverb, and some slapCenter stage is DX7 V’s algorithm window, where
back-style delay from one of the excellent-sounding you can assign the desired configuration of carriers
foot-pedal effects. Stompbox effects include filters, and modulators, using the left and right arrows, or
delay, chorus, and flange. The wah pedal is always just scroll up or down by dragging on the numerithe last pedal in the chain and no self-respecting cal display. Color-coded operators are consistent
Clavinet should be without one. You can choose through all algorithms, as an aid to keeping track of
between a velocity- or foot-controlled wah-wah.
their position and function. You can mute operators.
Arturia’s Clavinet V is easily the most playable Right-hand controls include an arpeggiator section,
and expressive Clavinet I’ve encountered in the portamento and glide adjustments, and more.
virtual instrument cosmos. There is an enormous
Open Mode—as with all other Arturia instruamount of sonic variety, and the best part is how easy ments—discloses the synth’s inner workings and
it is to shape to your needs. And as with all Arturia features six tabs. The first two, Overview and EnVIs, clicking on the MIDI-plug icon opens practical- velopes, display all of the conventional DX7 paramly every parameter to MIDI control and automation. eters, and a few new features, including waveform
selection for each oscillator/operator. The selecTHE COMEBACK KID
tion is intriguing and includes waveforms from the
FM synthesis as a concept is no more intuitive on Yamaha TX81Z, OPL2 and 3, a handful of additive
Arturia’s DX7 V than it was in the days of its Yamaha synthesis waveforms, and some stock analog types
ancestor: You still need to understand the hierarchy and variants such as parabola and cosine.
of algorithms, carriers, and modulators. But the good
The Complement of envelope types in DX7 V are
news is that Arturia’s user interface organizes pro- a programmer’s delight,
gramming tasks in a way that streamlines the process, offering a choice of the
and nearly everything is accessible from an overview original DX7 Envelope
window with tabs that focus on programming details. Generator, DADSR, and
To a certain extent, DX7 V hews to the same Multi-Segment (MSEG)
six-operator, 32-algorithm structure as the original types (see Figure 3).
DX7. However, Arturia sweetens it with a bevy of MSEG allows for up to
useful waveforms as opposed to only sine waves, 16 points with indepenas in the original, as well as lowpass, bandpass, and dent rates and levels, and
highpass resonant filters for each operator, which the ability to drag curviadds a great deal to the sonic variety and depth of linear slopes between
the instrument. You can also pan operators, which stages.
you couldn’t do with the original monophonic DX7.
There’s lots more
here, including a powerful, easy-to-understand Mods section, which, in conjunction
with a remarkably flexible step-sequencer,
can play notes while performing multiple
modulation tasks on your choice of operators.
For anyone who felt the DX7 didn’t quite live
up to its potential, you need to check out Arturia DX7 V.
The Buchla Easel V is a semi-modular synthesizer. The basic audio-signal flow feeds from
the complex oscillator to the Dual LoPass
Gate, which can simultaneously act as a voltage-controlled filter, an amplifier, or both. The
left-hand side of the panel harbors most of the
modulation controls, including the Sequential
Voltage Source (Buchla-speak for sequencer), the
Envelope Generator, the Pulser, and the Modulation Oscillator. The Modulation Oscillator can perform as a secondary audible oscillator, used for frequency or amplitude modulation, or can be tuned
to subsonic frequencies to serve as an LFO.
You create patches by dragging short, colorcoded cables to appropriate destinations. The color
coding serves to identify the sources and destinations: For instance, orange identifies patch connections to and from the Envelope Generator, purple
denotes key pressure, and blue designates the
complex oscillator. Most often, a source can have
multiple destinations, and you can simply drag another cable which will appear at the source when
you click on it. You can also route MIDI Velocity,
Modulation Wheel, or Note Number (Key Follow)
messages. A narrow panel just below the programming section adds additional control voltages to the
keyboard, including pulse (a repetitive attack and
decay envelope), portamento, and the Arpeggiator.
Buchla Easel V offers a choice from single to
four-voice polyphony. The instrument wasn’t
terribly demanding on my CPU, but the load can
change from patch to patch, and cutting a voice
will give you back some cycles.
Clicking on the pair of disclosure triangles
introduces several unique and rich modulation
features, which Arturia calls the Modulation Universe. A panel on the
left accesses Left Hand,
Right Hand, and Gravity pages, in addition
to the Effects section.
Fig. 3. Multisegment envelope
generators for each
operator take DX7
V’s capacity for
animated sounds
well beyond those
of its hardware
elm0518_Review_ArturiaVColl6_dc4_F.indd 39
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3/12/18 5:48 PM
Left and Right Hand actually do not refer to
anything such as splits, or layers, as one might
expect; instead, use the Left Hand panel to add
complex multisegment “voltage” envelopes for
each of up to five destinations. Click on the adjoining rectangle and choose a module and the
parameter you’d like to modulate; for example,
selecting Modulation Oscillator and its waveform type.
The Right Hand is a sequencer section, and
here, the input is very similar to a simple, stepentry piano roll, but with a twist: The addition
of a subsection that accesses the four Voltage
Preset pads that let you transpose a range of
steps on-the-fly. The sequencer is polyphonic,
and you can get up to 32 steps and alter and
randomize gate times.
The most interesting new feature is the addition of the Gravity section. Here, as with the Right
Hand section, you have an arena to create complex modulation, except your tools are objects—
Repellers, Planets, Walls, and Wormholes, which
attract or repel a projectile initiated by triggering
a note or other event (see Figure 4). You can grab
objects and drag them (up to four of each type)
into the center rectangle, or Universe—actually,
an X/Y axis with two modulation routings per
pole. Repellers are small spheres that bounce the
triggered projectile on collision, Planets have a
gravitational pull. Walls bounce and contain projectile ballistics, and can emit their own triggers.
Wormholes are pairs of objects that can be positioned individually, and can transport the projectile from one area to another.
Buchla Easel V may not be everyone’s cup
of tea, but its complexity and its potential for
vivid, animated sounds can be seductive.
release a key. The filter is a nonresonant, lowpass
type, but if we know anything about Arturia’s design, this is not the end of the story. The accompanying PDF manual provides a list of features
added to CMI V, including the mixer, effects, and
additional instrument slots, but I’m pretty sure
that the original Fairlight did not have the modulation chops Arturia endowed to CMI V.
Apart from the MIDI Learn capabilities
built into all of the V6 virtual instruments,
CMI V has a pretty sweet Assign section
which links typical controller gestures such
as key follow, aftertouch, velocity, and the like
to your choice of parameters. Likewise, you
can assign the virtual controls, sliders, and
Fig. 4. Repellers, Planets, Walls, and Wormholes
switches on the instruments panel. Click on
comprise the Gravity section, a sonic-modulation
pinball machine that Arturia has added to its
the Map rectangle, then click on the voice parendition of the Buchla Easel.
rameter to assign the destination. Click over
one more tab, to the set of six multisegment
function generators, which can serve as auxiliary envelopes or LFOs, and these can similarly be mapped to any available parameters.
CMI V features a redesigned version of the
Fairlight sequencer (better known back in the
day as Page R). Rather than select a note duration from a menu and input it in the sequencer
grid with a light pen, you simply click in the
pattern grid, insert a note, and drag right or
left to edit note duration. Patterns are strictly
monophonic. You can also drag events to one
of the other tracks. Each of the ten instrument
slots has eight patterns with up to 32 events
Fig. 5. One of the highlights of Arturia CMI V is the
per pattern, and each pattern can have its own
ability to import and resynthesize samples.
swing and polyrhythm settings.
Sonically, the factory sounds are imbued
with a nostalgic charm for electronic musiging (see Fig. 5). Dropping in samples from Native cians of a certain age: The trademark breathy FairInstruments Absynth yielded gorgeous results. I light voices, the resolutely ’80s-sounding dance
like the interchangeability between synthesized grooves with fat-toned, oversized snares—they’re
The CMI V is an updated version of the Fairlight waveform and sample; you can then convert the all here. And combined with your own samples,
Computer Musical Instrument. Although it’s more wavetable back to a sample, and from there back and CMI V’s resynthesis capabilities, you’ve got a
than 30 years old, and music technology quickly to a wavetable, and so on, until the sound is no lon- terrifically versatile instrument that goes beyond
outpaced the Fairlight, it was a highly sought-af- ger recognizable.
the scope of its vintage sibling.
ter instrument in its time and found its way into a
Technically speaking, CMI V supports mulgreat number of top artist’s recordings.
tisampling, but only in a limited sense. A preset
CMI V divides its programming area into four only provides 10 slots, each of which holds a single Overall, V Collection 6 is an unbeatable bargain,
main pages, which subdivide into lower-level sample. You can map each sample to a specific as Arturia has added additional instruments to
functions. The Sound page divides into several range of the keyboard, but that’s about it: There is the collection without raising its price. More than
lower-level tabs, hosting three main synthesizer no velocity crossfading, switching, or round-robin that, it is a superb and diverse collection of 20 vinengines: Sample, Time Synth, and Spectral Synth. articulations. If you scroll through the presets, it tage synthesizers and electronic keyboards at your
You can convert samples into wavetables in the should become obvious that, with the exception of fingertips. The accompanying Analog Lab is an intime Synth or use the Spectral Synth to create your drum kit and loop combinations, CMI’s stock-in- strument unto itself, letting you combine any two
own from scratch. You can import your own 16-bit, trade is layering and processing to build unusual instruments in the collection in a number of ways,
44.1kHz samples up to 30 seconds in length.
sounds, rather than faithful acoustic instrument including knobs, faders, and the same sophistiI created some spicy waveforms by dropping re-creations.
cated MIDI Learn capabilities as the individual
a mandola sample into one of the slots. AnalyzThe envelopes and filters are relatively bare- instruments.
ing them opens the Time Synth, which converted boned. You get an attack time with two Damp
Overall, Arturia’s V Collection 6 is an essential
it to a wavetable. I could then edit its harmonics Modes, which are alternate release settings, and a virtual kitchen of vintage analog flavors, and I sugby selecting segments of the waveform and drag- Trigger mode that plays at full amplitude until you gest you taste them all. n
2 01 8
elm0518_Review_ArturiaVColl6_dc4_F.indd 40
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Microphone perspectives
Humanize features
Strings I and
Percussion I
John Krogh is an
ASCAP composer
and producer with
more than 1,000
music placements in
instruments. Multichannel
sampling allows for a variety
of mix formats.
Instruments Pro plug-in
player can be unwieldy when
trying to work with many mic
Full libraries are expensive.
Strings I: $655 Standard,
$1,200 Full, $545 Upgrade
to Full
Percussion I: $875
Standard, $1,640 Full, $765
Upgrade to Full
2 01 8
W hen Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) landed on
round (3D). You’ll
find corresponding
and Presets for each
of these perspectives
that you can combine to create custom multichannel
mixes. Additionally,
Strings I features
Room Mix Presets,
and Percussion I features Stereo Mix Presets—
these comprise the Standard library’s four mic
perspectives, allowing you to dial in the amount of
direct and room sound from a single instance of
the Vienna Instruments or Instruments Pro plugin (see Figure 1).
Speaking of which, these sample player plugins have been updated to address aspects of the
Synchron series. There are now options for managing CPU resources when loading multiple mic
patches and for controlling the delay of room
microphones with the Room Mix Presets. In addition, a new Synchronize Control Map command
lets you quickly and easily apply MIDI controller
mappings to all instances in your session.
For example, say you’re fine-tuning your workflow by assigning and adjusting MIDI controllers
to affect multiple articulations and performance
characteristics. When you’re happy with your setup, you can instantly apply the controller assignments to all other loaded instances. This can be a
real timesaver.
Reverb-wise, Synchron Stage has a decay time
of 1.8 seconds. The acoustic room characteristic
strikes a nice balance between tight and ambient;
not so wet that it would sound too big for small
the orchestral sample library scene, it ushered in
an innovative approach to producing sampled instruments. Recorded in a specially designed studio,
VSL’s instruments were virtually devoid of any reverberant characteristics, which allowed the developers
to build in an unparalleled degree of performance
flexibility. Fast-forward to VSL’s new Synchron Series,
and they’ve gone 180° in the other sonic direction.
These collections—Strings I and
Percussion I on review, here—were recorded with multiple microphone perspectives at the Synchron Stage Vienna,
VSL’s own recording facility, which was
formerly a scoring stage that the deBY JOHN KROGH veloper renovated for soundtrack and
sampling work. The result is a set of instruments presented in multiple formats ranging
from simple mono and stereo configurations up to
Rich, reverberant character.
5.1 surround and Auro 3D 9.1.
Highly flexible and dynamic
Fig. 1. Here’s a detailed
look at the Room
Mix Preset for the
8-player cello section.
In the upper right
you can see the Mid
and Mix microphone
perspectives, which
you can blend to taste
using mixer channels
1a and 2a. In the center
is the 5x12 matrix of
articulations, which
can be selected using
a combination of mod
wheel (vertical) and
keyswitches (horizontal).
As with previous VSL collections, Synchron
Strings I, and Synchron Percussion I come in Standard and Full editions. With their earlier libraries,
the Full editions offered additional articulations,
but with the Synchron titles, the Full editions simply offer more microphone perspectives beyond
the Standard libraries. The articulations are the
same in both Standard and Full.
The microphone perspectives are consistent
among the collections, with Close, Mid Layer,
Main/Room (Decca Tree Stereo L/R), Main/
Room (Decca Tree Mono Center), Main Surround
(Stereo L/R), High Stereo (3D), and High Sur-
elm0518_Review_VSLSynchron_dc4_F.indd 42
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Fortunately, there’s
good news on the horizon. When I attended
this year’s NAMM show,
I was treated to a demo
of the upcoming Synchron player (in beta as
I write this) that looks
to be much more user
friendly (see Figure 2).
Strings I is based on
a 46-piece string section divided into 14 1st
violins, 10 2nd violins,
Fig. 2. VSL’s upcoming Synchron Player promises to make loading,
8 violas, 8 cellos, and 6
playing, and mixing multichannel sampled instruments easy and
intuitive. Here, multiple articulations that would normally be loaded double basses. This eninto separate cells within Vienna Instruments Pro are combined
semble size is slightly
into a single unit. Behind the scenes, Synchron Player intelligently
smaller compared to
chooses the right articulation based on your playing technique.
similarly oriented libraries, but it’s exactly
screen work, and not so dry that you’d need to the same makeup and number of players used in
add some other reverb to fill out the sound. Tim- VSL’s “mid sized” Orchestral Strings collection.
brally speaking, the room has a pure, pleasing, and
You’ll find Patches, Presets, and Matrices for
slightly rounded tone. I found the recorded ambi- each section (no solo strings), plus “all strings”
ence to mix nicely with other convolution and al- ensemble patches for sketches or simple projects
gorithmic reverbs, and I was able to create a more that don’t require multitrack writing. Essentially,
“Hollywood” cinematic sound by judicious use of there’s just one master Preset and Matrix setup for
my favorite verbs.
each section, making it possible to load all of the
articulations for a given section in one fell swoop.
If you’re familiar with the naming convention
VSL’s Instrument player plug-in was designed from VSL’s previous string collections, Synchron
for samples that were not recorded with multiple will be a bit of a departure. For example, terms
microphone perspectives, so there was never a used to describe short notes, such as staccato,
need for the kind of features we’ve come to ex- spiccato and détaché, are not part of Synchron’s
pect from other libraries that offer multichannel vernacular. Instead, such articulations are simply
samples. In the Age of Synchron, however, this referred to as “short” and “very short” notes, of
has all changed, and in the near future VSL will be which there are several varieties that are selected
releasing its Synchron Player software, which will by mod wheel position.
make loading, playing, and mixing multiple mic
The recording quality, variety of
perspective samples easier.
articulations, and musicality of
Until then, there’s a level of complexity in the Strings I (and Percussion I)
way these instruments are programmed within is what I’ve come to expect
Vienna Instruments that may be difficult for some from VSL. Beautiful, deusers to come to grips with. For example, while tailed, and wide ranging,
VSL has done an admirable job creating Presets with a level of precision in
and Matrices that comprise a full range of articu- the performances and prolations for a given instrument or section, there’s no gramming that results in a
easy or intuitive solution for managing and mixing very high degree of playabilmultiple microphone variations using the discrete ity. Note, however, that articmic perspective choices. There are some included ulations such as con sordino
templates for Vienna Ensemble Pro that will load and col legno are not included;
different mic samples into separate instances of these will be in the forthcoming
the Instrument player, complete with busses for Strings II.
each string section, for example. This is certainly a
New in Strings I are four types of legato (Slow,
good starting point that you can use to build your Regular, Fast, Slurred) that collectively make it
own mix configurations. But it’s hardly an elegant possible to cover a lot more musical territory
compared to VSL’s other string collections. I was
especially impressed with the new Blur Legato
function, which lets you vary the amount of “slop”
between notes. If you’re going for ultra-realistic
MIDI mockups, Strings I is up for the challenge.
Percussion I includes 16 types of instruments:
Timpani (x5), Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Concert
Toms (x8), Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Celesta, Suspended Cymbals (x2), Piatti (x2), Tam-Tams (x2),
Tubular Bells, Tambourines (x2), Triangles (x7),
Woodblocks (x5), Castanets (x2), and Shakers
(x2). Patch, Preset, and Matrices are programmed
in similar fashion to Strings I.
The source percussion instruments were expertly performed and meticulously captured, with
special attention paid to low velocities, resulting in
a collection of highly playable and dynamic sampled
instruments that can go from delicate and nuanced
to brash and bombastic. There is a fair amount of
“distance” in the sound that you’ll probably want
to compensate for (depending on your production
style) by increasing the close mics in the mix, but
on the whole, these are some exquisite exemplars
of orchestral percussion that pair nicely with their
bowed counterparts (see Figure 3).
VSL’s Synchron Series sets a new bar for multichannel sampled instruments and further showcases the developer’s expertise in marrying musicality with technology. Strings I and Percussion I
are wonderful collections that can be made to realize a tremendous range of compositional ideas,
provided you have the requisite MIDI skills.
Bottom line: Synchron Strings 1 and Synchron
Percussion 1 are serious tools for media composers who expect the best and won’t settle for less. n
Fig. 3. This overhead diagram
shows the arrangement of percussion in
relation to the other instrument families,
as well as to the surround microphone
positions, which correspond to Presets and
Matrices in the library.
elm0518_Review_VSLSynchron_dc4_F.indd 43
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3/13/18 3:24 PM
One Menu
8 tracks with
32 steps
With its matrix of 256 steps and singlelevel editing, Seq offers a high level
of intuitive, real-time performative
control over electronic instruments.
Rotary encoder/
Gino Robair is Editor in Chief
of Electronic Musician and
Easy to use. Flexible
MIDI implementation
over DIN and USB. Solidly built. Link function.
2 01 8
“S it down, relax and take a deep breath, smile.”
It’s refreshing when the manual of a tech
product reminds you of such things, especially
when it’s intended for music. For those of us old
enough to remember the impenetrable manuals
that accompanied products at the dawn of MIDI,
it’s wonderful to read an instruction like this and
know that the manufacturer actually has tried to
“keep things as simple as possible.”
Such is the case with the Polyend Seq, a polyphonic MIDI step sequencer designed for spontaneous use in performance. But why would you use
a hardware sequencer that
costs as much as a small Eurorack system, in the era of
powerful software (much of
it available free or inexpensively on an iOS device)?
The first answer, of
course, has to do with touch.
It’s a different experience
when you run your fingers
over an array of 32 bumps
(e.g., buttons) rather than
across a glass screen with
images of buttons below.
For many musicians, a fully
tactile interface is inspiring, and not just to those of
us who started out on hardware devices, either.
(Moreover, Seq feels solid with its metal top and
bottom plates and wooden case.)
Second, it is usually more satisfying to make
music with a dedicated instrument rather than a
general-purpose computing device. Of course, such
an instrument takes up more room than a laptop
or tablet, but the inspiring ergonomics of a well-designed interface, such as this one, is difficult to deny.
Seq’s buttons have a rounded top and a light inside
that indicates when they are engaged. They are small,
easy to press with a fingertip, and close enough together that you can draw patterns across the matrix
of 8 horizontal tracks with 32 steps in each.
Another plus for a hardware device, particularly this one, is that each of its functions is immediately available; no cursors or mousing around,
and no squinting at a densely
packed GUI to find a tiny
icon to click on. On Seq, you
tap the track button you
want to work with, then
touch the steps to toggle
them on and off.
On the far left are 8 additional buttons, as well as
6 encoder/switches and a
small, 4-line screen with
just one menu level. From
the austere look of Seq, I expected to encounter a deep
feature set that would take
hours to figure out, but this
was not the case. You can
begin using Seq without knowing what most of its
functions are, although they’re intuitively named
and understandable to anyone who has prior experience with a sequencer.
Play and Stop are self-explanatory. To play a
track, touch the track number followed by On/Off
(or vice versa): When a track button is lit, it will
Seq is meant to
serve as a conduit
for creativity. To
this end, Polyend
has succeeded.
elm0518_Review_PolyendSeq_dc4_F.indd 44
3/13/18 3:25 PM
play through its data. Holding down
whole step.
Stop, then Play, will give you a 4-beat
This is where the Random button
count-in (shown using banks of step
comes in handy, because it selects notes
lights). Press Play and Stop simultanewithin the chosen scale as well as a ranously to record MIDI data from an exdom number of steps, while at the same
ternal controller. Once you’ve recorded
time retaining global settings of the
a sequence into Seq in this manner, use
track such as Length, playback directhe Quantize button to line things up
tion, and so forth. And at the step level
rhythmically in each track.
under Notes, you can select a chord
You can easily turn tracks on and
(from a list of 20) or set a transposition
off, and modify their data, while the
sequencer is running. Let’s say you
Link To is a powerful tool found
have tracks 4 and 5 switched off, but
in this section. Here, you can select a
you want to swap them with the othspecific step in a track that, when the
er tracks. Simply press On/Off, then
sequence reaches that point, changes
sweep your finger down from the top
the entire sequencer to a new Pattern.
to the bottom of the column of track
For example, you can program it so that
buttons: This turns off the ones that are
when your sequence hits Track 2, Step
on, and 4 and 5 will begin playing once
32 you have Seq jump to a new patyour finger goes over them.
tern—say, 3-1. But if Track 2 (in this sceYou can instantly erase the contents
nario) is turned off, the pattern won’t
of a track by pressing Clear and the
change as the sequence passes step 32.
track number. Or, immediately popuThis clever feature is easy to program
late a track with randomly selected
and lets you nest sudden pattern changdata by pressing Random and the track
es, or plug them in on-the-fly.
number. Random will also add mulPoly is an 8-channel MIDI-to-CV Eurorack module that supports
tiple beats per step, or rolls as they’re the new MPE standard.
referred to on Seq. At any time—with or
Seq has four standard MIDI ports—In,
without the sequencer in Play mode—
Thru, Out1, and Out2—and a USB port
you can adjust the number of triggered notes of a
Pressing a knob reveals the three or four pa- for bidirectional MIDI transmission. Each track
roll inside a step by holding down the step button rameters in the display that are available to you. can be assigned its own MIDI Channel as well as
and pressing and turning the Roll knob. In fact, Press Length to select the Play Mode (forward, its own MIDI port (the latter is done using the
many editing features can be performed on indi- backward, ping-pong, random), and press again to Note knob while the user is holding a track butvidual steps as well as full tracks, allowing you to set the Gate length (5%-100%).
ton). This flexibility allowed me to input MIDI
subtly alter sequences as they play.
You can use the Move knob to slide an entire data from an external controller, as well as to play
Furthermore, each of the 256 step buttons is track forward or back in time, step by step, or hold it instruments in Ableton Live over USB at the same
also used to store a preset pattern. You store and down to select Nudge, which can incrementally ad- time as various hardware instruments using the
recall patterns by pressing Pattern followed by a justs the amount of delay (0-94%) for any step. The DIN connections.
step button. For example, pressing the fifth button Humanize setting determines if the Nudge amount
For modular users, Polyend sells Poly ($399),
in track four calls up pattern 4-5 (and the number is included when you randomly populate a track.
a Eurorack MIDI-to-CV converter with USB and
is shown in the display). Because patterns cannot
Under Velocity you can set levels or have them DIN connections and 8 channels of four outs—
be renamed, you’ll have to remember the numbers chosen randomly for a track. You can also choose gate, pitch, velocity, and modulation. It also supfor the patterns you want. Nonetheless, this sys- which CC the track accepts for modulation as well ports the MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression)
tem is simple to use.
as set the modulation level to Random.
Duplicate makes it easy to not only copy the
Holding down a track number then pressing
steps of one track to another, but also the track and turning Roll gradually fills the track with
parameters such as root note, scale, track length, notes. Holding down a step button while pressing Sure, there are software MIDI sequencers that run
playback direction, and so on. One inspiring way Roll gives you options for the number of repeats circles around this unit in terms of exotic functionto use Duplicate is to modify the various aspects of (up to 16) and the volume curve (flat, increasing, ality, but Seq was not intended to offer every feature
the duplicated track, such as its length and play- decreasing, etc.).
imaginable. Rather, it was designed to be so intuiback direction to create interesting patterns.
With the Notes control, you can assign a specif- tive to use that it becomes invisible once a musician
ic scale to a track based on any root note you’ve se- figures out how to use it: Like any well-designed
lected: There are 40 scales to choose from. As you instrument, it is meant to serve as a conduit for creThat’s where the rotary encoders come in. For ex- tune individual steps, the note choices are con- ativity. To this end, Polyend has succeeded.
ample, you hold down a track button and turn the fined to the chosen scale. If you change the track’s
And while one could argue that it’s expensive
Length knob to quickly change the number of steps root note, the note in each step is transposed by for this day and age, Seq is clearly one of those casin that track—perfect for creating polyrhythms on the same amount: For example, if you started with es where you get what you pay for. Anyone who
the fly. The lights in that track indicate, from left a G3 root using the BeBobMaj scale, changing the performs with hardware and step-sequencers
to right, how many steps are selected.
root to, say, F3, transposes all the notes down a owes it to themselves to check it out. n
elm0518_Review_PolyendSeq_dc4_F.indd 45
201 8
3/13/18 3:26 PM
One has easy-touse parameters
Create signalprocessing chain
effects per
Fig. 1. In both the
T-Racks 5 Suite plugin and the standalone
version (pictured here)
the selected processor—
the new module One, in
this case—is presented
quite large.
T-Racks 5
Mike Levine
is a composer,
producer, and multiinstrumentalist
from the New
York area. Check
out his website at
Assembly window for album
projects. Expanded metering. Multiple export options.
All-in-one mastering using
One. Dyna-Mu module. Equal
offers filter shapes from
classic EQs. Master Match
frequency matching.
No master effects slot. No
Equal Gain features for ABCD
effects-chain comparisons.
Manual lacks detail. Can’t add
fades from Assembly window
T-Racks 5: $149
T-Racks 5 Deluxe: $299
T-Racks 5 Max: $499
2 01 8
T -Racks has been around for many years and has
songs that you can not only process but also re-order and add
metadata to. In both versions,
you can set up four entirely different effects-chain options for
each track (chains A, B, C, and
D), allowing you to try different
processors or settings to see which works best.
In the standalone version, each song has its own
processor chain, and each chain can have four variations: A, B, C, or D, between which you can switch
to compare. One missing feature is a master effects
slot. As it stands, if you want to apply the same effect
across all the songs in a project, you have to do it one
track at a time from the individual track chains
The standalone version has a handy new feature called Equal Gain, which allows you to compare processed and unprocessed audio at the same
volume level. It eliminates the “louder sounds better” phenomenon that can cloud your judgment
when comparing. In a future update, it would be
cool to see this feature extended to the ABCD
chains and added to the Suite plug-in.
Support for IK’s ARC Acoustic Room Correction System plug-in (not included) is also provided in T-Racks 5, allowing you to turn it off and on
without switching programs.
evolved into a significant collection of mixing and
mastering software tools. The recently released TRacks 5 offers a redesigned GUI, powerful new features and four new modules.
T-Racks 5 functions as both a standalone mastering application and as a series of plug-ins that
you can open in your DAW or audio editor, either
individually or in effects chains inside the T-Racks
Suite plug-in. You can purchase T-Racks 5 in
three different-sized bundles as well as à la carte
through the free T-Racks Custom Shop application. Currently, there are 38 T-Racks processors in
the full collection. The available bundles include
T-Racks 5 with 9 processors, T-Racks 5 Deluxe
with 22, and T-Racks 5 Max with all 38.
The user interface sports a more contemporary
look than before and IK gave a facelift to all the
T-Racks modules to match the new vibe. More
importantly, the GUI for both the standalone version and the T-Racks 5 Suite plug-in are resizable,
which provides a lot of flexibility. Both include a
prominently displayed effects chain with graphic
depictions of the modules. You can drag and drop
processors into the chain from a window on the
right that shows all your available modules. When
you edit a processor’s settings, it appears in an impressively large window above the chain, making
editing easy (see Figure 1).
The plug-in and standalone versions have some
significant differences. The latter is a self-contained mastering workstation that lets you load
(by menu command or drag-and-drop) multiple
T-Racks 5 offers a revamped and more powerful
metering section, part of which appears by default on the upper right of both the standalone
version and Suite plug-in. Here you get graphical
and numerical readouts for Peak, RMS, LUFS and
dynamic range. In the standalone version, clicking on little VU meter icons in the middle of the
metering section opens up T-Rack’s full metering
elm0518_Review_IKMultimedia_dc4_F.indd 46
3/12/18 6:08 PM
suite in its own window. It includes a Spectrum
Analyzer, Phase Scope, Spectrogram display and
four large VU meter emulations for left, right, mid
and side. (Most T-Racks modules give you the option of stereo or mid-side processing.)
The Suite plug-in doesn’t offer the full set of
meter features, but you can insert an instance of
the T-Racks 5 Metering plug-in, which is fully featured, into an insert slot that’s after the Suite in
your DAW and get the full metering features.
Also new in the T-Racks 5 standalone version is
the Assembly window, which opens outside the
main GUI (see Figure 2). It shows you waveform
displays of all the songs you’ve loaded and lets you
easily trim the beginning and ends, as well as add
and edit track and album names, track IDs, and
ISRC codes. There’s even an option for turning on
copy protection, although the manual doesn’t give
any details about what type it is or how it works.
This illustrates a shortcoming of T-Racks 5: a
manual that lacks in-depth information.
You can add and edit fades for one track at a
time in the Waveform window (a part of the main
GUI that toggles with the effects Chain view). You
get a choice of several fade types, and once you
add them, they’ll show up in waveforms in the Assembly window, at which point you can edit them
there as well. Why you can’t initiate the fades from
the Assembly window is puzzling.
Once you’ve imported all your songs and added
all your metadata, you not only get four dithering
options, but you can also choose to export your
project in several different professional formats
including DDP 2.5, Wav Cue or PQ Sheet. With all
its new capabilities, the standalone T-Racks 5 is
now a more serious mastering platform.
Of the four new processors added in T-Racks 5
(all of which are included in the standard, Deluxe
and Max versions), perhaps the most significant
is an easy-to-use all-in-one mastering processor
called One. Its three EQ knobs—Air,
Focus, and Body—can boost or cut in
the high, mid, and low frequencies,
respectively. Although their frequencies are preset, IK chose them wisely, and they’re effective for subtle
tweaks, which is what you want in a
mastering EQ.
Another knob, Bass Punch, provides a low-end boost and increased
attack. You also get a dedicated Transients control knob, as well as one for
Width. The knob called Analog lets you add subtle
harmonic saturation.
The GUI features two very large knobs called
Push and Volume. The former lets you dial in a
compressor with a fixed set of parameters. Volume
takes a similar, one-knob approach to limiting, making it easy to pump up your song’s level. As with any
limiter, if you turn it too high, you’ll add distortion.
Although One doesn’t offer the precision of a
typical mastering processor, it’s great for quickly
creating usable settings and will be especially useful to those new to mastering.
Another new module called Dyna-Mu bears a resemblance to the Manley Variable MU tube compressor, although it’s not a knob-for-knob emulation. It sports two identical rows of controls that
can function independently or together, which is
dictated by how you set the Link switch. Each row
offers controls for Input level, Threshold, Attack,
Release (a stepped knob with five settings), and
Output level. You don’t get a lot of ratio choices;
either 1.5:1 or 4:1, depending on if the Hard switch
is on or not. A sidechain for each channel is also
If you look at the presets, most are for individual instruments, and I found Dyna-Mu to be
an excellent choice on bass, drums, acoustic guitar—pretty much any source I tried it on. Its tube
emulation provides a subtle but pleasing fattening
to the sound.
The new Equal Module is a 10-band EQ designed
to be both transparent and precise. It offers a selection of filter shapes that emulate SSL, Neve, and
API hardware EQs among others. Controls for the
different filter types vary and are not all fully parametric. Some give you frequency and cut/boost
controls but no Q.
Equal sounds quite clean and you can vary the
sound by selecting different EQ curves. It’s significantly different from the Classic T-Racks Equal-
izer that comes in the standard version of T-Racks
5, and it’s a nice addition to the full collection.
The other new module, Master Match, is a matching EQ designed to go last in the chain and allows
you to match the EQ curve of your music to that
of a reference track—or tracks—that you’ve loaded
into it. It analyzes the reference material in seconds and creates a visible EQ curve in its GUI.
Once that’s done, you press the Learn Source
button and initiate playback of your song (either
from your DAW if you’re using Master Match as a
plug-in or with the standalone version’s transport
controls). Neither the GUI nor the manual tells
you how long to keep playback going to analyze
the source correctly. I always gave it at least 10
seconds just to be sure.
Pressing Learn Source a second time ends
the analysis and you then see a curve from your
music juxtaposed with that of the reference. The
next step is to press the Match button, and Master
Match then automatically sets a level and percentage of matching EQ to apply to the source sound,
based on the analysis. You can adjust both of these
parameters and even click on the frequency display to create up to eight filters for further EQing.
I tried Master Match with several different types
of source material, using references in the same
genre or that at least had similar production styles.
In most cases, I found that the matched EQ curve
improved the sound of the source, at least a little. It’s
not a magic bullet, but definitely a useful tool.
From the four new modules to the upgraded metering to the sleek new look, T-Racks 5 is a significant upgrade that’s well worth the price. The
changes made to the standalone version—particularly the addition of the Assembly window and the
new export options—make T-Racks 5 a viable platform for DIY mastering. And with the new pricing
for T-Racks 5 Deluxe and Max, it’s more affordable than ever. n
Fig. 2. The updated metering
window is on the left and the new
Assembly window on the right.
elm0518_Review_IKMultimedia_dc4_F.indd 47
201 8
3/12/18 6:08 PM
Four separate
sound engines
Fig 1. Vir2 Sticks lays out
its four Engines with their
step sequencers and all
other features in a single
window. The color-coded
Kontakt keyboard displays
the zones and trigger keys
for each Engine.
Keys select
Marty Cutler is the author
of The New Electronic
Guitarist, Published by Hal
Detailed sampling.
Easy-to-use step sequencer with pitch and
panning steps. Independent triggering of
No independent Rates
per Engine Scene. No
Presets. Effects are
strictly global. No latch
feature. Scene changes can be unwieldy.
2 01 8
elm0518_Review_Vir2Sticks_dc4_F.indd 48
O ne of my earliest musical experiences was jam-
within an Engine; if one Scene
is set to 16th notes, all Scenes for
that Engine follow suit, but each
Engine can have its own Rate.
Scenes for the four Engines
are sequential on the keyboard,
with a one-shot for each Engine
followed by the ten scenes; D5
acts as the Play All key and triggers all four engines, whereas
F5 through B5 mute individual
Engines. Sticks makes it easy to create interesting
grooves, but it doesn’t let you arrange composite patterns into a song form. If it's hard to memorize which
key triggers a Scene, you can embed the triggers in
DAW tracks. This method of constructing songs created pattern variations I hadn’t considered.
Additionally, if you hold down the Play All key,
you will need to retrigger it in order to hear your
Scene change (or hold down the Scene’s key). A
workaround when sequencing is to click on the
Scene list to latch the Play All button. A separate
latch button would help here. Global patternswitching would be a time saver, too.
Altering the length of a scene, coupled with
adding pitch variations per scene can add exciting
and musically dynamic changes in feel, so the lack
of independent note values is frustrating. According to Vir2, some features were omitted to enable
a lower price point. And while Vir2 Sticks’ lack of
presets is balanced by its ease of use, it’s not quite
up to the level of a drum machine.
Nevertheless, I have very high hopes for this virtual instrument. Vir2 Sticks would increase its value
immensely if the above issues were remedied, allowing it to become the top-of-the-line rhythm beast for
alternate sounds that it was meant to be. n
ming with salsa and Latin jazz on the radio by banging on the sheet-metal post of my bed. As a five-yearold amateur conguero, I tried to emulate the changing timbres and rhythms I heard. Although my skills
didn’t quite match up, I came to appreciate the value
of found objects as percussion. Decades later, I find
myself doing something similar with Vir2 Sticks, a
sample library of found percussion.
Sticks is a relatively simple instrument. Its diverse
library is driven by step sequencers, and everything
is accessible from a single window. Pencils, brushes,
mallets, hands, and sticks of all kinds collide with
cardboard boxes, coffee cups, paint cans, cardboard
tubes, and other sticks as one-shot samples.
The samples are intimately recorded with up
to four velocity layers and multiple round-robins.
Four engines host individual percussion components, each with its own bank of 10 Scenes. Engine
settings include volume, pan, tuning, attack, and release. Those last three settings can radically repurpose a coffee cup into a glassy snare or turn a cardboard box struck with a mallet into a punchy kick.
The global effects include EQ, phaser, delay,
compressor, convolution reverb, and an especially
effective transient shaper that is useful for sharpening envelopes on low-tuned samples. There is
no mixer page and, consequently, there are no independent sends for the Engines or Scenes.
A Scene comprises a step-sequencer pattern, with
sequencing for pitch and panning as well as note-on
velocity. Scenes range from 1 to 32 steps with values
(expressed as Rates) of quarter-notes to 32-note triplets. Each scene can have an independent number
of steps, though you cannot set independent Rates
3/12/18 6:09 PM
elm541190_0518.indd 1
2/22/18 9:52 AM
In iMPC Pro 2, you can play
a hosted Audio Unit plugin instrument with the MPC
pad interface, including Note
Repeat, the touch-pad Flux Link
performance effects, and more.
6 View
Pro 2
Markkus Rovito writes
words and music from the
Urban Hermitage in San
Francisco, California.
Audio Recording
tracks. Audio Unit
plug-in tracks. Track
view. Sampling from
Spotify catalog. Realtime warping of audio
to match tempo.
Not as many editing
features and effects
for Audio tracks as for
individual samples on
Drum tracks. Sampling
from Spotify limited to
30-second clips.
Classic MPC
2 01 8
New Track types
F or 30 years, Akai’s MPC workstations have helped
it either from a piano-style keyboard set to any scale you like,
or from the classic 16-pad MPC
environment, including Note
Repeat, Note Variation, Time
Correct, and iMPC Pro’s Flux
Link touch-pad performance
effects. Not only is it amazing
to add full tracks to your iMPC
project from great synths like
Moog Model 15 for example, but
also playing them from the MPC interface adds a
new twist to favorite instruments.
The overhauled iMPC Pro 2 interface matches
the black color scheme of today’s MPC hardware
and software. Additionally, it adds more title-bar
and menu options, a new Track view, and has an
improved Song view for stringing sequences together. Moreover, it does a great job utilizing the
full iPad screen in six view modes for performing
from the pads, tweaking sounds, editing tracks
from the timeline, and working the 64-track mixer
(with 3-band EQ and four effects per track).
Several all-new soundpacks draw from modern
hip-hop/trap and electronic styles, but the addition of the Spotify catalog to the sampling Turntable
(along with your iPad’s iTunes library), really skyrockets your available sound palette. You only get a
30-second clip of a Spotify song that’s supposed to
have the best hooks to sample from, but nonetheless
you can take any one-shot or loop and use the full
suite of editing tools to give them a feel of their own
for your tracks.
That, along with Audio and Audio Unit tracks
make iMPC Pro 2 a whole new song-production
world built atop the good old MPC beat-production foundation. n
steer the course of sample-based music production,
evolving their features with new technologies while
remaining centered on sample flipping with a classic 16-pad workflow. While the latest flagship MPC
X hardware represents the pinnacle of the series’
achievement, on the other end of the spectrum, iMPC
Pro 2 remarkably distills the core capabilities of the
latest desktop MPC workflow into a sleek iPad app.
With Akai and Retronyms as joint developers, the
huge iMPC Pro 2 update mirrors many of the new
features from the recent MPC 2.0 desktop software,
including full audio track recording and real-time
time-stretch and pitch-shifting for warping that recorded audio and other clips to match tempo changes. With iMPC 2, you can also sample directly from
Spotify music, record from Inter-App Audio (IAA),
upload your tracks directly to YouTube (as well as
SoundCloud), and, my favorite, host iOS Audio Unit
In addition to its existing Drum Tracks, which
construct MIDI tracks from the sample banks of 16
MPC pads, iMPC Pro 2 adds two track types that
help make the app a full songwriting workstation:
Audio Recording and Audio Unit tracks. You can
record to an audio track from the iPad’s internal
mic or an externally connected microphone, a line
input, or from an IAA-compatible app. The recording screen provides a VU input meter, and recorded
audio can be split, reversed, duplicated, and time
stretched/pitch shifted when you change a project’s tempo, with pleasant-sounding results up to
An Audio Unit track will host any compatible
app on your iPad, and you can play it and record
elm0518_Review_RetronymsiMPCPro2_dc3_F.indd 50
3/14/18 4:56 PM
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
craft and the work of others.
Respect yourself, your
The software community made it
possible to record an album on your laptop.
If you want to
make sure there is a future version of the software you are
using, buy the software you use.
It’s the smart thing to do.
New York • Toronto • Berlin • Tokyo
Tel: 416 789-6849 • Fax: 416 789-1667
elm0518_imsta.indd 1
The International Music Software Trade Association is a non-profit organization that represents
the interests of music software and soundware publishers. One of our most important functions
is to advocate for the legal use of software in the music production and creation landscape. We
do this primarily through public education campaigns. We are supported by our members who
are software and soundware developers, distributors, retailers and publications. We are fighting
piracy on moral grounds appealing to the good in all of us. We are trying to change behavior.
3/14/18 9:22 PM
Creates 3
stems from
a mix
WAV files
4 separation
Cloud-based processing is used by Xtrax Stems to
separate a full mix into three component WAV files.
Writer, synthesist, and
Electronic Musician editorat-large Geary Yelton
lives in Asheville, North
Usually distinguishes
vocals, drums, and
solo instruments from
other parts. Supports
all common audio formats. Easy to use.
Results seldom sound
completely natural.
Running all four algorithms takes a while.
2 01 8
X trax Stems is a Mac application that creates sep-
tion, and you can alter their mix
by changing individual levels
and pan positions. After running
all four algorithms, clicking on
any separation algorithm button
loads its extraction. Switching
from one to another pauses everything for about five seconds.
I extracted stems from several types of songs with
female or male voices and simple or complex arrangements. For songs with vocals, I usually started with
the Automatic algorithm, which uses a process called
Automatic Voice Activity Detection. If the resulting
Vocals track had dropouts, I tried Generic, which is
recommended for enhancing instrumental solos.
In practice, I couldn’t tell that any algorithm
was consistently better than another for any particular type of audio. On some songs, Automatic
yielded the clearest vocals; on others, Generic was
better. I had to try them all and choose the best.
On one song with female vocals, no matter
which algorithm I chose, the flute and soprano sax
were clearer than the voice on the Vocals stem, and
hand percussion was clearer on the Music track
than on Drums. On another song, Generic made the
voice sound rather saxophone-like, and snippets of
bass were on all three stems. To some degree, every part bled into stems where they didn’t belong,
though usually not enough to be a problem.
I’d hoped Xtrax Stems would produce stems I
could use for mixdowns, but I found it more useful to
minimize vocals or clarify instrumental parts to make
them easiy to learn. However minor, unwanted artifacts are all but impossible to eliminate, and they’re
most audible when you solo a stem. Yet, the Xtrax
Stems technology seems miraculous, and I hope
Audionamix keeps refining it. n
arate stems from a full mix. The input is any audio
file, and the output is three WAV files labeled Vocals,
Drums, and Music (everything but drums and vocals).
Once separated, you can export the track in Native Instruments Stems file format.
Processing occurs offline, not in your computer, so an Internet connection is required. Importing a song immediately uploads it to Audionamix’s
cloud servers. When extraction is complete, the
application downloads the stems.
At the top of Xtrax Stems’ GUI are three transport buttons—Play, Return to Beginning, and
Loop—and a ruler-like timeline. Below is a Source
button for playing the original file, level slider and
bar graph meter, a pan slider, Mute and Solo buttons, and a waveform display. At the bottom are
four buttons for selecting the separation algorithm,
a bar indicating upload and extraction progress,
and an overall level slider and meter. Clicking in the
timeline repositions the playhead, and dragging in
the timeline selects a region to loop.
To import an audio file, click and drag it into
the window or choose Import from the File menu.
The software recognizes WAV, AIFF, MP3, AAC,
and M4A files up to 32 bits, 96 kHz. When you
click on one of four separation algorithm buttons—
Automatic, Automatic HQ, Generic, or Generic
HQ—you’re prompted to log in. The file uploads to
the server, and extraction begins. Uploading and
extraction each take approximately the length of
the song, but HQ separations take longer.
Once extracted, the three stems are displayed,
each with its level, pan, mute, and solo controls. You
can solo each or play them together in any combina-
elm0518_Review_AudionamixXtraxStems_dc4_F.indd 52
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Ways to Stay in
Tune with
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elm0517_AD_KMweb.indd 2
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Drum kit
to pads
Although simple to use,
Samplebot’s tutorial
quickly runs you through
the app’s features.
Francis Preve has been
designing synthesizer
presets professionally
since 2000. Check out his
soundware company at
Impressively intuitive
approach to real-time
sampling and beat
making. Doubles as
quick and efficient
editor for basic audio
recording. Integrated
tutorial. Ableton Link
and Audiobus 3 compatibility.
No envelopes, filters, or
2 01 8
S ample-based drum machines for iOS are plentiful,
fast recorder for audio of any
kind. Of course, you can also
import audio from a variety of
sources including your music library or document picker, then
do a quick edit before loading it
to your selected pad or exporting it to your preferred cloud
Sequence recording can be
either real-time (via the pads) or event-based using a standard timeline that displays all pads as
individual tracks. A handy drum kit icon opens a
small gallery of classic kick-snare-hat sequence
templates that includes essential presets like rock,
pop, reggae, and funk, as well as adventurous selections such as “Motown” and even the Amen
Break. These give you a great way to fire up a
groove and then rapidly customize it.
As for software compatibility, Samplebot includes Audiobus 3, Ableton Link, and one of the
most extensive MIDI implementations I have
seen on an app this affordable. In addition to the
usual options for triggering samples and adjusting parameters like volume and panning, there is
a unique feature called Binders. These are short
scripts that can control a series of actions, such
as saving the current project, then loading a new
project, followed by setting a new tempo—all from
a single MIDI event.
As a side note, Samplebot’s friendly interface
and brilliant tutorial makes it worthy of serious
consideration for K-through-12 music programs.
For more advanced users, Samplebot may not be
crucial if you currently rely on other drum machine apps. Nonetheless, the $3.99 price tag makes
it an impulse buy that is well worth it. n
so one would think that the territory has been thoroughly staked out by both big name and boutique developers. Apps such as Intua Beatmaker occupy the
high end, with so many professional features that it’s
essentially a full DAW. In the middle ground are familiar platforms like Akai Pro iMPC 2 and Native Instruments iMaschine.
While these apps offer deeper tools, along with
more complex workflows, sometimes you just want
to start making a groove right now. And when it
comes to that kind of immediacy, Samplebot is so
straightforward that it’s worthy of attention.
Upon first launching Samplebot’s friendly toylike interface, you’re greeted with a short tutorial
that guides you through the process of making a
basic vocal beat-boxing kit using your iDevice’s
microphone. There’s a lot of digital handholding
involved, but the tutorial is immensely enjoyable
and within a few minutes, you have basically mastered the app.
Each of the 15 pads immediately starts recording
as soon as you tap it. Tap it again and the recording
stops. From there, you can trigger your recording,
or swipe right to edit or delete it. Editing allows for
start/end trimming, along with independent pitch
and time stretching for each sample—and that’s
it. While envelopes, filters, and effects would have
been useful additions, this app is about making
sampled beats quickly, not option overload.
That said, while you are inside any given pad’s
editor, Samplebot will happily export that sound
to the AudioCopy clipboard, save it to the device, or access a cloud service such as Dropbox or
iCloud. This lets Samplebot double as a lightning-
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Macro control
Five editing
Two sample
sources per patch
The main page hosts four
Macro controls, which
can modulate up to six
parameters each. The
Macro editor on the upper
right, and the source
selection at the bottom,
appear on all pages.
Brass and
Author of The New
Electronic Guitarist (Hal
Leonard), Marty Cutler
points out that the Tibetan
Yak is not native to New
York City.
A unique blend of
brass, woodwind, and
synthetically derived
samples. Elegant and
logical user interface.
Rhythmically intricate
modulation and arpeggiation capabilities.
Nothing significant.
A s synthesizer and sample libraries go, brass and
occur: slowly emerging, pulsating rhythms or harmonics; melodic motifs; abrupt changes in
envelopes or timbres. These are
not artifacts of the sample itself,
but a programmable, complex
interplay of gates, filters, arpeggiators, and effects, all of which
can be tweaked and synced to
your DAW’s tempo.
A patch consists of A and B
sample sources, each with its
own signal path of effects, and modulation controls. Five tabs divide the instrument into the
Main, Edit, FX, Rhythm, and Arp sections per
source, in addition to the Global effects section.
woodwinds are counted on as “meat and ’taters”
sounds. Output, however, rarely takes the conventional path with its virtual instruments. In the case
of Analog Brass and Winds, the developer blends
these sampled musical staples with analog synth
tones and uses innovative DSP tricks to take them
far outside their usual lanes with exceptional results. If you are expecting the usual brass stabs and
hits, guess again.
The entire library—comprising more than 15
GB of brass, woodwind, and synth tones—requires
Kontakt or Free Kontakt player 5.7.1 (R35) or later.
The entire library loads at once from the Kontakt
browser, with single patches selected from the left and right arrows on
the snapshot section or with a click
on the snapshot title. This opens a
preset menu and key-word filters so
you can select sounds that suit a particular function or mood: Orchestral,
Ensemble, Synth, Hybrid, Ambient,
and so on.
To be sure, you will find sounds
that appear to fulfill the traditional
roles of brass and woodwinds, such
as pads, ensembles, swells, and the
like, but in almost every case, something unexpected and musical will
Fig 1. A view of the Rhythm page
in Analog Brass and Winds, with
a partial selection of modulation
shapes on display.
2 01 8
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Parameters can be assigned to the four Macros, on
horizontal sliders, for real-time control, Control
Change messages, or automation. Each Macro is
freely assignable to up to six parameters from a
small panel at the top right of the library, which—
along with the sample source windows at the bottom—appears in all pages. You can quickly assign
new sources from the Source menu or use left and
right buttons; there is practically no load time.
Without going into deeper edits, you can tune in
cents, semitones, or octaves, and some sources can
be looped and reversed.
The Edit window lets you set ADSR amplitude
and pitch envelopes, with a curve adjustment for
the amp’s Attack time. Flutter is a very cool additional LFO that can create trills or—using the
fade parameter—emulate human vibrato more
realistically than garden-variety LFOs. Clicking
on a source’s Advanced tab accesses (among other
parameters) its key-map range and color settings,
the latter of which changes the timbre by adjusting the sample root-key assignment.
A well-appointed filter section, replete with 11
filter types, resonance and ADSR envelopes, appears under the FX tab and includes Talk, a formant filter, which you can assign to a macro for eerie vocal-like effects. Other effects include reverb,
distortion, delay, EQ, and compression. Chorus and
phase-shifting are available from a separate, Global
window, along with an additional filter section.
you can create terrific, squelchy rhythmic sounds.
Likewise, the Arp section hosts a ton of different note patterns that you can freely edit. Pedal
is a cool feature that sets your choice of a high or
low pedal tone, based on the top or bottom note
of the chord you play. Topping it all off is Output’s
Flux, which lets users program their own rhythm
sequence for modulation.
With Analog Brass and Winds, Output has done a
remarkable job of building a streamlined, elegant
user interface with richly creative sound design
options. The features are logically arrayed, prac-
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instruments stay
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Analog Brass and
Winds does.
The instrument’s rhythm chops extend way beyond the simple gating of notes: Volume, panning,
filter resonance, distortion, and various distortion
parameters can be modulated from a slick library
of LFO shapes (see Figure 1). Alternately, you can
choose from a generous menu of step-sequencer
patterns or use them as templates to design your
own. Modulation is bipolar, so by setting filter cutoff and resonance modulation to opposing poles,
tically encouraging you to dig in and build your
own sounds. During the review, I rarely needed to
consult the PDF manual. But if you do get in over
your head, click on the question mark next to the
snapshot icon: A descriptive contextual map listing all of the features is there to help. Precious few
software instruments stay out of the way of your
muse the way Analog Brass and Winds does.
Overall, the instruments in this collection are
eminently playable and full-sounding, and the
presets run from delicate and lyrical to fat and
ominous. Output seems to top itself with every new
release, and Analog Brass and Winds is a virtual instrument you will definitely want to check out. n
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elm0518_Review_OutputAnalogBrass_prod_f.indd 57
201 8
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Live 10 Wavetable
Learn how to harness the power Ableton’s new synth
Fig. 1
A lthough Ableton Live 10 is packed with workflow enhancements and
impressive new effects (such as Echo and Pedal), the biggest news
for sound designers is Wavetable, an impressive new approach to
wavetable-based synthesis, with an interface that lets you see nearly
every design and modulation element on a single screen.
This month, we’ll examine Wavetable's features in depth, along with a few additional tips
from Ableton’s Lead preset designer and soundteam member Huston Singletary.
Some users have compared it to Serum and Massive, but Wavetable’s engine is different, with its
own unique collection of wavetable data and
filter options; it doesn’t replace either of those
synths, but instead, expands the range of this
popular synthesis method. Wavetable’s architecture is key to its capabilities.
Its two oscillators include nearly 200 preset
tables organized into 11 categories. This makes
it easy to find a starting point if you know what
type of sound you’re after. In addition, Wavetable
includes a flexible sub-oscillator that provides a
wide range of functions that belie its name.
201 8
Those three generators feed a pair of multimode
filters that can be arranged in parallel, serial, or split
configurations. This is followed by an amp (volume)
section and topped off with a unison effect that includes several modes that break new ground.
Unlike other plug-ins, there’s no dedicated effects section, because Wavetable is baked into Live
Suite. Consequently, if you want to add final processing, you can take advantage of Ableton’s massive library of audio effects. Of course, if you’re a
Max for Live user, you can design your own.
Getting the hang of Wavetable’s dual-oscillators is
best done by simply dropping the instrument in a
track and starting with the default preset, which
consists of oscillator 1 only (osc 2 and the sub-oscillator switched off ) feeding a 2-pole lowpass filter,
with cutoff at max. From here, you can audition the
contents of the 11 wave-table categories and inspect
the tonal character of each, while sweeping them
with the wave position slider (see Figure 1).
Pro Tip. Setting the wave position to 50%,
then applying a slow triangle LFO to the “Osc 1
Pos” routing in the mod matrix with a value of 50,
is a great way to sweep each table automatically
as you familiarize yourself with the content.
Each wavetable category has a distinct flavor.
Basics: Aptly named, this category covers breadand-butter tables, leaning toward analog oscillators,
but with a few FM-derived options mixed in.
Collection: Named after colors such as Olive
or Sapphire, this is a set of go-to Ableton-flavored tables that are both unusual and flexible.
Complex: These consist of more radical
wave-tables with a lot of harmonic complexity.
Distortion: While these tables are derived from
various distortion and waveshaping processes, this
is also where you’ll find a few options oriented toward a more “West Coast synthesis” approach.
Filter: These tables are based on filter
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sweeps and work nicely when you want to stack
filter types in series (or if you’re new to synthesis
and want immediate results without learning the
subtleties of multimode filtering).
Formant: This category focuses on vocal-like timbres, with appropriate names like AEIOU and Tuvan.
Harmonics: For experienced wavetable fans,
this category is loaded with wavetables that are
excellent starting points for layering, additive, and
timeless sweeps that evoke the PPG and Synclavier.
Instruments: These tables are based on actual
instruments such as piano, marimba, and oboe,
among others. The options here really shine when
swept with an envelope, as opposed to an LFO.
Noise: While converting noise into wavetables
may seem like a strange choice, since they contain
no easily translated harmonics, these tables are
useful for adding a chaotic element to sounds: Several of the options come to life when modulated
with an LFO, often yielding a sound that is much
like a tuned flanger that tracks the keyboard. (Note
that some of these tables, such as Vinyl Noise, have
unusual frequency response characteristics, so
keep that in mind as you gain-stage your sounds.)
Retro: Like the name implies, these tables
evoke the early years of wavetable synthesis.
Vintage: This collection is packed with really useful tables that are derived from classic and
modern analog gear. With a bit of LFO modulation, they deliver impressively realistic results if
you’re going for a circuit-based oscillator sound.
At the bottom of each oscillator window is an FX
section, which is similar to Massive’s Spectrum and
Serum’s Warp options, allowing you to manipulate
the wavetable’s shape and spectrum further (see Figure 2). In fact, the FX functions are so crucial to extending the value of the oscillators’ wavetables that I
urge readers to devote extra time to modulating these
parameters with LFOs and envelopes to understand
their sonic range. Here are the three FX modes.
FM: This mode applies an FM modulator to the
wavetable, with visual feedback so you can see the
results. In this mode, the two adjustable parameters are tuning and amount.
Pro Tip: You can achieve familiar FM effects by
starting with the Sines 1 table in the Harmonics category (with a wave position of zero; pure sine), then
adjusting the modulation amount parameter with an
envelope. The tuning hot spots, where the FM effect
retains harmonic coherence (without dissonant artifacts), are -100%, -50%, 0, 50%, and 100%. These
Fig. 2
correlate with ratios of 0.25:1, 0.5:1, 1:1, 2:1 and 4:1,
respectively. Between those values, the Sines 1 sine
wave is a fantastic resource for organic bell and mallet textures. Because FM is more controllable with
simple carrier waveforms, complex wavetables will
yield results that are more unpredictable.
Classic: This mode offers the two most familiar
analog waveform modifiers: Sync and pulse width
(PW). The sync parameter value is equivalent to
adjusting the tuning of a synced oscillator, though
the term “pulse width” is a simplification; the process actually compresses the wavetable while adding a zero-amplitude segment on either side of the
table, depending on whether the value is positive
or negative. For classic PWM effects, start with
the square wave in the Basic Shapes wavetable.
Pro Tip: Huston Singletary is a big fan of the pulse
width parameter: “One of my favorite techniques for
adding vintage animation to our wavetables is to modulate the PW parameter gradually for only one oscillator with a very slow triangle or sine LFO playing
against a second oscillator, with Osc 2’s PW base value
set to none or its FM amount slightly raised.”
Modern: These two modes are more akin to the
shaping tools in Serum and Massive: Warp compresses and stretches the entire waveform in either
direction (positive or negative) similarly to Serum’s
asymmetrical mode; Fold behaves like a cross between Serum’s Mirror and hard sync. As a result,
each of these modes can serve as a more contemporary variation on pulse width and sync, respectively.
Even on its own, Wavetable’s sub-oscillator is flexible
as a timbral resource. In addition to Volume, there
are parameters for Octave, Transpose, and Tone.
Transpose has an 8-octave range (±48 semitones),
in addition to a switch that can lower the range two
octaves. As a result, it can be used for virtually any
non-detuned interval, making it great for adding
fifths to leads if the two main oscillators are tied up
with timbral duties. It’s also great for bell or electricpiano tones when tuned four octaves higher than the
wavetable oscillators and appropriately blended.
The Tone parameter extends its usefulness even
further. Setting this parameter to 0% generates
a sine wave, while at 100% it’s a 60% pulse that’s
nearly square, with a slight saw-like angle for additional even-numbered harmonics (see Figure 3).
What’s more, the sub-oscillator tone parameter can
be modulated by a wide
range of parameters, so
it can tangibly contribute to the harmonic motion of your designs.
Pro Tip: When
working with animated
wavetables that consist
mostly of upper harFig. 3
monics, you can use the sub-oscillator to emphasize the fundamental by setting it to the zero (0)
octave. This helps retain the body of the sound,
while the upper harmonics swirl above it.
Wavetable inherits the impressive analog filter
models introduced in Live 9.5, so there are five
different resonant multimode filters available for
each of its two filters: Clean (Ableton), OSR (based
on the Oxford Oscar), MS2 (MS20), PRD (Moog
Prodigy) and SMP (a custom modification of the
Sallen-Key topology). The MS2, PRD, SMP, and
OSR modes are switchable between lowpass and
highpass, with variable Drive for adding grunge.
Pro Tip: Instead of using velocity to control volume, experiment with applying it to filter Drive.
You’ll still get a change in amplitude, but with a
corresponding increase in warmth and intensity.
The Clean and OSR modes also offer bandpass,
notch, and state-variable behavior, allowing them
to smoothly morph between a vast range of curves,
much like an Oberheim SEM or Dave Smith Instruments OB6. Best of all, the Morph parameter can
also be modulated by any of Wavetable’s sources.
Pro Tip: As an alternative to flanging or phasing,
try applying a slow triangle or sine wave LFO to the
Morph parameter with a very slight amount. It’s a different timbral effect, but nothing else sounds like it.
The dual filters can be configured in Serial,
Parallel, or Split modes. The Serial and Parallel options should be familiar to many readers, with Serial placing filter 2 after filter 1’s output. That said,
Split mode is noteworthy as it routes each oscillator into its own dedicated filter, allowing for even
deeper customization of their individual timbres.
Pro Tip: While you can always layer two sounds
using Ableton’s Instrument Racks, challenge yourself to create unique layered effects by selecting
contrasting wavetables and routing them into discrete filters via Split mode. For bonus points, give
one of the oscillators a sharp plucked envelope and
the other a smooth pad envelope. This is handy for
emulating LA synthesis techniques.
There are two ways to access Wavetable’s modulation resources: Using individual tabs (synth sources, matrix, and MIDI) or from an expanded view
when the upper window is open. Because it is so
much easier to access everything when the window is open, we’ll focus on that approach, since it
combines both LFO and envelope routing (colorcoded blue) and MIDI routing (green, Figure 4).
Nearly every synthesis parameter can be quickly
accessed by clicking on the desired parameter while
the matrix is visible. From there, it will appear in
the matrix's bottom row until you assign a resource
to modulate it (Figure 5). If no resource is applied,
elm0518_HowTo_Masterclass_AbletonLive_dc4_F.indd 59
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Fig. 4
Fig. 7
Fig. 5
it disappears when you
select a different synth
parameter. After a few
minutes, assigning parameters—and seeing
routings at a glance—becomes intuitive.
The MIDI modulation resources consist of
the essentials—velocity,
note number (keyboard
tracking), pitch bend,
Fig. 6
aftertouch, and mod
wheel (with standard defaults for velocity to amp,
pitch bend with ±2 semitones, and mod wheel to
wavetable position for oscillator 1). If you prefer to
use your own assignments as defaults, just set those
up, then right-click on the title bar and select “Save
as Default Preset” (Figure 6).
Note: If you do this, make sure the other synthesis parameter defaults are initialized to your preferences, as this will wipe out the original factory
settings. It’s always a good idea to save the factory
defaults as a user preset before you begin tinkering.
Pro Tip: Not everyone uses pitch bend for soloing. By deleting its default pitch assignment, you
can use it for synth resources such as filter frequency cutoff, FM, or even unison amount.
Wavetable’s envelopes allow you to tailor both the
time and slope (curve) for each segment, which is
great for customizing attack swells or adding impact to percussive decays. Envelopes 2 and 3 have
an additional set of parameters for setting the levels of the initial state, peak, and final state.
Pro Tip: One of Huston Singletary’s favorite
techniques is to apply velocity to envelope 2 or
3’s peak parameter, which serves to tie that envelope’s modulation amount to the impact of hitting
a key or Push pad.
Additionally, each envelope can operate in one
of three modes: None, Trigger, or Loop (Figure 7).
None is for traditional behavior, Trigger completes
the envelope regardless of when you lift your finger,
and Loop repeats the envelope (without the sustain
segment) until the voice finishes (amp envelope).
201 8
Pro Tip: For very
sharp attacks, set up
a spare envelope to
instant attack and a
50-millisecond decay—
no sustain or release.
Then, apply it to a parameter that governs
pitch or timbre (Figure
8). This will add a quick
“click” to the beginning of the sound and
is great for mallet and
drum patches.
In addition to the usual
rate, depth, and temposyncing,
Fig. 8
two LFOs offer a few
additional features that give it more range than
most. For example, you can continuously vary
each of the standard waveforms’ shape in clever
ways. Here’s a list of those transformations.
Sine: Expands or contracts the peaks, with expansion veering toward a square-like shape.
Triangle: Adjusts the degree of the angle for
down/up sawtooth hybrids.
Sawtooth: Expands or contracts the peaks.
Square: Adjusts pulse width. Great for adjusting rhythmic timing when tempo-synced.
Random: Varies the extremes of the random steps.
The LFO also includes a phase offset parameter
that allows you to determine the starting point in
the waveform, which is most pronounced when the
LFO retrigger (per key event) option is toggled on.
Pro Tip: While it’s ideal for vibrato, the LFO
depth is bi-polar, so you’ll need to factor in your base
parameter values—as well as phase offset values—for
rhythmic effects when using square and sawtooth
waves, especially relating to pitch. To get a feel for
this technique, experiment with square waves for inkey pitch trills or sawtooth waves for timbral pulses.
Pro Tip: Another LFO technique in Huston
Singletary’s bag of tricks is fantastic for creating
extreme stereo effects: Apply slightly different
LFOs to the panning parameter for each of the
oscillators, then combine these with a healthy bit
of velocity panning modulation, together with the
unison effects described below.
Because the most common MIDI controllers are
readily available in the matrix, here are a few
experiments to give you a feel for adding performance dynamics to your patches.
1. If you have a controller with an x/y joystick
(instead of pitch bend and mod wheel), assign the
modwheel to change wavetable position and apply
pitchbend to adjust the oscillator volumes. With a
bit of tinkering you can approximate the real-time
aspects of the Prophet VS (vector synthesis) sound.
2. Apply aftertouch to each oscillator’s panning
with opposite (positive and negative) amounts. When
you add pressure, the sound will instantly widen.
3. Route the mod wheel to unison amount for real-time control of the “size” of your leads and stabs.
4. For live soloing, assign the mod wheel to LFO
amount for classic vibrato effects. Then, use aftertouch to control the LFO shape parameter (or vice
versa). This will give you more nuanced control
over your modulation dynamics.
5. Use velocity to control the volume of the suboscillator. When tuned very high, this will add a
dynamic “glistening” effect. When tuned to lower
octaves, you can control the amount of subs with
your playing style.
Wavetable’s Unison modes are a real standout and
are capable of far more than the usual supersaw detuning. It’s extremely important to note that each of
the unison modes will increase the voice count for
every note, thus increasing the demands on your
CPU, accordingly. For example, if you set unison
voices to 8 and play a four-note seventh chord, you’ll
be using 32 voices of polyphony. Add some long release times and your CPU will probably hit the wall.
(Note: This CPU utilization is the same for all synths
with unison options, and not specific to Wavetable.)
Each of Wavetable’s unison modes has unique
attributes, so here’s a closer look at the characteristics of each.
Classic: This aptly named mode pans and detunes each voice equally in alternating directions.
Shimmer: Here, the detuning has a touch of
smooth random LFO modulation that increases with
the parameter value, with Lorenz-like characteristics.
The wavetable position is also offset very slightly.
Noise: This mode uses noise to modulate the
detuning and wavetable offset.
Pro Tip: Try using Noise mode on one of the
formant (voice) wavetables, with a high voice
count and medium amount. Here, the noise will
add the breath component to choir sounds. On
other wavetable types, adding a long release with
Noise unison will create a reverb-like effect.
Phase Sync: Very similar to classic mode, but
with the wavetable start points synced to note events.
Pro Tip: Phase Sync mode with medium-tohigh voice counts and extremely small amount
values results in a flanger-like effect.
Position Spread: This mode shifts the focus to
offsetting the wavetable positions combined with
extreme panning (and slight detuning)—excellent
for wide stereo effects.
Random Note: Randomly changes detuning
and wavetable position for each note event. n
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Vinyl Checklist
After preparing Elton John’s catalog for reissue, engineer/producer Matt Still offers
expert advice on what to listen for, before you approve your album test pressings
EM managing editor Barbara
Schultz is also the senior editor
of Mix magazine.
Elton John’s Vinyl
Empty Sky (1969)
Honky Château (1972)
Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the
Piano Player (1973)
Caribou (1974)
Rock of the Westies (1975)
Blue Moves (1976)
Sleeping With the Past (1989)
The Big Picture (1997)
One Night Only - The
Greatest Hits (2000)
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M att Still is helping to bring Elton John’s music to a new generation of hipsters and
audiophiles (not that those two are mutually exclusive). With the help of top mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, and the lacquer-cutting team at Abbey Road Studios, he’s
prepared 10 albums from Elton John’s vast catalog for vinyl reissue. Though many
of these releases were originally released in the vinyl format, others are hitting turntables for the first time.
“And some of those digital releases are double
albums now,” Still says. “You could put 80 minutes
of music on a compact disc and no one necessarily
thought in terms of album sides. We had to think for
the first time about where to split up those tracks
musically, but we also had to consider that you don’t
want to put too much information on one side because then the grooves won’t be far enough apart to
keep the audio quality high.”
Still was tasked with ensuring the highest standards from remastering through vinyl pressing. His
insights are important for anyone who’s working on
a vinyl release.
Please give a general picture of the process for
reissuing these releases on vinyl.
First we had to find the best master we could.
Bob Ludwig would then remaster and send me the
new masters for approval. To check and approve
the new masters, I would reference my original
vinyls and CDs.
Bob did an amazing job, of course. He’s the best
at what he does. I was there mainly to make sure the
masters stayed true to the original Elton recordings,
and stayed true to the original intent of the records.
Once the remasters were approved, we would
send them to Abbey Road for them to cut the lacquers. From that point, they would then go off for a
test pressing and the test pressings would come to me
to listen and approve. Approved test pressings could
go for full press and be released to the public.
What are some of your front-end concerns,
during mixing and mastering, when you’re working on music for vinyl release?
You have to be very careful with the dynamic
range because there are physical limitations to vinyl.
With CDs, dynamic compression was more of an aesthetic, a creative choice, whereas for vinyl it was a necessity. If the dynamic range is too great, the needle
would jump all over the place; it wouldn’t be able to
stay in the groove.
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How many test pressings do you typically re- vinyl where the curvature is greater, but the grooves served the record better.
ceive of each album?
can’t be quite as deep on the inside.
Two. I always need more than one, because I have
There was one record that had inner groove dis- What happens when you receive flawed test
to be able to compare vinyl to vinyl. The process tortion on a classic track of Elton’s, and we actually pressings?
One time I got pressings back and they were
I would always use is, I would have the [Pro Tools] changed from a lacquer cut to a copper plate because
master files that Bob Ludwig gave me, and I’d play those handle high frequencies a little bit better. Lac- warped. I don’t know what happened—they may
each of the test pressings back on my turntable and quer has more of that warmth that people seem to have sat in a hot truck for too long—but they were
import it into Pro Tools.
like with vinyl, but in this instance a copper plate like bowls. I couldn’t play them. Then I just had to
request more test pressings.
I’d listen to the import of
Another issue is, when
the first test album, and then
you get a crackle or a pop,
I would import the second althat can be because of
bum and compare each little
something called “nonimperfection that I’d hear on
fill.” That’s where the vinyl
one record to the other, and
doesn’t flow fully enough
determine whether those
to produce a well-formed
cracks or pops occur in the
groove, so there’s a little
exact same spot on both regap. So I have to determine
Simply pressing an LP or a 7-inch from the same mix you’re using for a CD does not
if any crackle or pop I hear
If the flaws occurred in
guarantee the best results that vinyl has to offer. Often a number of decisions, and
is from non-fill at the pressdifferent spots, then it’s not
even some compromises, have to be made to get a great-sounding record.
ing, or if it’s a problem with
on the master or the original
Song Sequencing: LPs typically contain less than 40 minutes of music, and the
the original lacquer cut.
lacquer. If there were identiamount of good-sounding space on the disc is important to consider. The rule of
If there’s something sigcal imperfections on both rethumb is that the greater the circular distance over which the music is cut into the
nificant that I’m concerned
cords, depending on what it
record, the better the reproduced sound quality will be.
about, then I will send notes
was, we would possibly have
The distance around the inside of a 12-inch record is about half the distance the needle
back to the pressing plant
to look at asking them to retravels around the outside. As the distance of each revolution decreases, high frequenand ask them to address it.
cut the lacquer.
cies become harder for the stylus to read. Inner tracks will sound duller than the outer
But to some extent, engineers
What equipment do you
tracks because the high frequencies cannot be reproduced the same as if they were cut
need to understand that a litrecommend for playback?
on the outside of the disc. Typically, a loss of high end begins about halfway through an LP.
tle bit of hiss and crackle now
Use a turntable you know
Song sequencing for a vinyl release is very important if you want to maximize sound
and then is inherent to the viand trust. I have an Audioquality, particularly in the upper frequencies. Many classic albums were sequenced
nyl medium, but the benefits
Technica LP1240. A modwith a softer song or ballad on the inside and louder cuts on the outside. In some cascan outweigh the flaws
erately priced turntable is
es, you may want to sequence the vinyl version of your release differently from the CD.
Listening to a vinyl record
what I recommend, because
Length vs. Volume: There is a direct correlation between album length and loudis a very tactile experience.
this is what the end user will
ness. The shorter a record is, the louder it can be. That’s because there is only so much
There is a specific smell to
be listening to. If your pressroom to cut the groove. Therefore, the longer the time per side, the smaller the groove
vinyl. You have artwork to
ing sounds good on a modneeds to be, and the lower the volume must be to make it fit and to prevent skipping.
look at, and lyrics and credits
est turntable, it will sound
The mastering engineers we spoke to recommend putting no more than 18 minto read while you listen. Placgreat on the higher-end stuff
utes of music on each side of a 12-inch record at 33 1/3 rpm. If you’re doing a club
ing the vinyl on the turntable
as well, and you want it to
track and you want strong levels, definitely keep it under 10 minutes on a 12-inch
and lowering the needle onto
sound great for everyone.
disc at 45 rpm. Disc manufacturers post their recommended playing times for difthat first song is an intentionferent record sizes and various speeds on their websites,
al act. It’s not like selecting a
What other types of anomCheck Your Reference: To get a sense of how their project will sound on vinyl, the
playlist or passively allowing
alies are you listening for?
pros get a reference disc cut before creating a master lacquer. Similar in composisome algorithm to choose the
A problem we came
tion to the master lacquer, the reference disc is a 12-inch, lacquer-coated aluminum
next song for you.
across on one record was inrecord that the artist or producer can listen to at home to see whether or not they
Sitting down and listenner groove distortion. That
want to make any EQ or level adjustments.
ing to a vinyl record allows
occurs when, as you get
Although it’s tempting to skip this step to save money, it’s better in the long run
you to connect to the artist
closer to the center of the vito have a reference disc made. Otherwise, the first time you’ll hear how your mix
in a way that other formats
nyl where grooves are closer
translates to disc is from a test pressing, which is more expensive to produce than
can’t. Yes, there are crackles
together, sometimes you will
a reference disc because of the steps involved (cutting the master lacquer, plating,
and pops here and there, but
find high-frequency distorproducing metal stampers, and pressing), all of which you’ll pay for. And if you want
I think any perceived shorttion. You have to be particuto make changes at this point, you’ll have to pony up for the entire process again.
comings of the medium are
larly careful when you’re cutKnow Thy Master: Be sure your master sounds the way you want it to, and the songs
outweighed by these aesthetting to watch your dynamic
are in the proper order, before you send them for disc cutting. We’ve heard stories of
ics alone. n
range on that part of the
artists who hadn’t auditioned their master mixes (or even test pressings) and wound up
Read our full feature on “Preparing
vinyl. You can have deeper
pressing records they didn’t intend to. —Gino Robair
a Vinyl Release” at
grooves on the outside of the
Tips for Preparing a Vinyl Release
elm0518_HowTo_TestPressings_dc4_F.indd 63
201 8
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20 18
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3/14/18 9:55 PM
Fabrice Sergent
The cofounder of Bandsintown wants to shake up the
concert ticket business, and artists stand to benefit
C oncert discovery platform Bandsintown is rethinking the way artists and
fans connect around concert events. The model works like this: Bandsintown
creates a fan’s “music DNA” based on listening behavior across various platforms, identifies the fan’s location, and delivers personalized concert notifications as soon as tour dates are announced, while letting artists post personalized messages to fans.
With a network of more than 450,000 artists, 35 million concertgoers, and 15,000 promoters, venues and festivals, it looks like the
company is on to something.
Recently, Bandsintown launched a Big
Break emerging-artist program and Bandsintown Manager, which gives venues and festivals advanced tools to promote events. This
month, the company will produce the first
data-driven artist showcase at SXSW.
Cofounder Fabrice Sergent explains how
artists can make the most of the Bandsintown
How is fan ticket-buying behavior evolving lately, and how does Bandsintown tap
into those trends to help artists increase
ticket sales?
The live music industry has been enjoying strong growth over the last few years, at a
5 percent rate per year. More fans go to more
concerts in general. There is definitely a renewed interest from Millennials in emerging
artists and bands. Additionally, Millennials
buy their tickets much later on average than
the casual concertgoer.
We’re working with ticketing companies
and concert promoters to communicate about
shows at different times of the promotion cycle—at the time of announcement, and up to
201 8
the day before the show. Fans who RSVP to a
show are reminded by the platform about the
show via a specific alert, for example.
How are artists using your platform to convert “interested” fans into ticket buyers?
Personalization is key, and timing as well.
Bandsintown sends over 100 million event
alerts via emails and app notifications each
month, and each alert is targeted to fans
based on their “music DNA” and where they
live. Artists can now fill in an Artist Profile
and own their page in the Bandsintown app, so
fans can better discover their music and learn
more about who they are. A deep integration
with music services enables fans to listen to
tracks without leaving Bandsintown. Tell me how your Big Break emerging artist
spotlight program can help propel artists
to the next career level. It is really difficult for young artists or
bands to emerge out of the noise. Our algorithm is very sophisticated and already makes
sure that 60 percent of our alerts are for events
we recommend—and not just for shows by
artists that the fan already knows and tracks.
And it works: More than 50 percent of our
fans went to a show of an artist they had never
heard of thanks to Bandsintown. In that spirit,
we created Big Break.
We will identify and spotlight as many as 50
artists per year that our data suggests will break
that year. We look at the 50 fastest growing artists over a period of six months, who have between 100 and 5,000 trackers. Those that we
identify will get free emails from us to fans of
similar artists, showcase opportunities, and
touring opportunities as part of the program. With the new Bandsintown Manager platform, you’ve given venues and other service providers tools to promote themselves.
How does that create new opportunities for
Artists can now post messages directly to
their fans. Because Bandsintown users are the
superfans—engaged, willing to pay to go see
artists live in addition to streaming them—artists and their teams understand that messaging
a Bandsintown fan is far more valuable than a
“like” on Facebook. Venues now have pages on
the platform. Our search engine will better
identify them if they enhance their profile via
Bandsintown Manager. Can you please share one really great example of an amazing artist success story—
someone who has tapped into the power
of the Bandsintown platform in a unique,
successful way?
Right now, 450,000 artists are using this
platform to better connect and communicate
with their fans. Thousands of artists post to
their fans. Check out how our Big Break artists such as Peach Pit, Foxtrax, and Sneakers
engage with their fans on the platform on a
regular basis as they grow their careers. n
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