Alternative Velocity

Screenshot of Velocity drum sampler

Velocity is just a sample playback device; that's all. But it's features are geared toward drum sounds, which traps you in a certain mind-set. They could just as easily be used to shape any kind of sample.

Velocity Guitar

[http://forum.cakewalk.com/tm.asp?m=415827 Forum Source]

You've heard me say it here before: Velocity is just a sample playback device; that's all. But it's features are geared toward drum sounds, which traps you in a certain mind-set. They could just as easily be used to shape any kind of sample. Those featured parameters do lend themselves well to percussive instruments, and in my mind that includes sharp-attack instruments like piano, and all manner of plucked strings. I'm calling this one Velocity Guitar just to shake things up a bit, but keep in mind that the concepts presented here are easily transferable to other instruments. There's a lot to cover, so let's get to work. I'm going to sketch out some possibilities for Velocity (in no particular order), and I'll flesh them out later on, should there be a call for it, and this turns into another tutorial series. Here we go:

Keyboard Remapping

Because you can load any sample at any pitch into the pads, and trigger it from any MIDI note, you can easily rearrange your KB by triggering samples that don't correspond to the MIDI note involved. That means that you can reverse your samples to play down-scale as you finger the notes up-scale. Or transpose the samples to playback an A# augmented scale while you perform in C Major. Perhaps you feel more comfortable playing in Am than the Bbm that's called for. Now, this is nothing that you can't do with the Transpose MFX, but the features here lend themselves to easily changing things up. Think about it: what range of notes do you usually actually cover in a single melody, chord sequence, or bass line? Maybe two octaves, or so? You can cover that within the eighteen pads of Velocity, with a couple to spare (assuming non-chromatic/non-twelve tone scales).

You can also use this concept as a type of algorithmic composition aid: Grab yourself one of those guitar sample CDs from the trade mags, and start loading samples at random by clicking on the empty pads. Then play some of your favorite licks with the randomly remapped samples. I'll bet that you find some inspiration there, and even if a note or two clash heavily with the rest of your sequence, they're easily changed by Repl above the Sample Edit Controls [SEC].

Abusing the Choke Groups

Now this is where it's at, mates. The whole idea behind choke groups is to mute all the other notes in the group when one of the group is triggered. Here's how that applies to a guitar emulation: Want a finger-picking syle of playback? Program the notes found on each guitar string to it's own choke group. For example, in an Em scale, group E3, F#3 and G3 to the low E string group, but jump A3, B3, and C#4 to the next group ['''A string], while D4, E4, and F#4 go to the next group, and so on. No two notes from the same string will sound together, as they are damped by choke grouping; just like a real guitar. Unfortunately, there are only 4 choke groups, and six guitar srings, so something has to give. I usually make the choice based on context: let the low E & A strings remain ungrouped for songs with walking bass lines, and let the high B & E strings ring out for most other styles.

For lead lines, put all of your scalar notes in a single choke group, to simulate the natural palm muting that guitarists utilize. Another handy technique involves chords [more coming up on that]. Place enough samples [2-6] in a pad to produce a guitar chord, then duplicate those samples in another pad. Both pads are in the same choke group, but mapped to adjacent KB notes. Damp the notes in one pad down with the Start and End controls in the SEC, and perhaps even add some noise by using the Bit reduction there. Leave the other sample set alone. Now just by playing the alternating notes, you can switch from a chunky palm-muted crunch to the chord ringing out.

Power Chords

As mentioned earlier, you can easily load up layers of samples in one pad for chording. But what if you don't have every note that you need to produce the chord? Load the samples that come closest to the desired notes that make up the chord, and use the Tune control in the SEC to bring it to the correct pitch. There's a bit of trial and error here, depending on the actual samples. Sometimes it's better to Tune down an A#4 sample to F4, rather than the closer method of tuning up an E4 to F4. Trust your ears on this one; it really becomes second-nature, once you've done it a few times. And don't trust that the sample is at the actual pitch that it's name implies. I've found quite a few samples that were way off. Fortunately, there's an easy solution: The controls in Velocity are among the most accurate in Project5, when used in conjunction with the Shift key. You can move any control in the sampler by single-digit increments by holding the Shift key. Remember this one, as it applies to everything; not just the Tune knob.

This procedure can be adapted for simulating twelve-string guitars, with samples placed an octave apart, or simultaneous lead and bass lines, or triple-threat harmonized guitar solos, with a minimum amount of effort. And double-stops are easy, too. Just load two notes a fourth apart in one pad.

Velocity Switching

Until now, we've assumed a full velocity range of 0-127 for the samples, but Velocity [the sampler] has the easist method of implementing a velocity switch in P5; much easier than the DS864. Just click on the numbers and drag them. Keep in mind that they all work backwards, though. Dragging the V Lo to the left or upward increases the value, and dragging the V Hi to the right or down decreases that value. Same for the Gain numbers. It's weird, but I'll trade that off for the ease of use. Just Add another sample, adjust the V Lo & V Hi ranges, and keep Adding another sample until you're satisfied. I've found the upward limit on the number of samples to be 32 velocity layers.

This also opens up some possibilities based on initial key pressure. You can adapt the palm muted/open chord method described above to velocity switching, and go from chunky to ringing with playing technique. But there is no rule that says the velocity layers have to be the same sample, or even the same pitch. This allows for some great guitar-like pyrotechnics, like hammer-ons and pull-offs. Just load two samples a minor third, fourth, or even an octave apart, and slap between them with your playing style. Watch out, Eddie Van Halen: There's nothing stopping you from doing right-hand style tapping riffs using velocity switching, alternate pads, and choke groups together, and you'll burn up your controller in the process!

Here's another one: Often guitar players will use a combination of open strings and barre chords, striking a chord with open strings and three fingers, then rapidly hammering-on the index finger to complete the barre chord. Program one pad with the open strings at low velocity; the barred notes at a higher velocity, and the remaining three 'fingers' covering the full range. Remember that you can adjust gain level to minimize the effects of the velocity message, and smooth out any level changes between chord shapes.

Pitch Bending

Well, there had to be something missing from this adaptation. I can't for the life of me understand how the programmer of Velocity didn't anticipate me using the sampler in this way! <g> So, with no pitchbend recognition, and the Tune control unable to be automated, we'll have to work with what we've got. If you really need some severe upward-bending whammy bar effects, you'll have to bring in a specific sample with that as an intregal part already. For more limited effects, we'll use the Pitch EG. You can pitchbend downward using the Decay knob, but anything too extreme begins to resemble disco drums. You can get some great low E string dive-bomb effects with conservative settings.

The special feature here, though, involves the velocity knob. With a low Decay setting, and subtle velocity knob settings, you can simulate the slight increase in pitch when a taut string is struck sharply. There's another effect with increasing velocity knob positions that I like to call "Tin Cans in the Wind". Set this up across two "strings" [pads], and vary your striking pressure to the controller keys. The samples dance around close to a cental pitch, but are distinctly out-of-tune with each other. It's great stuff for industrial or movie score material. And remember the double-stop sample pair described above? Use only the velocity knob, and bend those notes up with your KB controller 'attack'.

There's another effect that invokes a guitarist applying downward pressure to the whammy bar while trilling between two notes on a string. Set up a pattern of alternating trilled sixteenth notes in the Editor over a measure or so. Select velocity and the Automation Tool, and Shift-click a straight line from top to bottom over the length of the trill. The result is a steady bending of the alternating notes downward, into a natural fade-out, caused by the decay of the guitar strings in a real-life scenario. Ctrl+A to select everything, then Retrograde [Ctrl+R] the whole thing to fade-in and trill in an upward direction. Very realistic!

Enough Already!

Whew! My head hurts! There's way too much to explore for a one-part tutorial, even with only sketching out the concepts. Next time, I'll put together some thoughts on the Loop, Filter, and Amp EG sections, along with reversed samples, in-depth Sample Editing Controls, and anything else that I may have forgotten to include from my explorations. And this is just the introduction! I hope that this tutorial gave you a new sense of what can be done with the included synths in Project5, if you just look past the obvious uses.

Velocity Granulizer

[http://forum.cakewalk.com/tm.asp?m=429268 Forum Source]

Intro & Download

So it's not a real granulizer, but you can get very similar effects easily when using the Velocity sampler as a sample mangler, along with patterns or the the MIDI FX: Synchron 32. I'm taking a little different approach to this tutorial: I'm going light on the technical concepts, but heavy on the tweaking. This is a bit of an interactive approach. I've uploaded a .p5d bank to Project5.com [http://www.project5.com/sounds.asp found here], and zipped it along with a cheezy sample in the One Shot Mangler folder. Look for the Velocity Granualizer.zip file. Unzip both of those to your Cakewalk\Shared DXi\Velocity\Velocity Banks folder, and you should be good to go. Hit the Load button in Velocity, and look for the One Shot Mangler.p5d file.

I've loaded a single sample into each of the first 15 pads in Velocity, leaving the last three open for your own experimentation. The sample is a slice from an old newsreel sample circa WWII . I truncated it to the spoken line of "America's fighting men need meat!"; it was much larger to start with. It's a 48K/16-bit file that'll stretch badly if you pull it into the P5 by itself. It's been Acidized to 120 BPM, but we're treating it here as a one-shot .wav. It's certainly not musical, but it 'is' public domain. I used this particular sample just to demonstrate the possibilities, but you'll want to substitute a sung vocal phrase or a pad sample, for example, later on.

The idea here is to play each of the 15 pads, and see how the sample has been mangled differently in each one. I've used the Sample Edit Controls to reverse, truncate, slip-edit, and decimate the sample to varying degrees, and adding looping, filter sweeps, pitch drops, and/or Amp EG modifications in some, but not all of the sample instances. Each pad is panned to a slightly different position in the stereo field, and I've placed all 15 into a single Choke Group. The reason for that is to have one pad knock out any residual sound from the next one, and to make a 'mono' sound with no two pads sounding simultaneously.

OK, time for a confession: I just loaded up the sample in a pad, and started pulling the controls around until I ended up with something unique. Then I moved on to the next one. There was no plan; I was just fooling around with the controls. I expect that you'll do the same here. You'll be amazed at the variety of sounds that you can come up with using a single spoken phrase and the controls in this 'simple' sampler.

The Sample Edit Controls are a bit strange: they act as a 'master' set of controls over the same controls in the Loop section, but the two sets remain highly dependent on each other. They're very difficult to get your head around, as the End value can be smaller than the Start value. The End control value gets added to the Start value, rather than being a discrete moment in the sample's 'lifespan'. I'll see if I can come up with a better explanation than this, but I want you to tweak around with this first to get a hands-on understanding. The Filter and Pitch EGs are very velocity-dependent, so playing style comes into play here.

As for 'granulizing', the idea is to control the sampler with a pattern of fine note divisions; anything from 128th notes, up to 1/16th, although these sample fragments are long enough to handle larger values. The pads are triggered from MIDI notes ''C4'' to ''C6'', over a ''C major'' scale. Draw a pattern of appropriate notes in a P-Seq pattern [the proper ones are displayed with the sample name], and really mix 'em up in a random fashion. Then play the sequence at various tempos, and you'll see the similarity to granualization techniques. With the dependence on velocity values prominent in this sampler, you'll want to dig out the Automation Tool and change all of the default values that are tied to the notes. You can do this 'on-the-fly', while you're previewing the 'grangling' [c/o 2005 B Rock].

It might even be quicker, easier & better to employ the Synchron 32 MFX to send out the note values. You can place the single 'note trigger' for the note bank/pattern in Synchron, and experiment with the speed changes using the Duration knob, and the length of the pattern with the Step Count. Remember that you can right-click over the green display, and choose the undocumented "Set Lowest Trigger Note" in Synchron. That way, you can play a regular melodic line in the Tracker, and trigger the 'grangled' line in a manner that flows with your playing.

I know what you're thinking: Why even bother, with V2 audio features in place? Because it's all about the ability to manipulate the samples in ways that won't be available with those features alone.

Unchoked

Just a few more thoughts on this tutorial before we move along. For those of you who downloaded the .p5d 'bank', I'd like to add that you can easily change the single Choke Grouping to the 'non-Choke' Group. That way all of the sample manipulations are available at the same time, and none are silenced by any other keypad. There's also some interesting results to be had with using all four Choke Groups in this process. If you successively switch the pads to Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, then cycle back again, chances are that some chordal playing will have several overlapping sustained samples, while other pads will be choked. Perhaps this is not so useful with the included 'meat' sample, but a great way to mix down samples of your own creation.

The root of this discussion in in manipulating grains, or granules of a sample. The 'granglings' that I presented are way too long to be considered as such, but I kept them lengthy to simply demonstrate the concept. But here's a process that you can try (for extra credit): Open up Velocity, and change each of the trigger notes to the same MIDI note [for example: 18 pads at C5 (middle C]. Navigate to a long sample somewhere on your hard drive. It can be one of the Pro Samples Dance Drums, or one of the cymbal .wavs that make up the Velocity Banks. It's even better to try this with a long, evolving 'texture' sample, but the important thing is to have a length of a couple of seconds, or more.

Load up the same sample across a half-dozen pads for now, and focus on the first pad's Sample Edit Controls. The Start time should be at 0, but move the End time down from the default 10 seconds to a short clip, like .300 [milliseconds; actually, decimal seconds] or less. This control is really mislabeled; it should be called something like Length instead. This is the time that gets added to your Start time number, and in this case, determines the length of the sample from its Start to the End 'cut off'.

On the second pad, shift the Start time up to .300, and keep the End time at .300. This makes the sample .600 ms. long when triggered from your C5 MIDI note. But when triggering the pad with your mouse, you'll only hear the second 'grain'. Go through the rest of your 6 pads, incrementing the Start time by .300 each time, but keeping your End time at .300 for each pad.

You now have your sample divided up into 6 parts, each about a third of a second, and lasting just under two seconds in total. The whole sample is still there, but you've just partitioned it into six equal parts. Now go back to each pad, and add Looping, change the Tune, Reverse, run it throught the Pitch EG, or Filters; "Tweak it 'til it hurts" [c/o 2005 Jardim Do Mar ]. You've just reconstructed your entire sample, but crushed the granules using the processing sections of the Velocity sampler. Of course, you only have a one-note trigger, but think of this as a one-shot sample burst. If you divvy up the pads into four or five note trigger sources with 4 grain sections each, you can expand this limitation a bit, and have a crazy repeating motif of granular processing. [Use velocity layering for even more scalar note options.]

One thing to watch out for with this: If you play your trigger note before chopping up the sample in every involved pad, the entire sample will be sounded, overriding the 'grangling'. That's because you are triggering all of the pads from a single trigger, and the original sample will mask out the individual grains.

You can get some amazing sounds with this procedure, and because it happens so fast, some manipulations seem to 'blend' together. As an example, you get a very complex cymbal sound by tweaking the Tune control for each of the grain pads. The results are more like 'cymbal chords', adding all sorts of complexity and consonance/dissonance, depending on the settings.

This is a tweaker's delight, and very easy to get a huge amount of different sounds wrung out from a single sample. .300 seconds in a section was just a starting point; you can go much less than that, or to any increment using the Shift key with your mouse. We haven't even touched upon the possibilities of sending these grains to multiple outputs, with multiple effects, or adding velocity layers [up to 32 stacked high] to each of the 'granules'.

Quick Example & Outro

This is the long way home. The whole advantage to doing this in Velocity is in exploiting those unique processing modules found there. You can do the same type of exercises in Cyclone, the DS, and undoubtedly the new Dimension sample synth. You'd only do it here to utilize the unique features that a percussive-oriented sampler will provide for you.

Here's a typical example: You can play a cymbal normally for a few slices, then abruptly drop the pitch way down in the later sliced stages You get an odd, sustaining reverb sound, and you can probably duplicate that in Cyclone, But in Velocity, you can flick a knob or two and have an instant pitch decay on the 'reverb', with quasi-random pitch shifting from your velocity-sensitivity setting that only affects the latter slices.

I'm trying here to break down the pre-conceived notions about Project5's synths, and open up some new avenues for exploration in some old war-horses.

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