Arp Remote Control Tricks

Cakewalk's Brandon Ryan has mentioned automating several parameters in the new Arpeggiator as a way of adding musical variations to the Arp settings. I'm proposing to take that one step further into the area of performance techniques and actual composition using MIDI Remote Control stored in the Device Chain.

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Which parameters should you bind to MIDI? Every one of the available ones, if possible. Some are must-haves, others can be sacrificed to conserve physical controls. Remember that you can bind more than one destination to a single MIDI message, so it's often useful to bind two or more parameters to the same 'Learned' input.

I'll first present some scenarios where each automatable control might be used, and then add some situations where combinations of the controls work together for the desired effect. So, bind as many of the Arpeggiator controls that you can to MIDI Remote Control now, and store them in a saved Device Chain. You can also substitute for those settings with automation patterns, or twist the GUI controls while recording.

Enabled [On/Off] Big deal, right? You won't think that this one is so boring, after you experiment with changing the rest of the parameters "behind the scenes". Toggle it off, quickly change the Octaves and Rate values, and punch in the new sequence. Then punch out, change them again, and punch back in. It's like having several arpeggiators in one, and when you get comfortable with this, the fast changes imply one long melodic line.

Rate Change this remotely, and you can go from "Mario Bros." frequency modulation effects to a catchy riff in one fell swoop. Great for accelerating 'speed riffs' or decelerating mood changes, or simply mixing up the licks on the fly, while maintaining a strict relationship to tempo.

Octaves At 1 octave, you'll hover around your original chord; at 8 octaves, you'll crush your oscillators. With Remote Control, you can flip to either extreme, or anywhere in between. In conjunction with other controllable parameters, you can sound like you're shredding the ivory off of your keys. Don't ignore the possibilities with holding to one octave. That gives you a strong foundation for some of the other settings to catapult from.

Latch You want this one remote-controlled, for sure. It will allow you some sleight-of-hand tricks by continuing a phrase while you're covertly changing the other settings. You can also use it as a compositional device; easily 'pedaling' in & out of a phrase while doing chordal or lead line changes. It gives a natural cadence to the lines, and breaks up the 'appegiated' feel to it. As much as I hate to give up the Sustain pedal [CC#64] for this, it's perfect for it. You won't be sustaining many chords using some staccato arp'ed lines anyway, and it's use with the Latch quickly becomes second-nature.

Swing Another two-state device: it's on or off. But controlling it remotely will introduce a staggered accent feeling to your phrases, and that will depend upon the settings of the Swing amount set in the Main Control View. Use in conjunction with the Flam Amount to really mix up the timing.

Velocity The Help file states that this control adds to whatever velocity value is in the arp pattern, like an offset control would. I believe that's incorrect. Down to a certain point, there is a velocity response to your arpeggio, dependent on KB velocity input. But at some point, it becomes a static velocity 'master volume' control. This control may add to the value over the default value of 99, but in Remote Control, I just use it as an Expression pedal.

Gate This defaults at 100%, but you can make the arp'ed notes hold longer or shorter than your original input notes. It might be best to use a physical 'pan-type' knob with a center detent for this, or a spring-to-center control like the Pitch Wheel. [The same goes for the Pitch Offset control in the arp.] Very useful for changing the note's durations. An example would be for palm-muting an acoustic guitar patch, mixing choked note attacks with ringing string decays.

Pitch Offset This one is incredible. If you change it remotely with some rapid playing and other 'fast' arp settings, the offset introduces passing tones or completely different scalar runs in the middle of your arpeggiated sequence. This is another must-have Remote control, simply because of it's compositional uses. You'll be playing riffs that you've never imagined by controlling this one parameter alone.

Flam Amount This will add a second attack to whatever notes are input. The time between attacks is variable over the throw of the control's values. In a static setting, it's useful, but remotely controlled, its usage extends to drum stick wrist techniques and guitar circle picking.

Chord Mix Use this remotely to fade in your arpeggios gradually, or quickly change up between 'straight' KB chops and the arp'ed accompaniment. You can sometimes substitute a 1 Octave, Rhythms Only setup as a repeated version of adding the original chord. After all, that's what this is: a mix control that adds the 'dry' signal to a default '100% wet' mix.

Shapes Must-have. I won't go into the details of which shape does what, but if you control this parameter, the order of the arp'ed pattern's notes will be ever-changing, They will, however, remain within the other settings' defined container. You can change the chordal inversions with this, or use it with single-note runs for incredibly convoluted pyrotechnics. Serve with the Pitch Offset, Octaves and Latch for a complete riff-making machine.

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Want to push your synth's oscillators to the breaking point? You can select just about any Note Value [try 16ths], but make sure that the Octave Range is maxed at 8, and the algorithm used is Random [playback order of fingered notes; not random pitch values].

Right-click on the Latch button, and assign control over to your Sustain pedal [other messages will also do nicely]. Play fairly low on your controller, and the Arp will take over, stretching the limits of your soft-synths until they 'crack' under the applied pressure. Lay in some very active licks, and bring the Latch in & out with your Sustain pedal.

Open up any synth and patch, but you can start with something simple like the default Rhodes.dp8 patch in the DS864. Enable the Arp, set the Range to 1 octave, and hit the Latch for continuous preview purposes. You can select any algorithm, but note that the Rhythms Only one is a bit 'brighter' than the others for this situation.

Now hit a note, and gradually dial in increased Rate settings. At lower settings, you'll get a repeated 'tremolo'-like single note, but as you pass the 32T setting, the timbre begins to change. At it's most extreme, the 128T setting really mangles the original sound, resembling ring-modulation. This is wild enough alone, but there's more.

Since the Rate control is tied to tempo, you can modulate the 'distortion' by using a Tempo Track curve. Leave the setting at 128T, create a one bar loop in the Arrangement Pane, and set the Snap to Grid at a 16th Note. Draw in some 'quantized' tempo curves, taking care to not go too slow [<50 BPM; +/-], and take advantage of the upper 1000 BPM limit. Now playback the one-bar loop, and hit one note [still Latched in the Arp]. Wild sequencer-like pitch and timbre changes that are anything but ordinary, and an infinite amount of sounds, depending on the synth and patch that's input. And you did it with just an arpeggiator and a tempo change.

Load up Dimension [simply because it's cool] with the E175 Chorused (slide MW) program. Set your Rate=32D notes [at around 100 BPM]; Octaves to 1; Latch=On; and bind your Pitch Offset and Shapes parameters to the same MIDI controller. Hit one note, and listen. Notice that you can control the Velocity of the repeated notes by hitting the same note again at different speed/pressures. Bringing up your Mod Wheel [defined in the Dim patch] introduces a trill, but moving your MIDI Remote Control will send you all over the map with jazz-fusion speed licks.

Keep the same patch, and change the Octaves to 3, but the Rate to Measure. You can un-Latch the Arp for now, but if left alone, you'll get an slow walking bass line as an automatic accompanient. Play in mid-guitar range, and notice the the long Rate setting takes on almost a 'delay-line' feel to it; but not quite. Bring up the original input notes with a Chord Mix of around 50%, and play some nice overlapping guitar finger-picking. Depending on what you're playing when the Arp "reads" for the next repetition, ghost notes are slid into your phrasing. This is a very subtle use of the Arpeggiator that doesn't sound arp'ed at all.

You can record these Arp performances 'live' in the Arrangement Pane by simply arming the track and punching in Record. The resulting long patterns can be edited [cleaned up, or mined for melodic riffs] in the Editor, and the automation curves that result can be quantized and/or Snapped to Grid, or Processed with the new menu items.

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