Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Parameter Step Offset in Logic Ultrabeat

Ultrabeat, if you're not familiar with it, is Logic's built-in drum synth/sampler/sequencer combo. It's incredibly deep and full-featured, but unfortunately the interface is terrible, as is the case with many of Logic's included instruments. It's not totally impenetrable, but it's enough of a pain, that most Logic users give up on it before they really have a chance to see what it's capable of. I'm probably guilty of this a bit myself. I genuinely like Ultrabeat but the interface just puts me off and I don't use it that much.

I was reading a thread regarding this very topic over on GearSlutz, when a post by helpful user d1rtyNYC reminded me of one of my favorite features in Ultrabeat: sequencing parameter offsets. Put in more simple language... you can use the step sequencer to modulate parameters of the drum synth. Here's how to do it:

1. Launch Logic and create a new software instrument track. Assign and open an instance of UltraBeat.

2. At the very bottom of the interface, you'll see the step sequencer. This area gives you the option of programming your beats from within Ultrabeat instead of sequencing them in Logic's arrange page. For the sake of this tutorial, I'll assume you have a beat programmed in the step sequencer already (Logic defaults to one, so you can just use that..) What you might not have noticed, is there are two options available to you when it comes to the step sequencer. This defaults to the VOICE mode, which lets you program when and at what velocity a sound will be triggered. Standard stuff. But, if you look directly under the sequencer's "power" button (which you should turn on now, incidentally), you'll see the switch for setting your EDIT mode.
3. Click on the word "STEP" and you'll see the interface change. Namely, you'll notice yellow rings appearing around all the sound's editable parameters. Select the parameter you want to step sequence changes for and change its value by moving the slider/knob. For the sake of this tutorial, let's alter OSC 1's PITCH value, since it has a very noticeable effect. If you've clicked on this and altered the value, you'll see a new step inserted on the sequencer at the bottom, and a new drop down menu appears right to the left of the steps labeled "PARAMETER OFFSET". Right now, that menu only has a selction for OSC 1 PITCH, but every time you alter another parameter and add a new modulation sequence, it will be added to this menu, so you can go back and edit the sequences for each parameter after the fact if need be.

4. You can also enter steps on the step sequencer grid itself. Just make sure you have clicked on the parameter (or select it from the drop-down menu if you've already created a sequence for that parameter), and you can draw in the steps yourself.

Pretty cool, right? What's even cooler is that you can do this for all the available parameters, so you can create incredibly complex, evolving modulations and even program melodies and riffs. Now multiply that by Ultrabeat's 25 available sound slots and you can see how mind-bogglingly deep and complex this can get. Have fun and thanks to d1rtyNYC for reminding me what I was missing out on.


Eluxtria said...

Two other interesting workflows are available as well:

Why would anyone want to side chain a drum machine? Hmm, well, on the most basic level its a step sequencing gating effect. Feed a synth sound into UB, and use UB to chop the signal up. But its so much more than that too when you combine it with Logic's flexible routing architecture. There's only one side chain input source, so each of the 25 different drum voices can only listen to one source signal. But, because you can use UB as a multi-output instrument, you can assign several voices to separate outputs. If you put crazy effects on each of the Aux channels receiving the outputs, you can effectively use UB's FULL VIEW step sequencer as a kind of step-based routing sequencer, and add unique effects at each step. This takes a bit of time to setup, but the effects are staggeringly fun. You cannot easily achieve this effect any other way. Also, each voice that processes the side chain source triggers all of the envelopes filters, ringmod and distortion effects for each new step adding further sound manipulation options. —BRILLIANT—

Ok, that's a mouthful, but hear me out. There are several global controllers, 4 to be exact A-D. If you setup your voices so that controller A-D is used to manipulate each voice in a variety of ways, you can literally setup UB so that turning one knob on your MIDI controller (like the mod wheel) will transform the sound of multiple voices at the same time. Imagine creating a beat using 4 sounds in UB. Each one of those sounds has MIDI controller A assigned to manipulate the amount of modulation for several parameters in each voice. Make a beat and turn a knob and the sounds transform in real time. Its basically parameter morphing in a way, but maybe more useful since you are directly effecting several specific parameters at specific value ranges.

I have spent a lot of time explaining UB to colleagues and am always surprised that they don't know some pretty basic stuff, even if they use it a lot. For example, the LFO's can be free running or retrigger depending on the Cycles setting. FM requires both OSC A & B, audio files can be dragged and dropped into OSC 2 when its set to "Sample", the little widgets that look like flat head screws are really routing controls that send OSC A+B into the filter/distortion section. The envelope Gate control is not as good as the Sustain option since it provides variable release amounts. And lastly, you can change the length of the sequence by dragging the bar under under the numerical steps— odd length beats can be a lot of fun.

Tom said...

Thanks for the post, Eluxtria! I actually covered the gating trick awhile back... pretty awesome! Thanks for the other tips. Readers can see the ones we've posted on here by clicking on the UltraBeat tag: