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Dream sequences (Part 4)

Article from The Mix, March 1995

Boger Brown gets interactive with his phrases

In his fourth computer sequencing tutorial, Roger 'James' Brown offers an introduction to the analogue mimicry of Interactive Phrase Synthesis

In the first in this series of hints and tips for creative sequencing, we looked at the simple technique of revoicing a drum pattern by directing its output to various other synth sounds. This method can yield some surprisingly useful results, but Cubase does offer another potentially more creative method of manipulating your original data. The Interactive Phrase Synthesiser, or IPS, comes in the form of a module which you load, logically enough, from Cubase's Module menu. The IPS is a complicated beast and takes some getting to grips with, but once mastered, it opens up the same potential for creative manipulation of musical phrases as enjoyed by aficionados of analogue sequencers. In fact, with its facilities for manipulating two channels of data and dealing with chords, some would argue it is even more creative than any analogue sequencer could ever be. IPS may not allow you to replicate the random factors of the TB303's style of analogue sequencing, but it does provide many similar effects for those on the lookout for new basslines.

As the IPS is so complicated, we'll look at a few simple examples using the original drum pattern from the first article. Having activated the Phrase Synth from the module's menu, we then highlight the part we want to work on, by going to the same menu, and activating Copy To Phrase. We are then asked which of the IPS's 32 memory positions we wish to store our phrase in. You will see that at the moment they are all marked empty. As we don't have to worry about overwriting other phrases, we can simply click on OK and let Cubase do the rest. Returning to the Module's menu, we now click on Phrase Synth, and view a bewildering array of options.

Highlight the phrase you want to work on...

...and copy it to the Phrase Synth.

The IPS is simply a software machine for manipulating musical phrases, according to logical criteria. It's a computer, and as such is only capable of logical processing, but its array of processors would put many an analogue synth to shame. That makes it initially daunting, but reassuringly easier on closer examination. So let's take a look.

The Interactive Phrase Synthesiser. Big, isn’t It?

Activate it and it’s a monster!

Starting from top left, we find the Phrase Input box. This is obvious enough, and should show the phrase we have just copied into memory. If it is set to Off, simply click on the arrow to the side of the Phrase box and a requester will appear, showing our newly copied phrase, and the other 31 empty locations. If we then select the phrase, it will be available for the IPS to work on. The next box down, labelled Interpreter, determines how the IPS replays your initial phrase. It should be set to Transp. Ret, and if we activate HOLD and LOOP here, and then move down to the next box. 'MIDI Input', we are almost ready to begin experimenting with our drum beats.

The MIDI Input field is simply a way of sorting out which of the keyboard notes will be used by the IPS to trigger off our original phrase. As we're going on to play with one note input to begin with, leave it at Highest Note and deactivate MIDI Thru below that, to prevent our trigger note being heard or recorded. Then it's simply a matter of crossing to the right hand side of the Phrase Synth and checking two boxes, and we can start having fun! If the Active button is not reversed out, click on that to activate the Synth, and check down the bottom of the right side to ensure IPS A is ON and IPS B is not. This is indicated in the same way as all functions within the IPS, by reversal of text indicating active status. Ensuring the MIDI channel is set to our drum kit channel in the Output box (below the Active button), we are finally ready to proceed.

As the IPS is now set, if we play the lowest note in our original drum pattern (C1, the Bass Kick), the original phrase will be played back. Hitting other notes will transpose the whole phrase up, to make your keyboard input the lowest note in the phrase. Playing around in this mode is a very useful way of trying out different drum voicing on a part, particularly if you arrange your drum kit to provide a variation every octave. Using this latter method, we can try out our original pattern on several different drum kits, simply by playing the note that signals the beginning of a new kit in our drum map.

If we now return to the Interpreter box, and change Transp. Ret. to Mute Play, we can play around with our original pattern even more. Transp. Ret. stands for Transpose Retrigger, and does as it says, retriggering your original phrase, transposed to whatever key you press. Mute Play is different. Of the notes you hit, Interpreter plays only those that match the original notes in a phrase. Using this on a drum pattern, means we can choose which of the voices in a drum pattern are heard, according to which keys we press on the keyboard. Building up a breakdown of your drum loops is a doddle using this mode.

Mute Play plays only those notes in a phrase which correspond to the keys being pressed from the keyboard, enabling you to build up a mix of an original drum pattern.

Unfortunately, the pattern banged out for this example features keys set wide apart on the keyboard. Opting to leave IPS A playing the original phrase in Transpose Retrigger mode, let's turn to IPS A and see if we can't hammer a bassline out of all this mayhem. Turning to the IPS B page is accomplished by clicking on the box marked IPS B in the bottom right of your screen, reversing the type, and changing the screen display to reflect the settings in use in the second of the IPS's two phrase synthesis machines. Repeating part of our routine for IPS A, we choose our GM Drum pattern from the Requester's pop up menu. Activating IPS B, by clicking on the ON box to reverse out the type (but in the MIDI Output field), we can send our signal out to another channel, in this case one with a bass synth voice on it.

As we want to generate a simpler bass line, we now turn to the Interpreter settings. If we choose Repeat, what IPS B will do is replay our original pattern, but simply repeating the input note. Sounds as good a recipe for a minimal bassline as any, to me! Making sure we have deactivated MIDI Thru in the MIDI Input box (and set the Interpreter for IPS B to HOLD and LOOP), we're ready to proceed.

Repeat Play, on the other hand, plays only one note according to the pattern in your original phrase, perfect for minimalist basslines!

Pressing a key on the keyboard will now generate a simple one note bass line, conforming to the pattern of our original drum pattern. At the same time, if IPS A is still active, some variation of our original drum pattern will also be playing. This may or may not be a suitable pattern, so if we return to IPS A by clicking on its button in the bottom right hand corner of our screen, we can begin to look at the middle section of the IPS.

This section contains many filters for redefining your original page, and is really the meat and potatoes of the IPS. As such, its overuse can lead to musical indigestion, or even cardiac arrest if not indulged in sparsely. So let's just take it slowly, and turn our attention to one part, the Pitch filter. By clicking on the box above TRANSPOSE in this filter, we can alter the pitch of the phrase the IPS is transmitting for this channel. So, if we set this to -24 and hit middle C, our original phrase will be heard. Similarly, if we wished to play the first A above middle C as our minimalist bassline (and still hear the original drum phrase), we would set this to -33. We can still achieve variations on our drum pattern from here, and selecting different LFOs from the pop-down menu will alter the order of the notes in the phrase, for rhythmic variations. Experimentation is the name of the game here.

Simply set the output to MROS and you’re ready to record the IPSs machinations into your Cubase track.

Tile Windows allows you to manipulate the IPS and redirect the output via the Arrange page.

Recording the results of your manipulations from within the IPS is simply a matter of changing the Output of the IPS from Atari to MROS in the box marked OUT in the Output field. If you are recording from both IPS synths, don't forget to set this field for both machines, and to return to the arrange page and set your active Cubase track to Any in the MIDI Output column. The IPS is still beavering away in the background if you have left it active. It's up to you whether you press record and play' the IPS live, or return to the IPS page and manipulate your phrases from there, as Cubase is recording. There are even settings which will play' the IPS Rhythm. Pitch and Dynamic filters for you! I'll cover these and other interesting uses you can put the IPS to in next month's piece. Until then, may the funk be with you!

On The Re:Mix CD

The MIDI and Cubase .ARR files for this month's tutorial are to be found on track 1 for computer users, as is the .COM file to load into your IPS.

Listen to Roger rabbiting his way through the audio tutorial to accompany this text...
Errata: It's actually track 15 on the CD, not 28

Series - "Dream Sequences"

Read the next part in this series:

All parts in this series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Viewing) | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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Previous Article in this issue

On the beat

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Doing it for effect

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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The Mix - Mar 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Simon Dell

Sound Advice




Dream Sequences

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Viewing) | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Gear in this article:

Software: Sequencer/DAW > Steinberg > Cubase

Gear Tags:

Atari ST Platform

Re:Mix #9 Tracklisting:

15 Roger 'James' Brown - Dream Sequences

This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at - Re:Mix #9.

Feature by Roger Brown

Previous article in this issue:

> On the beat

Next article in this issue:

> Doing it for effect

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