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Dream sequences (Part 7)

Article from The Mix, June 1995

Tips on using Cubase

This month, Roger James Brown, takes his sequencer up the Alps, for a lesson in advanced echo techniques...

MIDI Processing is the major tool in the sequencist's armoury, and most good sequencers contain tools to manipulate MIDI data in a variety of ways, for any number of musical effects. We have already looked at some of the most complicated of these in Cubase, the Independent Phrase Synthesizer and the Logical Editor, but perhaps the most overlooked is the most straightforward of them all, the MIDI Processor.

Basically, the MIDI Processor is used to generate MIDI echoes. Unlike real echoes, or delays produced by signal processors, MIDI echoes are a fake. Repeat notes are generated, which are a copy of the original note, but their velocity values are increasingly lowered, to simulate the fading effect of the real thing. Kraftwerk were very fond of MIDI echoes, using them to great effect on such seminal works as 'Autobahn', while modern techno and ambient artists have big fun playing with echoes, and all other manner of delays.

Cubase's MIDI processor has some interesting settings, which allow a vast array of interesting echoes to be generated. The great thing about the Processor, is that you can play it in real time, building up layers of sound, using your own natural sense of rhythm to play the echoes. If it is not already active, load the MIDI Processor from the Modules Menu (Figure 1), then start setting up your delays.

1. Activate the MIDI processor from the Modules menu.

Reading from left to right, we first set the number of repeats. It's worth noting here that our original note is counted by Cubase, so in the example here (Figure 2), a setting of eight repeats will generate seven echoes, as well as the original input note. This does lead to a problem with doubled notes, as your original note, or notes played in from the keyboard, are repeated by Cubase. There are two ways you can deal with this. The easiest is to choose 'delete Doubles' from the Functions menu, but by far the smartest is to go to the MIDI Set-up, and turn 'Atari' off, in the inputs section. This means Cubase will only record notes from MROS, and not front your keyboard. Just don't forget to turn the Atari input back on afterwards, or you won't be able to hear yourself play!

2. Setting Repeats to 8 and Echo to 24 produces echoes at eighth note intervals

Setting the Output to MROS from within the processor, means we are ready to record. There is also a switch for input, and setting this to MROS (and setting the output of a track to MROS), means you can use the processor to do its stuff to tracks already recorded, for further sonic exploration of your riffs. The second parameter to set before we start recording, is the next one from left to right Echo: This is the most confusing part of the processor, mainly because Steinberg have opted to present the values in a system of an eighth of the value, in ticks, of a note. Thus, an eighth note equals 192 ticks, or 24 in the processor's Echo field. What this setting determines is the rhythmic quantisation of our echoes. So the setting outlined above will produce echoes at eighth note intervals. Similarly, a setting of 16 repeats, with an echo value of 12, will produce echoes at sixteenth note intervals.

The next setting is quantisation. This is not very accurate, and I usually leave it set to a whole note or 1, which is effectively off, quantising anything I have recorded in the edit pages later. Velocity Decay is next up, and this setting adds or subtracts each successive echo from the value set. This produces that rising up or fading down effect. Echo Decay is next, and this one lengthens or shortens the quantisation of the notes over time, making your echoes sound more or less often, to produce a speeding up or slowing down effect.

3. Whilst a Note Decay setting of -5 produces descending fifths.

Finally we have Note Decay. This last setting will increase or decrease the pitch of the input notes by the set values, which are in semitones, to produce ascending or descending musical phrases. A setting as in Figure 3, of 'minus 5', produces a series of descending fifths. For this little example, I ignored my own advice, and let Cubase record my input notes. However, I set my master keyboard to transmit on MIDI channel five, going out to a piano patch on the EIV, but to receive on MIDI channel 11, an electric piano patch on the master keyboard, a DX11. This provides echoes of the original note on a different sound source, whilst preserving the original notes. Then, using a track set to 'MIDI channel Any', as shown in Figure 7, on Cubase you can record the two sounds. A little judicious editing to quantise the notes as demonstrated in figures 4, 5 and 6, and using the Remix function (figures 7, 8 and 9), and we can sift them out into separate tracks for further editing.

4. As you can see the MIDI processor does not quantise very accurately.

5. Over Quantise is the setting to use for chords as it automatically detects them...

6. ...and lines all the notes up according to the values set in your snap and quantisation settings.

7. We can record on multiple MIDI channels using the MIDI channel Any setting...

8. ...then use the Remix function to...

9. ...separate the channels recorded onto separate tracks.

The example file this month was recorded live, using a combination of all the different methods outlined in this month's article. Then, subjected to some further edit manipulation, before the final arrangement was decided upon. I hope you enjoy it, and that it provides inspiration for you to start making your own echoes without delay!

On the RE:MIX CD

Listen as you learn, with Roger's demos and tutorial to accompany this month's Dream Sequences

Track 1 Look for the MIDI files and Cubase ARR files of ORBITEKO, Rogers example file this month, in the Mac, Atari and PC sections of Re:Mix.

Track 12 More warblings from Roger as he rabbits his way through this month's tutorial and signs off with a load of delays called ORBITEKO, for some obscure reason.

Series - "Dream Sequences"

This is the last part in this series. The first article in this series is:

Dream Sequences
(MX Dec 94)

All parts in this series:

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

More with this topic

Also featuring gear in this article

Featuring related gear

Previous Article in this issue

On The Beat

Next article in this issue

Baptism of fire

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.
More details on copyright ownership...


The Mix - Jun 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Sound Advice




Dream Sequences

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

Gear in this article:

Software: Sequencer/DAW > Steinberg > Cubase

Gear Tags:

Atari ST Platform

Re:Mix #12 Tracklisting:

12 Dream Sequences

This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at - Re:Mix #12.

Feature by Roger Brown

Previous article in this issue:

> On The Beat

Next article in this issue:

> Baptism of fire

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