In the previous article we discussed using effect racks and native Live devices to build a complex and flexible parallel audio signal processor. Effect Racks are a fantastic way to build devices like this, but they also excel at creating a variety of effects that can be used in real time. When creating effects for real time performance, it’s valuable to know how you will be interacting with the sound from your controller. Do you have knobs and faders? Just buttons? X/Y controls? Depending on how you are interacting with your controller can have a great impact on how you design the racks macros, and other relationships.
I’ve been using a Max 4 Live device that I built to perform with for years. It turns the 8×8 grid of the launchpad into 8 virtual sliders. You hit a button and the value jumps to that position with a defined interpolation time. The racks that I built to be manipulated with this have some design choices that take that into consideration. The ability to instantly go to a data point is something that I kept in mind when designing these racks. That characteristic is also present on the QuNeo’s X/Y and pressure data on the pads (They can jump back to 0 on release), and the location of the sliders. This makes the QuNeo a good choice to take advantage of these racks. When designing racks for real time manipulation it’s important to think about how you will be manipulating them.
I will be using a few devices as examples in this article, and you can download the Live Project that contains them all RIGHT HERE.
If you have a QuNeo you can use the fourth factory preset preset, and start messing around right away. The sliders are mapped to the Beat Repeat rack, and the first and second pads control the Smooth Criminal rack by using X/Y and pressure respectively. If you have a Launchpad you can use the LaunchSlide_ver1.0 device to map to the different effects racks.
The two devices in the set approach an effect rack from two different angles. The Beat_Repeat rack offers precise and versatile control over one type of process with a variety of macros. The Smooth_Criminal rack provides control over many different effects with a minimal amount of macros.
Let’s start with the Beat_Repeat Rack. This is made up of two beat repeats in series and a delay, that are set up to give you plenty of options for rhythmic processing. I wanted some simpler glitching effects as well as the option to get a bit more extreme. I am using two Beat Repeats for this task because I found that by trying to do all of that with two knobs wasn’t giving me what I wanted. The first two knobs control basic rhythmic slicing. The third and fourth knob control the delay at the end of the chain, and the lower row controls the second Beat Repeat.
The heavy lifting on setting up racks like this is done in the Mappings Pane, which you can open by hitting the ‘MAP’ button on the top of the rack when it you have either the devices or chains list visible. The Mappings pane shows you all of the parameters that you mapped to Macros along with the ranges of values. By adjusting these ranges you can really fine tune what your macros do to the sound, and how they control the parameters.
The ‘Device On’ parameter and any other toggle switches, and the chain selector hold special interest. By setting the range of the Device On parameter to 1-127, I can turn on effects as soon as the macro goes above 0. Alternatively, if you set the range of a toggle, like the ‘Freeze’ button on a ping pong delay, to something like 90-127, it will freeze the delay if the Macro goes above 90. I have used this technique on both beat repeats, and the ping pong delay at the end of the chain. The first macro, along with turning the beat repeat on, is also adjusting the rate at which the beat repeat will grab audio, from ¼ note up to 1/16 note. The fifth macro is turning on the second beat repeat and also controlling the chain selector of the REPEAT2/MIX rack. In this instance I have the chain selector setup to act as a dry/wet knob between the signal coming from the first beat repeat and signal going into and coming out of the second beat repeat. By creating an empty, ‘Dry’, chain, and using the somewhat hidden chain manipulation options you can fade between two chains over the length of a macro.
When you open the ‘Chains’ view of a rack with multiple chains, you will see them like this:
If you hover over the small blue sections (zones) your cursor will indicate that you can drag these out. These zones can be thought of as a volume envelope that you can scroll through using the Chain Selector if you map it to a macro. So now that you have both envelopes at full blast over the length of the Selector, you can create fades in the zones by hovering over the white portion at the top of the zone (it will highlight if you’re in the right spot). Drag those to create fades over the course of the Selector’s range. You should have a chain view that looks something like this now:
Using the Chain Selector like this allows you to mix and morph between different effects, which will is explored in the SmoothCriminal rack (I don’t know why I called it that, but it stuck). In this rack I have taken advantage of the fact that the launchpad sliders can land on discrete values at the push of a button. At each of these discrete values I have an effect chain’s zone at full volume and all the other chains are not playing audio. By overlapping the zones with fades, you can smoothly morph between these effects if you use some interpolation or are controlling the macro with a traditional slider, knob, or any of the controls available on the QuNeo.
The Zone Editor will look like this after adjusting all the ranges and fades:
Each of these chains has a different basic effect (phaser, corpus, grain delays etc), while all of them contain a beat repeat and some sort of bitcrushing. The Beat Repeats are all tied to a global ‘Chance’ parameter and have generous randomization. The ‘FX Amount’ knob controls parameters of each distinct chain that make the effect more extreme (in general) and the amount of bit reduction. I left one knob on the top row open(or the remaining four, but I planned to keep this to 4 knobs) for you to add in your own parameter mappings. Perhaps a global reverb at the end of the chain, or a filter, or anything else you might want to incorporate.
I hope these two discussions gave you a good overview of racks. Understanding the advantages of parallel processing, and the versatility of using chains and the chain selector will provide the means to make unending combinations of effects and routings.
Any comments, concerns, or suggestions for future articles can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org