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electronic MUSICIAN

Cool Tip of the Month

October 1, 2002

Automating Virtual Instrument Parameters in Logic

The EM Cool Tip of the Month is presented courtesy of Cool Breeze Systems.

In today's audio-production world, the ability to automate track parameters is almost a necessity. Emagic Logic 5 includes many new and powerful automation features that make it easy to automate not only track volume, pan, and mute, but also just about every parameter of compatible Virtual Instruments (VIs).

Here's a tip for automating the parameters of a VI in Logic 5:

  1. Open the Track Mixer (use Command + M or Alt + M). Insert your favorite Emagic or VST2-compatible VI in the top insert slot of an Audio Instrument Channel strip, and record a MIDI performance.

  2. There are several ways to automate parameters. Let's start by recording changes on the fly. On the Channel strip, select the Write option from the Automation selection mode pop-up window.

  3. Double-click on the top insert to open the VI editor you'd like to automate (see Fig. 1). In this example, we will automate specific parameters by moving the controls with the mouse. When using the mouse, you might find it a little easier to use the Editor switch on the top of the Plug-in window to set the VI interface to Controls view. That allows parameters to be controlled with sliders rather than with knobs, which can sometimes be a little tricky to move smoothly. Of course, these moves are even easier if you have a MIDI control surface.

  4. Hit Return to play from the beginning of the song. Move the VI control sliders as you see fit and stop the song (by hitting the Spacebar) when you're done.

  5. Hit Return, and you'll hear and see your parameter changes being played back. You will notice that the Automation-mode selection now reads “ touch.” If you touch (adjust) any parameters during playback, your adjustments will be recorded and will replace your previous moves.

Make sure to check out the CoolSchoolOnline library's streaming movie of this tip to see a demonstration of this procedure and additional automation options. Visit for this online adventure. Also, if you dare, take the quiz to review what you've learned!
Steve Albanese

Polyphony in Peril

If you write complex MIDI arrangements with piles of layered sounds, you may find yourself skirting the limits of available polyphony. When your synths start dropping notes, it's time to edit your MIDI data. Here are several strategies:

  1. Remove inaudible and/or redundant notes. If several notes occur on the same beat, it's likely that at least one note is being masked by the others. For example, if a hi-hat, snare drum, and crash cymbal occur together, it's unlikely that you'll be able to hear the hi-hat. In fact, any quiet note could disappear in the mix.

  2. Shorten notes to avoid unnecessary overlaps, especially for slow pads with long releases. Move notes when possible to stagger them slightly, and avoid overquantizing to keep everything from happening right on the beats.

  3. Don't overuse the sustain pedal. It's easy to gobble up polyphony without even realizing it whenever the sustain pedal is down. Use it with caution.
    David Rubin

X Marks the Spot

One of the more difficult aspects of emulating electric bass in a sequence is reproducing the x-note, a picking technique that produces a damped, percussive pluck with virtually no pitch. To do this properly, your MIDI notes need to be extremely short so that only the sample's attack transient “speaks.” If necessary, edit your sequenced x-notes so they are no more than a few ticks in length. (You may have to exaggerate their velocity slightly for emphasis; see Fig. 2.) If your x-notes still have too much pitch information, edit your bass patch for a quicker release time.
Marty Cutler

Mixing Board Layouts in DP3

When you run out of room for all the windows you want to open in Digital Performer 3 (DP3), you can save space by using the Mixing Board Layout capabilities to create custom views that you can instantly open with a click and a drag. When you want to see only the vocals, MIDI tracks, or tracks with Virtual Instrument plug-ins, for example, you can show only the tracks and sections you need to see, when you need to see them.

After you've arranged the Mixing Board as desired, select Save Board Layout from the mini-menu and type in a name. (DP3 saves layouts as part of the song file.) You can save as many layouts as you need.

After you have saved a number of layouts, you can switch views by using the Load Board Layout command in the mini-menu. However, there's another way that's quicker. If you hold down the Option key and click on the title bar of the Mixing Board window, a pop-up menu provides the same choices as the mini-menu does (see Fig. 3). Once you've grown accustomed to working with custom Board Layouts, you'll probably wonder how you ever got along without them.
Geary Yelton

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