Making Tracks: The Right Choice

Make the most of Digital Performer's many selection tools and options.
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FIG. 1: DP''s Selection Panel (shown) and Selection Bar enable you to enter time-based selection values and display those created by other methods.

MOTU Digital Performer (DP) offers many powerful editing resources, from shifting a single MIDI event by a few ticks to rearranging and transforming entire sequences. But to harness this power, you first need to make a proper selection. Although this may seem like the most fundamental of tasks, there are a surprising number of options available in DP. Which is best depends on the type of data, the editing environment, the length of the selection, and other factors. Here are some of the many selection tools and shortcuts available to speed your work flow.

Natural Selection

Basic selection in DP is straightforward and follows common Mac conventions. As you hover your mouse over different areas of an object, the cursor changes to different selection tools. Clicking in the top portion of a Soundbite in the Sequence Editor will select the Soundbite. But if you hover in the lower portion of a Soundbite, your pointer becomes a crosshair, and clicking sets an insertion point.

In the Tracks window, if you click in the middle of a data block, your cursor will become a pointer, which selects the object, but toward the edges it changes to a crosshair to select by dragging. In the MIDI Graphic Editor, your cursor will change from a pointer to a crosshair to a hand icon, which lets you extend the note's length.

With the Edit Grid checkbox enabled, your selections will snap to the current grid resolution. Uncheck the box or hold the Command key to temporarily select free of the grid. Hold the Shift key and click (or drag in crosshair mode) to extend a selection. With an object selected, use the Tab key to select the next object or use Option + Tab to go to the previous object. (Include the Shift key to add the next or previous object to your selection.)

To audition a selection, press Option + Spacebar. To hear a single Soundbite or MIDI note, click-and-hold on it with the pointer tool. To zoom in on a selection, choose Command + Option + S (Zoom To Selection). To zoom back to the previous level, choose Command + [. If you make a selection in the Tracks window and would like to see a more detailed view in the Sequence Editor, try Command + Control + E (View In Sequence Editor). To get rid of a selection, use Command + D (Deselect All).

It's About Time

DP makes an important distinction between selecting data events and selecting time-based events. Without a full understanding of this difference, you can run into unexpected results. Certain editing operations require a time-range selection. Two examples are the Snip and Splice commands. You Snip to cut out a region of a track and have all subsequent data shift backward in time. You Splice to insert data and have the rest of the track shift later in time (see “Step-by-Step Instructions: Snip and Splice” on p. 72). Note that for data-based selections, the Snip command is grayed and doing a Splice will paste your data on top of the audio at your insertion point.

Time-based selections are typically done by dragging horizontally over a region in the time ruler above your target data. (They can also be done with the I-beam tool and by other methods.) The DP manual goes into great detail about the differences between data- and time-based selecting, but here are a few points to keep in mind.

Making time-range selections in the time ruler will highlight that region across all visible tracks. Click on a track's name to limit the selection to that track, or Shift-click on other tracks to include or exclude them from the selection. DP's Smart Selection feature (which automatically makes selections more musically useful) works only with time-based selections, whereas the Event List and QuickScribe windows allow only data-based selection.

Because time-based selections are a region of time, they can contain any kind of data, or even no data. For example, you can make a time-range selection across empty measures and use it to copy and insert blank space into a track.

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If you're uncertain whether you've made a data- or time-based selection, take a look at DP's Selection Bar (in the Tracks window) or Selection Panel (visible in all windows). Start and end times will appear there for time-based selections but not for data-based selections.

You can also use the Selection Bar and Panel to enter (or modify) selection boundaries directly using their Start and End fields or using a drop-down menu that includes various common edit times. Click on the Start or End button to load the current counter location or double-click to load the beginning or end of the sequence. Finally, the New Saved Time drop-down menu command is a handy way to save, name, and recall multiple time-range selections (see Fig. 1).

Babz is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and music-technology writer based in New York City who actually does sleep with a copy of the DP5 manual next to her bed.




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Arrange three different Soundbites in a track in the Sequence Editor.


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Make a time-range selection in the time ruler over Soundbite 2.


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Choose the Edit-Snip command (Command + J). Soundbite 2 is removed and subsequent audio data is moved backward, closing the gap.



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For Splice, copy Soundbite 1, insert it after Soundbite 2, and move the rest of the track to the right.


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If you select Soundbite 1 with the pointer (a data selection), you get the wrong results.


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If you first make a time-range selection of Soundbite 1 and then copy it and do the Splice command, you get the desired result.

Helpful Resources

MOTU Digital Performer home page

EM review of Digital Performer 5.1