Harmony Central Forums
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

31539907

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse









X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • FXpansion Geist

    Well it looks I'll be spending more time in the pro reviews part of the site for a while, as there's a lot going on right now! But I haven't done a purely software one in quite a while, so I'm really looking forward to doing Geist. In fact, I have a couple reasons for being interested in it from more than a reviewer's standpoint...

    1. FXpansion does cool stuff. Their DCAM Synth Squad synths are outstandingly "analog" in character, and BFD is a hip drum module. I also thought Guru was pretty clever, and as FXpansion considers Geist the "spiritual successor" to Guru, it sounds like the next evolutionary step.

    2. Geist is a drum machine/sampler/slicer/dicer/remixer kinda program, and I'm not only into that type of music, but also, the processes involved in making it.

    With hardware pro reviews, I usually start with a photo tour but in this case, it probably makes more sense for those interested in Geist to check out FXpansion's landing page on their web site. But, let's give a thumbnail description before forging onward into installation and such.

    Bear in mind that the following is all the result of me just playing around and clicking on things, so the fact that I've been able to get as far as I have tells you something right there...

    Geist isn't shy about taking up screen real estate unless you hide elements, so any images will need to be reduced if I want to show everything at once. Still, I think you'll be able to make out the important bits.



    Whether used as a plug-in or standalone, Geist starts with the basic drum machine formula: A grid where you can deposit beats to create a pattern (upper right). Simple enough, but this grid goes up to 1,024 steps, not just 16, so you can create really loooooooong patterns. Resolution is not an issue either, as you can set steps as fine as 64th note triplets.

    Each pattern has the industry-standard 16 pads (lower middle), and Geist has a 2GB library (mostly of dance-oriented sounds) for filling up those pads, or you can choose from various kits; all of this is accessible via a browser (far left). Of course, you can also load your own sounds.

    Each pad can have up to eight "layers" of samples that you can split or layer over velocity settings - your basic multisampled drum pad. An additional mixer for these layers edits levels and panning, and there's deep editing for sound. Of course we'll go into more details later, this is just to give you the lay off the land. All the expected options are there (trim sample, filter, etc.) as well as some less expected ones.

    At first, I couldn't figure out why I couldn't drag and drop from the browser to a pad, but the way it works is you click on a pad, click on a sound (which is easy to audition), and that takes care of the assignment.

    Do you like effects? Basically everything can have up to six effects, from individual layers in pads to pads themselves.

    Okay, we have a pattern, we have sounds. But note the "keyboard" to the right of the pads - it lets you select any of 24 patterns. You can trigger these from MIDI notes, so you can set up patterns and play them in real time in the desired order, or if working with a DAW, trigger them from a track.

    Now imagine you have eight of these,
    which FXpansion calls "engines." Each can respond to its own MIDI channel so you're essentially dealing with a multi-timbral drum machines. What's more, each engine can go through four effects, and did I mention the Send effects? Pretty much anything can go through any of four send effects.

    Those are the basics of sound generation and patterns with Geist...but only the basics. We haven't even looked a slicing, Scenes, creating Songs, and so on. Stay tuned.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

  • #2
    The easiest way to get started is to download the demo from the FXpansion site. Geist works with both Mac (Leopard 10.5.8 and Snow Leopard 10.6.2 and above) and Windows (XP SP2 and 7, 32- and 64-bit). I should think it would work with Vista, although that's not specified. (Then again, I've noticed a sort of collective amnesia regarding Vista, where companies specify a product as being compatible with XP and Windows 7. It's as if Vista never existed...move along, there's nothing to see here...)

    I went for the downloadable version, although a boxed version is also available. The download is almost 2GB, but the content is split into three parts (700MB, 700MB, and 489MB) out of consideration to those living in third-world countries like Idaho, Montana, or for that matter, New Mexico with slooooow average internet connections. The program itself is about 54MB.

    Installation was relatively painless. After authorization there was an indication that the authorization hadn't completed, but it had - not sure what the issue was, although I'd rather have a message saying something hadn't authorized when it had, as opposed to the reverse. I'd recommend, based on info from FXpansion, that if you installed the demo to de-install it before installing the full version.

    Anyway, it really does do 64-bit with Windows, and I had no problems loading it in my three "true" 64-bit programs - Sonar X1, Studio One Pro, and Cubase 6. x86 programs, like Ableton Live, can load the 32-bit version that's installed in the x86 plug-ins folder of your choice. As a plug-in Geist speaks VST and RTAS on both Mac and Windows, as well as AU on the Mac; it also operates in stand-alone mode, which looks intriguing for live use...hmmm...

    In terms of instant gratification, Geist scores very highly. On the surface, its interface isn't anything you haven't seen before - pads, a grid for programming notes, a browser, etc. This is all done with a single-window interface, with tabbed pages for accessing different functions.

    Being impatient, I attacked the Browser and saw presets. Well, presets are meant to be loaded, so I did. And play buttons are meant to be pressed, so...I dig Armin Van Buuren, and he had a preset called Trance Construction, so I checked it out.

    This is actually a very fortuitous place to start as it exploits multiple Geist elements. Each engine is dedicated to playing a particular pattern as part of a Song; the screen shot shows the Song, and how patterns are laid out for the eight engines. Clearly, this goes beyond the usual drum machine paradigm into more "MIDI-DAW" territory.



    What makes this preset a "construction kit" is that each engine has a bunch of patterns, and by choosing different patterns for the engines, you can alter the nature of the composition.

    Granted, we're getting ahead of ourselves here...playing with Songs before we've even getting much into patterns. But this brings up an extremely important point: You can get up and running with Geist within minutes, and what's more, in different areas. I was inserting effects (inserts and sends), substituting samples, and generally having a good time within minutes after opening the program.

    Now, I'm not deluding myself into thinking I've mastered Geist by any means - a quick glance through the documentation shows there are a lot of non-obvious options waiting to be explored. But, Geist is one of those rare programs where you can dive into any one area and have a good time. The analogy I would give is skiing: If you're just starting out you can hit the bunny slopes and have a good time, and if you're an expert, you can stem christie your way down through the moguls, and also have a good time.

    I also suspect that based on what I've seen so far, different people will use Geist in very different ways. This reminds me of Ableton Live - I've hardly ever seen two people use it in the same way. For example, I use a ton of scenes, keep the cells relatively static, and step through presets while doing a lot of mixing with an outboard controller. Once at Frankfurt Messe I heard someone playing with Live, and making the same kind of music I make. But when I looked over his shoulder, he was using four scenes and shuttling loops in and out of the cells - a completely different approach.

    This complicates matters in terms of doing a review, because there's no apparent "linear" way of working your way through Geist. Instead, it seems you sort of make up a "collection" of the elements you want to work with. Some people might tend to stick within one engine and use a lot of presets, others might use fewer presets but switch around the various engines a lot. It lends itself to improvisation, but also works for creating complete compositions via songs...or like Van Buuren's preset, you could improvise within a Song context.

    So where to start? Let's start with a single pad, and investigate what you can do with that. That should take us through 2012 Seriously, though, that lets us get into layers, effects, mixing, and more. Once we nail that down, then we can get into the world of patterns, scenes, and songs.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

    Comment


    • #3
      Geist was designed to allow for easy swapping of sounds and patterns, so as a result, has a “classification” system where the bottom four pads are kicks, the next row up is snares, then hi-hats, then percussion. You don’t have to follow this system, but it’s probably not a bad idea to come up with your own if you’re not going to follow Geist’s system.

      Anyway, as with other Geist functions the point of entry to pad editing is a tab (Pad/Layers) along the top of the program. There’s a screen for the pad itself, where you assign its gain, pan, output, velocity response,l and layering protocol (layer, velocity split, round robin, round robin reset, or my personal favorite, random ). However this is a pretty utilitarian part of the program, so let’s dive into something sexier.

      Once you get down to an individual layer, the Fun with Editing begins in earnest. Check out the screen shot.



      I’ve soloed one of the kick drum layers; controls are the same for any layer. Going from left to right, there’s pan, gain, and four sends. Next are controls for tuning, velocity control over pitch, and pre-delay (this determines the amount of time before a drum sounds after being triggered—great for flamming). Then there's a time stretching module, but as far as I can tell so far, this is meant for loops more than one-shots.

      Next there’s the filter, with ten different responses (two each of lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch, and peak). I’ve edited this to add some resonance and give a more aggressive sound, and having a Drive control certainly helps toward that goal.

      Two ADSR envelopes round out the editing section. The upper one is dedicated to amplitude, but can have two other destinations (set with the upper right parameter controls) with variable amplitude. In this case, I’ve assigned it to filter Resonance, so there’s more resonance during the attack. The lower “Free” envelope is a general-purpose envelope that can be assigned to any two destinations.

      Also note that each pad has a context menu with a zillion “housekeeping” options—copy pad, move pad, save layer sample, open parent folder, etc. We don’t really need to cover every one of these options, but it illustrates the kind of “sure, of course you can do it” attitude that pervades Geist.



      We’ll find out more about pads (for example using them with loops, or assigning slices to them) as we explore other functions, but this presents the basics of pad editing as used for typical drum sounds and kit creation.
      _____________________________________________
      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

      Comment


      • #4
        Before getting into more details, I thought the easiest way to get a feel for how some of the various Geist elements interact is with a short video. This uses the Armin Van Buuren “trance construction set” preset, and starts off showing the song view, where you can see a matrix of patterns associated with the eight engines. Then the video segues from Song mode to Pattern mode, where you can see the pattern for the currently selected engine, as well as how engines are selected. Text and highlights help explain what you're seeing.

        The video closes out with selecting different patterns within the same engine. Just remember there are eight engines, and each can have 24 different patterns. The preset was constructed with multiple options per engine, so you can switch patterns around and produce entirely different sonic results...hence the "trance construction set" aspect.

        _____________________________________________
        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

        Comment


        • #5
          One of Geist’s outstanding features is the way effects can be added to just about anything. Since we’re in a “pad” sort of mood, and effects can be a significant part of shaping a pad’s sound, that’s where we’ll start.

          The following image shows the most basic level of adding effects in the Layer mixer, which mixes together individual pad layers. This is where you adjust the level, mute, solo, panning, and output—and insert up to six effects for each individual pad layer. In this example, I’ve taken a closed hat sound with four velocity-sensitive layers, and applied a comb filter followed by what FXpansion charmingly calls “Tin Can Reverb” to the highest-velocity layer. The effects give a significant accent to the layer when you hit it hard.



          GUI-wise, note how the selected layer has a deeper blue color, which also outlines four of the six effects slots. This makes it easy to keep track of which effects are affecting which layer. Also note the “overview” of effects in the upper right; clicking on an effect aligns the adjacent four effects into the four visible slots.

          You can take this up one more level to the Pad Mixer, which again controls level, mute, solo, panning, and output for each pad, and again lets you insert up to six effects for each pad—so you could have, for example, a gated reverb effect on an individual layer of a pad but the pad itself could have an overall room reverb.



          There’s a similar setup for the eight engines, each of which can also have up to six effects. Furthermore, there’s a Global Mixer tab that mixes the master output along with the outputs from the four FX Aux buses. You guessed it—each of these five outputs can go through up to six effects.

          So, is this overkill? Why—of course it is! You could certainly get by with less. But, here’s why it’s cool that FXpansion went off the deep end with the effects.

          First off, they sound really good. My first experience with FXpansion was over ten years ago, with their Series 1 plug-ins (they were probably founder Angus Hewlett’s high school science fair project).

          Second, they’re original; many effects don’t have equivalents in other plug-in packages. FXpansion has a long tradition of “why be normal”—in the aforementioned plug-ins, they even figured out how to do a Vocoder before host side-chaining existed.

          Third, you don’t have to rely on host plug-ins. If you use Pro Tools and a friend uses Sonar, you can swap Geist presets and not be concerned you don’t have the Sonar plug-ins in Pro Tools, and vice-versa.

          So what effects are included? You can download the Geist demo and audition them yourself, but you get distortion (with multiple types), bit crusher, ring modulator, six dynamics-related processors, three different EQ types, nine different filters (some of which are clearly designed to emulate vintage synth filters), delay, flanger, chorus, phaser, frequency shifter, audio “freezer,” and five different reverbs, with four using algorithms from Breverb.

          Bottom line: Between all these effects, and the warping options for individual pads (tuning, time stretch, filtering, and envelopes), you can tweak these sounds all the way into the world of creative sound design.
          _____________________________________________
          There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

          Comment


          • #6
            Oh, one other note...I hooked up Maschine with Geist, and it's a sweet combination. As we're doing effects we'll look at insert effects next, but then I think it's worth taking a bit of a detour into hands-on control, as that adds "playability."

            And as I play with Geist more, I'm getting curious about the story behind it...it seems like the product of various mindsets, blending sound design, groove construction, and drum machine sensibilities yet it's also a compositional tool. Hopefully some of the FXpansion folks are keeping tab on this review, and can chime in with some background.
            _____________________________________________
            There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi Craig!

              You asked for feedback, so here goes


              At first, I couldn't figure out why I couldn't drag and drop from the browser to a pad, but the way it works is you click on a pad, click on a sound (which is easy to audition), and that takes care of the assignment


              That's because you're in Auto Load mode. You can switch Auto Load off and drag drop instead.. auto load is particularly handy as you can flip through sounds in the browser, previewing them in the context of your loop, with the up/down arrow buttons.


              I should think it would work with Vista, although that's not specified. (Then again, I've noticed a sort of collective amnesia regarding Vista, where companies specify a product as being compatible with XP and Windows 7. It's as if Vista never existed...move along, there's nothing to see here...)


              Should being the operative word. We don't make concrete statements about it working or not unless we've tested it thoroughly. Two versions of Windows, two versions of Mac OS, and two CPU architectures (x86 and x64) is a practical limit for in-depth testing.


              I also suspect that based on what I've seen so far, different people will use Geist in very different ways. This reminds me of Ableton Live - I've hardly ever seen two people use it in the same way.


              Very much so, and Live was certainly an influence there.. although Geist is much narrower in scope of course.


              First off, they sound really good. My first experience with FXpansion was over ten years ago, with their Series 1 plug-ins (they were probably founder Angus Hewlett’s high school science fair project).


              No fair! I was in college when I wrote those


              blending sound design, groove construction, and drum machine sensibilities yet it's also a compositional tool. Hopefully some of the FXpansion folks are keeping tab on this review, and can chime in with some background.


              The key here is that - at least in the sort of music-creation process which Geist is designed for - we don't see sound design, groove construction, beat programming or composition as seperate disciplines. Our company culture leans towards the idea that electronic musicians / pc/mac based producers should be doing their own sound design, as far as possible; so that even when working with the supplied presets, there's a lot of scope to go in and completely re-shape the sound, at any time in the groove creation process. We also believe that, with suitable tools, sound design needn't be that difficult or time consuming. There are some companies out there who'll sell you some amazing sounds but with relatively little scope to change them (or a poor interface, or poor sound shaping tools), which leads people to believe that creating their own sounds is hard & that if they need more sounds, the only option is to buy more.

              Can you make an entire track in Geist? Yes, but it wasn't really designed for that.. or at least, when we had the choice of adding features that would make it more capable for making entire tracks, at the price of complicating the overall UI, we generally left those out. If you need long-form recording and editing, for example, you probably already have a perfectly good DAW. We wanted Geist to be a kind of creative block-buster, something that's as fun and fast to work with as a musical instrument. You can make an entire track with a cheap acoustic guitar, or a circuit-bent TR-606, or an Ensoniq Mirage, but the limitations of your chosen tool will leave something of an imprint on the final result (for better or worse). The same is true of Geist in that regard. It's not trying to be Live or Reason, it's something to use alongside Live, Reason, Pro Tools, Logic etc. (we put a ton of effort in to making sure it plays nice with as many DAWs as possible) when you feel like an alternate way of working to that offered by your DAW of choice.

              Hope that's useful - will check back in a few days.

              Best,
              Angus.
              == Angus F. Hewlett | founder & ceo | FXpansion ==

              Comment


              • #8
                Angus, thanks so much for chiming in. I appreciate that you think electronic musicians should do their own sound design, and provide appropriate tools for same. That's one of the main appeals of Geist to me - it's possible to come up with lots of different sound, but more importantly, you can do so easily.

                Unfortunately this review will be on hiatus for several days in deference to my AES show coverage responsibilities with HC...I'm finishing up templates and background music along with other show prep, and of course, the show starts shortly and with it, the concurrent insanity of non-stop video editing. But, I'll get back to this review as soon as possible, and meanwhile, will monitor it in case other Geistists have comments.

                Thanks again for contributing to the thread!
                _____________________________________________
                There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here I am, after doing a relatively exhausting AES and then editing 48 videos from same. Just to add a little flavor to life, I also have a nasty cold, and to say I’m not at the top of my game is an understatement.

                  So, what better time to play with Geist?

                  See, I already figured out that Geist is my kinda program. I really like what I’ve seen so far, so at this point the only question is how much more I’ll like it as time goes on. I have a lot of software that lets me program loops, so my mission at this point is to check out what it’s like to create a pattern, and see if Geist brings anything new to the party.

                  To avoid making things too easy, I’m trying Geist with Pro Tools 10, which I installed about 10 minutes ago. Also, I’m too effing sick to read though documentation, so I’m just going to wing it and see what happens. If I end up with a cool loop under these circumstances, we’ll have learned a lot about Geist.

                  To make a Pattern, it seemed logical to click on Pattern. Here you can enter notes into a grid using pen and erase tools. But, there’s also the Multi-Tool, which is really cool. You click where you want a note, and drag to set the velocity or for that matter, any one of 21 user-selectable parameters. These relate to the pad’s “fixed” modules, like tuning, filter, envelope, etc. You can also right-click to erase the note. The last value you entered via dragging is persistent, so if you enter another note, it will default to the same velocity as the last note you entered. Referring to the pattern screen shot, the shading on the square representing a note indicates the velocity—darker is louder.



                  Getting back to those 21 parameters, you can adjust one at a time on the pattern screen by clicking on the arrow to the right of the drum name. This opens up a step sequencer that shows any modulations applied to the drum. For example, in the following screen shot, the Shaker is highlighted and the step sequencer opened. This shows modulation applied to velocity. However, the drop-down menu that currently says “Velocity” can select other parameters as well. With the clave, for example, you can see the modulation applied to panning.



                  But wait! There’s more...
                  _____________________________________________
                  There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Insert drop-down menu offers several preset step sequencer patterns. Normally these extend the length of the loop, but the /2 and X2 buttons can divide or multiply the range the sequence covers. Also note the dedicated controls for Offset, Compression (compresses the difference between the step sequencer’s minimum and maximum values), and Randomize. Also note the Edit/Live Mode button. With Edit, any changes you make are applied destructively to the pattern. With Live, changes (for example from MIDI Continuous Controllers) offset the existing values but don’t change them.



                    We’re not done with pattern creation—there's always tomorrow—but I need to point out a few things because this is a review, and I need to make the occasional value judgement.

                    First off, I want to see if I can breed Geist with Cakewalk’s Rapture. The result would be an instrument that, over time, would probably acquire consciousness.

                    Seriously, though, we need to address the intimidation factor. It may seem like Geist is overkill, and daunting. Well, it can be, but the beauty of the way it’s set up is that you can pretty much ignore what you want. If you just want to drop notes on a grid, you can do that. But if you want to drop notes and alter envelope, filtering, and other parameters, you can do that too. I cheated and went a little ahead of the notes I’m taking, and yes, there’s much more to cover...and frankly, I’ll probably miss a lot because this baby is deep. If you really want to know everything Geist can do, block out a couple months and sit down with the manual. We’ll try to strike a balance between covering everything, and giving more of a summary so you don’t have to wade through too much.

                    So here's the bottom line for tonight: This is a fantastic tool for pattern creation because you have virtually unlimited ways to keep the pattern from sounding static. Doing things like changing kick drum pitch in strategic places, altering panning and velocity on a shaker, and editing filter parameters makes patterns really come alive. Couple that with judicious signal processing—like dotted eighth notes on the snare, or some hall reverb on a clave—and you can create patterns that really come alive.

                    To paraphrase Herman Cain, if you can’t make loops that aren't boring, don’t blame Geist—blame yourself
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So far we’ve been looking at Patterns in Multi-Track view, which emphasizes seeing the various sounds in a pattern at a glance. In this context, you have a lane where you can look at what the step sequencer for any particular parameter is doing for any particular sound or sounds.

                      However, this is Geist, so it has another option—Multi-Graph view. This (as well as Multi-Track view) is selected under View Mode, which is toward the top of the pattern window, just under the main “navigation bar.” The screen shot shows the editing I did for the Shaker pattern.



                      It’s convenient to be able to see Velocity, Panning, and Filter Cutoff and Resonance all at the same time, as you can see how they all relate to each other. But I assume the primary function of Multi-Graph view is to be able to tweak multiple step sequences without having to navigate to different ones.
                      _____________________________________________
                      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well, at least that's what I call it

                        Let’s return to Multi-Track view and check out another helpful pattern creation feature—the ability to insert “pre-fab” patterns. This happens on a per-sound basis, so you click on the sound, then go to an Insert menu that presents you with a variety of choices for pattern templates. If the pattern itself is longer than the template, then it repeats for the length of the pattern.



                        Once again, this is the kind of “deep” feature you can ignore if you like, and you don’t need to know about it to get good results out of Geist if you’re willing to just enter the pattern yourself. But, it’s another indication of how Geist seems to regard deeper functions as ones intended to streamline workflow, rather than add some new category of functionality.

                        Another valuable time-saver is the Duplicate feature. When invoked, your pattern will be doubled and whatever you selected will be duplicated. For example, suppose you have a 32-beat pattern, and you draw a selection rectangle around everything but the kick. You will now have another 32 beats added on (64 total), but without the kick so you can draw in a new kick part.

                        If you were to select only the first 10 beats, then again the pattern would be doubled but only the hits in the first 10 beats would be copied into the next part of the pattern.
                        _____________________________________________
                        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          So now we have patterns...and eight engines that can each hold 24 patterns, with each engine optionally having a different kit to create different sounds. Engines can play individually or together, have independent swing, and you can apply solo or mute to any engine. There’s also a master pitch control. And as we’ve already mentioned, just about every aspect of every pattern can go through multiple effects—from individual layers, to pads, to entire engines, to the global mixer that brings the four aux buses into the mix. Also, Geist’s engine is smooth as butter; I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or gaps.

                          Okay, so we can create an incredible collection of patterns. But, that’s not of much use if you can’t play the ones you want when you want to play them.

                          Surprisingly, you could get away with playing Geist with a mouse. I certainly don’t think that’s optimum, but as I’ve been playing around with Geist for the purposes of doing this review, I found that I was able to do okay real-time “performances” by mousing around. One particularly useful feature is that it’s easy to copy or swap patterns within a single engine or even to other engines. For live use, this is pretty cool because once you get a groove going, you can copy it to another pattern and start playing that back as you mess with the notes or effects. After that evolves to a certain point, you can copy it again and now you have a collection of three related patterns you can choose from at will. Copy a pattern to a different engine, load a different sound, and you can now layer patterns.

                          But, playing from a controller is always a lot more fun, and you can fly around a lot faster, so there’s a unique MIDI note for each pad, engine, and pad. If you do the math that’s a lot of notes, so each engine is assigned to a MIDI channel from 1-8. Within that channel, notes C-1 through B0 play patterns, while notes C1 through D#2 play pads. Two additional notes handle Note Erase and Note Repeat functions, which are intended more for live use as you can erase notes and record series of successive notes (based on your choice of step periods) on the fly.

                          Other channels let you select Scenes, which we’ll get into when we cover scenes; channel 10 is dedicated to playing pads only, which spans the range from C-2 to G8—so you’ll definitely need to transpose to select different groups of kits, unless of course you have a 128-note keyboard! Geist is also controller-friendly, so if you have a keyboard with faders, rotaries, buttons, and other controls, they won’t go to waste if you’re into real-time sonic manipulation.

                          Of course, if you’re running Geist within a host, you can record the MIDI notes you play into the host, and trigger patterns in various engines with those notes. You can even (I love this) drag any pattern from Geist right to a MIDI track. This gives an alternate mode of creating complete pieces of music that’s independent from Geist; you can treat Geist as a “laboratory” for coming up with patterns, drag the patterns into your host, and from that point on, treat Geist as a tone module...or drive other virtual instruments for that matter.

                          So, suffice it to say that once you have a collection of patterns, you have multiple ways to trigger them and work with them in a DAW, without having to even touch Song mode. Also, Geist is eminently suitable for live performance once you get the hang of it.
                          _____________________________________________
                          There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Slicing audio so that it can be time-stretched, as well as edited deeply, is a very important part of Geist so that's what we'll cover next. If you know about concepts like REX files and Acidization, the slicing part of Geist will all make sense but if not, here’s a very brief refresher course before we get into Geist's specific slicing implementation.

                            Consider a audio drum loop with four beats. A kick sound is on one and three, and snare on two and four. Now, suppose you “slice” this loop into four pieces—one for each beat. You could assign the first beat to C, the next to C#, the third to D, and the fourth to D#. If you play these keys in succession, one right after another, you’ll recreate the pattern. If you play them faster, the tempo will speed up. If you play them slower, the tempo will slow down. With REX files, and with the slicing in Geist, each slice has a corresponding MIDI note.

                            When slicing, speeding up almost invariably produces better audio results than slowing down. This is because the attack of the next slice moves ahead in time, cutting off the decay of the previous slice and allowing for a relatively smooth transition. When slowing down, there’s a gap between the decay of the previous slice and the attack of the next one, which can produce clicks or glitches. If a decay has finished from one slice before the next slice occurs, this will not be a problem but this rarely happens with “real-world” loops. Bottom line: If you create your own loops, create them at the slowest tempo you expect to use. With dance music loops, I usually choose 100BPM as that can work elegantly with typical dance music ranges from 115-140BPM.

                            That’s slicing in a nutshell. Of course in the real world, loops are seldom that simple. For example, a cymbal might sustain over a 16th-note high-hat part; if you slice each high-hat note, that will also slice the cymbal, which would otherwise sustain. Also, if a slice doesn’t land right on a zero-crossing before a transient, you might hear a click. So, slice placement is crucial for good-sounding, slice-based time-stretching.

                            Geist lets you load an audio loop or sample into an engine, just like you would load a kit, and will slice it automatically. However, you’re not locked into the decisions Geist makes; you can edit the slicing, which may not be necessary for simple loops but will likely be essential with more complex loops. For example, I brought in some loops from my AdrenaLinn Guitars loop library. These are mostly percussive in nature, but much more complex than drum patterns. Geist made a valiant effort to identify the slices, but it required some “manual” labor. (Feature request: I’d love to see a “snap slice marker to zero-crossing” option...or maybe it’s in there, and I just haven’t found it yet.)

                            Anyway, if you think you know slicing, you’ll definitely find some surprises in Geist...as we’ll see in the next few posts.
                            _____________________________________________
                            There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Slicing relates to the browser in that you can browse for audio, and if the Slice button is enabled, selecting the audio causes Geist to parse the slices, import them, and if Auto Load is enabled, assign them to pads. But there are only 16 pads, right? Yes, but if you enable the Use Layers button, the notes will spill over to additional layers of pads, accommodating 128 slices maximum.

                              Here’s what an audio drum loop looks like after being imported into Geist using conventional slicing (we’ll get into the unconventional option in the next post).



                              All the slices were added automatically by Geist, and as the transients are well-defined, the slicing was quite good. Above the waveform, you can see the “notes” corresponding to each slice. But also, note that you have two choices for adding transients: One that works by sensing audio transients (with variable sensitivity) and adding slice markers at each transient, the other by arbitrarily dividing the audio into slices. For example, you could divide a quantized 16th note pattern into 16th notes, and have very accurate slicing.

                              There are three “Zones” for clicking within a slice. The top third plays the slice, the bottom third lets you drag a slice to a pad, and the middle lets you click and drag to zoom if you need to tweak transient placement further; zooming is great for placing transients right on zero-crossings to minimize clicks when transitioning from one slice to another. The following shows the waveform after zooming way in. You can also zoom via the scroll bar or +/- buttons.



                              But a key differentiating point with Geist is the ability to classify slices, which we’ll get into next.
                              _____________________________________________
                              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                              Comment



                              Working...
                              X