Drums tracks - best way to loop?

Midi/audio editing/or external sequencr?

Hi

Can anyone recomend a half decent (preferably free) midi sequencer that would be suitable for arranging midi drum tracks? Apart from n-Track’s editor that is. Or otherwise help me solve my problem of trying to do good drum tracks. I know this is a common problem in recording without real drums, but feel I’m almost there, only to be thwarted at every turn…

Firstly, I’m having poblems when I install my Roland PC300 midi keyboard driver, in that it seems to upset n-Track and cause it to freeze on occasion. For a while I thought I’d avoid midi altogether and just use audio sequencing for drum parts: i.e. recording a few bars of freehand keyboard drums into n-Track via PC line-in, then chopping up the audio into bars and rearranging the parts. This would have worked but n-Track seems to have an odd habit of slighly shifting audio either forwards or backwards on the timeline, only by a small amount, but it’s enough to throw out any synching of loops constructed by copying and pasting. (I’ve noticed this before with n-Track… when you click on a part, it can suddenly shift slightly to the left or right. And it’s happened with different n-Track builds, and with XP and 98SE…so I don’t think it’s me. Anyone else noticed this?)

So I go back to midi and scour the net for another editor to do drum tracks in (rather than n-Track, which doesn’t seem to like midi on my PC). I’ve looked everywhere and of the free ones there’s not many around. I tried an old program called ‘PUMP’ beta version…but it’s only for entering notes in manually. I downloaded Acid Express…but it won’t allow you to create new midi tracks. You need to upgrade to the Pro version. Seems like a nice app. I would be willing to pay, but I don’t know if the software will be any good for what I wan to do, and I’d like to try something before committing. Basically, I want to play some drum parts by hand, in time with a metronome, then loop them. If n-Track’s audio wasn’t playing up, then I’d stick with it. I can play freehand keyboard drums quite well - just need the facility to loop easily.

Maybe a hardware sequencer might be the answer? I’m getting fed up of the general unreliability of computers, and the idea of just using bits of hardware apeals.

Sorry…I’m just letting off steam! If anyone’s got any thoughts, I’d be interested to hear how others have solved doing drum tracks (apart from playing real drums).

My equipment other than guitars etc: Proteus 1000 synth module controlled by a Roland PC300 midi keyboard controller (which can optionally be connected to the computer / n-Track); I also have a a redundant Yamaha SU10 sampler with a primitive sequencer built in. I’m using Windows XP and n-Track v3.3.

Thanks
JW

1. Email Mr. Antonioli the details of your problem, and he will probably be able to help.
2. Are you wedded to hardware? Programs like Reason, FL Studio, Orion, and Tracktion do all that hardware does, usually with more control and often with better quality. I use Orion.
3. If by “good” you mean" real" sounding, IMHO there is no way to get “real” sounding drums from midi. Good, yes, cool certainly, but “real,” no. You can get to the point where you can fool a lot of people, and “real” sounding doesn’t matter much anymore in popular music, so perhaps that’s not a concern. Personally I like to use drum machines to do what a human being can’t. :)

None of those programs are free, by the way. :(

Leaf drums can be useful to you. It is easy to program and the trial version works well. It doesnt come with a whole lot of samples, but you can buy it for cheap.

I dont use it as I use a hardware sequencer. Hopefully others can chime in here and give you more about this software.

You can also go online, do a google search for drum samples or loops. Usually these are wav files. You could “splice” a grove loop back to back and throw in a roll or a crash now and then. This’ll cost you nothing.

Hi TomS. I’m happy enough with my sounds and drums parts, I just need the means to loop them accurately. Maybe Acid Studio might be worth a look, or perhaps one of the others mentioned by syn707.

I will email Flavio about the audio editing problems though. I do wonder if anyone else has had this problem - audio shifting slightly when editing. I have a feeling that it’s something inherent with n-Track but we’ll see. If I can accuratly loop audio sections in n-Track then I’ll be happy (and can leave midi alone!).

Can you describe the shifting problem more precisely? Is it that you are cutting and pasting notes in the piano roll and they go out of sync? I don’t see how that could happen, since they would be snapped to the grid. Or are you taking wav files made from your freehand playing and making loops out of them, importing them in the expectation that they will match line up with the grid in a piano roll even after a bunch of interations of the loop, and they are going out of sync with the grid? If the latter it is a result of not editing the loop precisely. In fact, if you need to sync the audio loop to the piano roll like that, the thing to do is to trigger it from a sampler at the beginning of every bar (or whatever) so that small inaccuracies don’t accumulate.

Again, this might be totally beside the point and I probably have misunderstood what you are saying. :)

The ‘shifting’ happens with just the audio (no midi editing at all). Basically I am lining the parts up one after the other so they play through from start to finish. Although I see what you mean by having a plug-in triggering the parts, this is not what I am doing here. (All references to the grid are in the time-line view, where all the editing is being done).

1) Firstly I set the BPM by listening to the metronome until it’s the speed I want for a tune
2) Then record freehand drums into the line-in, in time with the metronome, for say, 8 bars
3) With the Grid switched on I can see the drum track, with four beats inside each measure. (it’s handy that the metronome has a slight delay as it means a measure will neatly contain four beats without chopping any in half, i.e. the grid bars are half-way between the 4th and 5th beats, the 8th and 9th beats, and so on).
4) Using the grid bars, I can highlight a single 4-beat measure then splice the track either side of the measure, then repeat along its length until it’s all been split into 1 measure long pieces (which all show as being linked with the ‘circle’ link symbol)

At this point the ‘shifting’ will have happened. I can tell because if I rearrange the 1-bar parts into a different order, then play the track, the drum rythym will be disjointed…e.g. 4 beats ok, fifth slightly delayed by a fraction of a second, then the next 7, beats are ok, then slight delay again. On zooming in I can see that the beats in the parts aren’t always evenly spaced - that is, each measure contains a correctly spaced 4 beats, but the distance between the start of the part and the first beat isn’t the same in each part - which is what I’d expect.

The shifting is sometimes visible when it takes place: a newly recorded part, if touched by the cursor visibly shifts slightly, in that the waveform seems to shuffle along it’s length by a minute fraction. I’m sure this isn’t right, and as mentioned, I’ve noticed this phenomenom before… except when the part has been Locked. (I wonder if splicing a locked part would stop this problem…?)

I suppose I could just carefully edit a single four-beat part to correct it’s length, then loop it. But this is time consuming. I should be able to chop up a track into 4-beat measures on the fly, and be able to reassemble them into a different order and not get a disjointed rythym, since I am using the grid as a guide when splicing the track.

Thanks
JW

For that kind of editing, don’t you need to be sample-accurate? A certain number of samples will make up a bar at a given tempo. And even that could be minutely off by the end of a long chain of loops. Anyway, I’ve always made loops in Orion, not done it the way you are, and it sounds like the loop created is not accurate, as you say. Seems to me that the way around this is to cut up the pieces and use a sampler to trigger them where you want them. That way the bar is guaranteed to start at the right place for each bar (or whatever the unit is). In some ways this might be faster - since you wouldn’t have to do all the loop cutting and pasting you are doing. Two different models, I suppose - the way you are doing it is closer to the Acid model, the sampler way is closer to old style midi. That’s effectively what I do with Orion sometimes - record some drums, and if I feel like chopping them up into loops to rearrange them, I stick them in Orion in a sampler and export them as loops. Never any problems with timing that way. Anyway, it sounds like something for Mr. Antonioli.

TomS - I thought that using the grid bars as guides and chopping into parts would be accurate enough… but I see what you’re saying when you say that the samples must be sample accurate. I can see that I must be introducing errors, but didn’t think they would be that noticeable after a few bars (30s or a minute yes).

Will need to rethink then… Althouhg n-Track and my Roland keyboard driver aren’t quite seeing eye-to-eye so I’d rather avoid midi (though will probably email Flavio about this).

I’ve been tempted by some cheap hardware sequencers on ebay just now… Yamaha QY10 for example, very cheap and maybe just what I need :). Could use in conjunction with my synth module and Yamaha SU10 sampler, to come up with rhythm tracks for recording onto n-Track.

Just thoght - I could use a sequencer plugin like RMF, which could trigger the audio samples (as wave files), as you say. I’d then need to edit the triggerig track in the piano roll.

I have the RM-IV, I think linplug stuff is killer. If you went hardware you still be doing pretty much the same thing as you would with software sampler, wouldn’t you? You’d have more editing flexibility with FL or Orion or the like, however.

I’m now very curious about the timing errors you have found, for as you say using the grid ought to produce pretty much instant gratification.

Quote (syn707 @ July 24 2005,19:45)
Leaf drums can be useful to you. It is easy to program and the trial version works well. It doesnt come with a whole lot of samples, but you can buy it for cheap.

I dont use it as I use a hardware sequencer. Hopefully others can chime in here and give you more about this software.

I love this program (I don't think it's MIDI, I know nothing about MIDI...) The stock drum samples are less than desireable to my ears, so I sampled some sounds from my Boss drum machine, and use Leaf all the time now.

My $0.02 :p

Yes, software / plugins would do the same as hardware, however sometimes I just prefer pressing buttons on devices. Somehow I find it easier to hear the sounds and the music and to compose ideas without a computer and screen to distract. So I think I might try and get hold of a QY20 or similar - for doing initial drum tracks and sequencing and working on initial ideas for tunes, later transferring to n-Track to continue tracking.

As for the timing errors - I can see that if an odd-number of samples was divided, n-Track would have to round up the answer (you cant have a ‘half’ of a sample) - but each bar should have the same amount of samples in it. I can’t why the four beats in each part / bar are going our of sync. I suspect that some kind of shifting of the wave sample in each part is occuring. Maybe you might like to try as I have - recording several bars of drums, in time to the metronome, and then dividing the track into measures/bars according to the grid - highlighting a bar and then splicing. I’d be intersted in hearing other’s experience of this.

Thanks for the suggestions for using Leaf, however I do have a good set of drums sounds on my synth module.

JW

I will indeed try it this afternoon.

Any luck with the audio-looping problems, Tom? I’m not sure it’ll be an easy one to figure out.

Going back to midi… n-Track is very versatile, but as had been said before, its forte is audio recording primarily, and precise midi sequencing and like is better to suited other software / hardware.

I’ve decided to buy a second-hand sequencer box, a Yamaha QY20 for £75. It’s kind of dated and the sounds are limited (Roland GM, circa 1992)…but it’s got a reasonably good 8-track sequencer. It kind of looks a little retro in it’s own way. (Apparently Bjork and Jah Wobble among others have used the QY20 for composing ideas). I’ll be connecting it to my Roland PC300 keyboard controller, Yamaha SU10 sampler and Proteus 1000 synth module for a complete sequencing set-up. Once I’ve got parts sequenced, I can record these to individual tracks on n-Track, then add guitars and other audio from there.

Well, I’m sorry to say I got distracted. Gonna give it a go in the morning.

I Promise!

:)

If you get time, but no worries… I’ve given up with using n-Track for anything more complicated than linear audio tracking…which it is good at. Still, it would be handy if looping audio in n-track was reliable without the audio parts going out of sync with the tempo… I might then use it still.

JW.

JW, I tried it, I had the same problem, after 2 minutes there was a bit sticking out over the end. I made a 2 or so minute loop on Orion (64 bars at 120 bpm), exported it, chopped it up in n-Track into 64 bars, took the first one and pasted it end to end 64 times, and there was a bit sticking out over the original track.

I suspect it has to do with the sample math, as we discussed, that’d be my guess, but them what do I know? It would be an easy solution to trigger the loops from a sampler, however. Wasn’t this how “vicious game” was done? ???

Hi Tom. Thanks for trying it out, and good to know that you’ve also noticed this problem also, and that’s it’s not just me. How did it sound playing back though? You’ll probably find that if you picked several of the 64 bar-parts at random and lined them all up together on another track that they’d sound out of sync with the tempo.

I have just emailed n-Track support, and I mentioned that i’m using v3.3, with XP. Not sure what version / system you’re using but I suspect that it’s system/hardware independent, and probably more to do with n-Track. (I wonder if v4 has fixed this problem though? I would consider upgrading).

Anyway like you say, one could use a sampler plugin…or a hardware one, like I will be doing.

Have a good weekend!

JW