Volume evolutions for Synth channels?Howe

Can they be automated?

OK I admit it. My preoccupation with getting N-Track Drums to work is bordering on the obsessive…

Nevertheless, I have a question that may be relevant to others using VST instrument plugins.

When I add the N-Drums VSTi channel, it adds four “Synth” channels to the mixer. In N-Drums you can direct different drums to the different channels and apply different effects to them. Very useful, so far.

However, I want to be able to automate the volume faders for those channels just as I would for a normal WAV track. (In the song in question, I just want to be able to fade-in the drums at the start of the song, then pretty much leave them alone for the rest of the tune).

Is what I’ve described even possible?

Since I can’t find a way to make those channels show up in the TimeLine, I can’t draw the volume changes the way I would with a normal track. Changing the level of the MIDI channel that controls the drum changes doesn’t affect the volume of the drums (since that’s just a trigger track for the various patterns in the VST).

When I try to use the “Record Fader Movements” function, N-Track locks up as soon as I try to move the Synth faders. The CPU gauge goes red and reads “160%,” the playback VU maxes out, and I have to re-start Ntrack.

I’m running the latest build (v. 2099) and N-Track has been very stable on my system. My hardware specs are listed below. Normally, I can run many tracks, plus effects, AUX channels etc. without much trouble, so this is a little unexpected.

Anyone have any advice?

Thanks in advance,

PapaRomeo’s DAW:

  • Intel Pentium IV 2.4gHz
  • Retail Heatsink
  • Abit IS-7 Motherboard
  • 1GB PC3200 DDR 400 RAM CAS 2.5 (Corsair)
  • 80gb Seagate Barracuda HD @ 7200rpm
  • ATI Radeon 9500 Pro 128mb
  • Soundblaster Live! 5.1, Live!DriveII, Logitech Z-640 5.1 Speakers
  • LinkSys Wireless Ethernet PCI Card
  • LiteOn CD-RW
  • LiteOn DVD-ROM 16x
  • Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard USB
  • Logitech Optical Mouse
  • Samsung SyncMaster 930b LCD (19")
  • Windows XP Home SP2
  • DirectX 9.0c

[EDIT: I don’t know how the “Howe” got tacked onto the end of the subject line…]

What I usually do with virtual instruments is get everything like I want it performance-wise, then I render it to an audio track or tracks. Then I can draw automation curves til the cows come home. I can get the volume, pan etc nailed down pretty easy that way. I have NOT tried this with n drums though… it should work.


Ditto to what Diogenes said.
BTW, when I render n-drums to wav. files, I bypass the subgrouping. After I have tweaked the n-drums as best I can, I solo one of the drums render the file and then do it again with a different drum solo’d until I have five or six tracks with perfectly isolated drums … all in perfect time. Then I play with them as Diogenes said to further tweak each drum sound.
I really like this because of the isolation and flexibilty of dum tweaking, before and after rendering. If I go too far editing, or change the song in a way that requires a different snare rhythm, I just re-render that one drum!

Thanks for the ideas, folks. I figured that was always a way out, but I was hoping to avoid the extra steps. The way you describe it makes a lot of sense, PETROS, especially since you can isolate each drum that way – and avoid using up the limited number of synth channels available through N-Drums. Do you have any finished songs you’ve done this way? I’d love to hear them.

Still it leaves open the question: Is there really no way to do what I described? I was hoping to be able to work in MIDI/N-Drums all the way to the end of the project so I wouldn’t have to re-render to wavs for every tweak of the drums. Also, what’s the point of having all those Synth channels cluttering up the mixer if you can’t automate them? ???

Thanks again!

Papa, being able to tweak the drums all the way through the progress of the song as it takes shape IS good; it’s like having a real drummer add to the creation/shaping process (but it’s better … n-drums has never emptied my fridge!). I tend, however, to limit my work load by putting down the basic idea and use it as a click track (i render all the drums together into a single .wav) Then when the song is “done,” I go back and rework the drums and bass guitar to fit the final product. The separation of drums I mentioned before happens at this point, right at the end. Like I said, I am just trying to limit my workload. For example, on the bass, I just make sure its tuned and I have the level close to what I want, I don’t really care about sonic quality at the start, I work on that at the end. :D That way, I always have a clearer idea of what I have to work with (or work around) while I am doing all of the tweaking to those “frame” pieces. The picture pieces, though, (vocals, lead riffs, etc) I tweak as I go … their feel, character, etc. often DO lead the song in a certain direction!

Sorry, none of my new songs using n-drums are finished yet.
I am hoping to post something later this month if I can figure out how to do that :;):

Yes, it’s easy. Click the little triangle on the “Draw Envelopes” toolbar button, and pick “Groups/Instr. volume”. Note that the (blue) automation lines sit over arbitrary tracks.

I prefer rendering to wave first, because then I can see the waveform I’m modifying the volume on. But that’s less useful for drum tracks.

Thanks, Learjeff – I knew there had to be a way. I’ll see if that works for me tonight. The “arbitrary tracks” issue sounds a little odd.

And thanks to everyone else! Great thoughts on workflow and process, Petros. Lots to think about and try.

Rock on,

Of course they’re over arbitrary tracks, because plugins and groups don’t appear on the timeline. (Or did that change in V4? I’m still running V3 simply because it works for me.)

Thanks, Learjeff.

Messed with this last night, and it worked exactly as you described. Thanks for helping me find what should have been obvious. My only (very minor) complaint is that the labels on each envelope line (eg “Instrument channel 1-1”) are awfully hard to read over the underlying track. Otherwise, this is just what I was looking for. Thanks again.

In the long run, I’ll likely adopt the rendering strategy you and Petros have outlined, but this project actually involved retrofitting an existing tune by replacing the original drum loop with a new (almost identical) drum track generated by N-Track Drums. The original mix features the drumtrack fading up from nothing at the opening (a la “Skateaway” by Dire Straits) so I wanted to be able to duplicate that effect while I was still tweaking the patterns in N-Drums. When I’m starting from scratch it will make far more sense to rough the drums out in N-Drums, then render the tracks to WAVs for the real EQ and mixing phases.

Thanks again for being so generous with your time and insights.

PR :)

Good point about the label – If I get a “round tuit”, I’ll post that as a feature request. The same applies to the “Output To” fields for assigning tracks to grids (it should display the group name, not number). Maybe Flavio did that already; I guess I should upgrade to V4 one of these days since I did pay for it.