Monday, January 12, 2015

Jamstix Software - Part 3 of 4 - Intermediate & Advanced Editing

In the last video, number two in the series, I covered two tabs from the Main Menu: the Kit and Mix sections.  In this video and blog post, we'll take a closer look at the Transport, the Song Sheet and the Song tab, and the way the Brain works.

If you're looking for other blog posts in this series, here are the links.  Each one has it's own tutorial video:

And here's the video for this section of the tutorial:

Before we go any further, I should point out that after I have all four parts of this tutorial series online, I'm actually going to add two extra songs, not just one, as I had originally considered in part one of this series.  I think it would be instructive for me to build a complete song (using Jamstix and other instruments) that has a sort of indie folk/rock flavor, and a separate track that is dance/electronic music based, since there's quite a bit of diversity behind the approaches to those two styles.

I'll warn you right now that this video will make a bit more sense if you understand MIDI.  There's just no avoiding it for certain parts of Jamstix, especially if you're getting into intermediate or advanced music production, rather than producing basic tracks or just jamming.  However, even if you don't understand MIDI yet, you should continue with this tutorial anyway, because I still think you'll learn a lot.  And I have a video tutorial about Basic MIDI Recording online already, so I'll post a link to it at the bottom of this post.  But in the meantime, let's get started …

The Transport and Drum Module Mode

In the Transport section, the large button on the left controls the Drum Kit, and the one on the right controls Jamcussion, if you have it installed.  Both can play simultaneously.  However, the one that is selected (lit up in blue) is the one that is active for all of the editing stuff on the right side of the screen.  You have to flip back and forth between the drum kit and Jamcussion if you're editing both simultaneously.  If you hold shift while pressing either of these buttons, it will be muted.

I already covered the three Jam buttons, and the fact that if you don't have any selected, you go into Drum Module mode.  Let's explore that now:

- Most of this section is for advanced users and will only make sense if you have some understanding of MIDI.

- Click the "Map GM" option if you have a kit loaded that does not use the GM key layout and you need to send MIDI data in GM format to it.  Jamstix will automatically translate the input to match the kit layout. 

- If the Automatic Ride Bell is checked, any ride notes with a velocity of 127 (full) are translated to ride bell events.  This is useful when using an eDrum kit with a single zone ride pad that can only send ride notes.

- The "Use TD-20 Extensions" option is useful if you want to play live into Jamstix with a Roland TD-20 eDrum kit.  I presume it also works for the TD-30 and possibly also the TD-15 kits.  According to the manual, this option modifies hi hat logic to produce realistic responses when the kit sends a CC4 change AFTER a note is hit.  It routes hi hat rim notes automatically to the corresponding bow notes.  It allows hi hat splashing.  And finally, it allows cymbal choking via after-touch.

- Cymbal variations is a useful option because some basic eDrum kits only have one or two cymbal pads.  This option builds in some variety.

Let's take a look at a couple of the jam options in more detail.  When you start using Jamstix, you'll probably start with the normal jam mode.  Eventually though, you might want to play with MIDI Jam or Audio Jam.

When you start using MIDI Jam, you should use the input trim on the jamming section of the options page.  We'll cover this section in more depth in a few minutes.  Same concept with audio jam.  There's a plug-in called AudioM8 that comes with Jamstix that you use as an insert effect on audio tracks.  Jamstix analyzes audio data from AudioM8 and then adjusts the power level, which affects a lot of performance decisions of the Brain.  So this way you can use a guitar or bass to jam with Jamstix and you'll feel the software responding to the intensity of your performance.

The Power Knob controls the overall power level.  Again, this controls performance decisions for the Brain.  You can set this, or control it from a controller in the host, or from a hardware controller.  And as I mentioned, if you're doing MIDI or Audio jamming, AudioM8 helps control the power level.

The DYN knob sets the minimum power level allowed, which is important!  The kit will not play any more softly than this value.  This keeps the kit from being too quiet in sections where the Brain's performance or MIDI data has lower intensity.  By using a higher level on this slider, you can keep the volume up, but the Brain will still perform in a style that matches the power level.  So think of this as a "minimum volume" knob.  This can be set independently for the drum kit and for Jamcussion, if you have Jamcussion.

The Lock button locks Jamstix to the host song position.  This is on by default.  For some hosts, if the host is not playing and you want to preview something, you need to turn this off, but it depends on the host.

The next buttons are pretty straightforward.  From left to right, they are "go to beginning of song," "go back one bar," and "go forward one bar."

I've mentioned the Snowflake already, which freezes the whole performance.  This is useful if you're doing an audio or MIDI jam, and after a good run-through, you want to permanently save it.  If you've clicked freeze after a performance, and play again, Jamstix will play an exact repetition of the frozen performance, even if you keep playing with real-time controllers.

Song Sheet

Let's cover a few things with the song sheet that I didn't cover before.  First, if you hold down the control key (Windows), you can drag and drop a few important things from Jamstix right into a MIDI track in your DAW.  You don't have to have the track set up to record.  Drag the song name to create the MIDI for the song.  You can also drag a specific part or a specific bar.  Try it!

This is also the first close-up look that we've had at that MIDI note data.  Zoom in for confirmation that the notes are not all rigidly attached to the grid.  Lots of "human" variation there.  You won't want to quantize this.  It sounds really realistic.

As for the Live Loops button, well, I'm still not going to go into detail, but the concept is this.  Let's say you're doing a live performance and you don't know how long your solo sections will be, or if you'll add extra choruses, or drop a verse.   With Live Loops, you can use a controller to pick which part gets triggered next (again, if you don't understand what a controller is, I have a video about generic MIDI controllers which I'll post at the bottom of this blog post).  Jamstix will normally go through the song in linear order, but if you want you can use the controller to jump around as much as you want.  Of course, Jamstix only jumps to the next Part once the current part finishes playing.

Let's go into the drop-down menu at the top left again, and I'll point out a few items that I glossed over last time:

- Mute has a submenu that allows you to mute fills and accents, which can be really useful if you're composing a groove.

- Groove weights exist on every individual beat of each bar at 16th note resolution.  Possible options are Heavy, Neutral, and Syncopated.  These weights affect the composition process of the Brain, and can be be especially useful sometimes with less common time signatures.

- One of the features of the Bar Editor is to allow you to mark beats as hits or force silence on them.  This choice will clear all of those markers on all bars.

- If for some reason, your host won't allow you to drag and drop your MIDI, this option exports for you.

- Host synchronization.  This is a feature you'll hopefully never have to use.  Sometimes, you'll be working with a song that was recorded at the wrong BPM, ie. 64 at 128, or vice versa.  You can use this option to double or halve the tempo for Jamstix.  Be aware that this is confusing because it will leave the Jamstix bar/beat counter out of sync with the one in your DAW.

If you right-click on any Part in the part list, a Part Menu will show up.  Most of the choices in this menu are pretty self-explanatory if you want to adjust anything relating to Parts, so I won't go into detail.  Roughly speaking, here are some choices:

- Create, remove, or change the type of a Part.

- Copy, paste, load, or save a Part.

- Copy or paste the style or drummer of a Part if the whole song isn't homogenous.

- Recompose the current Part.

- Lock a Part so the Brain can't recompose over top of it.

- Import grooves or MIDI patterns.  If you have Jamstix 1 installed you can apparently import Jamstix 1 rhythms, although I haven't played with this yet so I don't know how it works.  I know I have a lot of Jamstix 1 styles, but I didn't originally have Jamstix 1 installed.

- Play with groove weights, clear all forced hits and silence, or reset all timing and velocity offsets.

Moving down to the Timeline in the lower left, there's a bit more to it than I showed before:

- The currently selected bar is white, and the last bar of a Part may be brown/orange, but only if it contains a fill.

- The first bar of a part has a red line up the left side, although it's hard to see.

- If you right-click on a bar, you open the bar menu.

- You'll see some tiny dots in the bar.  These are a mini version of the note data that you'll see in the bar editor display.  These will change if you switch from groove to accent to fill on the buttons up in the Brain.

- A locked bar is semi-transparent.

- If you mouse over a bar, a lot of useful info shows up in the status line underneath.

The Brain

Before I get too deep into the Brain, let me define a few terms:

- You'll see "Power" a lot, and it refers to the energy level of a piece of the kit.

- The Bias basically filters out the start or end of a bar, keeping it from having any hits.

- Playing "In The Pocket" generally means playing with good timing, ie. not just consistently, but also in alignment with the beats of the music.  A drummer can play slightly ahead of the beat or behind the beat if you need.  Ahead of the beat means that the drummer hits a drum slightly before you'd expect from the groove of the song.  Behind means slightly after.  "In the Pocket" generally means that they're playing in alignment with the exact groove.

- Redirection happens when you set things up so that if one piece of the kit is hit, the sound for a different piece plays.

If you go into the Brain's menu, you have several choices:

- You can load/save/extract styles or drummers.

- Add things like snare ghosts, shaker, tambourine, tom grooves, classic controls.

- Show or map MIDI controllers.

- Play with Fill Default options, such as starting or ending fills with a crash, suppressing groove (default), or avoiding 16th shuffling.

If you right-click any of the labels within the Brain controls, you'll see a small sub-menu.  You can disable an element so it doesn't play.  And of course, there are half a dozen other choices.  If you right-click on the control body itself, you'll open a MIDI controller mapping section.

The Groove Importer is what you use to bring in an existing MIDI clip, which will be fed into and which will affect the composition process.  You should refer to the manual to learn more about this, as I haven't played with it.

The Fill Generator is pretty complex.  Needless to say, the results will be far more impressive than if you were using other software that relied on static MIDI patterns.

The Accents page of the Brain is very similar to the Groove page.  Accents make a groove more interesting and lively.  Higher accent levels make a groove busier and therefore more energetic.  Sliders can be controlled individually, or the "Overall" slider at the top can group them all.

The last part of the Main Menu section is the Bar Editor.  I'm going to leave that for part four of my tutorial series.


Ok, that's it for part three.  As always, if you found this blog post (or video) to be useful, please share them, especially on any music-related message boards or forums where people who don't know about Jamstix might be introduced to it!  I don't like self-promoting my own tutorials on message boards where I'm not a regular contributing member, but if a member of that community posts it, that's awesome.

Thanks for reading.  I have a few other related links below, and I'll see you in the next and final tutorial in this series.

 Here's a separate video that I put together to explain the basics of MIDI editing for music production:

By the way, I've created a clickable index for the whole series, so if you've watched everything but you want to review a certain section, this might come in useful. CLICK HERE to go to that index.

 My YouTube channel has quite a few tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, music production, and studio equipment. I have an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

Thanks for your interest in my blog and videos, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.

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