Renoise as a Drum Machine pt. 2
Renoise as a Drum Machine
This is part 2 in a series of tutorials called ‘Renoise for Hip Hop Heads’. If you did not follow the first part already, please do so first, because we’re going to start off right where we left.
Last time we’ve made a very simple, very basic, beat pattern. Let’s make it cooler by adding some distortion first, doubling some sounds up to send tracks (also known as “fx channels”, “aux buses” etc.).. And maybe add some compression.
Get to the Kick track in the mixer channel (F3, Ctrl-Shift-Home). You can see we’ve got two envelopes left still doing nothing, recognizable by their abbreviated title “LFO>None“. That’s all cool but let’s do something about it. We’ve got a LofiMat, that could make a lot of noise, laying in the chain inactively at the moment.. drag it down a few notches so it’s positioned just after the Comb Filter. Open it up by either finding a way for the mouse cursor to the tiny button with the square on it, or double clicking anywhere on the LofiMat device, in the chain (bottom of screen). What you will need to do before enabling this device (wait, you didn’t press play yet? Do it right now! How are you going to learn this when you’re not listening to what you’re doing?! Press the right Ctrl button (RCtrl from now on) or bind midi keys appropriately within the MIDI binding screen that’s on frint if your nise when you press Ctrl-M)..
Where were we. Yes take the ‘Wet Mix‘ level on the LofiMat completely down (that’s left for most people) to -INF, and the Dry Mix up, to +0dB. In this way you can enable the LofiMat and still be sure it will not change the sound of your kickdrum a tiny bit. Now what you do is look at the second envelope (you remember? lfos with the ‘one shot’ option on we call envelopes) and set its Offset 5% and Amplitude 10%. Make a small small mountain in the screen.. like this:
Make sure the first point and last point in your envelope are 0%. Now bind this apparatus to the LofiMats ‘Wet Mix‘ parameter: left of the screen you can see the Dest for destination, which by default is None/None. You’re gonna change the first one to LofiMat and then the second to Wet Mix. Leave CT.
Now drag in a Distortion device from the list on the bottom left hand side, and place it directly after our just-automated ‘LofiMat‘ device. My advice: Mode Fold, Drive 0%, Tone 52%, Wet Mix -21.94dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB. That’s that. Now we’re gonna double our kick to make a nice bass hit too. Let’s add a couple of send tracks: (easiest while still in Mixer view) go to the Master (‘Mst‘) track (Shift-Ctrl-End) and press Ctrl-T a few times (go for 6 or something). Now get back to the left to the first send track you’ve created and load a #Send device in the track, by double clicking it somewhere at the bottom of the DSP List. It will say something boring and perhaps even confusing like “Sending a send to itself is not allowed.”..
This is obviously Renoise mistaking you for someone who gives a fuck more about that than about jacking off with a condom on. Sorry bout that. So, push the “Amount” back down to -INF, and set it to “Keep Source“. This way a Send device can split the audio signal to another send track, so you can have parallel processing of the same source signal. It’s very flexible as you might very well agree at the end of this tutorial. Now make sure you can see both this send track, and the leftmost track that’s got our kickdrum on it. If you have to, scroll down a little bit until you can see the last device in its chain (called “Gainer (1)“).. Now drag the #Send device we’ve just set up to beneath this Gainer device on the kick track. Leave it on -INF dB until we’ve got something interesting in our send track to hear the difference :).
Insert a Comb Filter in the send track with settings Frequency 0.03kHz, Wet Mix -5dB, Dry Mix -INF and all the rest default. After it, put a Filter with Model ‘24dB Moog‘ and Cutoff to 0.36kHz & defaults. Now drag the Amount on the Send device on track 1, you can even see it from the Mixer view directly, up and up until you hear a big bad bass coming out of the same kickdrum. That’s raunchy. We’re going to have that automated because we don’t want that heavy bass on every kickdrum.
Go back to pattern view (F1) and see that you have the first column / track selected (Shift-Ctrl-Home). It’s a good idea to turn follow off again (Scroll Lock) before going to the first row in the pattern with Home. Make sure you have the Automation Recording functionality on (see image) and right click the Amount slider on the send device at the far right end of the tracks chain. It should get a box next to it that’s turned yellow, now click that. You are taken to a new part / tab of the Renoise interface, the Automation tab. Just like with the envelopes, we can draw some stuff in here.. make sure the type is set to ‘Curve‘ in this case, here, look this is what I did: To make the bass go easy on the rest of the beat I took the send track’s post volume down to -2dB in the mixer.
Get back to the mixer for more kickdrum fun(k). That’s right, we’re going to put that wacky named toolchain called ‘kickfunk.xrnt‘ to good use. Go to the second send track you’ve made (try Shift-Ctrl-End, Right, Right) and load the chain from the disk browser. Now in the same way create a #Send device with Keep Source (important!), low Amount, and this time pick ‘S02‘ as the Receiver. Drag it to the kick track, and if you like, try soloing that track for a second to see what sound this makes. You can quickly solo and unsolo different tracks by right clicking their ‘scope’ in the Track Scopes view in the upper frame: Just one more thing to do. Check back to your latest and greatest send track still called S02. There’s 3 LFOs in there right? If you select one, in the mixer view you can easily see which device it is ‘controlling’. So get to the second LFO in the track, the one that says “*LFO>T1 Flt Drive” (Tap 1 Filter Drive for those that speak human english too). Please open it with double click and go back to pattern view.. Now while still in the send track, on the first row, right click the “LFO (1)” device’s “Reset” button. This will insert a code ‘5800‘ in that position in the pattern. That’s all nice but we want a different starting position, so move to the first zero (Right Right) and with recording turned on (Esc) press a C one time. Now switch recording back off. On the right of the LFO Device you can see that it now nicely starts every pattern loop on the ‘bottom’ position.
This chain, kickfunk, is a good one to study a bit yourself.. see if you can find out how it does what it does. When you use Renoise for some time this is the stuff you come up with on the fly in a few seconds.
Let’s have some effects on everything in the drum section. Crazy Distortion effects. But nothing too wet, you don’t wanna mess up those beautiful drumsounds we made. Go to the ‘Drums‘ Group Track (track #5) in the Mixer, then go to the Disk Browser above, and load up drumfxtotal.xrnt. Tune to taste. Later on, when perfecting some drum sounds, we might have to move these effects over to a Send track though..
In mixer view still, go to our second snare (track #03), that one that was made from noise, and solo it. Double click on #Send in the DSP choose list. You will now hear nothing at all, because Renoise needs you to unsolo and resolo the snare track to understand that you want to hear the send device’s effect. You’ll now hear it back over the bass-maker-send that we built for the kickdrum.. won’t sound too nice probably, well if you’ve followed my example exactly up until now it will sound something like grabbing an upgrade in Quake 3 Arena, which is fun too, but not for this snare. So in the Send device, turn amount down a little, and set the ‘receiver‘ to S03. There’s our noise snare part again (although probably louder now). Run back to Send track #03 to see what we can do here.. add a Reverb first (that’s Reverb, not mpReverb which is a ‘more possibilities’ Reverb I believe but anyway we’re keeping this simple for now) and set these: Wet Mix Full, Room Size 5%, Width 33%, Damp 0%, Dry Mix None (-INF). Now add the reso.xrnt from the downloads, btw I called this reso ’cause although it’s just a fancy controlled phaser, it sounds a bit like the Resonator option on several devices in Reason (Scream, Kong). Turn the ‘Input‘ on the Hydra device to 5%. Matter of fact, let’s have every snare hit make this input jump from 6% to 5%! Go back into the snare track to see there’s two or three envelopes still left doing nothing. Grab the 3rd of 4, the one before “LFO>Gain“, and set it something like this image . Take very good care that what you see is exactly like that image, from the little envelope screen to all the settings on the left hand side of the envelope. What you hear might sound like crap now but it’ll be a crucial part of our kickass rhythm.
Go back to that send track 03. Add a Distortion device: Mode Fold, Drive 61%, Tone 72%, Wet Mix -20.00dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB. Now a Filter: Model Butterworth 4n, Type BP, Freq. 0.39kHz, Q 0.445. Now, a Gainer; leave it there at default values. Go back to the instrument track where this weird sound is coming from.. and again find an as of yet unused envelope and make it look like . Now we’ve routed the snare to a send track where it gets to sound weirder, with a long reverb trail, and then we’ve accomplished somehow to cut it off again after a dotted 16th note (if I’m not mistaken!). Cool stuff. Let’s hook up a Delay device at the end of the send track for good measure. Advice: Line Sync ON, Lines L 2, Lines R 6, L Offset 14%, R Offset 4%, L Feedb. 18%, R Feedb. 30%, L/R Output Pan Inversed (drag the left to the right and the second, right to left), Send -27.96dB. Now turn the Postfx volume on this track down to around -24dB so that it’s just hearable.. Go back to the snare track and switch the Send device to ‘Keep Source‘ and unsolo.
Now let’s take care of the other snare.. Let’s be honest, this one just came last because it needs less care. Figure something out though, you’re gonna add a nice Reverb to it with Wet Mix set to -14.42dB, Room Size 12%, rest on defaults. Now a Distortion device on Razor, Drive 20%, Tone -64%, Wet Mix -11.37dB and Dry Mix Full. Now you want to EQ it a little bit, and when you began reading this you’ve downloaded just the thing. Add an EQ 10 device and check it out. It’s got a presets system where you can pick ‘Import preset‘.
Go and browse again to your download directory and pick snare.xrdp. Because this preset has a lot of ups and downs you might need to adjust the post vol. Now I like the effect of this EQin, but I like the old sound too. Too bad the EQ device does not have a Dry/Wet control. Well we’re going to do something else to go around that.
Remember how I said we might need to shift the effects chain on the Drum Group to somewhere else later on? Well now is the time. Go to that track in the mixer, and press Shift-Alt-X. Do not cry. You’ll get it back. Paste the chain back on Send track 05 with a Shift-Alt-V. Now in the Drums Group track insert a Send device with Amount 0.000dB (full) and Receiver: S05. Nice. We have just built a way to escape a little sound before the EQ on track 02. Insert a Send device, again to S05, on the leftmost snare track just before the EQ. Turn Amount down a few notches and push the ‘Keep Source‘ button. Now the balance is your choice really (solo and unsolo some to hear the sound on its own), I rested with -11.33dB on the send and then -20.59dB on the post-volume, right of the EQ. Man this is cool stuff.
How you want to vary the drum patterns is ultimately up to you, but let me write down what I did here for a second so you can at least get some inspiration from that. First you want to duplicate your pattern to a new one, using the (duplicate) button in the far left of the Renoise window. Go to the first of the two identical patterns by pressing Ctrl-Up in the Pattern Editor. Now select the last two notes in the kick track with the mouse, along with the pattern codes beside them. Press Ctrl-X to remove the roll. Duplicate this pattern again, and drag it down so it becomes the last of the 3 you have now. For the fourth, go back to the second (you can also scroll in the left part of Renoise, the “Sequencer”, where that dupe button resides along with a lot of numbers in boxes. Dupe again and drag it down to make it have the last position (will be called ‘3’ after dragging since these patterns are also counted starting with 0). Select the roll part again, but this time move it up 4 lines (that’s an 8th note, or half a beat). Add a kick drum on the second-to-last line so that your program looks like:
The snares you can leave for now. The hihats only change in the last pattern:
Speaking of these Hi-Hats, we haven’t done anything with them yet. And yet it’s one of those things I promised in the last tutorial. If you’re looking at the effects chain in the bottom of the screen, scroll over to the Filter. Insert a Velocity Tracker (one of those weird meta devices) and a Hydra (another one) just before the Filter. Bind the Velocity Tracker to the Hydra (set Dest. to CT/Hydra (1)/Input and tune the Scaling back to linear:
You can now see how the Hydra‘s ‘Input‘ Gauge reflects what velocity values you’ve typed in in the track earlier on. Now add a Reverb just after the filter device and then make the Hydra look like:
Alright, the hats already sound more lifelike. One more thing that the Hydra will output to is the last envelope in this chain, the one controlling the decay. At the bottom right corner of the Hydra device you can see small buttons containing a left and right arrow. Click the one with the arrow pointing right to uncover 5 more out ‘ports’ for CV data. Let’s use the top one, but let’s for a change fill in the exact values in percentages before we choose a target! Next to the label ‘Out 5‘ there’s “CT“, then “None“, then “None” and then the values for min and max, at this moment they’re set at 0% and 100%. We want to invert those a little bit, set them to 50% and 25% respectively (read carefully.. make sure the left of the two boxes says 50.000% and the right one says 25.000%!) – and then finally bind it so the whole line reads CT/*LFO (4)/Frequency/2.000 LPC/4.000 LPC. This sounds a lot nicer doesn’t it? Now I’ve also created this hatfunk toolchain that only a punk would use, but you can try it out anyway and load it up in send track 04 and create a send on keep source, yeah, you know how it goes by now. I kept it but left the send’s out volume to -21dB. You can minimize the VeloTracker and the Hydra on the source track, it’s easier on the eyes.
So, I think that’s it for part 2, oh wait.. one more thing.. stop the playback and turn the tempo down to your liking.
I always like 85 because I think it was a great year, even though I haven’t seen a full month of it. Notice that when composing beats in this way, Renoise makes sure that everything sounds almost exactly the same.. no annoying pitch effects, nothing. Only things like delays with ms values instead of synced values, stuff like that might sound slightly different when changing the song tempo. You might want to up the Feedback param on the Comb Filter in send track 01 by half a percent.
Oh shit and you’ve downloaded one file for nothing as of now.. pitches.. what the fuck does that even mean? You’ll see in next part. Creating beeps, wahs, and even string-like sounding tuned instruments out of thin air is within your reach if you read on in part 3. Check back on this link or just below to hear where you’re heading. There will also be a lot of envelopes doing nothing and a bass hit made out of square sounds but it’s like really there now. Yes, I should’ve kept it a secret that I can rhyme.