Renoise as a Mono Synth
This is part 4 in a series of tutorials called ‘Renoise for Hip Hop Heads’. There’s important info and jargon introduction going on in part 1 and 2, not to mention we’ve created a sick ass drumloop already that we extended with synths in part 3. So if you did not follow the first two parts already, please do so, because we’re going to start off right where we left, again.
Nice, if you’ve done the whole tutorial thing with parts 1 to 3, you’ve got all the files you need already!
More Bassic Pitches Patches
For this part here.. go to one of the bass tracks, load pitches, envelopes, oscbased, and velvol. From pitches you can remove in this track everything but the first two devices and the one labeled “*RingMod“. From the envelopes, well, we’re just going to use the last one so if you like you can delete LFO (2) through LFO (4). On the envelope that’s left, make Dest. point to CT/Gainer/Gain, set Frequency to 4 LPC and draw an envelope like this one
Set the RingMods Oscillator to Square, now go left and look for the LFO device called *RingMod. Give it Destination CT/RingMod/Frequency and minimize it again. Now scroll all the way to the right and insert a Filter right before the *Velocity Tracker of the velvol.xrnt chain. Configure it as follows Model Moog Type LP Cutoff 0.25kHz and then duplicate it by holding Ctrl while dragging the device. If all goes well you’ve now got double filtering, two of the same filters chained together in serial. Go for a Distortion device in the middle of them with Mode Razor, Drive 24%, Tone 56%, Wet Mix low like -34.98dB and Dry Mix full 0.000dB. Hit a G on octave 1 and see how that sounds.
I’ve recorded just a few bass hits here and there and turned the volume down about -3.5 dB
Let’s get one more synth that’s a kind of hypnotic ‘line’ through the song. With these kinds of synths you can rap about anything on a track and people will believe what you say as long as you turn the volume up to 11. It’s stupid but it’s true so let’s fuckin put it to use yeah? Since we’ve already used 3 ‘synth’ tracks we’re gonna make a new one, so navigate over to track 8 and press Ctrl-T. Double click on the tracks name on top and type ‘synth‘. You also might like to give it the same color as the other synth tracks, or, you might want to turn off all track color display in the pattern editor (it’s there somewhere in the right click menu) and/or mixer (ditto). Fire up a pitches.xrnt, then, a new one, called inertia.xrnt. We are going to use the *Inertia device to apply our desired amount of portamento on the track synth. Portamento on a monophonic synth is how long it takes for the sound, from the time you press a new key/note, to reach the frequency that belongs to that notes pitch. In other words instead of for instance a piano, where a change of key makes a change of pitch (frequency) immediately, a synth with higher value of portamento will ‘glide’ to the new pitch. Enough theory, you’ve dragged in this *Inertia device somewhere, rename it *Portamento right now so you won’t have any trouble finding this control back in the immense chain you’re gonna make.
Add an envelopes chain and drag the *Portamento to just before the first envelope (probably called ‘LFO (8)‘). Bind them:
and also please draw something wacky like I did there.. and configure the Amplitude and Frequency of the envelope likewise. Now slide to the left in the device chain and check out that good old *RingMod device that will tune for our keys.. Enable it, and bind it to CT/*Portamento/Input. Now what I did next was play some keys that go well with the string-like stuff in synth track 3 (track #7), one octave above so that’s in oct 4. Having the volume low, like down a LOT maybe even -40dB or so is advised, before adding the Scream Filter: Type HighPass Distortion 25% Cutoff 0.31kHz.. Then move the Scream Filter over to a new send track so the people can have a little of the dry sinewave too :). Keep in mind that when you do things like that, the new send track will have a post-volume of 0dB (i.e. way too much) and the sends Amount will by default be really high too. So if you’re smart, you add a Gainer device just before the send, then copy/paste the gain that’s at the post fx mixer device in the chain over to the gainers gain, and then decide how much you want to send and how much you want of the dry signal.
Scratching The Surface
Time for some random shit.. and with random shit I mean random LFOs. The ones we have used so far are the custom one and the ‘default’ sinewave LFO. There are three more modes (or ‘types‘) on the Renoise LFO device, of which the one called random is without a doubt the coolest. It can take loops to a timeless level; you can make loops that never sound the same. Of course that has downsides, but you’re gonna see one example of how to use it for good. Not evil.
Although we’re still synthesising this is going to sound more like a sample so you’ll allow yourself to use one of the tracks called ‘sample’. Go there and load up an envelopes.xrnt. On the first envelope, slide Amplitude back to 50% and Frequency to the left, til it says 16.67 LPC. Now bind its Dest to CT/LFO (3)/Frequency, and select random for mode (it’s the button on the right hand side of the LFO with the ‘starry night’ pixeled image – couldn’t find a better description)
Now add a oscbased. On LFO (2) select the sinewave for mode, Amplitude 19%, and CT/RingMod/Frequency as destination. Now in LFO (3) you can already see the Frequency moving like crazy, which also makes the LFO itself move faster & slower over time. Add a Filter to the end and just adjust the Resonance to 4.360. Now have the 3rd envelope that we just talked about modulate its Cutoff (Offset 29% Amplitude 37%). Next, add our favorite noise maker LofiMat and make it look like
Now it’s time for a Scream Filter that’s on HighPass dope.. and 8% Reso and what’s important leave the Distortion at 0, that is zero, percent. Now make the 4th envelope look like this: (…scratch.png)
and test your sound. A few more steps to perfection, Distortion @ Fold, Drive 32%, Tone -60%, Wet Mix -4.883dB, Dry Mix -10.22dB; Filter with Model Moog, Type HS, Cutoff 1.90kHz, Reso 64%, Gain -13.20dB; and a Filter Model Butterworth 4n, Type BP, Freq. 1.58kHz, Q 0.252.
Test your sound again and put it here and there in the loop. Remember, the ‘scratchy’ sound will sound a bit different every time.
So what about the simplegate? Alright. Dump it at the end of the Send track you’ve made for that ‘hypnotic’ synth line, the track with the Scream Filter and have a little fun with the *Gate D/W slider and the LFOs Frequency and Reset button.
So you have now seen a lot already of what’s possible in Renoise in short time. Of course, if you have any specific questions don’t hesitate to reach me by blog comment, or message me on the Renoise Forums (Cas).
For now, go and experiment for yourself! Next up there will probably be a “Renoise as a Sampler” exercises too, but for now, you might’ve gained some experience if you’re a famous DJ, but more especially when you’re a hungry kid with a computer and no gear at all.
Renoise as a Mono Synth
This is part 3 in a series of tutorials called ‘Renoise for Hip Hop Heads’. If you did not follow the first two parts already, please do so, because we’re going to start off right where we left, again. There’s important info and jargon introduction going on in part 1 and 2. For the ‘Renoise as a Mono Synth’ tutorial this is the first half of 2.
So you’ve got some files.. let’s get extras
– pitches.xrnt (you might already have this one)
Last time we’ve updated our beat with some effects on different send tracks, laid out a solid basis for a song. Let’s get some synthesizer things going.
So this pitches.xrnt thing will allow us further in this tutorial, to have the oscillators that we’ve created for kicks just now, actually tuned to different notes and octaves and scales! That’s gonna be friggin awesome. But it’s tough stuff to, it’s hard to work with. So let’s make people say Wah man first without tuning stuff. Load your working song from part 2 up in Renoise and go to the first track labeled ‘synth‘ (you will need to open up the ‘Synth‘ group track first with a small arrow-pointing-down button). Check in a envelopes.xrnt and a oscbased.xrnt. Add a Filter device and set its Resonance to 3.520, a Distortion device with Mode Shape, Drive 5%, Tone -44%, Wet Mix -12dB, Dry Mix -9dB, and then add a velvol.xrnt chain. Append a Gainer device and set it to around -30dB and test your sound. Ahh no this is not really it.. We haven’t automated the filter yet. Go to envelope #3 (it’s the only one we’re using in this track, so if you want you can deactivate and minimize the other 3), and draw in something like:
Now scroll to the right a bit, until you can see the oscillator (RingMod device). In its top line you can select different waveforms (‘shapes’):
These are Sine, Triangle, Exponential, Sawtooth, and Square. Select the saw wave like in the picture and set the Frequency to 219.43 Hz. Test your sound again. Nice, goes with the beat, but let’s have it echo around a bit too shall we? If you did indeed make 6 send tracks, there are a few left unused still. Go to the last one, #6, and add a Delay like this: Line Sync on, Lines L 4, Lines R 4, L Offset 4%, R Offset 8%, L Feedb. 60%, R Feedb. 51%, L/R Output Pan inversed, Send -4.013dB and Mute Src. on. The mute source option is nice because when we insert a send to this track, in the ‘synth‘ track (do it now, just after the last Gainer device would be nice), with ‘Keep Source‘ on, we have a way of making its first echoes a little louder than the first ‘dry’ hit.
After the Delay, add a Filter on HP of Type Moog and with 2.17kHz on the Cutoff. In the source track (track #06) I’ve turned the end volume down to -6.912dB and kept the Sends Amount to 0dB. You can have a C-4 note (or any other, they’ll sound the same) on line 04 in the first pattern for instance.
Pitches Be Crazy
So the die has to be cast, load up pitches.xrnt in an empty track, preferably the second track labeled ‘synth‘. This is an extremely loaded and bloated tool chain to have e.g. RingMods tune exactly to the key you press on the (MIDI or PC) keyboard. Massive thanks go to dblue on the Renoise forums for most of the work in the programming of these devices. In this chain you can delete a lot of the devices already that we won’t use in this track: the *Pitch- which is a Formula device, the *Pitch -1 Oct, the two Pitch + devices, and then every (LFO) device after *Filter (that’s 5 less devices). When removing devices like this, it’s really handy to do it in the Mixer view where you can click the first from a series you want to get rid of, and hit Delete key a few times. Now enable the two devices that’s still there, *RingMod that will tune the oscillator for us, and *Filter that will make a filter device have its cutoff at the same frequency. Beautiful.
Like you might expect already, now that you’ve chiseled off some of the weight on the pitches.xrnt, load an envelopes.xrnt right behind it and an oscbased.xrnt too. Set the RingMod (without asterisk) further in the chain to Oscillator Triangle. We’ll now bind the pitches correctly so that we can play a (monophonic, no chords) melody. Scroll back left in the chain to the LFO device renamed to “*RingMod“. Double click it to open up. Set it’s Destination to CT/LFO (3)/Offset. Make it small again if you like. Scroll to the device we’ve just bound, the first envelope now named “LFO (3)” (if you like to rename devices, it’s really easy and neat if you can’t remember later on what is pitch bend and what is decay.. just double click on the title of a device). Set the Amplitude quite low, I’ve got 1%. You might want to let the one-shot end at value 50% instead of at 0% if you want to have this tuned ‘for real’.. I’ve drawn this simple thing
Make sure you bind this envelope to the RM, set its Dest. to CT/RingMod/Frequency, and set the envelopes duration quicker, 1.000 LPC. You’re adviced to turn the track volume down quite a lot and test some beeps now. Bind the 4th envelope (“LFO (6)“) to CT/Gainer/Gain to have it limit the volume to a max decay of 1/16th note. I’ve thrown a simple pattern of D, D, D, F of the 7th octave on the off-beat. Try it: go to line 04, set edit step to 8 with Ctrl-8, now press asterisk (*) on the NumPad until the ‘Keyb. Octave‘ setting in the top left of Renoises window is set to 6. Turn the keyboard velocity button on and set the value to 20 or so, arm recording with Esc and press W, W, W, R. Repeat this for the second and third pattern, then use W, W, W, T for the last one. Let the player loop this for a while to see if you like it. And better yet, see if your ladyfriend thinks she can give you head to that beat. Maybe it’s not polished enough for that yet but you’ll think up something.
If you haven’t already added velvol.xrnt, do it now. Always comes in handy. Now just before it, you can add a Distortion first (Mode Fold, Drive 12%, Tone 64%, Wet Mix -10.17dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB) and a Filter directly after it (before the velocity tracker) with Model Moog, Type BP, Resonance 31.967%.
Now for the filter to be tuned too.. get to the 2nd envelope in the queue and draw a mountain like:
Have the envelopes Amplitude at a 12%, and copy over the same weird Frequency value (duration). Bind it to CT/Filter/Freq. so that you can already hear it working. Scroll back to the left to find our LFO called “*Filter” and open it up. Set that ones Dest. to CT/LFO (4)/Offset and we have some wicked ‘hypnotic’ type bleeps. I’ve turned the end volume for this track real low so that it’s almost subliminal, and as an extra added a Delay device with Line Sync, Offsets -6% and 10%, Feedbacks both 75%, and automated the Send parameter to get echoes on the first 3 beeps of every pattern (-20.00dB) but nothing on the last.
Pitches Be Crazy, part 2
Now, although you might have just created wicked bleeps throughout last chapter, you’re not gonna wanna get hypnotized by your own creation just yet, so to be able to keep focus, stop the beat for a second, and turn off that one track that you just filled (remember, you can tag it ‘off’ by clicking its scope in Track Scopes). Because we’re going to do more cool stuff with them pitches.
But this time we won’t be loading that fat bitch called pitches.xrnt, hell nah, we’re gonna configure a Key Tracker device to work with a RingMod ourselves. Let’s see.. start up with the usual envelopes.xrnt and oscbased. Bind the LFO (4) to the Gain. Add a Filter device just after the gain and set its Reso to 1.840. Go to the LFO (2) device and bind it to the Filters Cutoff, but set it to Offset 45% and Amplitude 10%. Scroll back right, to the RingMod, and set its Osc to Sawtooth. Now insert a *Key Tracker device before it, and set it like this:
Be sure you don’t forget setting the low and high notes correctly (dragging with the mouse works best for me). Now add a velvol.xrnt to the end of the chain, followed by a reso.xrnt where you will set the new Hydras Input to 3%. Add a Reverb with Wet Mix 0.000dB, Room Size 67%, Width 70%, Damp 0%, Dry Mix -INF dB. Test some notes on the 3rd octave, it might just sound quite sick already.. but it’s not done yet.
Add a Scream Filter on HighPass, Distortion 51%, Cutoff 0.41kHz, everything else defaulted. Now another Filter, Model Moog, Type LP, Cutoff 1.90kHz, Reso 55%. Then a Comb Filter on Frequency 0.04kHz, Wet Mix -16.48dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB.
Play in a cool sequence! Turn ‘Follow’ back on with Scroll Lock, remember that this synth is monophonic (that means more than one note at a time will not do anything), and try some stuff out. You already know from the setting of the Key Tracker that in this simpler way you can not really go out of the range of A-2 through A-5, or at least it won’t make any sense tuning-wise. Now if you’re cool with a sequence you’ve played, turn record on with Esc and lay it to the track for all eternity. That is, of course you can clean up after yourself by removing Note-offs (they are actually signals in Renoise), Quantizing, Humanizing, etc. We might discuss all those options later on.
One more thing is still bothering me and it might bother you just the same.. If so you want to turn the treble down some. You can do it with a EQ 5, EQ 10, a Mixer EQ, but I’ll advice you to go with another Filter! (Model 24dB Moog, Type HS, Cutoff 1.09kHz, Gain -7.80dB)
Now put a Repeater device at the end of the chain and have some fun with your mouse.
Although you probably can not for the life of ya get enough of this synth stuff we’re calling it a day again, so you know, I have to sleep in between writing sessions of this stuff too man. Later.
On to part 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.
Besides the files you’ve downloaded last time, in this course you will also need:
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.
On to the next: Renoise as a Mono Synth part 1
Renoise as a Drum Machine
This piece here will teach you everything you need to know to start making your own beats from scratch. Yes that’s right, after reading these pages (and some practicing) you will be able to synthesize your own kick, snare, hihat samples and put them in place in Renoise.
Getting started out here is quite simple. If you don’t have Renoise yet, go and get the demo at their website. Here are a few simple extra files we’re going to need (right click->save as):
I’ve got more handy ‘toolchains’ like this, some even more complicated, but for the purpose of this tutorial it will suffice if you download these to a certain directory, and know how to find them in Renoise’s Disk Browser.
First, if you’ve just downloaded and installed the Renoise demo, go to Edit->Preferences… and in the Files section, make sure that the checkbox labeled ‘Replace existing chain‘, somewhere in the middle of the window, is unchecked. This will make sure that when you double-click a DSP Chain from the browser, it won’t replace the existing FX in the track but instead be ‘concatenated’ (i.e. added at the end).
Renoise for the hip hop head is like a very extended sampler & sequencer with a lot of extra functions. It also gives control over samples using a few different codes called “Pattern Effects Commands”, but for now we will not be paying attention to these. In fact I have provided you with a start-file where these are hidden so you won’t have to learn about all of that just now. All we want is to see if we can make our own bangin kickdrums, snaredrums n hihats samples.
Basic Building Blocks
To start, open Renoise with the drumstart.xrns “Song” file. You can save this file under another name right away, let’s say drumloop1.xrns. Go and do that either with the standard File->Save As… option or via the built-in Disk Browser at the top of the screen (Select ‘Song’ on the leftmost panel, select the folder you save your music stuff in in the second panel, then type ‘drumloop1’ in the textbox in the third, rightmost panel).
Let’s take a little time to explain what these different .xrnt files that you’ve downloaded, are for. Renoise has 26 built-in audio effects, like a delay, reverb, ring modulator and so on. Some are very basic, others can achieve a wide variety of different sounds. All of these modify the incoming sound and have some degree of control of how much the sound is being changed, repeated, distorted, et cetera. As you might have guessed, most awesome sounding drumbeat elements are formed with a combination of many of these basic building blocks.
If you take a look in the Mixer view (hit the F3 key to be real quick), you can see that almost all tracks are empty, that is, they have no sound effects in them yet. Change this by double clicking the djbpf.xrnt file in the disk browser and notice how 5 new devices and all their settings are imported into the track’s effect chain in the bottom part of the screen. One XY Pad, then two Hydras, a Highpass Filter and a Lowpass Filter. They’re always added at the end of the chain, just before the immobile ‘Post FX Mixer’ panel on the far right. At this moment, if you can not see the ‘screens’ for the 2 filters and the XY Pad on the left, try and scroll or even slide the divider between the device chain and the device list all the way to the left. Now go drag the dot on the XY Pad around and see what the other things do. You’ll soon see the correlations: moving the control point from left to right changes the ‘center frequency’ the filters move around, and moving up or down will alter how much filtering is taking place, with the top meaning tightest bandwidth and having the dot down below will result in no hearable filtering at all. Together these 5 devices form a rudimentary bandpass filter that is gonna come in handy with the drum sound design that we’re gonna do in minutes.
A short note about the first 3 devices: these come from Renoise’s stack of 9 so-called “Meta Devices”, that are particular in that they do not alter the sound in any way, but are more a type of programming devices, made to modulate the other sound effects. I won’t go into detail here but if you happen to have used Propellerhead Reason you might compare them to the CV cables, CV jacks, and the options on the Combinator’s programmer screen, but with more options than inversion and addition via a Spider device.
Now that you’ve seen how some of these devices work together, let’s build ourselves a cool kickdrum sound. First, make sure you get rid of the current Chain of FX by pressing F3 to go into the Mixer window (you can see a ‘stack’ of abbreviated representations of the devices you see in the bottom of the screen, in the current track’s mixer ‘lane’, though in here they’re stacked from top, to bottom) and consecutively pressing Alt+X to clear out the current chain.
Now go to the sample editor by pressing F5. Renoise has a kickass sample editor with quite a few cool utilities, but for now we’re just going to use it to create a so-called “Null” sample. It’s gonna be real simple. Press F11 to create a new sample. Then, double click on the field below ‘Number of Samples’ where it says 168. Type in a 1, and then press Enter twice. There you go. Go back to the Main screen (F1).
If you press a key now, whether on your MIDI Keyboard or on the PC Keyboard (‘Q’ and ‘Z’ are C keys), you won’t hear any sound. We’re gonna change that too. First, make sure you set the Post FX Volume to around -9dB or lower, so you’re not gonna break your ears or make your neighbours damn angry. Select ‘DSP Chain‘ in the leftmost panel of the Disk Browser and load in two device chains: first ‘envelopes’ and then ‘oscbased’. Note that oscbased.xrnt and noibased.xrnt are meant to generate sound within Renoise from scratch, so it’s really not advised to use them on samples you’ve already got. This does not hold for envelopes.xrnt, this is just a very handy shortcut to be able to modify our drums’ Decay, filter envelope and just modify any parameter in the duration of, in this case, a killa kick drum.
At this point, if you press any key, you’ll just hear a very annoying 440Hz tone. It’s handy to switch the top part of the screen to Master Scopes so you can also ‘see what you hear’. Later on you will see when we render a kickdrum, Renoise with its sample editor window is very much about seeing what you hear.
So let’s first change the Frequency path that our kickdrum will traverse. Scroll to the left so that the device called “LFO” (the first non-minimized device in the chain) is in your sight. It’s got a very basic path from top to bottom, making for a first version of the Pitch Bend in our kickdrum. Let’s map it to the Ring Modulator‘s Frequency parameter (the RingMod device, together with the DC Offset device, is what makes the sound out of thin air in this chain). In the 3 boxes following the label ‘Dest.‘, leave the first one on CT (that’s short for ‘current track’), make sure the second dropdown is set to ‘RingMod‘, and the third can be ‘Frequency‘. Press a key now (shortly) to hear that you have a very simple kick. Turn the ‘Offset‘ on this LFO Device (I’ll call the LFOs that have the ‘One Shot‘ parameter on “Envelopes” from now on) down to about 42%, maybe even 32% if you fancy a subwoofer breaker type kick sound. Turn the ‘Amplitude‘ setting to around 18%, or if you said hell yeah reading the last sentence, you might be better off turning amplitude further down to let’s say about 6%.
Test your sound again.
We’re now going to make the duration automatic as well, so that you won’t hear as much of that annoying click at the end when letting go of a key (it’s caused by the DC Offset). Check out the 4th envelope in the chain. It’s got some weird Offset and Amplitude values already set up. This is because the fader device in Renoise (you’ll see later that in some cases it’s awesomely handy to have a separate fader device), called Gainer, has 0dB at the 25% marker of it’s possible values, where 0% will kill any sound and 100% will amplify sound with about +12dB. On the 4th envelope, (it’s called “LFO (4)“) set the Destination to CT/Gainer/Gain.
Test your sound again. It’s not really bending nice if you ask me. That’s probably because, we’ve used a straight line for the RingMod‘s Frequency traverse which sounds a bit boring. Go back to the first envelope, and click on ‘Ext. Editor‘. You can now see the path in a bigger window, and also, you can use keyboard shortcuts! Right click in the field where you see the graphic, and choose Process->Create Exponential Curve. Now press Ctrl-F. Close the window.
Test your sound again. You might want to adjust the Offset and Amplitude parameters. In this case, the ‘Frequency‘ parameter in this first envelope device actually corresponds to some drum machines ‘Bend Time‘ parameter on the kick drum. You can probably see why. Only difference here is, you take the slider to the left to have a longer bend time. Same goes with modifying the ‘Decay‘ by adjusting the last-in-line envelope controlling the volume.
Now, if at this point the kick is not really reaching your ear like it should, readjust the post-fx volume, either on the far right of the chain, or on the track display in the mixer view. Around -2dB might have a good feel to it. I leave this slider to your judgment now. Let’s add some higher frequency grunge to this by abusing tools of mass distortion. Start with adding a Comb Filter (double click it in the list on the bottom left of your screen). Do not: test your sound with the comb filter left in default state. Instead, try these settings: Frequency 2.97kHz; Feedback 81%; Inertia Instant; Wet Mix -7.5dB; Dry Mix -3.5dB and turn the end-volume back down to about -7dB.
Test your sound again. Press the Zee or the Zed key (or almost any of the letters really, just A, F, and K won’t work), then disable the Comb Filter, press it again, to hear what difference the device makes. Turn it back on. This is not the end of our kickdrum, although we can probably agree it’s beginning to sound like something. We’ll make it fatter later on; let’s first make basic hihat and snare sounds to hear it blend, hear this sound in a beat.
Snare drum pt. 1
The first part of the snare will consist much of the same things as our kickdrum. A Ring Modulator device that will play it’s part as the oscillator, with an exponential curve to make for the pitch bend. The difference is that we’ll add a lot of ‘noisy’ sound to it with the LofiMat. So go on and start out with the same xrnt bases: envelopes and oscbased. Load them into the “Snare 1” track in that order. Open up the first envelopes’ external editor and Right click->Process->Create Exponential Curve, then flip with Ctrl+F (or Right click->Process->Flip).. One thing that is a personal preference that should be mentioned here, is Renoises option for ‘single click draw’ in the lfos, envelopes, automation, etc. In the Preferences window, under GUI, you can find the option “Single click to create new points“. I have tried it for a while and turned it off again, but like I said, this is 100% personal preference.
When you’ve ‘programmed in’ the right curve, set the envelopes Offset to 41% and the Amplitude to 28%. Tune the Destination parameter in again, like expected, to CT/RingMod/Frequency. Now go to the 4th envelope and bind it to CT/Gainer/Gain. Move the end point, the lowest point, a little to the left. Let’s say to about 1/4th of the envelopes duration (‘line’ numbers are visible just above the grid here, choose endpoint just before line #16)
Now just before you can test your sound, turn on the LofiMat device that is minimized (you can look at the settings if you want by clicking the button with the square in it), and dial the end volume down to around -10dB.
Test your sound.
It’s gonna be even cooler if you add a small Reverb to it (small meaning, low ‘Wet Mix‘ and ‘Room Size‘ amounts) and a new Gainer after that, then automate that with another envelope device like this:
Snare drum pt. 2
This otherside of the snare will fill up the metallic-mechanic-electronic sound of the first half. With filtered white noise (‘white noise’ is a term in sound design/music for random signals, containing every frequency evenly). Test some white noise by double clicking envelopes again, but this time follow it up by noibased.xrnt. Be sure to turn down the post-fx volume a whole lot before testing this sound out. The only routing/modulation we’re going to have for now is the Decay. It’s a little bit shorter, but stronger while it’s on
The end volume in my case of the noise part is lower, around -12.5dB, so go with this and you can of course mix to taste later on.
Test your sound. We’re not going to do a whole lot of sound testing this round, since the snare consists of two parts, and we can’t trigger them both at the same time unless we sequence it. So, let’s sequence the snares. As you can see the pattern consists of 32 lines, numbered 00 through 31. This pattern setting is accessible in the upper left corner of the pattern editor (but let it stay on 32 for now). 32 is a good length to just try the loop out for a few rounds. In the upper left corner of Renoise is an important start setting too called “Lines / Beat“. Since this will be at 8, the pattern will have exactly 32 / 8 = 4 beats, which happens to be one bar in most music. It certainly will in our little startup example. So let’s put snares on “the 2 & 4”: with the arrow keys and/or Tab key, move to the track “Snare 1” and to line number 08. Press Ctrl-0 (zero) for now, to make sure the cursor is not going to move immediately after you record a note. Press Esc to enable recording and press the Q key. If everything went well you just heard the snare part 1, and, more importantly you saw how a C-4 note, of instrument #00, got recorded into that slot. Now move down 16 lines by pressing PageDown on your keyboard, and record another C-4 note. Press tab to go to the next track, “Snare 2“, and record a C-4 note there again.. now for the last one press PageUp and make the fourth hit so we’ve got both parts of the snare sound going off on line 08 and on line 24. Before hitting play, be sure to disarm recording by pressing the Escape key again top left on your keyboard. Press the right Control key. We’ve got a nice, although still bit mechanical, snare hit ticking off our groove to be. Let’s modify the Snare pt. 2 section a little bit: let’s make use of the coloring toolchain ‘djbpf‘ that I’ve made available. I’ve set it around 35% horizontally, and almost at the top, let’s say 92%.
Making a first drum-machine-sounding hihat sample is very easy, all we need is a highpass Filter on some white noise. To start off, load envelopes.xrnt and noibased.xrnt again in the hihat track. Make the Decay, the Gain envelope almost as short as possible and don’t forget to route it to CT/Gainer/Gain. Now add a Filter device, set its Type to HP, and the Cutoff to around 12.5kHz and test your sound. Good. Let’s make it count.. in this sequencing it’s really handy to understand about the “Edit Step” we’ve changed earlier by pressing Ctrl-0:
We are now going to use Ctrl-2 to set the edit step to 2 lines (you can see it changing in the bottom of the Pattern Editor). Navigate to the top row/line by pressing the Home key. Press Esc to arm recording and hold your Q key until you’re round the clock once. Turn the Post Volume down about -9dB.
Disarm recording and play the sequence. This sounds quite dull still, don’t you think? Let’s make some hits louder and some softer. From the Disk Browser, load up ‘velvol.xrnt‘ just after all the other FX. This Chain of two will make sure the sound gets amplified according to each notes ‘velocity’, which is the general name of how hard you hit a key on your midi keyboard or pads. Since the PC keyboard does not measure this, we’ll have to program in our volume values. We’re first going to turn ‘Follow‘ off so that we can make changes comfortably while the track plays. Hit the Scroll Lock key on your keyboard, most of the time right above the Home key. Now navigate to line 02 and take three steps right with the arrow key so that you’re in the “velocity” field (it’s got all green dots, 2 each line). Set Edit step to 4 with Ctrl-4 and now press ‘3‘ until you are round the clock again. Sounds cooler already. Just for variation, we’re going to have more of this. Know for now that this volume value goes from 00 to 80 in hexadecimal, where 80 is printed in the player as two dots (full volume, or keep volume from last note). We’re not going to fool around now with what the fuck hexadecimal means, and why you can input values with letters A-F there and even values higher than 80. Just know that 40 is half volume and two zeroes will give you silence. Get to line 04, again on the velocity tip, set edit step to eight this time and press: 6, 7, 6, 7. Better. Since you’re back on line 04 you only have two lines to go to move the cursor back on line 02. Now adjust values on the delay column (blue dashes). Press ‘2‘ until you’re around the pattern. Let’s get our kicks in before some more cool edits to our hihat sound.
Finalizing the sequence
One of the most used patterns is one that one of the Beastie Boys rapped about in their track “Triple Trouble“. Kicks on the one, seven and eleven (snares on the 5 n thirteen). In renoise this translates to different line numbers, because we have a Lines / Beat value of 8 instead of the default 4 and it counts pattern lines like a computer, starting at 00 instead of 1. So just go to the first track and the first line (Shift-Ctrl-Home, Home) and record a C-4. It’s advised to have the edit step back at zero for this (Ctrl-0). The other kicks go at line 12 and 20. Now to make this thing a little but funkier, you’re going to add the ‘velvol.xrnt‘ to the tracks device chain just like with the hihats. Go back up to line 06. Don’t record just yet, first, find the ‘Keyboard Velocity‘ button just right of the edit step box. Enable it, and type ‘40‘ (half volume) in the box. Now record a C-4 Kickdrum trigger in the slot on line 06. Do the same for a kick with velocity 20 on line 26.
For good measure we will place a little emphasis on the first beat, the one, in this drum loop. Let’s have it lead in with a drumroll. Go to line #30 and record another kick with velocity 20. To have it not cause annoyance, turn the ‘keyboard velocity‘ button off for now. We’re going to start a trick with one of the pattern commands. Let’s make room by clicking the small plus sign to the right of the top of the track, where just under the track name (‘Kick‘) you can see ‘PLAY’ written in yellow. This play word also doubles as a ‘mode selector’ for the track, i.e. by clicking this you can mute the kick track. So press the plus on the right of ‘play’, and you see a whole new (type of) column appear containing 4 grey dashes on every line. Move to the right until you are on the second dash. Now hold Shift and type: R, 0, 6. Release shift. The R stands for Roll, or Retrigger. The numbers that follow the R are too difficult to explain for now. Go to the last line, #31. Put a 10 in the velocity field with the same holding-shift method that you used for the roll command. Go to the right to enter a new pattern command. This time use R, 4, 4.
So you have a little rhythmic first piece of a beat now. Next round you’ll make the Kicks, Snares and Hihats more interesting, double them with send tracks, and see how you can emulate open and closed hihats by adjusting the decay and adding a small reverb with the help of the Velocity Tracker. After that we’ll have some Renoise built-in Tube distortion, Compression, and tuning up with the new Exciter device. Check this link to hear what you will be able to make, from scratch, when you’re done with this and the following two tutorials.
On to part 2