Tips In General For
VST plugins And Audio Units
Here's a page with tips and tricks in general, for example an introduction to MIDI and how MIDI works. There's also a short introduction to Audio Units and how they are used. VST plugins are described and how they are used.
There's also a short tutorial on VST adapters and how you can use a VST adapter with a non-VST compatible host.
How MIDI works
Audio Units and how they are used
VST plugins and how they are used
Using a VST adapter with non-VST compatible hosts
Processing a drum loop using the Space Effect
Programming patches for the Space Synth
How MIDI works
MIDI was developed over 20 years ago and can be used to connect 16 music-machines (synths, samplers, mixrs, effects, computers etc) on a bus. The MIDI specification was based on earlier work done by for example Sequential Circuits and Roland, such as the DCB technology. Later on, the standard MIDI sample dump was added to the specification and then General MIDI came in, which specified more or less a basic set of patches that a synth could, but didn't have to support.
When MIDI was developed, 16 synths seemed more than enough for most purposes. Today, 16 machines are in some cases a limit, not the least if VST plugins or Audio Units are used. In that case 16 MIDI channels are very limiting, because users often have several instances of the same VST or AU plugins running. But the limitation can easily be overcome. External hardware synths may use several MIDI networks, and for example a computer with more than one MIDI in/out. And VST plugins can easily use several logical MIDI networks in the host applications, because the software synths are not limited by a physical MIDI network and its limitations.
MIDI transfers control signalsIt's a common misunderstanding that MIDI transfers the actual audio. MIDI doesn't. Instead it transfers information about the audio that you hear and not really the audio itself. MIDI is an interface for sending control signals to synths, effects, VST plugins or whatever is used. The signals contain messages, such as play note 64 on channel 7 with velocity 100 or change patch on channel 5 to patch number 1 etc.
As you hit a key on a synth, the MIDI protocol informs other machines that are connected to the MIDI network that you hit a key, which key you hit, how hard etc.
So if you move the pitch bend wheel on a synth, the synth sends MIDI messages through its MIDI out, to indicate that you moved the bend wheel. The messages contain information about the wheel's position. The same applies to the modulation wheel and knobs in general. The position of the knobs can be transferred over MIDI. The sounds that they produce are never transferred over the MIDI bus.
It's the same with Audio Units and VST plugins in a computer. They use the MIDI protocol, but instead of a network the computer sends messages internally to the VST or AU plugins. The advantages are many. You're not limited to a physical network hooked up using cables. Instead, the computer communicates with the synth in the software, but the principles are still the same. MIDI has moved into the computers and now all the disadvantages of MIDI are gone.
LagA physical MIDI network network of hardware synths used to have a lag. The MIDI protocol communicates using a relatively low speed and it's serial. Serial means that only information can only be sent to one synth or effect at the time. So if several synths are supposed to play a note at exactly the same time, not uncommon at all, then the computer will first send a message to one of them and then to the next etc, so there will be a slight delay between each of them and they won't play at exactly the same time.
But if you use VST plugins, then the computer doesn't have to use the bus speed as specified in the MIDI specification, because everything is done in software. That haves a very nice consequence; it's possible to get zero latency. The VST and AU plugins play at exactly the same time, because the plugins render a small buffer of audio and these buffers are mixed, so the output of each synth of effect sounds at exactly the same time, as opposed to a single hardware MIDI network, where the hardware synths cannot play at exactly the same.
MIDI channelsEach MIDI network has 16 channels. Each channel plays a sound. It can be a drum kit, a piano, bass sound or whatever you prefer. MIDI channels work more or less the same as channels on a mixer. Each channel plays a particular sound. You set the synth to respond to one or several MIDI channels and for each MIDI channel you choose a sound. In software, the host often uses several logical MIDI networks to overcome the 16 channels limitation. VST and AU plugins may then play at the same channel but on different logical MIDI networks.
Connecting your equipmentIf you're use hardware synths, then a common problem is how you should hook up your equipment to a MIDI network. Which machines should be connected and how?
It really depends on what you're trying to achieve, but in general most people want to connect a number of synths to a computer. A synth may have a keyboard and there may be synths, which don't have a keyboard, e.g 19 inch rack mounted modules. The following picture illustrates a common configuration; one computer, one keyboard and two modules.
MIDI out on the keyboard should be connected to MIDI in on the computer. Then the computer will be able to record your fantastic performances on the keyboard. But if the keyboard also has onboard sounds, which you want the computer to play, then you should also connect MIDI out from the computer to MIDI in on the keyboard.
But wait a minute... you have all these modules as well. How should they be connected when you have used MIDI in and MIDI out on the computer and as well as the keyboard? That's when the MIDI through connections should be used.
MIDI throughIf you check your keyboard, then it should have a MIDI through connection. This connection echoes the MIDI messages that are received on the MIDI in. And since MIDI in on the keyboard is connected to MIDI out on the computer, then MIDI through on the keyboard will echo the MIDI out messages from the computer. That's perfect because the computer sequencer should play the modules, so let's connect MIDI through on the keyboard to MIDI in on your first module. And connect MIDI through on that module to MIDI in on your next module etc.
Now you should have a basic MIDI network, which allows you to play the keyboard and record your performances and play your modules using your keyboard and sequencer software. The sequencer software receives your MIDI signals from the keyboard and then echoes them on the computer's MIDI out, so they will go back to the keyboard via its MIDI in and then further on to the modules via the MIDI throughs.
A problem that arises using this configuration is that when you play the keyboard to control one of the modules, then the MIDI signals will go from the keyboard's MIDI out, into the computer's MIDI in and the sequencer will echo them to the computer's MIDI out and consequently they will go back again into the keyboard. In this case you might get double notes and then you need to switch of local mode.
Local on/offIf you are using a computer setup as the one described here, then you should switch off the keyboard's local functions. Most keyboards have this function and it allows it to be used as a controller at the same time as its internal sounds can be replayed by a computer via MIDI signals coming in via the keyboard's MIDI in.
Thus with local set to off, the keyboard's onboard sounds won't be heard when you hit the keys. Instead the keyboard will send MIDI signals via its MIDI out (to the computer). The computer might echo them back to the keyboard though, if you have set the keyboard to respond to the same MIDI channel as the sequencer software sends on.
That gives you the flexibility to set the MIDI channel in the sequencer software, to play either your keyboard or the modules as you hit the keys on the keyboard.
Hardware synths and VST pluginsYou may use a combination of hardware synths and VST/AU plugins. In fact, most professionals work like this. They often have a favourite set of VST/AU plugins and hardware synths. It's not uncommon to have a set of analog synths, such as a MiniMoog or Prophet 5, and use a sound card with multiple inputs, which allows you to mix them with your VST or AU plugins. Creamware have developed a set of high quality sound cards, which have multiple inputs. Mark of the Unicorn have some high end cards as well. There's a wide range of sound cards available depending on how many inputs and outputs you need. If you just want to mix a couple of external synths with your plugins, then you don't need more than 2 outputs (stereo) on your sound card. However, you'll need at least 2 inputs for each hardware synth.
Audio Units and how they are used
Audio Units were introduced by Apple when they released Mac OS X. Thus Audio Units are available only on Mac OS X, and not on OS 9 nor earlier versions of the OS. Audio Units can be used in hosts, such as Emagic Logic Platinum, Spark XL, Rax, SynthTest etc.
EffectsAudio Units can be effects that process any number of channels, for example mono sources, stereo sources or even multiple channel sources.
All Audio Units on Mac OS X are implemented as so-called components. Audio Unit components can either reside in the /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/ directory or they can be accesible by a single user who has logged on. Then they reside in the /Library directory for that particular user, e.g. .../Carl/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components/.
Music DevicesA music device is an Audio Unit components, which can receive note on, note off and MIDI data in general. Thus it's basically the same type of plugins as an Audio Unit effect, but with these additional features.
PresetsAudio Units on Mac OS X can include any number of presets and you can edit these presets and save them to disk.
Using AUsEach host handles Audio Units a bit differently and it depends on whether it's an effect or a music device. But in general, AUs are not handled more different than other plugins. Music devices end up in your host's menu for instruments while effects can be accesssed in your insert slots or send effects panel.
VST plugins and how they are used
VST plug ins are applications which run in your ordinary MIDI sequencer or in your audio editor. They can be instruments or effects.
SynthsA synth is called a VSTi (i = Instrument), but often people just refer to them as VST plugins and omit the i, no matter if they are instruments or effects.
The VST TechnologyThe VST technology was developed by Steinberg Soft- und Hardware GmbH. You might have used some of their software, such as Cubase, Cubasis, Cubase SX or Cubase SL. Nowadays almost all audio and MIDI sequencer software can handle plugins of any type.
SupportAnd if the software you use doesn't support plugins in the VST format? Software packages which do not support them usually support the DXi standard for plugins and in those cases you may insert an adapter. The adapter "wraps around" plugins and makes the sequencer think they're DXi plugins (that's why this kind of adapter is sometimes called a wrapper).
A couple of good and affordable adapters on the market are Cakewalk's adapter, Tonewise's DirectiXer and VST-DX from FXpansion. FXpansion's adapter was called Amulet in earlier releases.
Mixing with PluginsVST plugins can be used as insert effects, when you're mixing, or as send effects. The beauty of plugins is that you may allocate any number of instances of the plugins, as long as your computer's power can cope with it. The same applies to instruments, allocate as many instances as you need and as your computer can deal with.
LatencyYou will notice a slight latency on all systems, when you work with plugins. All sound cards have a certain latency, on some it's low, very low, but it's there. It's dependant on how fast the sound card (and computer) is. The host sends small buffers of audio to the sound card and the card plays the audio buffer. The smaller this buffer is, the shorter latency you will get. But if the buffer is small, then the card has to work harder, because it will receive more buffers per second. That's why low latency requires a fast sound card.
HostsSo ... which hosts can be used with MHC's plugins ? They have been tested on a number of different MIDI sequencers and audio editors. They have also been tested with software that doesn't support VST plugins, but DXi plugins, for example SONAR 2.0. In that case the above adapters were used.
The following MIDI sequencers and audio editors were used to test the MHC plugins on Windows:
Using a VST adapter
There's hope for all of you out there, who use a host which is DirectX and DXi but not VST compatible. Cakewalk have their VST adapter and FXPansion have an adapter called VST-DX (was previously named Amulet). ToneWise have created a VST to DirectX adapter, which transforms VST plugins to the DX and DXi format.
With a VST to DirectX adapter, it's possible to use say the Space Synth with a DXi host, such as Cakewalk SONAR 2.0. Here's a short description about getting the Space Synth up and running in Cakewalk SONAR 2.0 using Directixer from ToneWise.
Tonewise's DirectiXerFirst you need to configure the VST plugins, in this case let's pick one, the Space Synth. Start ToneWise's Directixer. You will see the DirectiXer Management Console.
Now click on File and choose "Create Plugin...". Browse to the folder where you installed the Space Synth. That's your VST plugins folder. Select the Space Synth DLL and click on OK. A menu pops up where you can do some fine adjustments. In most cases you can click OK here, without doing any changes. The management console should now look like this.
As you can see, DirectiXer recognizes synthesizer plugins as VSTi plugins, here showing a keyboard to the left. In addition, you can see that the Syn (Synth) column is marked as Yes. This type of plugins has zero inputs (it's a synth) and two outputs (stereo). To the right you can see the path to the plugins.
When you start SONAR 2.0, you will find the Space Synth in the menus as it was a DXi rather than a VSTi.
Choose insert, DXi Synth and "MHC Space Synth 1.2". A dialog will popup. It looks like this.
You can just click on OK here. The synth will then by put in the synth rack.
The editor will also pop up in another window at the same time. Now you can play the Space Synth in SONAR 2.0 and edit its sounds.
Processing a drum loop using the Space Effect
The Space Effect can be used on wide range of audio tracks, such as vocals, analog synths and guitars. This short tutorial will show you how it can be used to process a drum loop.
Find a use for that old drum loop!Do you have an old sampling CD, full of loops you have heard just too many times? In that case, the Space Effect can enhance them, in many cases dramatically. It can easily be used to transform drum loops into unrecognizable percussion tracks with a new and fresh sound.
So find a drum loop, which sounds dull and could be improved, and follow this tutorial to try it. We used this loop. At the end of this page, you can listen to how it sounds when it's been processed by the Space Effect. You can also download the patch (right-click save as).
Thickness, Stereo Effects and ModulationA trick to make the drums sound thicker is to increase the amount of ensemble, so let's do that.
The amount is set to appriximately 40%. Drums usually don't need more than that.
Remember that this effect should be subtle. In general, vibrato doesn't work too good on drums, because vibrato changes the pitch and drums are usually pitchless. So those sliders are pulled to the far left. In this example, we don't use the sequencer, so the "Seq Mod" knobs all point at the neutral 12 o clock.
However, the drums still sound a bit static and not wild enough (!) so let's add some additional beats. The delay comes handy then.
The following settings were used for the stereo delay.
First we make sure that the drum loop match the sequencer's tempo, that's 120 BPM. The basic idea is to sync the left delay to this tempo and to let the right delay run free. The right channel is used to introduce a couple of extra drum hits and to make that effect noticeable, we need to use the highest feedback setting, 100%. The left channel has 80% feedback.
Now the loop is processed by the ensemble and the stereo delay. Let's add some filtering. The following filter settings were used.
The cutoff should be quite low, but the modulation should be deep so the LFO will vary between low values (the cutoff) and high values (cutoff + depth).
To make the filtering effect more interesting, a reasonable amount of resonance is applied. The filter's LFO has to be synchronized with the sequencer, so the sync button is selected. Shape is set to S as in Sine, so the LFO will have a sine shape. The sequencer is not used, so all of the "Seq Mod" knobs point at 12 o clock.
Note that because the sync button is selected, the rate slider will work as a tempo divider.
Finally, the resonator will modulate the sound using a pulse wave.
To achieve that, the shape is set to the Pulse waveform. The resonator's LFO is also synchronized with the sequencer's tempo. Freq is set to its lowest value, which means that the sweep will vary between the lowest frequency to a slightly higher frequency, determined by the Depth slider. Feedback is quite high, which means that the resonator will have more than a subtle sound.
That's it!Now click here to hear the result. Compare with the original loop... quite different and far more interesting. And we didn't even touch the analog style sequencer.
The Space Effect can boost your creativity by transforming dull audio tracks into completely new sounds. Why don't you check out the 64 "factory" patches to get new ideas.
Programming patches for the Space Synth
At a first glance, programming the Space Synth might seem to be a difficult task. After all, it's quite different compared to many other VST plugins. However, there are a few things you should know to get jump started with this beast.
As you probably already know, the synth is divided into a number of sections. From the top left to the bottom right are the left delay, evolving waveform, right delay, filter, patch controls, resonator, sequencer and finally the ensemble.
Reset EverythingStart with clean settings by resetting all controls. The left and right delay controls should all be pulled to the left. Set the evolving waveform's "seq mod" knob to zero (pointing at 12 o clock). Pull the cutoff slider to the top, the reso slider to the bottom and the filter depth slider to the bottom. Click on the resonator's mute button and pull the ensemble's amount slider to the far left.
Continue with the OscillatorConsider which type of sound you want. Do you want a sound, which slowly changes into something completely different or do you want a sound, which is almost the same all the time, but has a slight amount of change?
Fixed oscillator waveformIf you need a "stable" sound, which does change, but not too much, then don't use the sequencer to modulate (change) the evolving waveform. Then you should make sure that the evolving waveform's "seq mod" knob points at 12 o clock. Otherwise, you'll get either negative (pointing to the left) or positive (pointing to the right) modulation. Now you can just choose a waveform with the waveform slider.
Modulating the oscillator waveformIf you want to create changing sounds, then you can let the sequencer change the evolving waveform. The sequencer has 16 steps, which means that the waveform can change into 16 different waveforms if you want to. In that case, first adjust the evolving waveform's "seq mob" knob, by turning it either to the left or to the right. Now move the mouse down to the sequencer section and turn some of the sequencer's 16 steps. As you can see the waveform display changes when you pull the sequencer step knob. This is so you can see which waveform the value of the sequencer step corresponds to. If it doesn't change too much, then pull the evolving waveform's "seq mod" knob even more, effectively increasing the amount of modulation.
Don't forget to set the length of the sequence and the speed. In addition, you need to decide if the waveforms should change abruptly or if you want a smooth transition between each step. This property is adjusted with the porta (as in portamento) knob. The more you turn it to the right, the smoother the change between each step will be.
Adjusting the FilterIf everything sounds too raw for your taste, pull the cutff slider down a bit. You might also want to experiment with the resonance slider at this stage. Often when the cutoff is adjusted, you might want to add or remove just a slight amount of resonance to change the character of the filter.
Thin or Thick?If the sound is a bit thin at this point, then pull the ensemble's amount slider a bit to the right. If it gave you a slighly thicker sound, but there's still something, which is missing, then it's time to adjust the delays.
The delays can be used to add an extra dimension to the sound. The mix sliders can be set to 50% and the feedback sliders to say 90%. To get a great stereo effect never set the left and right time sliders to the same value. Neither should one be set to a multiple of the other . For example, if the left delay time is 0.2, then don't set the right to 0.2, 0.4, 0.8 etc because you will then reduce the stereo effect. Instead choose almost the same value, for example 0.24, 0.47, 0.9 etc for the right delay.
Spacey Sweep?Finally you should decide if you want to use the resonator. If so, make sure that the mute button is deseleceted. In many cases the resonator can be used to add a sweeping, very nice, sound to the patch. This is done by setting the SRP switch to S as in Sine. Adjust the depth slider until you have the amount of sweep you desire. The rate might have to be adjusted as well. The character, or strength, of the sound can be adjusted with the feedback slider.
More to ExploreThis is the basic work flow to get to know the Space Synth. Try to work like this if you just want to learn the basics of the synth. When you are prepated for more advanced proramming methods, you could check out the following.
Sequencer Modulated Filter SettingsThe sequencer can not only modulate the evolving waveform, but also for example the filter. Extremely weird sounds can be created by using the sequencer to modulate for example the filter LFO rate or the filter resonance. Some of the "factory" patches do. Check them out.
Random and Pulse LFO Modulating the ResonatorModulating the resonator with the LFO's random or pulse shape can create wonderful machine like effects. Experiment with these settings to hear for yourself and don't forgot that you can let the sequencer modulate the LFO rate (!!!). Then the effect speeds up and slows down in an unpredictable (or predictable, it's up to you) manner.
Using the mute Waveform to Create BeatsThe last tip for you to explore is to let the sequencer modulate the evolving waveform and at the same time make use of the last waveform, which is silent (mute). If you program the sequencer, then you can use this waveform as a rest and you will be able to program rhythmic patches.
Copyright © 2010 MHC. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners. All music demos are copyright © MHC 2010. All rights reserved.