Hello all and thank you for reading The ChipWIN Blog!
In the last issue of this column, we tackled the infamous 5.1.0 LSDJ update and dwelled on the theory of what it brought to the table. To cut it short, it all boiled down to a complete redesign of Pitch behaviour. What the community did not expect, was all the ramifications and ripples it would have, and it ended up being a highly controversial update, to which many would actually choose to turn a blind eye.
If you haven’t already, I suggest reading the first part of this article before delving into this one, just to get familiar with what’s at stake. In this second part, I will first spend some time going over the specifics of the all-new L command also introduced in 5.1.0. Then I will go over how I view the anatomy of Kicks. And then, finally, I will try to get more practical, and give several examples of how to work with LSDJ 5.1.0 and above to utilize all these new features to the fullest.
Let’s dive in!
On top of rewriting Pitch behaviour from scratch, LSDJ Dev Johan K also chose to change the way the L command works, and quite drastically so. It might not be the first thing people notice but it’s important to get to know the New L before trying to make anything, as it will be crucial in controlling Pitch in other applications.
L stands for s[L]ide, some would say, [L]egato (yes actually it’s portamento but P is taken for pitch bend leave me alone nerds), and is used to make a note glide up or down seamlessly, towards a specified destination note. The value assigned to the L command specifies the speed of the glide. Prior to 5.1.0, value 00 would mean the slowest speed possible (no glide at all), and FF the fastest. On top of everything, due to Pitch following the old hardware curve, L-bend speed would not even be consistent between lower and higher notes. This meant that the only way to find the right speed was through trial and error on a case-by-case basis, and the slightest transposition of a phrase or track could also break them.
From 5.1.0 on, the L command works in a completely different way. The value now controls Duration instead of Speed and is now much more flexible, depending on the Instrument Vib Type Setting (Previously called Pitch Speed).
In HF (High-Frequency) mode
- L command is somewhat comparable with the earlier version, except for the fact that values are inverted. L01 will be the shortest duration instead of being the slowest speed, and vice-versa.
- The unit is unspecified but it roughly corresponds to the screen refresh rate (way faster than ticks), and like the old L, it’s unaffected by Tempo. This is useful if you want glides to sound exactly the same through a song that has tempo changes.
In any other LF mode
- Duration still goes from shortest (00) to longest (FF) but is now expressed in Ticks.
- This means that L-commands on LF-mode instruments will be Tempo-consistant and lock in with your song whatever the tempo setting.
This is the real dealmaker right there. Let’s assume you’re writing in 4/4 and use the default 6-tick per step Groove settings. An L06 command used in this mode will always last as long as a 16th-note step: 6 ticks. This is very useful if you want to time note glides to a specific rhythm.
No wonder after reading this, that older songs would have their L commands completely broken, actually working in reverse! I chose to remain impartial for the hardware/software pitch debate, but truly, for this specific feature, I cannot. Tempo-consistant, precisely measured [L]egatos mean it’s much easier to control and lock your bends tight with the rhythmic structure of your track. They’re also much more intuitive to use, once you learn how they work. It’s well worth the upgrade for this feature alone in my opinion.
But let’s move on to greyer areas, and see how we can utilize that.
KICKS ARE DEAD, LONG LIVE KICKS
To the dismay of many, the most sensitive aspect of 5.1.0 was that it broke Kicks made on earlier versions. Prior to 5.1.0, making a kick was as easy as slapping a downward [P] command on a medium-high note. And specifically for this use, this is where the old Hardware Pitch curve really shone.
Here’s why. A good kick sound needs to have both attack and body. Picture it like an actual Kick Drum: We hear the high-pitched “Thwack” of the beater hitting the drum head, which tenses up, releases and vibrates. Then we hear the low boomy tail of the drum resonating. The Hard curve was perfect for this. With a single P command, the tone spent very little time in the higher end, yielding a nice quick and clacky attack, and slowed down naturally the lower it went, automatically giving a nice boomy body. The Linear Software curve has a consistent downwards speed in pitch, meaning it spends too much time in the higher regions, and not enough in the low end, compared to the other. This causes Kicks on 5.1.0+ to lose both attack and body, and sound like tinny “pew pew” noises.
As I have no doubt said countless times in this column already, most of these updates seem to have a thing in common: they allow the user to go deeper and gain tighter control over their sound. In that particular example, it appears that the inconsistencies of the Hardware pitch curve actually had a very important advantage: they made perfect kicks very easy to make. However, if we consider this new situation, and the amount of control that we have, made possible by all these new commands but also actually by the Software Linear pitch curve, we can probably find a way to Make Kicks Great Again™, if we’re willing to study up and put some elbow grease into it.
So. How are we going to turn this goopy pew pew mess into a punchy, snappy kick like in the days of yore? We’ll do it, one tick at a time.
One approach we can have is to actually mimic the Hardware curve slope in our Kick table. As a reminder, here’s how both curves look like, back to back. What we need to do then, is to start with a fast Pitch down, and gradually slow it down.
Let’s take the following standard pre 5.1 Kick as a reference to the sound we want. We’re gonna use a slightly squished Sine wave as our base waveform, to get maximum low-end but a bit of high end twist to it as well so that it’s not sub-only and cuts through. The table is as simple as it can be. [K]ill after 6 ticks, and just the right amount of [P]itch down, so that it doesn’t wrap up at the end after reaching the low C.
One other thing we can do to prevent that wrapup, is to use an [L] instead of a [P], with the low C as the constant destination note. Adjust between L10 and L30 to find a suitable speed. Both examples work fine, but using [L] will allow you to transpose Kicks freely and still have them aim for that low C, without wrapping back if you pitch it down, or losing low end, if you pitch it up! If you’re using P, C5 to C7 work fine, depending how high you want your intial attack to be.
Now. Let’s boot up a copy of LSDJ with the new Software “Linear” pitch curve. I recommend using the latest (at the time of writing, 5.3.6) as it includes many bugfixes since 5.1.0, and has an adjusted curve speed. Also bear in mind that the lowest note in the WAV channel is now down one octave to C1, so you’ll want to make sure your previous C5 kick is now starting at C4, and so on. If we boot up the same savefile, we notice that the tables we had sort of work for a basic Kick sound, but they don’t sound the same at all. As I’ve said, L now works in reverse, so make sure you adjust the value accordingly.
What we’re going to do next, is break down the linear curve into several segments that gradually go slower. This is where it gets really interesting.
Keep the same instrument and waveform, then clean out your table. Put in your usual K command. The length of your Kick in ticks will determine how much control you have over it in your table, so make sure you set this right. For this example we’re going to go for a standard 6-tick-long Kick at 128 bpm, which will give us 6 possible segments of kick to work with. On the first tick, Put in a fast downwards P command, like PD0 for example. With PD0, we hear the note wrapping back to the top just before the Kill.
What we can do then to maintain the initial snappiness, but still prevent the Kick from reaching beyond C1, is to put a second P command on the next tick. Start with P00.
The Kick starts to glide down but the note then sort of freezes in place, in the medium region. Then, you can adjust your first P command to have a very fast pitch down attack without worry. If you’re satisfied with how your attack sounds, work on the second P command to start shaping the rest of the sound. Experiment with Kick length, command placement and intensity, and this method should open up myriads of sound design possibilities for your Kicks.
Here are a few examples of what you can do. But bear in mind that every instrument in your arrangement needs to work with the others, and in that regard, I find that Kicks need even more attention, and are often overlooked. Make them fit a certain role and purpose in the context of your track! Another thing, this article focuses on shaping Kick sounds from the perspective of the WAV channel only. Experimenting with layering, with Noise and Pulse Channels, can yield amazing results!
And there you have it. By stacking P (and/or L) commands after another, you will be able to build a “slope” of sorts, manually sculpting the curve to your liking, segment after segment. You can then choose to make it similar to the original Hardware curve, or actually spice it up even more! Want a super sharp attack and a mid-heavy body? Thumpy attack then subs only? Tempo-synced? Independant? You name it!! Another great trick if you want to increase your level of control even further is to double up your tempo (127 would then be 254) to shorten ticks, and use a double groove like C/C. The BPM of your track would feel the same, but you would have 12 ticks per step instead of 6, allowing you to really fine tune everything into oblivion. But maybe that’s a bit overkill. Maybe.
I get why people don’t like Linear Pitch, I really do. But actually in this case, Linear also means more predictable, and thus easier to control, and shape to your liking with unmatched precision! Try doing the opposite: Boot up a rom with Hardware Pitch and try to make it sound linear. It’ll be a hell of a tougher job, believe me.
In the end, I would say to conclude that no choice is right but yours. Before 5.1, LSDJ is still a great piece of software. It’s still available for download for anyone with a license. It is still deep, accessible, user-friendly and loved by thousands of artists. After 5.1, it makes a deliberate choice to steepen its learning curve, in order to reach new hights and allow users deeper control than ever before. Whether or not you want to take that next step is entirely up to you. I’m sure as hell gonna give it my best shot.
We’re not done yet with the Tech Talk series. There are still many topics to cover, but talking about the 5.1 debate is still a milestone. Thanks for your comments, your support and thanks for keeping the LSDJ community alive and interesting.
Next up, we’ll talk about a test build of LSDJ that multiplies tempo by 4. Get ready!
Note: traducción al Español por Pixel_Guy encontrado aquí.