Tuesday, October 11, 2016


I'm an organized person, I like sorted libraries of sounds that I can use for quick reference or improvisational inspiration. I've been toying with the idea of a Rhythm Library in NineWorldsDeep for a while now, something like a reverse scale lookup for drum and percussion patterns.

The coding part should be quite easy, but I need a hand curated set of rhythms to work with, at least as seed data, and the entire attitude of the NWD ecosystem is directed towards personalized repositories of creative elements. Something user generated instead of downloaded, something hand curated.

As you will see if you keep up with my blog, I tend to start with a manual process and then piece by piece replace various steps with software processes, little by little a manual process becomes machine augmented and potentially automated.

So, with that in mind, I have begun building a personal collection of reference notes, contained within an Ableton Live set, with the raw midi for each pattern exported to an NWD folder (located within the current hierarchy, subject to change, at NWD-AUX/abletonMidiExports/).

I named my project as I do many of my "meta" projects, with a "000-" prefix to easily place them at the top of an alphabetic sort, like so:

Within that folder, I created two sub-folders, "derived" and "learned". In keeping with the idea of mimicking a manual process, these are like a musicians notebook, the learned folder keeping track of lesson patterns, the derived folder being personal creations that evolve from rudimentary elements (the astute will be aware that all creative works are by nature derivative, as evinced by Kirby Ferguson's excellent video series "Everything Is A Remix").

Within the "learned" folder, I create a sub-folder for each "tutelary" source. There are a lot of articles online about creating drum patterns in a software DAW, but my method tends to deviate from many of those out there.

I approach the concept just like a physical drummer would, learning basic patterns and working up to more advanced rhythms. I find drum reference books to be a great source for this. 

There was one catch, I don't have a lot of drummer books floating around, but in the interest of my personal philosophy DIY DBD (Do It Yourself, Details Be Damned), I worked with what I had. 

There is a really introductory book I do own from back when I was a guitar player dabbling in drums on the side, The Everything Drums Book, by Eric Starr. I set my sights on exploring the basic rock section of exercises, for now.

Within my live set, I created a single scene, with a single clip, for each rhythm exercise (pictured below) and exported the MIDI to a corresponding file within the learned rhythm folder hierarchy (pictured above).

Note the red outline around the first five scenes in the image above. I use an Akai Professional APC Key 25 for my MIDI controller, and this displays the clips currently assigned to the hardware clip launch buttons. 

I mention this because a great side effect of setting up a project like this is that I can select a number of different but complimentary rhythms and then play them and mix them DJ style in realtime, giving me even more tools for creating larger rhythmic landscapes.

When selecting the MIDI patterns in the browser window, they will not automatically audition as audio samples do, but the following will popup where the audio waveform appears for samples.

Clicking on it will indeed preview the MIDI, but the default sound is a bit annoying. Like, really annoying and not at all helpful for drums because they are in a lower register of MIDI notes. So, in summation, you will see the following image, but you will hear atrociousness.

Undaunted and adventurous, I did some googling, surely someone else has been annoyed by this and my programming background had me suspecting there might be a hack out there to alleviate this.

Luckily, my hunch was correct and I discovered a great YouTube video by user Ableton Addict that addressed the very issue. 

I come from a piano/keyboards background, so I went with video's example of using a grand piano sample for the core note. This was additionally nice in that even with the drums in a lower octave, the piano notes still created enough of a differentiation to better discern the auditioning rhythm (as whichever sound you choose will be used for auditioning all MIDI, not just drums).

Post video directions, my Ableton Resource folder looked like this, and the obnoxious initial sample was no more (okay, relegated to backup for the pedantic).

Another productive day, another journey into creativity, and another daily dispatch from NWD HQ.

Do It Yourself, Details Be Damned. 

Question excuses. 

Always be producing.

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