“Natural Drumsets” is our new line of drum kits with a virtual drummer and a set of microphones, effects and rooms.
“MotorTown” is the first plugin in this line, built around a custom mahogany kit.
UPDATED 22 Dec 2016 – Updated to v.1.1.0 (improvements, tempo tracking, new “X” Words).
This new v.1.1.0 in NOT backward compatible. You can open old projects, write down settings, replace the plugin, open the old projects and reload MotorTown.
On the left column, the list of available “Grooves” (styles). A Groove is a set of up to 32 “Phrases” (loops). A Phrase is a sequence of up to 16 “Words” (sets of hits).
A Phrase includes up to five lines. Left and right hands (Snare, HiHat, Toms, Cymbals), Right foot (Bassdrum) (left foot is implicit in HiHat programming), Tambourine (an extra with this kit, couldn’t do without it for a “Motown” style set), Extra words (help to add details to the performance).
The concept is simple: write a performance by defining Phrases on the sequencer, add details, set performance macro-parameters (like “Swing”), call entire phrases by sending MIDI notes to the plugin.
So, it is a bit different from usual: no MIDI sequences. MIDI is used to trigger Phrases. A Whole song is contained in a Groove (the set of up to 32 Phrases).
This on-board programming makes it simpler and faster (once you master the simple set of Words) and lets us control the performance without having to set details for every single hit. the result is a more natural performance.
The drumset is sampled specifically for this concept, so many more touches are added. We don’t have to care about them, though.
PHRASE AND GROOVE CONTROLS
Six big buttons on top of the center (sequencer) section are available to manage Grooves and Phrases.
To load a Groove from disk:
- Select the Groove from the list (single click). Groove’s name will appear in the title field (top-left of the sequencer).
- Press “Get” button. The Whole Groove (32 Phrases) will replace all the Phrases in the sequencer.
To save a Groove on disk:
- Manually edit Groove’s title in the title field.
- Press “Save” button. The Whole Groove (all 32 Phrases, including empty ones) will be saved in a new file (if it doesn’t exist) or overwritten to an existing file (backup your Grooves!).
To Copy and Paste a whole Phrase:
- Select the active Phrase by the Phrase selctor (bottom line, 1-32 slots, on the sequencer) and Press “Copy”.
- Select the destination Phrase slot and press “Paste”.
To Clear a Whole Phrase:
- Select the Phrase.
- Press “Clear” button.
To Listen to the whole phrase, in a loop:
- Select the Phrase.
- Press “Play” button.
Active Phrase can be modified or switched to a new one while playing but the transition won’t be smooth in this Play mode.
A small slider is available under the lower line (“X”). It sets the length of the phrase. You can insert words in the whole length (up to 16 Words in a line) but the Phrase will play only up to the length set by this slider.
Active Phrase is selected by the lower line of 32 slots.
The sequencer has lines referred to 4/4 division but they are just a graphical reference.
WRITING A PHRASE
The five available lines work differently.
First two (top) rows, left and right hand, are programmed through the instrument and word menus (top-center in the sequencer area):
- Select the instrument/touch (e.g. Rimshot).
- Select Word’s configuration (e.g. “Oo”). Capital letters stand for full hits, small letters for “ghosts” or weak hits. Absolute meaning is subordinate to performance macro parameters (more below).
- Click on a Word slot on one of the first two lines. An empty slot will be replaced by selected Word. A slot with a Word in it will become empty and, after a second click, will contain the new Word. So, click on empty to set a Word, click on full to make it empty, click again to replace.
The same Word for bot hands at the same time will be played as “flam” (two hits with both hands on the same piece, slightly shifted in time).
Third and fourth rows (Bass drum and Tambourine) are programmed differently: simply select a Word from the drop-down menus contained in the slots.
Fifth row is programmed like the last ones. It contains “performance” Words and can be used to add detail to the performance.
- “…” No added detail.
- “^^” Adds accent to the whole Words (hands only) in the same column.
- “GG” Makes the whole words (hands only) in the same column “ghosts” or played with less strength.
- “H<” This is a special Word for crescendo. You can set any number of these in a continuous sequence. They will be interpreted as a single, whole crescendo from extremely low level to full strength. An interruption (an empty or different Word in the “X” row between two sequences of “H<” will make them two separate crescendo).
- “1^” to “4^” makes the hit in that position in the Words in the same column (hands only) an accent.
- NEW “LH+”, “LH-“, “RH+”, “RH-” are special Words. They are collected, summed and applied to the Whole Phrase. Can be inserted in any position, the effect is the same. They time-shift the right or left hand. Insert more than one for a stronger effect. Example: get the HiHat slightly forward in time.
About the Words.
Each Word contains from one to four characters.
“…” is a special Word which indicates an empty slot (silence or no action).
“.” (a dot) in a Word indicates a pause. Its meaning is relative. “O” is a hit, “.O” is half length silence, half length hit, “..O” is a hit starting at the third third of the Word, “.O.” is a hit starting at the second third of the slot and so on.
The letter indicates the sound (which doesn’t generally coincide with the instrument, e.g. head and rim on the snare). S – Snare. I – Rimshot. H – HiHat (closed). L – HiHat (loosely closed). O – HiHat (open). 1, 2, 3, 4 – Tom number n. R – Ride. B – Bell on the Ride. Cn – Crash 1 or 2. “Ss” is two hits on the snare, first one full strength, second one is a ghost, one for each half of a slot (beat).
For the Bassdrum line, a B indicates the Bassdrum.
For the Tambourine, four letters are used. A “F” means it is being played Free (no hit on a palm). A “H” means it is being played with a hit. “L” and “R” indicate Left and Right movements. Capital letter: a palm bein hit on that side. Small letter: free movement on that side. Example: HRl is a hit on Right palm followed by a free movement on the left.
MotorTown includes a section relative to the tracking phase (top-right). Sampling, kit tuning and muffling, microphone modeling, room modeling, let us set the tracking situation to get good control on the overall sound.
Microphone modeling includes nine options for the microphone used for each section. Original sampling was done through a set of extremely neutral microphones, in a way that lets us later choose the microphones used. Condenser, Ribbon and Dynamic microphones are available for each section. Mix and match.
Bleed control adds bleeding among microphones, from complete separation to strong cross-talking. Once you have fine tuned your kit and tracking system, adding a bit of Bleed merges the overall sound nicely.
Six tuning/muffling options are available for the Snare drum. The Snare was sampled at three different tunings, times two modes: free and “wallet”. Wallet mode stops the head for a drier and punchier sound.
Six tuning/mic’ing options are available for the Bass drum. Two mic positions (in front of the front head, in the front hole) times three tunings.
Nine rooms are available, to be used together with intrinsic kit’s sound. Three sizes times (small, medium and large) three sounds.
The Mixer section needs a bit of attention to be fully understood. There is a set of sven “level” faders (bottom) and a set of six send faders (top of the faders section).
First five level faders on the left set the overall volume of the instrument (or set of instruments, like Toms or Cymbals). It is their level while being tracked, not the classic mix level. So, they affect the level of the instrument (or set of instruments) in the sixt fader, the Pan volume control. Example: set the first fader on the left (Bassdrum) to silence, you won’t hear it in the Pan channel.
Note: check for the “Bleed” knob to be fully CCW (no bleeding) while testing.
Similarly, the first “Mute” buttons on the left (above faders), mute the instrument, not just its channel. A muted instrument won’t be heard in the Pan channel.
Again: check Bleed to test.
The sixth fader from the left (Pan) is a volume control.
Send faders set the amount of signal send from each channel to the room. You can control how the room sounds by selecting the microphone used for getting the diffused sound back to the mixer (Tracking section, top-right).
Equalizers and several models of compressors are available for every channel.
The On/Off buttons affect the whole effect sections (EQ and compressor).
EQs are semi-parametric. First knob is a cut/boost control, fixed frequency (neutral: 50%), for the low band. Second and third knob are frequency and gain (cut/boost with centered neutral position) for the mid/high band.
Compressors can be selected by the menus. Three models are available for each channel:
- VCA. Smooth sound, snap, quite round response.
- FET. Stronger, faster, with saturation.
- VMU. Vari-MU. Smooth limiting with a huge knee. No snap.
Simply a control is available for each compressor. It is a dry-wet mix and crossfade.
It is a special feature that affects the source of all the instruments in the kit. Rotate CCW (from its centered, neutral position) to make the dry sound drier or CW to add sustain, up to over-compressed. It is extremely useful to get a very dry sound as a starting point for the mix.
Saturates the stereo output. Can add brightness but is specially useful to control the overall synamic range. Look at a meter after the plugin to see its action when you cannot hear a strong difference.
Works mostly together with Drive. Affects the dynamic response. CCW is more controlled. CW is more “bouncey”.
Adds tape emulation to the master bus. Great for adding punch and warmth. Set it with care to get the best dynamic behaviour.
An old, famous trick to add enhancement to high frequencies. Increase it to compensate for high-frequency loss when using a lot of Tape.
Controls the overall stereo width at the output, with a special feature. Fully CCW is the original stereo image. Moving to the center mixes everything to mono. Beyond 50%, the stereo image becomes wide again but left and right sides are reversed. You can control the image of the drumset (drummer’s or listener’s perspective).
Master output gain
The last fader boosts or cuts the stereo signal before it is sent out.
Mid-right, the Performance section controls the behaviour of the drummer.
BPM field sets the velocity. Set it to the same value as projects tempo setting to get the Phrases synchronized to the song.
NEW host-synch menu. “Free”: BPM are defined by the BPM field. “Sync 1x”: Automatically follows host’s tempo. “Sync 2x”: Automatically follows the double of host’s tempo (useful when the Groove is programmed at double speed to get higher Phrase resolution).
Tambourine panning position and volume are added to this section instead of the main mixer because the Tambourine is considered as an add-on to the kit. After these controls the Tambourine is routed to the HiHat channel.
When duplets (couples of half-beat hits, like “Ss”) are programmed in the Phrase, this control shifts the first hit to the first third of a triplet, and anywhere in-between. Increase Swing to give a a different feeling to the rhythm and make it fit the song.
Everything about hit strength above (full notes, ghosts, variations) is relative to an absolute Strength parameter. Use this control to set the general strength the drummer is using. It is not just volume, it affects everything including the timbre.
NOTE: Strength has a normalized “1” ceiling. When it is set to full CW variations like accents may loose all their weight.
Everything about Strength above is also affected by the overall Dynamics setting. For example, a “Ss” Word which includes a full hit and a ghost note on the Snare, sounds “SS” (two full hits) if Dynamics is set to zero.
This parameters defines how precisely the drummer follows the metronome. CCW is a bit slower, CW is a bit faster. The drummer Always gets back on time, though, so you don’t loose the alignment to the song.
Inertia takes into account the weight and distance. For example, playing the HiHat on the left and immediately after that the last floor Tom on the extreme right with the same hand sets a limit in terms of timing and strength. Increase it to get a more natural performance.
INPUTS AND OUTPUTS
MotorTown has two inputs and several couples of outputs.
The stereo input is available to insert other instruments in the same “ambience”. Whatever is sent to the stereo input appears in the Pan channel.
Output channels are:
- Stereo output. Everything mixed through effects.
- Bassdrum (stereo)
- Snaredrum (stereo)
- HiHat (stereo). Includes Tambourine.
- Toms (stereo)
- Cymbals (stereo)
- Pan (stereo)
- Room (stereo)
- Put MotorTown.dll, MotorTown.vst, MotorTown.component or MotorTown.aaxplugin in your plugins directory.
- The file named “MotorTown_data.ini” must be placed in the same directory with the plugin.
- Open the “MotorTown_Data.ini” file with a text editor and make the two directories point respectively to: your favourite path to the audio files (about 600 MBytes), your favourite path to the Grooves (require few bytes each).
- Download the audio files and the Grooves and put them in the respectively selected directories.
USING MOTORTOWN IN A SONG
- Set the same tempo (BPM) of the song in MotorTown.
- Program or load the Groove (set of Phrases).
- Set a track to send MIDI notes out to MotorTown.
- MIDI note C6 triggers the first Phrase. Successive notes trigger successive Phrases. Once triggered, a Phrase plays to the end, just one time. Program e.g. two notes if the Phrase should be played twice.