Arturia Beatstep Pro Part 2- CV calibration

A common problem with CV voltage control is notes playing in the wrong octave; when I first connected the Arturia microbrute I found the microbrute was playing two octaves higher, no matter what I set the keyboard range to. A quick google found this to be a common problem but there is an easy solution to this, you can set what note you want 0V to be:

its quite simple:

  1. open midi control centre, go to device settings (where Ive highlighted), then scroll down
    midi control centre

Until you see this:

bsprocontrol1

2. Heres what you do- on this set up this works for my microbrute, however if you press the arrow on the C1, a drop down list appears with all the notes and their octaves, you can manually try them until you find one that gives you the correct tuning- in my case setting 0V=C1 solved my problem- but others may be different. This does not affect your MIDI settings.

3. Theres another thing in that as this is the result of voltages, sometimes there can be other factors, esp if a poor connection is causing voltage drops- at one point during setting up of mine I was getting some rather odd results, which turned out to be the CV jack not being in properly! (duh!)

 

 

 

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Arturia Beatstep Pro part 1

I’ve made a lot of use of the original Beatstep for a couple of years now, and although the Beatstep pro has been out a while I hadn’t really got into the idea of having one until now. For some reason it seem less intuitive and more aimed at being a substitute for using a computer as a project sequencer, and a lot of the demos on youtube seemed to show this, however I use step sequencers as improvisation tools and this wasn’t what I was looking for. However things changed when I started a piece using drum racks in Ableton, and we quite frustrated with the process of writing MIDI clips, even with the launchpad, so I downloaded the Beatstep Pro user manual and read it. Here combined with a good review on Sonic State (Nick Batt) I took the plunge.

So here it is:

BSpro

Use on its own

As advertised it works really well on its own- the two melodic sequencers have a gate and 2 CVs each, and the drum sequencer has 8 individual track outs. You can do some major alterations to its setup via software, the CVs can be set to Hz/V or V/Oct to drive either Korg MS20 or standard v/Oct kit- and there is both MIDI in and OUT plus a separate CLOCK out. Use as a standalone device has proven popular with Eurorack users, especially as it can store 16 entire projects

Projects

You can store up to 16 projects, each project can consist of all three sequencers, all 16 loops of each sequencer; this means you can store 16 pieces, each piece can use all 16 loops on each sequencer.

Each loop can be up to 64 steps long, and the latest firmware update allows two of these to chained to make 128 step long sequences

Nice Touches

As with the original Beatstep there is a control mode whereby the pads and knobs are assignable to MIDI controls and can be used as a control surface.

The two melodic sequencers have can use the knobs to chance the pitch (like the original beatstep, only this time the note is displayed on the LED display, which is a lot more helpful), the Velocity (the original was fixed globs ally) and importantly, the Gate, which allows notes to be tied, or slide into next note or stuccato/ tenuto. This is a major improvement.

The drum sequencer also has velocity and gate controls but the addition of a shift control which allows the notes to be moved forwards or after the beat- when combined with the randomness and probability controls, this can be really interesting.

Roller/Looper – If the beatstep is in control mode it will loop what you’ve pressed. if its in sequencer more it will roll on the beat playing at the time, and allow you to slide between faster and slower allowing for some nice ratcheting effects.

Swing, Randomness and Probability

You could alter Swing on the original Beatstep but only in the setup software, which was really frustrating, this is now on the panel- together with Randomness and Probability- the Randomness controls how much randomness takes place and the Probability controls how often random evens occur. The good thing about this is they can globally affect all 3 sequencers or only specific ones- if you press the button ‘current track’. The same applies to Swing

Other nice things

Tap tempo input.

Fine tempo adjustment.

If you touch the tops of any of the encoder knobs the display  will show current value

Triplets now available

Easy to expand sequence length and copy intro new length- great for improvising with

What it lacks

An active step: although you can change where the sequence ends, it always begins on step 1

Video of standalone use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RPM2016 : Berlin 7679

Since 2012 Ive been participating in The RPMChallenge, which is in informal challenge to make an albums worth of material in the days of February. The minimum limit is 10 songs or 35 minutes of music- I like these sorts of challenges, they help one think outside of box/ comfort zones because there isn’t the time to over think and its always a good excuse to try something different. There is a thing that I strongly believe in and thats to practice ones art, even if its not for release, even if one comes up with embarrassing rubbish (you dont have to release it!). The very business of going through the motions makes it much easier to come up with stuff rather than procrastinating,  which I’ve noticed to be mostly a negative effect on artists, producing a downward spiral of doing less/thinking less. Musical practice is much the same thing in my experience. I also avoid artificial things such as Pomodoro Technique and the like- too contrived, like much new-agey BS. The best means is get on with it- this might mean a structure such as jam something (record it)- analyse- compose (cut out the crap and replace with better; structures and content).

If you’re unfortunate enough to become completely blocked one way is to re-recreate a piece of music you feel very strongly about, this means get inside it, de-construct into essential components then build it, as your own. What this means is somewhere during the process you might discover something critical about how this music affects you- one can also do the same which something that you really hate, then see if you can find out where it pushes your buttons; go on to make your own improved version or understand more about your own listening.

So in the allotted time I managed 9 pieces and 62 minutes of music, 3 pieces were too weak to be developed beyond a certain point, once piece I dropped because it did not fit the narrative, another I abandoned due to developing a cold in the last week which bunged up my ears and pretty much halted all audio work, and that piece is not written down anywhere, its just in my head. Fortunately before the cold set it I had a fairly couple of intense sessions over a few long evenings and got all the corner pieces done, so by the third week I was only left with the shorter ones to finish off.

Before the gunging up of my ears, one track Potzdamn was done by playing my electric guitar directly into the external signal processor of the MS20 then using the famous pitch to CV converter, which is noted for generating some interesting results, whilst also using the original sound for processing- thus generating two signals, the processed guitar and the synthesizer pitch being derived from the same signal.

Other pieces make use of some of my spectralisation sounds from the EMU Virtuoso- in particular the modified Bass Clarinet sounds and chamber organ. I did a post about this here 

 

This is a concept album with a narrative driving all the content from the beginning to end, and there is a compositional aim in each of the pieces to express transformation, which is again part of the overall narrative of being on a journey and perhaps part of a process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CSMA album and interview

 

In January this year, myself and Chrissie signed our synth duo CSMA  to Altitude Records- here is our first release.

 

There is an accompanying interview here, which contains a spontaneous improvisation

 

 

 

We will be performing next on 11th June at St Lawrence Church Catford, As part of the new season of Electromatronic concerts. Other dates planned include Oxford, Leeds and Margate

 

 

 

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Winter synth jam, Boxing day 2015

Last piece of 2015, this was an improv, with some pre-prepared sound design that Id done just before the Christmas holiday, specifically for this improvisation.

 

There is a rough resemblance to Berlin-school electronic music here.

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Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #4

In this next experiment I added the Korg MS20 being driven by the SQ-1 Sequencer as loop material but also made 2 process changes

 

  1. Drum machine and SQ1 synchronized by Ableton master clock
  2. Quantise being used on the recording and playback of loops, with the quantise set to one bar- with 4/4 time

As before I used the same algorithm with the recording and playback of clips.

However I also added two further iterative processes

  1. Beats were sequentially added to drum machine as clips recorded
  2. 16 note sequence preprogrammed on sequencer is reveled one/ two notes at a time as clips recorded- then removed in similar fashion and where two notes adjacent, sequencer became set to slide between these notes

 

Here is the result:

 

 

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Experimenting with algorithms and Novation Launchpad #3

Following on from yesterdays experiment with the Korg Ms20 and the launchpad algorithm I now subject the Korg volca beats drum machine to the same process- only with an addition that within each loop iteration (recording a new loop) one more percussion voice can be added. This is in order to make the sound fill out more.

Again it starts with one loop and a very sparse asymmetrical rhythm, with one voice addition per loop.

 

Here are the results

 

 

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