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Taming Native Instruments Kontakt Tone Machine (Part 2)
Written by David Das - © 2006, Cengage Learning. Reprinted with Permission.
This article is an excerpt from the following book: Kontakt 2 Power.

This article is also a continuation of Taming Native Instruments Kontakt Tone Machine (Part 1).

There are some additional controls that appear in the Source module when using Tone Machine mode. Let's take a look at those:
* Tune. The Tune knob allows you to tune the group as a whole. Shift-drag the knob to make very fine adjustments. Command-click (Mac) or Ctrl-click (PC) to return it to 0. Tracking. The Tracking button enables and disables pitch scaling. When disabled, playing different keys will no longer trigger scaled pitches.

* Release Trigger. The Release Trigger button behaves the same as it did in Sampler and DFD modes, which were discussed in Chapter 4, "Instrument Edit Mode." It designates the currently selected group (or all groups, if Edit All Groups is enabled in the Group Editor) to be triggered upon a MIDI note off instead of a MIDI note on.

* Note-on Counter. This parameter appears only when Release Trigger is enabled. It specifies a countdown in milliseconds. For example, if you trigger and hold a MIDI note, the Note-on Counter will begin counting down from its value to zero. You can then use this counter as a modulation source.

* Note Mono. This parameter also appears only when Release Trigger is enabled. If you play the same note repeatedly while this button is enabled, it will continue to retrigger the release layer zones. If you play the same note repeatedly while this button is disabled, then the release layer zones will play to their full length and will not retrigger. This feature only applies to repeated notes, not to instances in which you play a variety of different notes.

* Speed. The Speed knob controls the speed of the samples in the group. Commonly, when using Tone Machine mode, you'll want it to be set to 100%, although you can adjust the speed of the sample independently of its pitch by adjusting this knob. This knob can also be tempo-synced by clicking in the black area to the right of the digits. I'll talk about this shortly.

* Smooth. The Smooth knob alters the smoothness of the grains. Experiment with different settings to see a variation in how the instrument sounds.

* Formant. Adjusting the Formant knob changes the timbral characteristics of the sound. Try different Formant settings while playing the vocal sample, and you'll hear a difference in tone. The Formant knob value is measured in half steps.

* DC Filter. With this button enabled, Kontakt 2 automatically compensates for DC offset. When using Tone Machine, you'll often get better results with this enabled.

* Legato. As discussed previously, this button causes the sample playback position to continue when subsequent notes are played in a legato fashion.

Before you leave Tone Machine mode, try one more sonic experiment to look at this from a different angle: What if you put a drum loop through its paces in Tone Machine? Working with a drum loop is slightly different. While the vocal sample was completely untimed and free, if you want to use a drum loop in a song, you have to be sure that it locks up tempo-wise.

Let's start from scratch, following similar steps. Delete the entire instrument that you were working on above for the speech sample, and choose New Instrument from the Load/Save menu. Open Instrument Edit mode, and click on the Mapping Editor's button. Now go to the DVD and look inside the Tutorials folder to find the loop96bpm.wav file that you used in the previous chapter. Drag the WAV file into the Mapping Editor, making sure it covers all the keys (the key range should be C-2 to G8) and that its root key is C3. Finally, double-click on the zone to bring up the Loop Editor, and change the Loop mode to Until End.

Go ahead and play middle C to remind yourself of what the raw sample sounds like, and make sure it loops. Try playing a note above or below middle C. Now you run into problems: Because you're in the traditional Sampler/DFD modes, the pitch and time are being scaled. Playing anything other than middle C is making this drum loop play at some bpm other than 96, and you have no way of knowing what it is.

Go to the Source module, switch into Tone Machine mode, and try playing middle C. You should hear a pulsing texture resembling the original drum loop with a clear tonal center (middle C). Making sure the Legato button is enabled, try playing some chords. You'll discover that you're able to create a very interesting rhythmic texture based on the original drum loop.

That's interesting as far as it goes, but one element that's absolutely essential when dealing with timed material like a drum loop is that you're able to tempo-sync this loop so it can play effectively in whatever tempo you're working at. It would be quite a pain if this loop could only be used in songs that played exactly at 96bpm!

Take a look at the Speed knob in the Source module. It's currently set to 100%. Whenever it is set to a value expressed in a percentage, you haven't locked it to tempo. Try moving the Speed knob and you'll see you're able to change the speed of the loop by a proportional amount. But that isn't very useful for true tempo-syncing unless you want to try to sync it up by ear. Syncing it up by ear is a difficult and hit-and-miss prospect; you may be able to find an approximate setting that's close, but if the loop repeats many times, you may find that your approximation isn't good enough because the sync will drift apart. It's much better to show Kontakt 2 how to sync up a loop with mathematical precision.

To remedy this, click exactly on top of the % sign under the Speed label. A pop-up menu will appear; choose the whole note option. What you need to do is tell Kontakt 2 the true length of the loop. This is something you'll have to figure out manually. If you're not sure, go to the Loop Editor, click the Play button, and listen once through, counting the number of beats.

For this particular loop, you should come up with 8 beats (quarter notes), or 2 measures (two whole notes) if you remember your music theory. Set the Speed knob to two whole notes. Kontakt 2 doesn't care if you set this value to any equivalent value (e.g., four half notes, eight quarter notes, and so on).

This loop has now been tempo-synced. If you're using Kontakt 2 in standalone mode, click the MasterKontrol button in the header and try adjusting the Master Tempo knob. You'll hear the loop speed up and slow down to an exact tempo. If you're working with Kontakt 2 as a plug-in within a sequencer, try changing the tempo in the host sequencer. Kontakt 2 will automatically read the tempo and play your loop back at the appropriate tempo. No need to try and aurally sync up different loops; as long as you can figure out the length of the loop, Kontakt 2 can tempo-sync it for you—assuming that the loop was originally cut correctly. And if you really want to show off, program some tempo changes into your sequencer and watch Kontakt 2 follow the tempo as it changes!

Now you've learned to use Tone Machine mode, which lets you alter pitch while keeping speed constant (in contrast to the Sampler and DFD modes, in which pitch and speed stay correlated in the same way that a tape deck would). For more information, see Kontakt 2 Power.


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