The last thing I wanted to try was adding drum samples in place of the synthesized versions I’m currently using. So, I started with the Amen break, chopping it up on my MPC. Then I tried to load the samples in.
At first, I could not get spectre and blofeld to communicate on Mac and could not upload samples. Factory settings were already loaded but every time I transmitted to the Blofeld it didn’t indicate it was receiving data via the screen and no samples were added.
Next I tried saving the samples as a MIDI file and sending them to the Blofeld that way. This worked, but it took over 2 hours to complete. The amen breaks were loaded, and the factory sounds are overwritten and gone. Would not suggest unless you really have to and you are really sure with how Spectre has mapped the samples to the keyboard.
I abandoned using Mac to upload samples, and as soon as I switched to Windows, everything went smoothly. Spectre updated the synth in seconds instead of hours. I’m not sure why the USB midi on my mac seems to work so poorly; I probably have something set up incorrectly there as I have trouble with other VST’s that use USB MIDI.
I mapped samples to specific notes on the keyboard, the white keys starting at C2, and then the white keys starting at C4 for another set. This will enable me to play different drum parts by just moving up an octave. I set root and high notes to the same value with ctrl-click & alt-click. Spectre automatically maps any notes in between assigned pads to pitched and sped up versions of the samples, and I don’t think the “fixed pitch” setting affects this. In fact, in the manual, it says that fixed pitch isn’t implemented.
Another nice thing about the sampling feature is that all the parts play through a single oscillator, and of course, you can route any filter or env to control it. I can easily route a filter cutoff or volume using the performance features on the controller. The pads/keys can also be played like drum pads, and you can set up different velocity sensitivities per preset, of which there are four.
I want to use the Blofeld’s arpeggiators to create rhythm tracks that I can trigger manually, in essence replacing what a sequencer might be able to do. I thought my first try would be easy: a four bar beat with kicks on the quarter notes, claps and snares on the 2s & 4s, and a hihat on 8th or 16th notes. I thought, to do that, just set up the Clock value for each arpeggiator to the note value you want. But it quickly became apparent that it’s not that easy–the kicks and hihats work fine since they play once every division, but to make the claps and snares land on the 2s & 4s, coding them to half notes doesn’t work, because they will play on the 1st & 3rd beat when the arp repeats its loop, even if you trigger it on the proper beat. So I need to either delay the start of the arpeggiator by one bar, or explore the user patterns, and as it turns out, the arpeggiator doesn’t have a delay, so it looks like I’ll be delving more into the user patterns.
Before I do that, I thought I could at least program the kick without using a user pattern, so I set about creating a simple dubstep rhythm, 140bpm with the kicks on the 1s & 3s and the snares & claps on the 2s & 4s; a 4/4 beat in cut time. My first idea was to set the kick up as a pattern with a note only on step 1, pattern length of 8, and arp clock and length set to 1 bar. When the user pattern is set to off, this works great; once every bar, on step 1, the kick is triggered, no user pattern needed.
But to program a snare on the other beats it would be time to go into the user patterns, so I set up a 16 step user pattern with a single note firing on beat 9, or the “2” of the beat. The clock value is set to 1/16 and the length value is set to 1/2. I set up the clap to fire identically to the snares, and when I started them from the keyboard, at the beginning of a loop, they indeed trigger on the 2s & 4s. The nice thing about user patterns is that they keep triggering on whatever note you fire them, so a clap triggered at a different point in the bar other than the first note will keep triggering in that position, unlike the first experiment with a house beat, where the arp was realigned once it looped around.
When I realized I had set up the kick pattern with an 8 step pattern and the others with a 16 step pattern, I went back and made the kick like the snares, except firing only on step 1, with clock value set to 1/16 and note length set to 1/2 notes. Works exactly the same, it’s just a different way to go about it, but maybe it won’t be quite as confusing later.
The arpeggiator has far more features than there is room to document in this short blog, but here are the parameters and some layman’s descriptions that turned out to be most important to me and that should help get you up and running in a jiffy.
Clock Mode: Choose how to trigger the arp.
off, on, one shot, latch
Clock: The number of notes to play per bar.
“1/4” is “4 on the floor” or one every quarter note, 1/8 will play 8 notes during the same time period, and so on.
Accent: Controls how loudly the note is played.
To play a “rest,” this value has to be set to “silent.”
Otherwise, *1 plays the note at its original velocity, while other values multiply or divide the provided value.
Length: The length of the generated arpeggio notes.
Negative values shorten notes and positive values lengthen them.
Audible staccato effects will occur if the length value is shorter than the clock value, while if set to “legato” the length parameter is essentially ignored and notes of a step are held until the next step is played.
Octave: After the initial pattern is played, repeat the pattern this many times, increasing or decreasing the octave each time before restarting the pattern.
A value of “3” gives the pattern a “3 over 2” feel as the notes don’t line up every time.
The “Direction” parameter determines the initial order of notes.
Tempo: The speed of the arpeggiator.
This value is overridden in the multi area.
Step: Normally an arpeggiator starts at the first step and plays until the last. All of these modes except normal allow you to alter this behavior.
normal, pause, previous, first, last, first+last, chord, random
Timing Factor: Add shuffle feel to any pattern or step.
Glide: Add 303-type glide to any pattern or step.
To use different glide amounts on individual notes in a pattern, Glide amount must be set to off in the oscillator edit menu.
Otherwise Glide applies the same amount of glide for the whole pattern.