Much contemporary music of the day is based on patterns and loops, with many musicians building entire productions around sampled loops. These certainly serve their purpose but being able to develop your own rhythmic ideas using virtual instruments is a more flexible approach, and lends itself more to experimentation.
If you want to sculpt arresting synth or basslines and sculpt fascinating chord progressions, you can do much worse than the sophisticated functionality of Studio One’s in-built pattern sequencer. Capable of making unique contributions to your tracks, the tool works by having users create instrument and drum patterns based on a musical grid.
With the pattern sequencer integrated into Studio One, it requires practically no set-up. To get going, simply create an Instrument track and a pattern part. By default, Studio One will create a one-bar pattern, to which you can add notes in real-time by clicking the Record button on the Transport Bar, or in step-time by clicking the Step Record button in the Pattern Editor above the pattern area.
Click the Inspector button in the Pattern Editor. Here, you’ll see multiple options, and you can audition notes as you click them in the editor. You can also have the editor follow the cursor, which is useful if you want to play through several pattern variations but only want to see the pattern you’re currently working on.
You can also see and edit pattern variations in the Inspector. You can add new variations, duplicate and modify existing patterns, and delete variations entirely. Each variation can have a different number of steps and a different resolution. The drum mode separates your drum elements into separate lanes in the sequencer. The pattern sequencer allows you to set each lane at a different length and resolution too, which makes for a potentially wild number of flexible variations.
Kick out the jams
Drag an Impact XT virtual instrument kit into the work area of Studio One. Hit Shift-Cmd-P to create a pattern, which will automatically be assigned to a lane. Double-click the pattern and you’ll gain access to the editor. Begin building a beat by, for example, adding eight steps for a kick drum.
To change the step length, click it in the assigned lane; if you change the step length via the tool bar, it will change the length for all the lanes in your pattern. Once you have a nice four-on-the-floor kick rhythm, click the Duplicate Variation button and add a snare to your pattern. Repeat this process and add additional percussion elements to each variation. Once you have several variations, adjust the swing and accents to make your patterns more humanistic. Cmd-clicking a note will add an accent to it.
What are the chances?
Select a lane from your patterns. For this example, pick hi-hats. Use the Fill Lane button found in the toolbar to fill all the hi-hat notes on the lane. Now click the Probability tab found at the bottom of the editor. Each note has its own probability setting – that is, the probability that the note will be played during a loop of the pattern. The higher the setting, the more likely the note will be played. This way, you can create evolving patterns and ensure that repeated loops are kept interesting and don’t go stale.
Each note can be set to repeat up to 10 times via the Repeat button. By cannily adding a couple of these repeats to a pattern, combined with your thoughtful probability settings, you can develop everything from organic-sounding swung patterns to wonderfully glitchy and trap-style beats.
Highlight your original pattern and duplicate it several times by pressing D. Select each pattern you’ve created on the track one at a time and press P to get it looping, and then select a variation from the pattern list. This will assign that variation to the selected pattern on the timeline.
The pattern sequencer can also be used for developing arpeggios, melodies, basslines and chord patterns, all using the same basic principles you used to create your drum pattern. Follow the same procedure for an instrument track and create a new pattern. Open the editor to see the piano roll view. Create a chord pattern using either real- or step-time recording, make several variations and experiment with the resolution of each. This can give you some fantastic half-time, double-time and even faster variations to work with. You can use the same principle to build arpeggios and basslines for your productions too.
1. Open Studio One and drag Impact XT from the Instrument Browser (F6) into the workspace to create a new Instrument track.
2. To create a pattern part, click Insert Pattern from the Event menu or click Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-P on your keyboard. Studio One will automatically create a one-bar event.
3. Select the pattern on the track and press P to loop the selection. Double-click the pattern or press F2 to open the Pattern Editor.
4. Enter a pattern on the kick drum lane. Set the length of the pattern to eight bars and the resolution to 16th notes by clicking them on the instrument lane.
5. Click the Inspector to see the variations section. Duplicate the pattern with the Duplicate Variation button and add a pattern on the snare lane. Repeat this step and add hi-hats.
6. For the hi-hat variation, click the Set Every 2nd Step setting then the Shift Lane button. This will fill in a part and shift it forward in the timeline. Duplicate when you’re happy.
INSTANT SAVER Found under the pattern sequencer’s Inspector, Store and Load are useful buttons that allow you store patterns for later recall in your current song or in separate songs altogether. Store patterns and assign them memorable names. Later, when you open a new song and create a pattern, you’ll be able to load in old patterns.
7. Click the automation icon below the pattern and add some random repeats to your hi-hat part (or in any lane where there are notes). Add some velocity variation too.
8. Click the Probability tab and change the probability values for the repeated notes. This will ensure they play randomly and thus make the pattern more fluid.
9. Duplicate your pattern on the timeline, highlight each copy and select a variation from the pattern list. This will make quick work of arranging a unique drum track.
10. For basslines and arpeggiation, drag an instrument onto a new track, create a pattern and experiment with settings such as swing and gate. These will lend them a different feel.
11. Duplicate the pattern to create variations. Try different step lengths for evolving patterns that change over time. Try changing a 16-step to a 12- or nine-step pattern.
12. Click the Delay automation tab and adjust random notes to different values. This will delay these notes, which can add anticipation and tension to patterns.
KEEP IT PERSONAL The velocity, repeat and probability parameters are not the only ones that can be automated in patterns. Clicking the ellipsis (…) beside the velocity tab in the Pattern Editor allows you to add other available parameters as additional tabs. These parameters are stored with each pattern and its individual variations.
13. Here, we added one or two repeated notes and slightly adjusted the probability of almost every note to get random drop-outs and give the pattern a glitchy feel.
14. Duplicating the original pattern event on the track and selecting a variation for each builds the track as before. Gate, delay, repeat and velocity settings are retained with each variation.
15. Build a chord progression by dragging the Presence XT virtual instrument into the workspace and building up chords using step-record. Create a pattern, click step-record and play in your chords.
16. Change the resolution to eighth notes and the length to eight steps. The same progression will now be played twice in the same bar.
17. Again, changing the resolution to 16th notes doubles the amount of times the pattern will play in one bar. Try adjusting the gate amount to make longer sounds more staccato.
18. As before, build an arrangement of duplicated events set to different variations. You can shorten the length of a pattern on the timeline (as seen at bar 10) for even more variation.
For more PreSonus Studio One tutorials and workshops, check here.