Recording realtime effects tweaking!

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Several ways to produce some excellent original source material, useful for any kind of experimental (or just mental) electronic music.

One of the things I enjoy most about digital audio is finding new ways to capture and mutilate sound with my PC. Lately one thing that I've been doing is tweaking VST plugin parameters in real time and recording the output. Press record and just turn knobs and push sliders and just warp your source material into whatever you make of it. Then save your output as a wav and open it in your wave editor and cut out the good parts to be sequenced into your latest musical creation.

I've found several ways to record your realtime tweaks. Maybe there's an easier way? I dunno, you tell me, there's a comment box at the bottom of the page.

(1)The first way I realized was to simply patch the output of my soundcard back into the inputs and record that. See I have a multi-channel soundcard, the M-Audio Delta 44, and there's two pairs of inputs and two pairs of outputs on it. Additionally, WaveLab, my favorite wave editor, can select either of these pairs when it plays back and records. I just set the Delta to monitor all channels on Outs 1/2 and I listen to this on headphones, while I set WaveLab to playback on Outs 3/4 and to record on Ins 3/4. I open WaveLab's record dialog and open a wave file since WaveLab can both play a wav and record another at the same time.

(2)The second way is much easier, and it should work on any soundcard and in any VST host application. And that is to simply put a VST wav recorder plugin at the end of your effects chain. My favorite for this purpose is "TapeIt" by Silverspike which has tons of options and junk, but you can use whatever recorder you like.

I'll give an example of what you can do with this technique. Let's say I want some sweeping filter's and crazy resonance runs for a track I'm working on. I might go about this by first creating some source material to mangle. I start a new project in FruityLoops with a VSTi synth called Dexter's Static which just produces gobs of constant white noise. I export a 4 or 5 second sample of this static from FruityLoops to a wav file and open it in WaveLab. Some quick edits to get the wav looping properly and I'm ready to maul away. I open an envelope following resonant filter VST plug called NorthPole made by Prosoniq and start to tweak knobs while the sample loops in the background until I have an idea of the effect I'm going for. I hit record and start wanking those knobs, trying to squeeze the sound out of it that I had in mind, no matter if it's not just right, I'll do it again. Take one, take two, I keep trying until I think I've got something that I like. Then I save the recorded bit as a new wav file, open it and start looking for that perfect little customized bit or bits of sound that will complement my song. Cut those bits out as new wave samples and there you go!

If you really want to get freaky try chaining several VST effects in a row to further decimate your source material. And your source material can be anything! You could hack some of your guitar playing, drumloops, singing, whatever you like. But the power is in the realtime tweaks..

just like turn knobs on daddy's old analog gear!

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