20071228

Using a Rock Band drum controller to make ambient music.

I picked up Rock Band last week. The game totally kicks ass. As soon as I saw the peripherals included, I thought the drum controller would make a super cheap simple MIDI drum controller. Currently I use an M-Audio Trigger Finger to trigger drum samples as well as start and stop loops and control filters and such while playing solo. In my band context, my sis uses it to provide drum parts. Unfortunately, it's not very easy to play. So I waited and waited for the announcement that someone had figured out how to use the drum controller in music programs on the Mac. (Windows users figured it out a few weeks earlier.)

Yesterday at work I randomly googled "rock band midi controller" and got this link. Bingo! I have a Mac and I use GarageBand, so I was all set. I read a bit deeper and realized that all this hack does is make the drums send keystrokes just like pressing the computer keyboard. These keystrokes are read by GarageBand's onscreen keyboard to trigger drum sounds. You can also use the built in directional pad and buttons to send keypresses as well. What else uses the keyboard to trigger drum sounds? Ableton Live! Sweeeeet.

I downloaded the required software and spent about 10 minutes getting it all set up. I loaded up Live and loaded a preset kit. I hit the pads and lo and behold, drum sounds! I played around for a while with the drum sounds, but I'm not a drummer. I loaded up a pitched instrument and began tapping out weird little sounds. It's very odd to play a piano by hitting pads.

After playing around with that for a bit, I realized that I could hold the kick pedal down to sustain notes and could also hold the buttons on the built in game controller to do the same. I was also able to use the d-pad to mute/unmute myself and turn on and off effects. A few minutes later, I was recording.

Here's what I came up with. The first track is exactly as I recorded it. Tracks 2-4 are the same MIDI material as the first track, but I changed the instrument used and tweaked the EQ and effects. In version 4, I also slowed the tempo down to one-quarter of the original speed. I think the fourth is the most interesting.

Note: I'm having issues with uploading to MediaFire for some reason, so currently only versions 1 and 4 are operational. This should change soon, I suppose.

Note 2: MediaFire hates v2 and v3 so I removed them. You can hear them in my next entry: Cranberry Kingdom (RBRMX).

Rock Band Ambient v1
Rock Band Ambient v4

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