This article is part of the My Musical Mouth series which shows you how to make a whole piece of music in Cubase 6 using just your mouth and a microphone – so no technical or instrumental ability is required. A full set of tutorials are available to our customers by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is an overview of what is covered in part one – creating a drum track in Cubase using your voice.
Other articles in this series:
Creating a drum beat with your mouth is really simple and something I find myself doing frequently (whilst standing on the bus, sitting at my desk, lying on the sofa, etc). I’ve always found a fast sequence of hats particularly difficult to play on a midi keyboard, as I’m not all that co-ordinated, and using a step-sequencer is a slow matter of trial and error (click, “does it sound right”, “no”, unlick, click there, “is that right?”, uggh, etc) and unlikely to result in what I wanted to achieve due to a lack of dynamic control. Both of these methods are difficult to do over prolonged periods, which normally results in creating a 4 or 8 bar loop and copying it over. Both result in a tight quantised sound (the former due to me being unable to play properly which means I have to move the midi notes into time after recording)
So, I thought, as all I need to do is make some “tut” and “chush” noises to recreate a hat sequence by mouth, why don’t I just get a microphone and record them in, convert them to midi and trigger real hat sounds. This way I can quickly create very long sequences. This is how my project started. At the end of the project I kicked myself for not getting a microphone 10 years ago. Drats.
Well, the technique is very simple if you know how to use Cubase 6 (if you don’t, and you are a customer of ours you can email me for the full guide – details to follow).
Firstly, get a microphone plugged in – this bit is very important!
Record your hats making similar noises to a hat, making closed hats and open hats distinguishable (I used “tut” and “choosh” respectively) as this will make finding the right sounds easier later on.
Double click on the recorded part (“sample”) to open the “Sample Editor” and you’ll see something like this:
In the picture above you can see that I’ve gone to the hitpoints tab and set the threshold to a fairly low level to make sure that all my “hats” have vertical “hitpoint” markers. Once happy with that, I’ve gone to “Create MIDI Notes” and in the picture above you can see the “Convert Hitpoints to Midi Notes” dialogue box. I select Dynamic Velocity, pitch C1, length 1/8 and a destination of “New MIDI Track”. This means that I will be creating a new midi part, with my hat sounds converted to midi notes, each 1/8 long and pitched on note C1 with the amplitude of my “hat” sounds converted into velocity information. Below is a screenshot of the “Sample Editor” and MIDI “Key Editor” open at the same time to show how the audio has been converted to midi:
Now all I need to do is find some similar sounding samples to the “hats” in my vocal part, which are quite filtered and make a sort of “tit-tut-toot” sequence. Cubase has just the thing for this; Groove Agent One.
I open up Groove Agent One in the VST Instrument rack and then open the “Media Bay”. I then search through the “Media Bay” for hat sounds and drag the ones that match my imagined hat sounds over to pads in Groove Agent One, as you can see below:
I then repeat this process for the kick drum and clap drum to build my basic drum loop.
This is really quick and easy. It sounds a bit fiddly; but seriously, if you have a beat in mind, the results are much better and quicker this way than your typical midi keyboard or step-sequencer technique. Also, for doing clever little break and fills or jittery loop style effects, the system is superb and to record a 16 bar percussion break, for example, is instant – just beatbox into the mike – all you need is to get your timing down.
If you are a customer of ours then feel free to email me a request on email@example.com with your name and post code or account number to get a copy of the full tutorials which will walk you through every step – even if you are a beginner. If you don’t have Cubase 6 then give me a call on 01708 771983 to buy a copy and get the full tutorials. There is special pricing available for schools and students.
You can hear the piece of music I created whilst writing the project by clicking the play button below. The entire piece was created without and midi keyboard or controller using just the instruments and effects included in Cubase 6: