Imagine a machine that lets you walk a thin line between control and chaos. You’ll be tweaking it, for sure – you’ll want to invest a sufficient amount of time shaping its sounds and adjusting its instruments to alter its flightpath. But once set in motion, it will give you variety and delicious insanity.
That’s the idea behind Peter Dines’ ParamDrum, a Reaktor drum machine with granular goodies inside providing sample manipulation and a set of clear sequenced controls for adjusting parameters. The “Param” bit refers to the parameters you’ll control – pitch + sample select + speed + size (of the sample) + smooth (granular) + swing. These parameters are unleashed against a sequence that you’ll likely never fully control – but that will never feel like it’s simply on autopilot, either. You can then load your samples into three players, which can be conceived as bass + clap/tom/snare + hat or something else entirely.
It may sound out of control, but “control” in the MIDI sense is essential. You can control step probability with MIDI velocity, tap in sequences with MIDI notes, and record playable automation with MIDI CCs from your hardware encoders. Pete has worked out a lovely template for Native Instruments’ Maschine controller, for instance.
ParamDrum, then, becomes a factory for variations. It allows you to iterate through plenty of results you don’t like to the one that’s perfect, for production or performance.
ParamDrum is a cheap US$12.50, though you do need a copy of Reaktor 5 (also included in Komplete) to use it. The upside is, it’s editable, and you get Pete’s immaculately well-organized patch macros, so it’s something you can modify easily or use as a model for your own patches.
Full details on Pete’s noisepages page, Modulations, which is also a new repository for his thoughts on sound design, Reaktor patching, SuperCollider learning, and other music technological geekery.
The other cool thing about ParamDrum in our throwaway technological world is that it’s already started to attract a little community of users.
Loopy C, master of strange sounds, has turned ParamDrum into his personal “hyperdrummer” for a track called Jah Frazzin Zooks, which he describes in a kind of experimental abstract poetry:
‘Frippish’, vari-tempo spectralisms meet Ornette Coleman-influenced electronica, hyperperformance machines jamming in the cafe at the end of the Universe (which for some reason look like fractal vaginas? (above)). Duo form.
The full track can be heard at his blog:
Jah Frazzin Zooks
Brettwiththedobro has a screencast (above) showing his own rig, with custom samples and the combination of Kore and Reaktor for control. (If you’re interested in the Kore and Reaktor combination, Pete’s previeous video tutorial is a great place to start.
This is a screen capture of Peter Dines Reaktor ensemble ParamDrum. I replaced the samples with my own kitchen/dobro sample map and hooked it into Kore to control various parameters. Fun, weird loops are a cinch.
Pete is also working with me on OpenSoundControl implementation in ParamDrum, which could enable cross-country ParamDrum collaboration, and via a project I’m building, visualization of parameters in Processing. Stay tuned.