Superior Drummer2: Layering Sounds & MIDI Nodes
Part of the fun when working with Toontrack’s Superior Drummer2 (SD2) is the software’s ability to present a ton of creative possibilities when constructing custom kits. Learning how to layer kit pieces using ‘MIDI Nodes’ in Superior Drummer2 will open your imagination to new colours of expression as percussive sounds are merged and forged in the resonant sound world of Superior Drummer’s timbral alchemy.
A MIDI Node in SD2 is a simple structure which allows multiple sounds or articulations to be stacked on top of each other as instrument layers to be triggered by MIDI. This powerful feature in SD2 not only allows the X-Drum to combine and blend with other drum elements in a kit but also to combine the different Mics, Rooms, Ambiences and FX of existing SD2 & EZ Drummer expansion packs.
Layering Sounds: The steps towards layering articulations and creating custom sounds in SD2 are few and begin with an instance of an X-Drum which is assigned an articulation, Mic or FX and then mapped to the MIDI trigger key note of an existing kit piece.
1. To the top right of the SD2 interface under the ‘Instrument X-Drum’ drop down menu is the option to create ‘New’. The newly created X-Drum is now located in SD2′s Construction View.
2. An articulation is assigned to the new X-Drum by choosing a sound source from the list in the drop down menu located at the tip of the Snare rim. Following the example in the image above: I have created my X-Drum, highlighted it (right+click PC or ctrl+click Mac) and assigned a Snare instrument from Toontrack’s excellent ‘The Metal Foundry’ expansion pack.
3. The next step is to layer the X-Drum Snare on top of an existing instrument in the kit. This doesn’t necessarily mean layering it with the existing Snare in the kit because the X-Drum could just as easily stack on top of any instrument in the kit depending on what you want to achieve sonically.
Continuing; in the top menu bar of SD2′s interface there is the menu header for ‘Mapping’. Immediately in the top right of the Mapping window are 2 tabs named ‘Instrument’ and ‘MIDI-NODES’. With the X-Drum highlighted (Right+Click PC – Ctrl+ Click Mac) a list of the articulations for the chosen X-Drum kit piece become available. Left clicking an articulation in this list will change its colour to orange to indicate that the articulation is active and allow the sound to be auditioned. When you are ready to map an articulation to a MIDI trigger simply drag it to the Keyboard Mapper and drop it on the same MIDI key associated with the kit piece you wish to stack it on top of. A ‘Replace or Join’ message will pop up – in this example we wish to join the 2 sounds together because we are layering and not replacing.
The MIDI Node is created and will now be listed under the MIDI-NODE tab as MIDI_Node 1 with its constituent parts listed below. In the MIDI-NODES window you can add or remove nodes and rename them too. Should you wish to use your MIDI-Nodes in future kit building sessions simply save the MIDI Node as a user preset by choosing the saving options found in the ‘Preset’ drop down menu provided.
Microphone Assignment: Each of the layered sounds contained within a MIDI-Node can be shaped and blended using all the instrument parameters such as; volume, envelopes, velocity and pitch as well as the effects and all the parameters available in SD2′s dedicated Mixer window including bleed and Mic sub mixing. On occasion, however, the choice of instrument selected for the X-Drum will not have a Mic assignment, especially when creating Ambiences and FX. SD2 will alert you to this fact and a manual Microphone Assignment should occur to make the sound audible as a layer. The Microphone Assignment button in the X-Drum window opens a window with a list of all the available Mixer Mics assigned to the seperate Mixer channels. The new X-Drum is listed as ‘New’ and coloured orange. Choose ‘Reset’ and drag the Mic(s) of your choice (colured green) across to the ‘New’ of the X-Drum and hit ‘OK’.
Checking Mic Levels: The Mic has now been assigned to the X-Drum and a dedicated channel in the SD2 Mixer window has been created. Locate the new channel in the Mixer window and raise the volume levels if necessary (ctrl+click for 0dB) and double check the Sub-Mixer (click the edit button) channel is active.
There are variations on the theme when creating MIDI-Nodes. What ever the working method the end result remains the same, it’s a matter of preference, nothing more. Instead of using the drag and drop method discussed, you could easily create the MIDI-Node first and drag the instrument articulations into the MIDI-Node stack list window. Then, use the MIDI Learn function in the MIDI-Nodes window to physically program SD2 to accept MIDI key note triggers.
Brought to you courtesy of Soundwrx Digital