Caustic's Beatbox Features
If you have read my other Caustic-related articles, then you know I'm a fan of electronic music, and I particularly like to make electronic music. The drum machine, which in Caustic is referred to as the 'BEATBOX', is the place I almost always start when writing music using the Android software Caustic. This article isn't so much a music tutorial as much as it is an overview of the Beatbox synth.
Caustic's drum machine is sample-based, meaning it plays back samples of percussion instruments (or anything else you want to use). You use a Pattern Editor screen to arrange your beats, edit patterns, and control velocity. You can use 8 stereo samples per Beatbox machine loaded in Caustic. That means for Caustic 2 users, you could have all 6 machines be Beatboxes. And for the upcoming Caustic 3, you can use even more.
Beatbox User Interface
Main Screen, Kit Settings, and Pattern Editor
The main screen of the Beatbox machine is well organized. At the top, you have the machine name, which defaults to 'BEATBOX'. As with any other machine in Caustic, you can change the name by long-pressing the word BEATBOX, and typing in your own label.
Below the machine name is the preset display. Press the display to bring up a list of available drum kits to use in your songs.
To the right of the preset display is a disk icon. This allows you to name and save changes you have made to the current preset.
Continuing to the right is the MUTE and SOLO buttons, which mute all sound from the Beatbox, and mute everything else BUT the Beatbox, respectively.
Next is the Volume dial, which controls the Beatbox's output volume level. You can monitor the clarity of the output using the VU meter to the right of the volume dial.
This screen allows you to mute, or cut out one channel of sound when another channel's signal is in effect. Imagine a drummer playing a gig, and the hi-hat is moving like nobody's business. Well, that drummer knows his/her hi-hat has only 2 positions: open, and closed.
Caustic could care less about reality and physics, unless you tell it to care. So if you want your hi-hat to sound authentic, you need to use the Kit Settings page to make sure your open hi-hat sound isn't going off the same time the closed hi-hat sound is. -Unless of course you are simulating a drum with two hi-hats?
So the way this works is if you don't want the open hi-hat to sound when you hit the closed hi-hat (or vice-versa), then you simply press their boxes in the same mute group.
In my opinion, this is where you'll spend most of your quality time working with your drum tracks.
You have 4 banks (letters A - D) of 16 different patterns possible here, for a total of (wait for it....) 64 unique patterns. Oh wait, that's 64 unique patterns, PER BEATBOX MACHINE! Want more patterns? Add another Beatbox machine and keep going!
There's more here than meets the eye though. Long-press on either a bank button (A-D), or one the 16 pattern buttons, and you'll be presented with a new screen where you can specify the number of measures you want to work with, the grid resolution on the pattern editor main screen, shuffle override, and specific to the current pattern: shift amount.
To the right of the bank and pattern buttons is the grid button, which cycles through various note durations while also changing your grid layout. This is if you want to place let’s say a cymbal hit, and have it ring out, rather than get cut-off before the next beat.
Next we have the NOTE, SEL & EDIT buttons. Pressing the NOTE button puts you in writing mode, so you can place your beats in the window wherever you want them. Press the SEL button to select notes through various methods, and you'll have the option to delete notes here as well. The SEL button has a number in it too, which will tell you how many notes you currently have selected. Finally the EDIT button lets you copy and paste, as well as delete notes.
The main window is 8 rows tall, and when you have a drum preset loaded, you'll see the name of each drum in the kit shown on the left side of the row in light grey.
Beatbox Channel Controls
Above is the typical channel control layout for each of the 8 channels in a Beatbox drum kit.
You can mute or solo individual instruments in the drum kit, using the M & S buttons at the top.
The tall display on the left will show you what sample is currently loaded, and you can change this by pressing the "..." button below it.
Then you have the 5 dials on the right, which do the following:
- TUNE: Change the pitch of the played sample
- PUNCH: Kind of like velocity, but not really. You'll have to experiment, and see how the sound changes
- DECAY: How long the sound plays after the key press is initiated
- PAN: Sends the sound to the left, middle, right, or anywhere in-between
- VOLUME: How loud the specific instrument is
Last but not least, the PLAY button at the bottom. This is your dedicated 'LIVE' drum pad for each instrument.
Make Some Music!
Check out my article "Caustic for Android - Working with the Sequencer", in which I walk the reader through creating a 4 measure hook in Caustic. It covers multiple instruments and the beatbox.