Pattern Arrangement Within Caustic's Sequencer
Painting the Big Picture
In this article, we'll focus on using the edit tools in Caustic's sequencer to build a song from various patterns. If you are new to electronic music, and the idea behind a sequencer, then it might help to think of the sequencer as an artist’s canvas. Not too far from the truth, as you are the painter here. Now think of the patterns as your different colors (instruments), and brush strokes (notes). The whole point of the sequencer is to help you paint the big picture, which is your arrangement of instruments, and the order of the note groups (patterns) they play.
We will be using Caustic 2.1.2 for this article. Only reason I state it is because Caustic 3 is due to be released soon, and things in the new sequencer look a little different. The core practices taught here will still apply though, so let's begin.
Above you can see a screenshot from my recent song, "Email to Galapagos". I got inspiration for the initial drum pattern from listening to Deadmau5's "Faxing Berlin", and then everything changed from there. In a future article I'll show you how to use a program called 'Audacity' to examine the waveforms of songs so you can try and figure out how various artists built their sounds.
When I put this song together, I had a few goals in mind. One was I wanted the song to be at least 3 minutes. Another goal was that I wanted the feel of the song to be relaxing, laid back, easy to get lost in, yet interesting enough to get stuck in your head. I'll leave it up to you to decide if I reached those goals, but I'm going to show you how I did it. Read on.
Create the Drum Pattern
Remember I said I wanted a drum pattern that sounded similar to Deadmau5's 'Faxing Berlin'? That's the first thing I did when I started writing this track; create a drum pattern. However, I couldn't find a single drum kit preset in Caustic that had everything I wanted in it, so I went ahead and added two drum kits, each containing sounds I wanted to use. And even with that, I still swapped out one of the sounds from one of the kits.
I started with the 808 drum kit, and laid the following pattern down for 'A1':
Nothing fancy. In fact, fancy is often not necessary to get the job done. Too much fancy is called 'dubstep' in my opinion, and don't get me wrong: I love dubstep. Well, some of it at least. (Check out Going Quantum Podcast).
I also created pattern 'A2' as follows:
Again, nothing fancy. This pattern 'A2' is intended to be my 4th measure change-up beat.
I then selected another Beatbox, and set it up with the kit 'dance', that comes with Caustic. I created the following 2 patterns with that kit:
How about that? A whole bunch of nothing fancy, obtaining something that sounds good. You don't want too much of one thing in your music, because it'll detract attention from another thing.
Unless that's your goal, then go for it!
Take Your Building Blocks and Build
Return to the sequencer and place the patterns as shown above.
I used these drum patterns for pretty much the entire track, with minimal variation. To copy, first you need to select the patterns you want. I like to use the 'Lasso' tool, so touch that button, and then draw a window over what you want to copy. Keep in mind you will select anything the drawn window touches, not just what's inside of the window. When you take your finger off the screen, all selected patterns will change to orange. Now touch the 'Copy/Paste' button:
And then press the 'Copy' button. Now move your current position bar to the end of your existing drum patterns by tapping the measure number below the end of the last measure. My screenshot shows the position at the end on measure 99, but yours will probably be at the end of measure 7.
Switch back to the select options by touching the Selection button (it currently shows the number '3' inside it, at the top of the screen). Press the 'None' button to deselect everything.
Other ways to select patterns are the 'Multi' button, which lets you pick any number of patterns by touching them (again, the selected patterns are shown in orange):
You can also select by 'Time'. This selection method lets you pick a starting measure and an ending measure, but will select patterns that exceed the time window you specify.
For example, here is a selection based on selecting measures 56 - 59:
But if I wish to add one more measure to my selection using 'Time' select, I get all the measures of the patterns I touched:
How this affects you depends on how you like to write your music. If you want this to happen, then stretching out your patterns over multiple measures should be fine. If you don't want it to happen, then you will need to copy and paste more single measures to provide clean breaks across all your instruments for selection.
To delete patterns, simply select what you want to get rid of and press the 'Delete' button.
To deselect anything currently selected, press the 'None' button.
And if you need to add blank measures at any point in your song, go to the measure number where you want to insert space, and hold your finger on the measure bar. You'll be presented with this option:
All you have to do is tell Caustic how many blank measures you want and then press 'OK', and you're good to go.