GROOVE IT UP
Personally, I feel that there are many things you can do as an electronic producer to make your MIDI sequences sound more life-like. Perhaps the most obvious is the use of different velocity levels. In addition, there is also humanizing, a feature found in most MPC style VST samplers like Battery 4. In short, humanizing takes in the sound and offsets its level and/or timing by a small determined amount automatically. This is a great tool for livening percussive sequences, especially hi-hats and shakers. Furthermore, shuffle is a process that delays the position of notes between downbeats, creating a swing or hip-hop feel. In this article, I have used all three of these tools to make my drum and arp groove sound more dynamic and real.
In this first example, the dynamics are pretty flat. Of course, each sample has the same velocity and there are no offsetting processes. Therefore, If you heard this outside of this article, you would probably be able to tell it was electronically produced right away because this type of performance rarely exists naturally.
~ static velocity, no humanizing
Moreover, this next example has various velocities for each source. Notice how the dynamic range has expanded.
~ varied velocities, no humanizing
As a matter of fact, this example has humanizing implemented. The difference is however subtle. Nevertheless, if you listen closely, you can hear that the timbre and timing of certain hits (shakers, claps, stick click) are not exactly conformed to the raw sample and grid.
~ varied velocities and humanizing
Additionally, I made a patch in FM8. As can be seen below, the first example below accordingly demonstrates how mechanical and uninteresting the sequence sounds with no accents, offsetting, or automation.
~ static velocity, no automation, no shuffle
For the most part, this example is nearly the same as the first. However, there are accents added and velocity sensitivity is turned up a little. Consequently, notice the dynamic range has expanded a little.
~ varied velocities, no automation, no shuffle
In my opinion, this is an important step. The images below show how that I have “Read” the note length parameter in FM8 to SoundBridge and drew in some automation for it. Given these points, notice how the articulation is dynamic now.
~ varied velocities, automation, no shuffle
Equally important, now is the time for the shuffle. In essence, I simply turned up the shuffle amount in the arpeggiator section of FM8 a bit. Most arpeggiators have a parameter like this. It may be called “swing” or “MPC”. Notice how the rhythm has changed correspondingly. Generally speaking, It grooves. I also dropped a SoundBridge delay on this chain and automated our wetness parameter.
~ varied velocities, automation, shuffle, and delay
In the end, take a listen to the examples below. Notice the differences in dynamics, processing, and groove. I hope this makes evident the importance of offset and humanizing in sequenced music.
~ static velocities, no humanizing, no shuffle or offset
~ varied velocities, humanizing, automation, offset quantization, shuffle, FX, and context.