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how to stop drum machine playing at start of a song

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 8:38 am
by drippycatsimon
I'm sorry if this is one of those questions that keeps on getting asked but I did some searching and maybe I wasn't using the right key words or phrases but...

Suppose I have a drum machine like one of the Roland drum emulations, or something like Geist 2 or Klip or Spark or a TB303 emulation - anything with it's own sequencer. There's a nice rhythm in slot A1, or 1, or whichever is the first of the sequencer slots on the instrument. I can turn it on and off from the instrument interface. But so can my DAW and whenever I press the main play button all the instruments that have a sequencer go off all at once and make a huge noise.

What do I do to ensure I get to control when the instrument starts playing? One thought I had was to make a blank first pattern for every instrument with an internal sequencer. That way, when I press the main play button they all fire off playing empty patterns. I can then use midi drag to drag in patterns from the instruments to clips within Ableton. I noticed I couldn't drag and drop midi clips which I'd cleared of all note information. Or is there a better/more accepted way of dealing with this issue?

Drippy Cat

Re: how to stop drum machine playing at start of a song

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 8:46 am
by garyboozy
look in the relevant drum machine manuals - they'll each have their own way of doing this.
iirc, geist sequences can be triggered via a low note sustained for the duration of the clip, but it's been a long time since i used it.

Re: how to stop drum machine playing at start of a song

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 9:41 am
by drippycatsimon
Thanks for the reply Gary.

Re: how to stop drum machine playing at start of a song

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 5:17 pm
by TLW
The start/stop behaviour you are seeing is part of how MIDI clock works and how slaved devices respond to it.

How a sequencer responds to MIDI clock start/stop etc. commands is usually built into the sequencer and can’t be over-ridden. So if designed to follow the “standard” way of doing things it will always start running at the same point the master clock device starts playing. This behaviour is part of the MIDI clock “standards”. Sequencers that use a voltage-based clock often work the same way, and start as soon as they receive a clock signal and stop when they no longer receive clock signals.

Some devices are capable of following MIDI/voltage clock but not start running until they receive a separate “start” command, but most follow the “standard” way fo doing things.

There are work-arounds to deal with the times you don’t want a sequenced instrument sending sound from the moment Live starts playing.

One is to create an empty “silent” sequence and use that for the times the sequenced instrument should not be making sounds. Which is fine if the sequencer has enough memory slots, but some sequencers have no memory to store patterns and consequently no ability to switch patterns at all.

The work-round I use for them is to mute whatever they’re connected to until I want it to be heard. Muting can be done by turning the instrument down or, if monitoring it through Live, by muting the relevant track. Using Live’s mutes has the advantage you can automate them very accurately and don’t have to remember to operate the instrument at exactly the right moment.

Another work-around is to just let the MIDI clock do its thing, record the sequences into Live then chop them up and move them around as required.

None of the work-arounds are very convenient, but it’s part of what’s involved when working with hardware sequencers. The ideal solution would be to go back to 1981 and persuade the people who created the MIDI standard that the best idea would be to make start/stop etc. commands separate from the clock signal. Or persuade modern manufacturers to design their products so they sync their timing to clock but start/stop etc. instructions are handled by e.g. MIDI CCs.

Re: how to stop drum machine playing at start of a song

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 5:24 pm
by drippycatsimon
Thanks for that very informative reply TLW! The idea of muting seems a very sensible one.