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In-depth Feature:  Roland VariOS
Albert Potts writes: .

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Working with Drum Loops
The VariOS shines on drum loops. Arranging, layering, trimming, and all the usual features you would want are right here, in realtime. I also compared the sound of my loops played out of the analog outputs of the VariOS versus playback from my DAW. I found I preferred loop playback from the VariOS. The difference was subtle, but there was a certain meat and punchiness to the loops when played back through the VariOS that I found appealing. In other words, don't worry about the analog outs, they sound great.

Before work can begin on your arrangement, the samples must be encoded to the Roland VariOS format. Fortunately, this is a quick and easy process. In the V-Producer software you use the "Load Wave Data" dialogue box to search your hard drive for the files you wish to be processed (WAV, AIFF, or Sound Designer II files all work fine). Files are added to the load list as you select them, and when you have made all your selections, one click on "Load" will batch encode them. These encoded audio files will now show up on the V-Producer sample list, ready to be dragged into the Vari Track window for building your arrangement and processing. The ease and intuitiveness of this process can not be underestimated, and it all works as it seems it should.

At this point it should be noted that your samples must be encoded in one of three ways: as "solo", "backing", or "ensemble". "Solo" encoding extracts pitch, time and formant data, making it the choice for playing solo lines such as vocals or sax (you can still play polyphonically). "Backing" extracts pitch and time data, leaving formant. Roland recommends this type of encoding for drum or percussion loops. "Ensemble" extracts pitch and time data, and is recommended for "chordal phrases with ambience" according to the manual. It is possible to re-encode the audio files at a later date if you wish, as the encoding process is non-destructive. I preferred to simply re-encode the file from the original though, as multiple encoding/decodings of the same file seemed to degenerate it.

Okay, on to working with drum loops. Drag your encoded loop into one of the Vari Tracks six tracks, and then build up your drum arrangement by placing the same loop and others into the window where you want them. This is pretty much like and DAW sequencer, but here's the great part: you can mix and match any drum loop of any tempo. Whatever the tempo is in the locator window, that's what they will all play back at automatically. So if you have a loop that's originally 120, another that's 96, and a third that's 136, no problem. They all play back at the same tempo, and it's done real time. Arrange them, layer them, mix and match to your hearts delight. They'll all play back in sync at the assigned tempo.

Want to change the tempo? No problem, just type in a tempo with up to two decimal points. I got totally addicted to this. No slicing or pre-processing required other than the conversion that Roland does automatically when originally converting the sample. All the sample editing is done in real time as well, so making changes is like editing a synth, just edit the parameter and you are good to go. Don't like it, just change the parameters. The real time aspect of this made me a very happy camper.

Additionally, if you want to slice the loop up differently than it was done in the encoding process, you can do this in the Groove Scope editor. The Groove Scope window shows the audio waveform lined up with beats. In this window you can also add, delete, and moves slice(s).

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • VariOS Tips and tricks (pdf)
  • VariOS @ ww.zzounds.com
  • Watch the NAMM 03 VariOS video demo

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