Make Drum Patterns Interesting with Ultrabeat's Step Mode in Logic Pro X

Now we're not saying your drum patterns aren't interesting... but, here's a way to breathe new life into them using Step Mode in Logic Pro's Ultrabeat drum synth/sample plug-in powerhouse.  

Step mode in Ultrabeat is a great way to automate parameters directly within the plug-in. In the same way you trigger drum sounds, you can do the same for various parameters within Ultrabeat like envelope settings, pitch, EQ, filter, distortion and more. In this article, I’ll introduce you to Step mode by transforming a factory pattern into something more interesting.

Drum Synth or Drum Sampler?

Ultrabeat works both as a virtual drum synthesizer and as a basic drum sample player. There are advantages for using UB as a synthesizer and not as a sampler… on a synth hi hat for example, you can easily adjust the decay on the sound. If you want to stretch the length of a sample-based sound, you're at the mercy of the sample’s originally recorded length. For this article, I’ll be using synthesized drum sounds, but any of the factory kits with sampled sounds will work great too.

Open Ultrabeat and Pick a Pattern

Create a new software instrument track and choose Ultrabeat directly from the channel strip. The default preset setting is perfect for us to use. Switch to a more interesting pattern though… click on the pattern selection menu (to the right of the word pattern in the bottom left), and choose pattern 9. Turn on the step sequencer and press Play to hear the pattern.

Pic 1

Step Editor Overview

Click the Step button in the sequencer area toward the bottom left. An overlay appears above Ultrabeat’s parameters. In Step mode, everything lit up with a gold highlight can be automated per voice.

Pic 2

The area at the bottom that normally shows you drum triggers, velocity and length, becomes the step automation editor. This area is used to select the specific triggered drum step(s) programmed for that drum sound, and for creating automation triggers onto specific drum steps. You can tell where a triggered step is placed on the editor by looking at the numbered strip across the top. If you create more than one automation per voice, you can easily select the specific automation via a drop-down menu below the parameter offset words. You can also mute, solo, or easily reset the specific parameter.

Pic 3

There’s a darker grey grid area directly below each trigger number called the Step Select. This area is actually there all the time but does nothing outside of Step mode. In Step mode however, it’s your way of actually selecting the specific triggered drum so automation for any of the golden parameters can be applied to it. When you click onto this strip, you’ll notice that you can only select divisions that have a triggered drum voice on them. Once selected, the step becomes highlighted orange. Adjust any of the gold highlighted parameters now and you’ll actually write its position onto the selected step.

Pic 4

Automate Different Envelope Releases

Play with the kick’s envelope 2 and 4 decay. If you’re following along, make sure the bottom UB voice Kick 1 is selected and click onto the envelope 2 or 4 button to display it. Click the zoom button below the displayed envelope. The zoom button fits the entire envelope shape into the window for easy editing. Grab the decay node at the end and move it inward or outward on each trigger. Move onto any of the other triggered note positions and add different values to each.

Pic 5

Automate Filter Cutoff

Click onto any other drum voice that has some triggered drums on it. Make sure the filter is enabled on the voice you want to adjust the filter on. You can hold Option-Command together to temporarily toggle out of Step mode to enable or disable parameters. Turn the filter cutoff knob and the sequencer switches to display the specific parameter (in this case the filter knob). Click each triggered voice and either adjust the filter knob itself or click directly into the sequencer/parameter offset area.

Pic 6

Useful Tips

You can easily tell when there’s sequenced triggers on a drum voice… a small “sq” badge will be directly to the left of the voice’s mute button. When you’ve created something you like, you can drag the pattern to the Main window just like you normally would. The difference is that when you’re in Step mode, the automation comes with it and is turned into regular automation data! 

Check out the before and after samples below. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the tip.

Audio sample HERE:

Audio sample HERE:

Darren started making music on computers when he was a teenager in 1987. His first computer was an Amiga, and when he realized the power of computer-based production, his addiction for making electronic music began. Darren switched to Mac in 1994 and started using Logic Pro. He's been involved in many music projects over the years incl... Read More

Discussion

EDGEK8D
Ultrabeat does nit get enough love. Maybe could use a wee bit of reworking in the near future, but there really isn't another like it. What it does, is incredible. How it does it, not so much. With a more sensical mod matrix, better view and control over sample waveform and envelopes, along with a better filter could make this thing the best drum software going. Should be an iPad app as well, that would be great to make beats on the treadmill and import into Logic later.

Thanks Darren, I love Ultrabeat.
Darren Burgos
I agree in so many ways. UltraBeat is first a drum synthesizer (like the original TR808 was I might add). YES, control over sampled drums would be so great. Apple are on a roll updating various Logic plugin interfaces ...maybe UltraBeat too. Fingers crossed for feature updates I've a feeling though.

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