Some of you know I use Maschine. Mainly for electronic and pop drums.
Some of you might also know that I have a custom groove quantise template in Cubase. Something like [0,+20,+10,+20], so 16th notes move from [0,30,60,90] to [0,50,70,110]. It looks pretty heavy to write it like that, but it’s not so bad. It works well with my usual rhythms and syncopation.
Those of you who know Mashine well can see the problem emerging.
Basically, Maschine is (more than) the sum of three components:
- A pattern sequencer
- A hardware controller
- A sound (mainly drums) library
All three components integrate pretty well together, but there are some interesting quirks in how the whole package integrates with a DAW. When used as a plugin itself, Maschine can either use its own sequencer (with patterns triggered by the DAW) or be driven by the DAW (just like any other plugin instrument or sound module).
When using Maschine’s sequencer, I get to use the full hardware integration. Being able to access record mode and erase mode doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a big difference when building a drum pattern while the sequencer is running (previously I’d often step-sequence drums, which is a lot less exciting). Try iMaschine if you’re curious. I did, and it got me hooked.
The problem with using Maschine’s sequencer is that it’s a pattern sequencer. It resists fills and variations for specific song moments. Each variation requires its own pattern, with a corresponding change in the trigger on the DAW MIDI channel. It’s doable but it’s a fiddle. The other problem is that I can’t access my Cubase groove quantise template, because Cubase is triggering patterns, not individual notes.
I wish I could import my groove quantise template into Maschine.
Incredibly, Maschine – the groove production system – doesn’t support any kind of groove quantise. Yes, really. It’s robot or nothing. Sure, it supports 50% quantise, but it’s still moving the notes toward the same robotic grid. You only get more Kraftwerk or less Kraftwerk. It’s got ‘swing’, but even the swing sounds robotic.
I could program my patterns in Maschine, then export the MIDI back to Cubase to trigger Maschine as a sound module. In fact, that’s what I currently do. I use Maschine to program the patterns for the main sections, then bring the MIDI to Cubase to add fills and variations. But by that time, it’s too late for groove. It makes no sense to program the drum patterns and set out the structure of the song without the groove. The groove is fundamental. It’d be like changing the drum sounds after the song has been laid out. It makes no sense.
So I did the next best thing. I turned quantise off.
Now the groove comes from my fingers. If I record a part and the timing isn’t quite right, I erase and rerecord. Sometimes I have to practice a bit beforehand. And this forces me to treat it even more like an instrument and less like data entry. In fact, it’s very similar to how I approach guitar parts and keyboard parts. Fortunately I usually don’t have to adjust my timing after the fact.
And I get a result that sounds just as alive as any other live recording.