Over the last dozen years or so, I've had the privilege of using and testing literally hundreds of plug-ins, soft synths and sampler instruments. Believe me, it's not often when a piece of software comes along that offers something completely different and unique. BreakTweaker is one of those instruments. Not only does it have a stellar library of sounds and an enormously flexible Dual Wavetable synth engine, capable of some seriously hefty basses and leads, it offers us MicroEditing. You can literally slice any .WAV or .AIFF file into thousands of cuts, with a turn of a knob. You can sling shot audio from slow to fast or in any direction.
Here are 5 Quick Tips to get you started.
In the Global Presets Dubstep category, load SMLSS-2 Bass Dub Preset and select Pattern 6. Right-click the single step event on the Bass 1 track and select Copy. Now go to the Chord track, create a new step in the same rhythmic position by double-clicking. Now right-click the newly created step and select Paste. You'll now have the MicroEdit sounding in the Chord voice as well. Selecting Retrigger will make the MicroEdit start at the beginning of sample for each cut, sharpening the rhythmic figure. While still on the Chord track, go to the Course Pitch offset and raise it by an octave by turning the knob to 12. Now right-click the Chord step and select Copy, and Paste it to the Snare Track in the same rhythmic location. While still on the Snare track, go to the effects tab and change it from Chorus to Alias. Change Track Panning, Gain and Gate Amount to taste.
One of the foundations of modern bass music styles like dubstep is the use of double time. Producers alternate between 70 BPM and it's double time of 140 BPM many times during a song. This allows them to effectively alternate between Hip Hop and Drum & Bass, adding enormous amounts of tension and release to a track. But BreakTweaker isn't limited to just double time. Oh no... Each track has a Playback Speed pull-down (pictured in the Snare Track below). Tracks can play at normal tempo (1x), one-third tempo (1/3x), half tempo (1/2x), two-thirds tempo (2/3x), one and one-half tempo (3/2x), double tempo (2x), or triple tempo (3x). In the example below, I chose Preset AB-Lapped. I slowed the tempo of my DAW down to 43. Then I changed the speed of tracks 1, 2 and 5 up to 3x. This puts the Kick Snare foundation at a comfortable and housey 129 BPM, while the Drop track is running at a glacial 21.5 BPM. Be sure to take this the other direction as well. Speed up your DAW tempo and half or third your Kick and Snare foundations. Start down this road and you may not leave the house for a few days.
Tip 3 - Tuning Bass Lines and Chords
Although not readily apparent, BreakTweaker provides some powerful tools to tune Synths and Samples to your own song. In this example we are on Pattern 5 of the RD-Wobble Glitch preset. When selected, individual Steps can be tuned -12 to +12 using the corresponding Course Pitch Offset adjustment in the MicroEditing Lane.
All of the Steps in a Track can be tuned up or down globally by adjusting the Course pitch control on any of the tracks three active Generators. The most seductive feature of this knob is that pitch can be automated via the triangles just to its left. You can seriously bring the Funk and add obesity to bass lines by wiggling pitch with any two of the eight available Envelopes or LFOs.
Finally, and most intriguingly, you can tune, and even create intervals and arpeggios within any Step using the MicroEditor. When you select Pitch in the Type pull down menu, the control shifts to a Note selector. The higher the note, the more cuts in the audio, the lower the less cuts. But that's only the beginning. A good portion of the choices under the Slope pull-down menu create intervalic relationships and arpeggios using density of audio cuts. The algorithms are self descriptive.
Don’t forget to experiment with Tension and Rotate and everything in the Gate section. These controls allow you to backload the effect like the tension of a spring. You can easily create beats and sound design effects that were completely inconceivable and impossible to achieve before.
As much fun as MicroEditing is, I must say BT’s wavetable synths are equally as ground breaking to my ear. At the basement of every track sits three sound making options. I’ll often start out with a sample, and then augment it using 1 or 2 synths. This can be done by selecting the wavetable browser.
The intelligent thing here is you can audition these new wavetables in real time, if there are steps on your track and you are in preview mode. Sliding the indicator underneath the wave allows you to scroll through additional wavetable selections from left to right. In this example, I’ve also assigned wobble and movement by assigning a modulation source. E1 and L1 to move between wavetables and E2 and L2 to move fine tuning. The presence of orange and green indicate that synth movement has been assigned to wiggle or wobble (modulation) in some way.
BreakTweaker has some really excellent copy & paste and editing goodness at nearly every turn. Right-click on any assigned control and you’ll see the dark gray menu below.
In addition to the expected copy and paste functions there are some tasty bits. Lock, indicated by all yellow, allows you to lock both start and end points, as in the case of a filter sweep on the New York Filter, and then move that selection around the clock face of the control without losing the relationship. Flip Range keeps both start and finish locked, but reverses them 180 degrees. The results are often stunning. Finally Full Range sets both controls to their fullest distance and can be a time saver.
You can paste Samples and Knob data from track to track and location to location within the App, and even between two separate instances of BT.
Right-clicking a step allows the step to be copied, pasted or deleted. This menu also offers the ability to copy the step events of an entire track, and even a whole pattern, (step events from all six tracks) from place to place, and yes, also between instances of BT. This is such a creative boost. I save my favorite MicroEdits as tracks in a catchall preset, and then move them from kit to kit looking for the sounds. The same with patterns. Using Copy Pattern from kit to kit can bring interesting results.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into BreakTweaker. Personally? I’m floored with it. It’s opened up a nice and very interesting new way of working for me. Now not to overuse it...