Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hydrogen Drum Machine Basics

This post aims to cover the basics around the Hydrogen Drum Machine interface and hopefully get a newbie feeling comfortable with the setup. Firstly, start up JACK and then Hydrogen. Once in Hydrogen, you want to select a drumkit which will suit your song the best. You can do this by opening the View menu and selecting Show Drumkit Manager. This will look like the figure below:


You can select which drumkit best suits you and then click Load Drumkit. If you don't like the default selection of kits, there are quite a few you can download from:
Hydrogen Drumkits or Hydrogen-music.org Drumkits

Once you have chosen your kit, you can familiarise yourself with the Hydrogen interface. The components of the interface are explained below:

  • The Pattern Editor

    This is where you write each drum pattern or fill by selecting which drum/instrument (y-axis) makes a sound at what time (x-axis). The figure below shows what this looks like.


    As you can see from the above figure, the time at which an instrument is meant to play, is represented by a dot. The vertical line below each note represents its volume. If you click and drag the line down, the volume of that particular note will decrease. Attached to the pattern editor window is some useful stuff shown in the figure below:


    Explaining the figure from left to right: The pattern number and name; the size defines how long a pattern is; the resolution defines how many notes can fit into that size pattern. The recording bar allows you to record what you play on your computer keyboard or via a MIDI input. Play around with the pattern size and resolution to get a better idea of what it does.
  • The Song Editor

    This is where you schedule when each pattern will play during the song. As seen in the figure below, many patterns make up an entire song and these patterns can be repeated or overlapped. You can also change a pattern's name by right clicking on its name and selecting Properties.

  • The Mixer

    This allows you to change the level/volume of each drum and also allows you to add effects or pan the instruments. The mixer is shown below:


    You can add effects by clicking on the FX button in the bottom right corner of this window. This will open the window seen below.


    A total of four effects can be added to each instrument. These are added by clicking on the Edit button and selecting an effect you like. The wetness (or level) of the effect can then be varied on each instrument by using the four dials found above each volume fader on the mixer.
  • The Transport Bar

    The transport bar is shown in the figure below. It allows you to play back either one pattern or the whole song. The tempo is shown as large numbers which represent the beats per minute. This tempo can be altered by selecting the + and - buttons found next to it or by double clicking on the numbers. The transport bar basically allows you to navigate your way around the song and to play it back.

  • The Instrument Editor

    This window is not too important for making a Hydrogen song but can be used to edit the drum sounds. To find out more about this window, read my post on How to Make a Hydrogen Drumkit.
Those are the basics of the Hydrogen interface, now you can get cracking with making some awesome drumbeats

Other posts you might find interesting:
Hydrogen Drumkits
My Attempt at a Hydrogen Drumkit
Pimp my Hydrogen Beats
Making a Roll Sound Realistic
Sunday Bloody Sunday Hydrogen Beat

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gooooooooooood post !

Brian the Lion said...

Thanks for the compliment. It is always encouraging to have nice feedback.

Later,
Brian

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post Brian, can't wait to get home and make some beats!

Brian the Lion said...

Thanks for the feedback, hope the beats go well. Check out my post called Hydrogen Drumbeat Templates - A Non-drummers Best Friend. It is a set of beats which help you get started with Hydrogen.

Later,
Brian

Wolfgang said...

Brian,

thank you so much for the good work ! It saved so much time.

Brian the Lion said...

It's a pleasure Wolfgang.

Later,
Brian

Anonymous said...

Good post. But I have a question that I can't find an answer to.

How do I increase the pattern length? I mean from the pattern editor, how can I increase the x-axis so I can prolong the pattern or beat? When I increase the value of 'size', nothing really happens. I don't see the x-axis any longer. What does the 'size' button suppose to do?

Thanks anyway for the great posts and tutorials

Brian the Lion said...

Hey,

Thanks for the feedback. The 'size' button increases the number of notes in a single pattern. To put it in terms of musical notation: The 'size' is the amount of whole notes in a bar, and the 'resolution' is the amount of sub-notes within each whole note. i.e. a 3/4 counts as 1-trip-let-2-trip-let-3-trip-let-4-trip-let, and would have a size of 4 and a resolution of 3T. For another example, if you have a resolution of 16, you will be able to insert 16th notes to a 4/4 beat.

Once you increase the size of your pattern, you will still have to insert extra notes at the end of it, otherwise they will remain blank. If you shorten your size, the notes which fall outside of the pattern size will not be played.

I hope that helps, please let me know if you need more help.

Later,
Brian

le vainqueur said...

Hey Brian, I just found your blog. It looks like it's full of great information. I'm trying to get 3/4 timing in Hydrogen, but don't see the 3T option you're mentioning. I have 4T, 8T, 16T and 32T, but no 3T.

Brian the Lion said...

Hey le vainqueur,

Thanks for the feedback. I wrote the reply to that comment whilst I was at work and made a mistake because I couldn't open Hydrogen. 4T is the actual timing I was mentioning which would give a count of:
1-trip-let-2-trip-let-3-trip-let-4-trip-let. Sorry about that...I hope you come right. Just let me know if you have any further questions.

Later,
Brian

Brandon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
le vainqueur said...

OK, I see what to do now. Thanks for the pointer

Brian the Lion said...

No worries.

Later,
Brian

Anonymous said...

parabens pelo site, congratulations from nordeste do brazil!

Anonymous said...

oi bru, woot licence did u use for the drumkit?
nice site -- lots of thanx