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BFD tutorial

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This tutorial was originally written for Musicrun magazine. It's reproduced here with their kind permission ...

BFD Special

Sofware editors are making us really lucky in terms of drum simulation. It's getting easier and easier and possible to produce pre-mastered or even finalized songs with amazingly true-to-life drum lines. The latest to arrive on the market : BFD from Fxpansion. Frightening audio quality and easy programming, let me introduce you to one of the numerous programming methods.

Using BFD with a sequencer

BFD may be used in several ways : As a standalone software, as a simple sound module or as a user-definable rythm machine. I'm going to detail the latest way to handle it. Summary of what follows : Loading of the plug, creating a user defined kit, choosing patterns, programming the sequencer, audio adjustments of every drum parts separately, and finally global mixing. I chose Cubase SX 2.01 as the host but this step by step tutorial may be applied to any sequencer with a built-in drum editor or piano roll. Before you start, I strongly advise you to download the latest update. It fixes several bugs but also offers a few additional "Grooves" ...

Load BFD into your favourite sequencer and organize the environment. Watch out, BFD offers 3 different versions but use preferably «BFD All» which enables a lot more mixing possibilities. I'll come back to that later. Under Pro Tools, the only available option is Stereo.
Next, we'll choose the drum parts one by one. Click on the left icons and then click on the available sounds with the SHIFT key to get a pre-listening to it. Finally, select the right sound according to your needs. Repeat the process for every drum part. Now you get a fully working drum kit.
By clicking on the drum sketch, you gain access to an interface that allows on the one hand to listen to the selected sounds with velocity nuance but also on the other hand to erase unused parts. Working that way frees up the amount of RAM dedicated to BFD and it badly needes some !

Saving the presets of your kit will be usefull to reuse it in another song project. 2 floppy-like buttons are displayed to make the savings and Kit loading easier. Save the Kit into the «User» folder as suggested. This way, it will be available by clicking the Kit Selector.
On the upper right, disable all R, S and F buttons. Click now at the top on Current Groove. Here we're going to select and load the Patterns. On the left the Grooves in themselves and on the right the Fills. We've got 24 Groove-squares and 12 Fill-squares.
You can load a whole Bundle by "drag and drop" or, by clicking the little + displayed in front of it, select a specific Groove. No matter how the square you drop them into. Clicking on a Groove allows to listen to it. Select that way your Grooves and Fills.

There's a usefull trick to move a Groove from one square to another. Hold the CTRL key while "drag'n dropping". It's worth noting that a Groove may also be used as a Fill and vice versa. Selecting Patterns is the longest operation to carry through a succesfull conclusion.
Now add a new Midi track into your project, create an empty Midi Part and open it in the Drum editor or the Piano Roll. You've certainly noticed that any Groove/Fill in BFD is associated with a note, haven't you ? Then you can imagine the rest ! But first of all, some usual precautions ...
BFD requires a metronomic precision as for the notes position that will trigger the right playing of a Groove. To be free of worries I usually adjust the editor's quantization to 1 note and the note length to 1 note too. Otherwise, I can't guarantee success !

You just have to add note after note in the editor so as to build up a worthy of the name drumline. To do this, use the pencil (Cubase SX) or the equivalent and enter the right note at the right place. It's not so difficult ! I'm even getting on it !
You can adjust at any time the sound of any part from the drum kit. The Trim buttons allow to balance the equilibrium between the mics putted close to the instrument and the overheads. The whole thing acts finally as an auxiliary send effect. It's frighteningly efficient !
Also use the faders to balance the direct sound and the sound coming from the 3 ambiant recordings. With his options and those from the previous step, you've got all what you need to make your drum sequence sounding amazing enough to drive any decent sort of drummer completely mad ;o) I've tried it out !

Better ! BFD offers an audio output per each element of the Kit and also per mics groups. So, it's possible to process each sources differently : Reverb on the snare, compression on the kick, equalization on the over heads etc ... Raring to go computer required !
Unfortunately, BFD don't have any virtual Midi output like Groove Agent. If you want to edit patterns, there's only one tedious solution : Go on your hard disk and recover the Midifiles then import them one by one into your project. A bit predictable, isn't it ... ?
That's all folks ! Not so difficult, don't you think ? I drop you off at the reading of the manual to fine tune your settings, among other those active on the playing irregularities (timing and velocity). With all that, you would be able to produce realistic drum parts. See you here or somewhere else ;o)

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Pascal Valentin, on the 29-08-2004

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