Author Archives: grayson

How to Set up the Hi-Hat in Superior Drummer 3

How to Setup the Hi-Hat in Superior Drummer 3

I previously made a guide on setting up version 2, but here’s a new one on how to set up the hi-hat in Superior Drummer 3. It looks like a lot of info, but that’s only because I try to go over every step in a way that any user will be able to understand. Let’s dig in!

Starting point
Having everything already working in your current drum brain (aka drum module) is the foundation for everything that will be communicated to Superior Drummer.
First get your kit and hi hat sounding good with your drum brain itself. Refer to the manual of whatever device you are using. If it isn’t working with the built in sounds on your module on it’s own, you may have issues that Superior Drummer won’t be able to fix.
If you use a Roland drum brain, here is a good video on fine tuning the settings of the hi-hat in the module itself so that you can get optimum performance.

MIDI basics
In drum terms, MIDI notes can be thought of as simple “hits” that tell the computer that a note has been turned on (and then immediately off). This is what tells the drum samples to play in Superior Drummer. The other information these “hits” send the computer, is the velocity at which you hit the drum. A higher velocity number will produce a harder hitting drum sound in order to sound realistic. The velocity number goes up to a max of 127.
Now, the simplest and best way to set up your module is to have the outgoing midi be in line with the General Midi standards. This is a basic set of standard notes that percussion software knows how to interpret. For instance, if you set your bass drum as note 36 (in your drum module) the percussion software on your computer will know to produce the sound of a bass drum, because note 36 is “Bass Drum 1” in the General Midi standards. Your module likely already is set up to use these notes as it’s outgoing midi, but there may be some notes that don’t fall in line with these standards. You don’t have to use General Midi for everything, but it will make your life easier with Superior Drummer as well as any other percussion software because it is a default standard.

Here is a list of all the General MIDI percussion mappings if you need to reference them.

Superior Drummer 3 has made our lives much, much easier by displaying a live readout of all the MIDI incoming into the computer. For instance, if you hit the bass drum, Superior Drummer will show you which MIDI note your bass drum pad is sending out. This is another way you can confirm that your drum brain MIDI is using the General MIDI notes. Previously, we had to download separate software to troubleshoot our MIDI issues, but now its as easy as opening up the MIDI Monitor window in the right-hand column. (Note: A similar MIDI readout, called “Analyzer”, can be used when inside the Settings window).

Make sure that the MIDI Monitor option menu is set to “Show Notes”, and that “Show Keys” and “Show Internal Notes” are off. MIDI notes also can be read as musical keys, but when dealing with percussion I find that the numerical note numbers are more straight forward. But you can always turn on the Keys option if you wish.

Basics of SD3 Drum Mapping
This article is mainly about the hi hat, but here’s a brief overview of how to map any of the drums. Using the General Midi notes in your drum brain should make most things work off the bat, but in case any of your pads aren’t triggering the correct drum, the easiest way to fix this is by using the “Learn” feature.

Say for example the Hi Tom on your e-Drums is triggering a low tom sound in Superior Drummer. In SD3, click on the drum you actually want to trigger so that it has a blue outline in the graphical representation of the drum set. Open Settings > MIDI In / E-Drums and a new window of options will pop up. In the “Mapping” tab, hit the “Learn” button. Now hit the physical Hi-Tom on your e-drum set. Now hit your Hi Tom on your set more and you will see that it is now correctly mapped to the right drum.
What happened is that your drum module was sending a MIDI note that Superior didn’t recognize as being the correct note. Superior now re-routed that note and now interprets it as the correct note inside the software.

You can now see in the MIDI settings that that note has been edited. When note 43 is selected, you can see in the Mapping tap that the arrow is now pointing to the new note that it routes to, “1.” Furthermore, below in the Analyzer window, it shows the actual MIDI note you are hitting, and then it shows the number that it is being re-routed to in green. In my screenshot I have remapped note 43 to note 1 (just as an arbitrary demonstration). Now when I hit the pad associated with note 43 in my drum module, it shows that it detected note 43, but is now re-interpretting it as note 1. Any notes that you have not Edited will say “No” to signify you have not edited them in SD3. The cleanest way to set up your drums is to have all your real MIDI coming from your module set up to be read properly by SD3 in the first place, so that you don’t need to edit these in the software. For example, if this is how I wanted my drums set up, I could change note 43 to note 1 in my drum module preferences, and then I would not need to re-route that note in Superior Drummer. However, this ideal setup may not always work and there is nothing wrong with re-routing (also called re-mapping) some MIDI notes. It can be a little complicated at times, but the new features in SD3 make it much simpler than it used to be.
To summarize, if a pad you are hitting isn’t making the correct sound, you can either edit the settings of your drum brain for that pad to use a note that Superior Drummer is looking for, OR you can keep your drum brain settings and re-route that note to the note that Superior Drummer is looking for. The simplest way is to play the drums, identify any pads that aren’t working correctly and use the Learn function to correct them.

Hi Hat Foot Pedal MIDI
Let’s go back to the drum brain module itself. You’ll want to use General Midi not only your drum triggers (Tom hit, snare hit, etc) but your hi hat pedal. The Hi hat pedal works a bit differently than the other midi “hits”. It uses a CC midi value and not a midi note. This not a simple “on” trigger, but more of “meter” that is constantly being read. The more open you have your foot the lower the number in this numerical “meter”. This is how the computer knows how “open” the high hat is.
Some e-drum pedals are pedals that literally transmit the “openness” your foot allows it and works with a separate pad for the hi hat.

Modern a hi-hats often use an actual hi-hat pedal; you attach a mechanism that senses the pressure of the classic hi hat stand as opposed to a direct electronic foot pedal. Either way you go, the CC value is what is sent to the computer.

MIDI Control options menu in the Roland TD-12

One final important note. Make sure your hi hat pedal is set to CC4 in your drum brain settings; this is the General Midi standard for conveying the “openness” to the computer. It may be referred to as pedal, or “Foot”. In the case of my Roland TD-12 module I had to set “Pedal CC” to “Foot(4)”. This is the one midi value that you can not re-map inside SD3 (as far as I know), so it must be set correctly in your module for the “openness” to change with the pedal pressure. For some reason my module was originally set to CC16 and would not work until I edited the module’s settings.

Superior Drummer 3 MIDI settings
The first thing to remember is you want to edit the Global options in the Settings menu and not just the settings for the current drum kit which are located on the right hand side. While its possible to save your custom drum kit and load it again later, the better method would be to adjust your settings for the software as a whole so that all the kits work off the bat.
You can access these global settings in the upper menu: Settings > MIDI In / E-Drums. It is the same area we used when remapping the pads using the Learn function.

Tweaking Hi hat “Openness” for Realism
Superior Drummer 3 makes it really easy to tweak the hi hat to get it feeling realistic. Again, go to Settings > MIDI In / E-Drums. There is a section dedicated to tweaking the “openness” in relation to your foot pedal.
First, remember that your foot pedal in your drum module must use CC4 for the pedal to affect anything.

I explained the CC4 value as a “meter” earlier; the Hi-Hat Pedal Control options allow you to change how SD3 reads that meter and presents a vertical meter of its own. (This is found in the same MIDI In / E-Drums section of the Settings. You then go to the “Hi-Hat & Snare CC” tab and click “Hi-Hat Pedal Control”)

When playing your kit, you might find that you have your foot down all the way, but the hi hat still sounds a bit open. This is where you can fix these kind of issues.
You will need to experiment by adjusting where the “closed” breakpoint occurs on that vertical bar. Once the “closed” section of the high hat feels right, open it a bit more and get the next level of “openness” to feel realistic, and so forth. You can also adjust the “Tight” setting, which is when you put extra pressure on the pedal that the timbre of the hi-hat changes a little bit (which replicates what happens when using a real hi-hat).

Note: When setting these levels I originally kept my foot pressure in the same place, made adjustments on the bar in SD3 and then hit the hi hat but it wasn’t changing the amount of “openness” and didn’t appear to affect anything. It turns out that you have to take your foot off the pedal and then try it again in order to update the changes you just made. Once you know to do this it is very intuitive, but can be confusing if you aren’t aware of that little caveat.

And just like before, make sure you use the Settings > MIDI In / E-Drums pop up window when making these adjustments. Like most adjustments in SD3, you can make them in those modules on the right hand side of the drum kit. It looks identical in the way you adjust it, but any edits you make on those right-hand modules are only going to edit that specific kit you are using and will disappear as soon as you load a different kit.

That’s about it! And remember that Toontrack has an official manual for SD3 if there is anything specific you need to learn more about.

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The Pinball Arcade – Interface Redesign (GUI, UI, UX Design)

The Pinball Arcade is the most realistic pinball simulator available. It features faithful recreations of classic pinball machines and has millions of users across PC, Mac, Playstation, Xbox and various other platforms. A lot of time and money is spent getting each pinball table as accurate and realistic as possible. However, the user experience and menu design has not received the same attention. The game’s users have been complaining about the interface for years; the topic comes up in countless forum threads and someone even made a 20 minute video explaining all the ways the interface is poorly designed. As a fan of The Pinball Arcade, I created a design mockup of how I would like the interface (aka GUI, UI, UX)  to function. The video above demonstrates my design concept for the PC version (full screen at 1080p). 

Goals

Instead of simply focusing on their top score, The Pinball Arcade platform sets certain goals for players to achieve for each table. In the current interface, the progress of these goals is hidden until you go to each table’s detail page. I thought it would be better to not only prominently display these achievements in the detail section for each individual table, but also on each table icon itself. 

Table icons reflect goal progress without cluttering the visual space

A small bar at the bottom of each table icon displays the player’s progression through these goals. A white line represents the standard goals and a red line represents the wizard goals (which are only unlockable once the standard goals are met). Now, the tables menu serves as a showcase for the user’s acheivements, as well as a reminder for which goals remain incomplete. The line displays this information without distracting or cluttering the menu. However these progress line/bars can be disabled in the preferences if the user chooses. 

Friends

Currently in The Pinball Arcade, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to compare scores with friends. This is surprising for an arcade platform centered around high scores and competition.  My friend an I actually have a shared dropbox folder where we screenshot our scores for the different tables and compare scores by comparing images; it’s a workaround for something that should be a focal point of the platform. 

It’s easy to compare scores with friends

In my design, each table has an easily accessible friend ranking as well as online and you can access it without having to leave the table menu to a separate screen. I imagine a more in depth page could be made that specifically highlights different stats between you and your friends, but I did not design that page. 

See what friends are online

In the bottom left of the screen, your currently online friends (and recently active friends) are displayed, along with what game they are currently playing. I would like to be able to click on an online friend and challenge them to their current table or one of my choosing. They could accept this challenge and we would take turns and see each other play, just like 2-player mode on a real pinball machine. 

Music

I also created custom music for the interface, to be used as the default Pinball Arcade music before the user has chosen a table. The music in the current Pinball Arcade software is the song “Pinball Wizard” by The Who. While the song lyrics are clearly relevant, the bright strumming of an acoustic guitar always felt out of place with the 80s/90s arcade games seen on screen. I met them halfway by creating an 80s retro synthesizer version of the song which I feel makes a better fit in the arcade atmosphere. You can hear my music as the default theme at the start of the video. 

Updating the Design

The current interface is clunky, hard to read and doesn’t present much information

My main goal with this project was to create a more engaging and intuitive interface. I wanted everything important laid out and easy to see, without the need to click onto different pages. I wanted to provide the user with a lot of information, but still keep the layout simple. I made some simple changes such as using an “unlocked” icon, on the free-to-play table of the month, instead of the actual words “table of the month” as they currently use. The table icons are now legible, but still convey the theme of the table by using an image from the backglass. There are still things I would change and add to, but overall I think this would be a big improvement for the software.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Farsight or The Pinball Arcade software. This is a fan-made design project.
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Summer Fun

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Clown Illustration

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Watch Vector and Editorial Layout

Several years ago I painstakingly recreated a wrist watch in vector using Adobe Illustrator and created these editorial fake magazine layouts.

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Pixies Havalina and Velvet Underground I’m Set Free

I’ve always thought the bridge section of the Pixie’s “Havalina” sounded exactly like the bridge of Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”, except instead of a slide guitar it is Frank Black’s voice.

Does anyone else think it sounds similar?

Velvet Underground – I’m set Free (at 2:09)

 

Pixies – Havalina (at 1:16)

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Killer Snowman

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Modern Geometric Christmas Designs

These are some modern graphic designs with a Christmas theme. I made them in 2013, but never got around to posting them.

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Arab Beats Vol 1 – Middle Eastern Beats and Arab Hip-Hop Instrumentals

A collection of Middle Eastern beats and arab hip-hop instrumentals I released under my artist name Grayso. These beats were made by sampling vintage Middle Eastern music from various countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. I created these tracks between 2013-2015 where they lived on my Soundcloud and the collection was officially released on Bandcamp in 2016. The album is pay-what-you-want so download it for free if you like, or pay what you think it is worth! I plan on making more Middle Eastern beats in a follow-up Volume 2 in the future.

Download here for free (or pay what you want)!

 

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Snake Eyes

snake_eyes

First drawing with the Apple Pencil on iPad/Procreate

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