U-HE Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Zebra by Releasing 2.7 Update Which Includes New Distortion Module. Here is what’s new.
A new Distortion module
Howard Scarr’s anniversary sound set
AAX support for Pro Tools 10 & 11
Parameter locking feature. A recent feature added to all u-he plugins, parameter locking lets you stop the values of any controls from changing when you switch presets. So one example of how you might use this is to lock pitch bend up to +2 and down to –12. Just rightclick on a control and select ‘Lock’. To unlock again, right-click and untick ‘Locked’.
Another example is to lock microtuning when browsing presets.
Zebralette no longer displays "enter serial number"
… and many more minor bugs and niggles fixed!
Dark Zebra’s zip has 2.7 as well, although it’s still labeled as a beta.
One of the best features of Maschine is it can host third party VST/AU plug-ins. Instruments and effects are assigned to modules at the pad, group, or master level. The plug-in parameters are exposed to Maschine in the order the manufacture specifies and auto-assigned to pages in groups of 8. You then use the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the parameters in groups of 8.
You can custom configure the parameters assigned to each knob by right-clicking on the knob in the software and selecting “Learn Plug-In Parameter” followed by changing a control in the plug-in to link it to the knob. There also menus for cutting and pasting to change the auto-assigned order
If you want to save custom settings as the default for the plug-in by selecting the modulate pull-down then clicking “Save As Default…”. Then the next time you insert the plug-in in the current project or future projects it will remember the settings.
For example, using this technique you can map the 8 performance parameters of Zebras 4 X/Y pads to the first page on Maschine. So now every time you insert an instance of Zebra, you get instant expressive control.
I just watched this interesting BBC interview “Brian Eno on Apps and Albums”. I don’t see a way to embed so click here to watch it..
His latest venture is the app Scape, a follow-up to 2008's Bloom app. Scape not only contains his most recent 'album' of the same name, but is also a tool allowing people to compose their own music on mobile devices.
He developed it with Peter Chilvers, known for his work creating music for computer games in the 1990s.
The app promises "deep access to the musical elements" that the composers used to make the album itself.
I thought it was pretty cool to see one of my desert island synths Zebra 2 on the monitor behind him :^ ).
In a previous post I mentioned the use of stand-alone FX versions of synths like Zebrify, Absynth FX, and Predator FX as effects processors. Here is a tip for you Absynth FX fans who are using Ableton Live and want to process the output of a another virtual MIDI instrument and then trigger envelopes in Absynth FX.
MIDI Won’t Pass Through By Default
If you drop Absynth FX into a MIDI track that already has a synth in it – say ZebraHZ - the audio will be processed as you’d expect via the patch settings. MIDI notes however are not passed through to Absynth FX which means the envelopes won’t be triggered.
Ableton Routing to the Rescue
Drop Absynth FX into '”A Return”
Route the ZebraHZ audio to with the “Send A” knob. I set the track to “Sends Only” so I only hear audio routed through Absynth FX.
Create a MIDI Track in Live and route the MIDI to “A Absynth 5 FX” return. (Click the image above to see the screen shot full screen).
At this point you can arm both the MIDI Track and the ZebraHZ track and play in real-time and notes will go to Absynth FX as well. Instead, I created a MIDI clip with a note pattern that repeats and…
triggers the Absynth FX Envelope while I’m playing different notes in ZebraHZ.
Ok, give it a go and expect crazy and interesting results from the most epic Absynth FX and monster envelopes implementation.
In recent posts I mentioned I was experimenting with the iPad with Alchemy, Slim Phatty, and iTnri. The Dark Zebra (ZebraHZ) release got me back into synthesis with Zebra in a big way. As I dug into the patches by Hans Zimmer and Howard Scarr, I discovered they not only map XYs but Aftertouch and Breath controller. In considering how to map to this, I bumped into this article by Audio Newsroom Interview with Zebra creator Urs Heckman called “Off-the-record: Urs Heckmann (u-he)”. They asked:
About Zebra, in the past I remember you told me there was a remote chance to see an hardware product out of it. Did the idea evolve somehow and are you still interested in it? I'm all for it but I can't do it alone. I've spoken to some people but I found nothing yet appealing enough to take a risk. I'd love to provide the industrial design for a zebraesque controller keyboard with 4 joysticks though.
While I think a dedicated hardware controller would be epic, it seems unlikely any time soon - so started working up an interface on Lemur with 4 XYs and thought I’d share the photo above.
Lemur Template Notes
I started with the “iPad – Studio Combo” template and:
Scaled the keys and octave button down to make room for more objects
In addition to Mod Wheel and Pitch Bend, I added sliders to the right for Aftertouch and Breath Controller
Along the top you can see 4 XY (Multiball objects). Below the first one you can see 3 horizontal sliders that I’m going to map to physics params for the XYs for Friction, Attraction, and speed.
I added 2 ADSRs (red and green) which I map to Envelope 1 & 2 in Zebra.
Top right I have two custombutton objects. The first is mapped to a note so I can trigger a drone or arpegio (Zebra doesn’t have a “hold” on the arp). The second is mapped to MIDI sustain and toggle sustain on and off.
Just to the right of the last XY there is a set of horizontal bars. I don’t have these quite working right but they are for the “VoiceMode” which will allow me to turn the arp on and off.
MIDI Mapping Notes
To map the Lemur to Zebra I use MIDI Learn by right-clicking on the target controls in Zebra then change the value of the corresponding object on the Lemur. This actually saves these mappings to com.u-he.Zebra2.midiassign.txt file so they work even after you close and re-open the host or add Zebra to a new set. Note that this file is shared between Zebra 2.5 and ZebraHZ so once you map Lemur works for both which is a real time saver. Note you can edit this file in a text editor (backup before you mess with it) and delete it if you want to reset mappings (it will be re-created when after you re-launch your host and start Zebra).
Like my experience with Alchemy Mobile as a controller for Alchemy VST, using Lemur running wirelessly on the iPad to drive Zebra is really captivating. It’s very organic and the ability to add physics with say XY ball movement takes performance to the next level.
As a result of my great experience with these controller interfaces, I find myself using iPad more and more in the role of controller instead of iOS synth platform.
Moral of the Story
iPad interfaces to PC synths make me use the PC synths more :^)
Zebra is on my mind with all the news of Dark Zebra. Zebra is all about pure synthesis – no samples. I found the interface a bit daunting at first but once you push through the initial learning curve it makes a lot of sense. It’s perfect for those who want to a strong set of sound shaping tools in a semi-modular form. The layout exposes a lot of flow and params on one page. That being said there is just a crap load of features under the hood as well so I encourage to RTFM and/or click on labels and explore.
For example, in the Oscillator Module there are sub-menus.
If you select the “Osc FX” the panel to the right allows you to select two different internal spectral effects "routed in series (left > right) for processing the oscillator waveform
To select an effect, click on the label. Adjust the value and/or modulate to taste. The speed/smoothness of most spectral effects, when modulated, is highly dependent on the value of oscillator Resolution.
List of Spectral Effects
Keep Poking Around
As you can see Osc FX alone provides a staggering amount of possibilities. Time to explore.
U-He has released a new soundset for Zebra 2.5 called Dark Zebra which includes over 400 presets resulting from a collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Howard Scarr . Here is a video teaser.
Why This is Worth a Look
Even if you are not interested in having the Batman soundtrack palette, there are some reasons to consider this $99 update. First off you get a special version of Zebra made just for Zimmer called ZebraHZ (more on this next). Second, there are some very cool patches by Hanz Zimmer and Howard Scarr that will both inspire and teach you new ways to use Zebra to create your own signature sounds.
What is ZebraHZ?
ZebraHZ is a customized version of Zebra 2.5. According to the manual, ZebraHZ adds “classic analogue filter models like in Diva, a resonator effect module like in the old Polymoog, polyphonic compressors (especially good for drum sounds) plus two more modulation mappers.”
Yum! Of course yum with more of a CPU hit – but as with DIVA you can throttle accuracy.
I really like this idea because I’m much more fluent in programming Zebra than DIVA so it’s pretty fantastic to get to those DIVA bits through the familiar Zebra GUI.
A Precursor to Zebra 3?
Over on KVR someone asked if this was a fully supported product and that would continue to be maintained and Urs’s reply was:
Yes, we'll keep a parallel build available with Zebra2 updates/maintenance/compatibility fixes.
Then the question was asked will ZebraHZ provide any features Zebra 3 won’t. Ur’s replied:
Well, Zebra3 won't exactly have Diva's filters. We're merely aiming at filters of same quality but not necessarily very same authenticity, so we can make them process stereo and less cpu draining.
I think Z3 will sound much more refined (if that's audibly possible), with more options to add character. Z3 won't sound the same as Z2, and presets might not be easily transferred.
I think most people will use both - Zebra2/ZebraHZ for the vast existing library, Zebra3 for things new and things to come.
Screen Grabs from Manual
Here are some screen grabs from the manual to wet your appetite. First the Low Pass filter.
Next the compressor.
“Each lane in the main grid has its own polyphonic (i.e. per voice) compressor.” !!!
And how about this? A resonator!
”One of the very first polyphonic synthesizers ever included a 3-band peaking filter that could be used to dramatically shape the overall sound… The ZebraHZ version is similar, but has an extra full-range band. To see the Resonator, click in the effects grid and select the Res1 module from the very bottom of the list.”
Back Story – Turn to P. 9
Page 9 of the Manual documents the back story of how all this came about and is worth a read.
Coexistence with Zebra 2.5
You need a Zebra 2.5 license to use this update. So how does the install work?
Although you will need a Zebra2.x license to run ZebraHZ, they will appear as separate plugins with separate preset folders. You should never try to install them in parallel. If you already have installed Zebra2.x, simply install ZebraHZ over the top. No worries, the ZebraHZ installer also contains Zebra2.5, Zebrify, Zebralette and Zrev. Note: Whenever ZebraHZ-specific updates are ready, they will be available in the user area at u-he support. We recommend setting up an account there.
Last But Not Least Here is “What you need to know”
you need a valid license of Zebra 2.x to use these sounds
upon purchase you will receive an email with the download link
the download contains installers for Mac and PC
The Dark Zebra and ZebraHZ install alongside Zebra 2.x
ZebraHZ is VST2 and AU only (no RTAS, but AAX and VST3 are in the works)
presets have been made to suit Hans' workflow - read patch info on how to use them!
Although ZebraHZ has prototype character, it worked flawlessly during scoring sessions
ZebraHZ features CPU-expensive Diva filters but does not have Diva's multicore support