Soulhack Shows Groovebox’s Individual Potential
Though Circuit makes a great companion product to other drum machines, samplers and sequencers, its solo potential is huge, as demonstrated in Soulhack’s Circuit performance video. We caught up with the London-based beatmaker to find out more about how he harnessed Circuit’s power to build a banger.
Soulhack’s performance starts with an identifiably Circuit-esque sound, which is sequenced from a pattern on Synth 1. But it’s not long before he gets stuck into some of his own samples. “This performance is very sample-heavy and there are several tricks I’ve used to make the most of Circuit’s potential,” he says.
To create this track, Soulhack used Circuit in conjunction with Ableton Live and the Components software application. He made several loops inside Ableton, then sent them to Circuit where he added synths and bass using the two onboard sound engines. The benefit to this approach, he says, is that he can use Live and various plugins to perfect his sound, while tailoring everything for performance on Circuit. “Circuit most importantly allows me to get away from a screen when performing music, which naturally makes me use my ears more.”
The track includes several samples: a garage-style shuffled hi-hat loop, a pitched-down vocal snippet, a kick drum, more hi-hats, a clap, a Rhodes loop and some additional effects. “I have impact/riser samples that give the track movement, but they are on one continuous eight-bar loop. I have to keep an eye on sample memory.”
Circuit can hold up to 60 seconds of 44.1kHz WAV audio, and you can move samples between Circuit and a computer via USB, using the Components application. “At this tempo, an eight-bar loop is 15 seconds long, so I know I have 45 seconds of sample memory for everything else.” To conserve his sample time, Soulhack uses a trick that dates back to the earliest multitrack recording: bouncing, where two or more instruments share the same channel. “I’ve programmed a two-bar loop of the shuffle hats and clap together, to maximise the channel count. But I don’t just let it loop over and over; I will trigger it at different parts of the sequence to give it rhythmic variety, and I’ll experiment with the decay amount to shorten or lengthen the amount of time the sample plays for.”
“With such long loops,” says Soulhack, “it’s important to make sure the pattern length is long enough so that your samples play in full. For an eight-bar loop to play all the way through, for example, you need to program an eight-bar pattern by pressing and holding the first and eighth buttons in Circuit’s Pattern view.”
Soulhack experiments with pattern and step length while performing to add variation to his track, but he’s never more than a button push away from reverting to his original settings, thanks to his use of pre-programmed Sessions. “You can mess up the cycles and patches as much as you want on the fly. When you want to revert back to your original settings, just press the activated session button again.”
He explains more about his use of different Sessions to build the track. “Once you’re happy with the selection of sounds, patches and patterns, you can build different sections for your track and save them as individual Sessions. I usually have, for example, an intro, a drop, a breakdown and a second drop. It makes it super easy to arrange the track live, and also revert to your original parameters quickly.”
“Some of the best advice I can give you is to take your time. Although the Circuit workflow is very fast-paced, it pays off to spend time doing things like matching the shuffle of long, rhythmic samples to Circuit’s internal groove. Also, when you’re happy with all of your sounds in Ableton Live (or whatever DAW you prefer), EQ and compress them so they all sound as good as possible. Also, listen to how each of your sections will transition, and make sure the levels match. Doing this — rather than tweaking the sound on the Circuit — allows you to concentrate on the performance, not the sonics, when playing live.”