Audio enthusiasts looking to begin creating their own music on a computer will find it hard to go past all-in-one software studios as a starting point. Most now include instruments, effects, sequencing and sampling functionality.
Many people will likely have heard of Propellerhead’s fantastic Reason 2.0 software (www.propellerheads.se), but there are less costly alternatives, each with its own advantages. These include FL Studio (formerly FruityLoops — www.image-line.com), Orion Pro (www.sonic-syndicate.com) and Arturia Storm Music Studio 2.0 (www.arturia.com/en.). In this article we’ll be looking at the fundamentals of Storm; you’ll find a trial version on the PC World April 2003 cover CD.
When you first run the demo you’ll be asked if you want to open the online help — I’d strongly recommend selecting Yes, as the ensuing Web browser-based HTML pages provide a fantastic introduction to the program. Also, it’s always fun to check out the demonstration tracks that come with any audio software. In Storm, you can find these under File-Open.
Understanding the interface
Once a demo track has been loaded, don’t be put off by the amount of knobs and dials on the screen; focus on each segment and you’ll understand everything in no time. This Composition Screen consists of instrument modules on the left and effects modules in the right. At the top is the sequencer section and in the lower right is the module volume/mute mixer.
Each instrumental module has a pattern bank at its left that operates with a letter/number scheme (e.g., A11). A pattern can be defined by a single loop or riff of an instrument, which is then (using the letter/number bank scheme) entered into the sequencer in the row with the name of the instrument being sequenced. This creates variations, which in turn form a composition.
Underneath the pull down menus (left to right), you have icons for creating, opening and saving the current studio (note: saving is disabled in this trial version). Next, you have copy, cut, paste and undo icons (for use with the currently selected instrument), followed by tape recorder, which allows you to record an entire mix as well as the individual parts such as the bass line to a file in the Sample library. To the right of the tape recorder icon you have the Sample library button, followed by the Storm Hall icon. The Storm Hall is a window with tabbed sections that Internet-connected registered users can use to access interactive features (For a screenshot example, click here).
TIP: clicking on the yellow question mark icon and then clicking on any item in the Composition Screen will give an explanation of that item. Right-clicking will exit this mode.
Starting your own track
When it comes to piecing together your own Studio to begin your composition, you can either select File-New and choose your modules manually using the Studio Builder and its simple drag-and-drop interface, or your can select Studio-Composition Wizard. The latter will guide you through step by step (and in much more depth than space allows to cover here) the process of creating your own track in a particular style, and will select instrument modules that are appropriate for that type of music. Styles also have an associated royalty-free Sample Kit. Two styles are available with the demo — Dance and House — but registered users have access to Ambient, Hip-Hop, Reggae/Dub and Jazz/Funk.
Exporting your track
Storm can import WAV, AIFF and MP3 audio files for use in compositions and can automatically match the tone (using pitch shift) and tempo (using time stretch) of the sample to that of the current studio setup. Unfortunately, the audio export feature is disabled in the trial version. A trick is to use the Tape Recorder to record either separate parts or the complete track. You can then drag the taped parts to the My Shared Folder in the Sample library to render the recordings as a WAV file!
More information on using Storm can be found at www.arturia.com/en/support and its user mailing list/group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/storm_music. If you’ve enjoyed playing with Storm Music Studio, the more feature rich, full retail box version can be purchased for $295 from Innovative Music Australia (www.innovativemusic.com.au).
ABOUT STORM MUSIC STUDIO 2.0
Features: Storm allows you to build a studio rack of up to four instruments (of 13 different types available), and three effects (of 10 different types available) can be used at a time to help you create a track.
Instrument modules include Arsenic (bass lines synth), Bass52 (bass guitar synth), Equinox (for chords), EZtrack (audio recording), H30plus (sample player), Hork (acoustic percussion), Meteor (electronic percussion), Orpheus (synth), Psion (Electro percussion), Puma (world percussion), Scratch (visual turntables for sample scratching), Shadow (chord synth), and Tsunami (virtual analog percussion).
Effects include Chorus, Compression, Distortion, Dual delays, Flanger, Low Pass Filter, Reverb, Ring Modulation, Sequencer Filter and, last but not least, a Vocoder.
Requirements: Note that you’ll need a PC with at least a Pentium II 400MHz processor, 128MB of SDRAM, about 150MB of free hard disk space and, of course, a sound card. Logic Audio and Cubase users will be interested to know that Storm can be used with your preferred sequencer.