When importing audio into SMK we can choose to import our sample as either a Stem or a One Shot, and this decision affects how it will play. Stems are a set volume and assigned a BPM and can be time stretched to match any project they are imported into. One Shots have no tempo and their volume is pressure sensitive. This means they will get louder and quieter as you tap it’s pad harder and softer.
Download the ‘Pitch and Time Samples’ folder and place it on the Desktop.
Open Surface Music Kit and create a new project and name it “Pitch and Time”. Go to the Sounds Collection page and tap the ‘Import File’ button beneath the Filter Bar. Navigate through your Surface’s file structure by tapping on folders and the ‘Go Up’ button to navigate to out of the folder currently displayed. Navigate to the Desktop, then into the ‘Pitch and Time Samples’ folder. There will be a folder containing Stems and a folder containing One Shots. Let’s import the Stems first. Tap the stems folder, select ‘Ex Guitar Loop’, and hit ‘Open’ to bring up the file in the Audio Editor.
The Audio Editor is used for both importing and editing audio files and its functionality is the same for both. The only difference is that when importing we are setting the default parameters for the file, while when editing from Sound Collection or Arrangement View we are editing the file only for that project.
The top of the page displays the project name. Beneath that is the waveform of the file and a Position Marker showing where in the file we are listening. Hit the Play/Pause button to listen to the file. The bar above it is the start and end points of SMK playback, so you can shorten the audio into smaller chunks if needed. Try moving the start and end points then playing back. When you’re finished, move the start and end points back to their original positions so the whole file will be played.
On the left side of the screen is the Clip Column. You can also tap the play button there to preview the file.
The center left column sets how SMK deals with this clips Pitch and Tempo. When you open a file to import SMK automatically scans it and attempts to determine if the file is pitched and is tempo specific. Though it is often correct, it is not always, so it is important to know the BPM and key information before starting the process. All the files we will be importing are 93 BPM and in the key of G Minor Pentatonic.
The ‘Harmonize to match project’ checkbox sets the clip as pitched or unpitched. If checked, the clip is pitched and will automatically be pitch shifted when being placed into a project to match the projects key. For all pitched clips, this is the best option. For unpitched clips like drums, it is best to leave this unchecked. Make sure that it is checked for the guitar loop.
The ‘Match project tempo’ box sets whether or not the clip will be time stretched to match a project’s tempo when being imported. Beneath this checkbox is the detected tempo, check to make sure that it is correct. Is the file tempo 93 BPM? If not, tap ‘Fix It’ beneath the tempo to set it manually.
SMK determines whether a clip is a Stem or a One Shot based on its tempo. If a clip has a tempo of zero, then it is treated as a One Shot. If it has a tempo greater than zero, it is considered a stem.
The right side of the Audio Editor is dedicated to how the clip responds to being played. Besides being pressure sensitive clips can be set to be cut off if continuously played (great for stutter fx and stems) and also be set to play only when the pad is being pressed. When this box is checked a clip will play all the way through if its pad is tapped, but, if held down, will only play for the time that it is held. This is useful if you want to only play part of a clip sometimes. This sets how quickly the clip will repeat if its pad is held down. If set to auto, it will repeat every when the clip finishes, if set to a time marking, it will repeat for that amount of time. For Stems, it is best for it to not be pressure sensitive, cut off when overlapped, and played only while pressing. Leave the Repeat rate a auto and import the clip.
Import the two other loops in the Stems folder, making sure that the drums are not harmonized and that both are set to 93 BPM.
Now import the One Shots, making sure that pitched clips are set to be harmonized and that all clips have a tempo of zero. For One Shots, enable the pressure control and play only while pressing options, but turn off the cut off feature.
Once you have imported the files, it’s time to build a kit out of them. First, let’s set the project tempo so that it matches our clips, 93 BPM.
When building a kit from scratch it is important to start with a pitched sample because SMK sets the project key based upon the first sample placed in the kit. Let start with the guitar loop, drag it onto track 2. Next drag the bass loop to track 6 and the drum loop to track 7. This leaves a lot of open space on the pads but is consistent with how other kits are built, making it easier to play and giving us space to fill in later if we desire.
Now lets drag the One Shots in. Place the pitched One Shots on tracks 9-12 and the drum One Shots on tracks 13-16. Now head to the Arrangement View.
SMK has automatically scanned our clips to see if they should be pitch shifted to match each other, but these clips were designed to work together without pitch shifting. We need to check that our tracks haven’t been pitch shifted out of tune by mistake. Tap a track to bring up the project bar, then hit the Edit button. Make sure that its ‘Adjust Pitch’ menu is set to zero tones. If it has been pitch shifted, uncheck the ‘Harmonize to match project’ box and set the pitch adjustment to zero. Repeat this process for all the tracks.
Now we can play our kit! Record a few bars using the whole kit, then loop those bars. Got a funky groove? Good, now lets go find it a lead part. Save your project, then go back to the Sound Collection. Tap the Kits filter in the Filter Bar and select ‘ElectricGrooveKit1’. Preview ‘EG Lead 1 Loop’ to listen to it, then drag it to Track 1. Switch back to the Arrangement View.
Try playing ‘EG Lead 1 Loop’ with the rest of your arrangement. Does it sound in tune? Let’s take a look at how it was changed to match the project. Open it in the Audio Editor. Notice the original tempo is 102 BPM, but it is now 93 BPM. The pitch should be adjusted -5 tones. If it looks good, save the clip and record it into your project.
Now let’s play with the tempo a bit. Pull open the project bar and adjust the tempo to 120 BPM. SMK will take a moment to stretch your clips. How does it sound? Should it be faster, slower? Take some time experimenting with different tempos. (Tip: when sped up a lot, the guitar becomes pretty surfy)
Now you know the basics of pitch shifting and time stretching in SMK! Go back into the Sound Collection and find some more clips to fill out your kit, or import duplicates of your clips and pitch shift them to create interesting melodic and harmonic changes. Happy mashing!