CellSynth by Example
The best way to learn CellSynth is to actually use it. It will soon become clear what the buttons, arrows and indicators are representing.
Although a complicated Matrix may appear daunting at first, it won't be long before you can look at a Matrix and read it, as you would a map, understanding the flow of the signal and what Cell is causing what effect on the resulting sound.
There are many tricks you can use to help you understand what is happening on the Matrix, such as soloing Cells or even disabling them (which, by choosing a strategic Cell, can disable a whole branch.
The first example is described in great detail, and serves as a tutorial (with all the files needed to follow it through, available on the CellSynth CD). It covers many aspects of using CellSynth, and introduces shortcuts and many tips.
After the main tutorial example there are some shorter examples that cover other areas of CellSynth's functionality. The MIDI chapter also has an example you can follow that makes use of the example Matrix files supplied, as does the chapter on the Event Sequencer.
If the information you are looking for is not found in this manual, study the example files provided. Each one has a description of their purpose in the annotation window.
CellSynth as Standalone Sample Player
The object of this example is to create a simple track consisting of a few samples.
(including sampling CellSynth's output)
One of those samples will be a sample of a pure CellSynth sound, created with simple oscillators and filters, which is then retriggered with a random start point to create a rhythmic sound (similar to sample and hold).
Learning to create this sound will demonstrate using the oscillators and filters, while the final part of the exercise will demonstrate the use of samples and how they can be synced with CellSynthıs internal clock. Effects will also be introduced along the way.
Step 1 - Oscillators and Mixer
Drag a Sawtooth Oscillator onto the Matrix.
Now drag a Mixer Icon from the DSP Cell Store at the bottom of the Matrix and drop it to the right of the Sawtooth, and finally, another Sawtooth to the right again (the reason for
using two Oscillators will become clear in Step 3).
You will notice that the screenshot shows white triangles and blue routing arrows. This means that the output of the two Sawtooth Cells has been routed into the Mixer Cell. To do this open the
Cell Edit dialog.
A Cell's parameters are set from the Cell Edit dialog. Click on a Cell to activate the Cell Edit dialog.
Using the Cell Edit Window has been covered earlier. You might want to take another look.
By setting an input of 0.5 from both the Left and Right Cells you will feed the output of both Sawtooth Oscillators into the mixer.
The optimum gain in CellSynth is 1 (unity gain) so it is a good idea to set the input gain from each Cell to 0.5.
You can either type a value directly into the Parameter window or use the dial.
When you move your mouse over a dial on the Cell Edit Window the cursor will indicate that you can click and drag to alter the setting.
Weıve taken you the long way round to routing input from one cell to another. Its important to understand the relationship between the Cell Edit Window and what is displayed on the Matrix. There is, in fact, a shortcut to do the same thing:
Clicking on the Triangles routes the signal from one Cell to another.
The last thing remaining to do in this step is to mute the two Oscillator Cells leaving only the output of the Mixer Cell being sent to the Master outs.
Click on the speaker button on the Cell Edit Window. This mutes the cell. (You can also Command Click on the Cell button on the Matrix.)
You are going to mix the output of two cells through a filter. By muting the cell you will ensure that you only hear the output that is routed through the Mixer Cell. If you donıt mute the cell you will also hear the cellıs own output.
Muting a Cell means that its output will not be heard at the stereo output. Its signal will, however, be passed on to any Cells it is routed to.
You can also Disable a Cell by Control-Option-Command-Clicking on the Cell button.
The Cell will have no output and no signal will be passed to neighbouring cells.
Step 2 - Add a Filter
The next step is to add a filter to the output of the Mixer Cell.
Drag a Filter from the DSP Cell Store onto the tile below the Mixer Cell.
Note:- This Cell defaults to being a Low Pass Filter but can also be switched to act as a Band Pass Filter.
It is easy to move Cells around using your keyboard. Press Tab or right arrow to highlight the first Cell, then you can move around the tiles of the Matrix using the Tab or arrow keys until you reach the Cell you want to move. Then Press Command and use the arrow keys to move the Cell around the Matrix.
The Low Pass Filter is the kind of filter that you would find on an analog synth. It cuts the high frequencies, only letting the low frequencies through.You may be familiar with the term "wah", which is often used to describe this kind of filter, as in "wah wah guitar".
The Resonance is, in simple terms, the intensity of the filter (the amount of "wah").
In this example the resonance is increased slightly to 0.7.
The plan is to modulate the frequency of the filter to create a sweeping effect.
Step 3 - Modulate the Filter
The Oscillators, as well as being used to produce tones, can be used to modulate other Cells. This is something that will be familiar to those who have used analog synths.
In this case we want to sweep the filter up and down, so the best Oscillator to use will be the Sine wave.
Drag a Sine Wave Cell onto the Matrix, under the left Sawtooth and next to the filter.
This time click the small semi-circle on the filter to allow the Sine wave to modulate the Filter.
The Semi-Circular buttons on each tile allow the tile's Cell to be modulated by the neighbouring Cell's output. This is the shortcut for adjusting the modulation input in the Cell Edit Window.
Adjust the frequency of the Sine wave to create a slow sweep. In this example we used a value of 0.1 (one cycle every 10 seconds).
Making full use of the Sine wave, we are also going to use its output to modulate the Sawtooth Cell above it. By modulating the frequency (pitch) of the Oscillator, it will create a richer sound as it beats against the fixed pitch of the second Sawtooth Oscillator.
Click on the Sawtooth cell to open its Cell Edit window.
Set the modulation input from the bottom to a very small amount. In this case we used 0.004. The Cell Edit window doesnıt display figures to this number of decimal places but you can enter them from the keyboard.
Click in the modulation LCD display to gain the focus (red outline) and type the value you require.
Notice how the LCD display is outlined in red to indicate that it has the focus and will accept your input from the keyboard.
Step 4 - Add a Second Filter to Double the Slope
To get a really dramatic filter sweep, a second filter can be added.
Drag another Low Pass filter to the position on the Matrix under the first.
We want to use the same modulation we used on the first filter but how do we route it into the second filter. We could simply use another Sine Cell but it would be better to route the output of the original Cell into the new Filter. That way any changes made would be replicated in both filters.
The simplest way to route the output of a cell from one place to another is to use Mixer Cells with their gain set at 1 to pass the signal straight through.
Place a Mixer cell underneath the Sine Cell we are using to modulate the filters.
Take the output of the Sine Cell through the Mixer Cell and use it to modulate the Filter.
Step 5 - Add Reverb and Record
Add a Reverb Cell and route the output of the filters through it.
You will notice, in the example Matrix, that all the Cellıs are muted except for the output of the reverb. This is the equivalent of taking the "wet" signal only. and was done purely because it sounded good. If the second filter had been left unmuted you would have had the usual mix of "dry" and "wet" sounds.
Now its time to record the output of CellSynth to disk so that it can be loaded back into a Sample Cell.
It takes much less processing power to play a Sample than to create a sound using lots of cells. If your sound is making your Processor work hard then record it and load it back into a Sample Cell.
You can tell how hard your sound is hitting your processor by displaying the CPU load indicator.
In this case, the main reason we want to record the sound produced by our Matrix is that we can then use one of CellSynth's unusual features to create a rhythmic "sample and hold" type of effect. This is in fact achieved by randomising the start point of the sample. By cutting in at random points in the sample we can change a smooth sweep into a randomly jumping filter, but make it sync to CellSynthıs internal clock allowing it to be synced to a tempo.
To record CellSynthıs output you have to first show the recording toolbar (Options menu).
To record the sound, click on the record button. Click on Stop when you have enough of your sound recorded (one full sweep of the filter).
You can listen to what you have just recorded with the play button.
To save the recorded audio click on the disk symbol.
The audio is saved as a standard AIFF file.
Step 6 - New Matrix
Now we have recorded the sound of our Matrix, we can dispense with it and start with a new Matrix. You may want to save it in case you want to make any changes later.
You can clear the Matrix by pressing Command - b (or going to the Edit Menu and choosing Clear Matrix.).
We want to import a sample into Cell Synth.
There are two ways of achieving this:
1. Drag a Sample Cell from the Generator Cell store onto the Matrix.
You will be prompted for an AIFF file to load. You can audition the files with the ³play² button.
2. You can drag any AIFF file directly from the Finder onto the Matrix.
CellSynth's audio is saved in AIFF format ready to be dragged or loaded back into CellSynthıs Matrix.
You can even audition CellSynth AIFF files when CellSynth is not running. Double click on the AIFF file in the finder and CellSynth will play the sample and then close again.
We are actually going to use the same sample twice, so we need to have two Sample Cells in our Matrix. Instead of dragging two Sample Cells onto the Matrix, we will only drag one on and create another by pressing the Option key on the keyboard and dragging the Cell to another location, which will make a copy. This will mean that, rather than storing two versions of the same sample in the Matrix file, only one will be used but we will be able to apply different settings to each cell.
This will allow us to create a rich sound by playing them back an octave apart and modulating their sample and holdı effect differently.
In ³real life² you can move the cells around (as described earlier) as the Matrix develops. In this example we have the advantage of knowing exactly where we are going, so drag the AIFF file onto the Matrix, and duplicate the resulting cell (option + drag) into the positions shown:
We can use the x2 button next to the dial in the Sample Cellıs window to double the frequency of the sample at the top of the Matrix (or option-click on the dial or LCD display), raising its pitch by an octave. Letıs call this ExampleSample B, and our original sample ExampleSample A for future reference.
Step 7 - Randomise the Start Point
This step is where we create the ³sample and hold² style effect.
Add a Random Cell.
This cell can produce noise or can be used to randomly
modulate another cell, which is the feature we
We are going to use this to modulate the start point of our samples.
Place the Random Cell above the ExampleSample A.
Click on the semi-circle on the top edge of the Sample Cell to allow the Random Cell to modulate the Sample.
Make sure you enable Mod to Start in the Sampleıs Edit Window.
The Random Cellıs Sync should be set to On (default) so that the effect produced will be in time with the rest of the samples we are going to add later.
Set Sensitivity to 1.0.
Now we want to route the output of the Random Cell up to the other copy of our Sample (ExampleSample B - which we raised an octave in the previous step). As before we can use a Mixer Cell to do this but we are going to try using the Mixer Cell as an Inverter this time.
Place the Mixer Cell above the Random Cell and route the output of the Random Cell into the Mixer using the triangle connector.
Now Modulate the second Sample Cell by linking it to the Mixer Cell with the semi-circle connector (weıll assume from now on that you are familiar with how to route the signal from one Cell to another, either as audio input or as modulation using the triangle and semi-circle connectors on the edges of each tile).
Now open the Mixer Cellıs edit window and turn on the invert function. This, as its name suggests, inverts any value that is fed into the mixer.
The effect this has in this example is to ensure that both samples receive a different value, thereby the start point of either sample is never in the same place.
You will notice that the Mixer button on the Matrix changes to reflect that it is now an inverter.
Step 8 - Add a Looping Envelope
We are now going to add a looping envelope to ExampleSample B, which will have an effect similar to using a keyed noise gate, syncıed to tempo.
Drag an Envelope Cell onto the Matrix below the second
Turn on the Loop function, which starts the envelope again once the decay stage has finished.
By choosing a decay length that is related to the tempo and switching on sync, so that the envelope is triggered in time with the tempo, a gated affect can be achieved
Luckily CellSynth has a feature which makes this very easy to do, so you can put your calculators away!
With the Envelopeıs Cell Edit Window open, Command click on the Decay dial and the setting will fit to CellSynthıs internal bpm, in this case the default 120 bpm will give a value of 0.5 (one beat of 4/4 or a quarter note).
Now Control-Click once to half the value (eighth notes) and once more to half it again (giving us sixteenth notes, which is the value we require to give a fast gated effect).
If you prefer to edit envelopes visually, there is also a
graphical editor which you can call up by clicking on the
The default tempo of CellSynthıs internal clock is 120bpm. You can alter this by selecting Set Sync Tempo from the Options menu.
Note:- This tempo is ignored if CellSynth is synced to MIDI Clock.
Before moving on to the next stage, mute ExampleSample B by command-clicking on it. This ensures that you only hear the output with the gate effect.
Step 9 - Add Reverb
Drag a Reverb Cell onto the Matrix. You can place it below the envelope so that you will be able to feed both samples through it. Remember that in ³real life² you can move the cells around, as described earlier, as the Matrix develops.
Use the triangle connectors to feed in the input from both samples.
Step 10 - Add the Rhythm
(using the Sync Start to make a simple arrangement)
We have three samples to use as the rhythm, a bass drum loop, a hi-hat loop and another loop with more drums involved. By using the
controls provided in the sync dialog (appears when you turn on sync) you can add a basic arrangement even using the Event Sequencer!
Go to the Finder and open up the Tutorial folder. Drag the Bass Drum, HiHat and Drum Loop sample files directly onto the matrix. The position is not important as they will simply be playing loops and not fed into any other cells.
When you switch on Sync you are presented with a dialog that allows you to specify how you want the sample to behave in relation to
the sync clock.
Lets make a simple intro, starting with the fast gated CellSynth Sample followed by a 4 bars of bass drum and fast gated CellSynth sample, joined by hi hats at bar 3 for 1 bars before the full rhythm enters at bar five along with the slower and lower CellSynth sound.
As the piece is simple 4/4 time, we will leave all the beats per bar at 4.
We want all samples to start on the 1st beat of the bar so we can also leave the beat field at the default of 1.
The samples vary in length, from a 1 beat bass drum to an 8 beat drum loop. Each sample will have to be retriggered after a suitable number of beats.
Go to each sample one by one and set their start points like so:
Bar 1 (also we want to retrigger the sample every 4 beats)
Bar 3 (this is only a 1 beat sample, so lets retrigger every 1 beat)
Bar 4 (this is a 4 beat sample, so retrigger every 4 beats)
Bar 5 (this doesnıt really need to retrigger as it is set to loop continuously - in the example it is set to an arbitrary 500 beats)
Bar 5 (this is an 8 beat loop and must loop every 8 beats)
Now, when we start CellSynth, weıll hear our intro.
Step 11 - Add More Stereo
Now, lets round off our example by adding a Spacializer effect to the HiHat and Drum Loop.
You will notice that the HiHat sample is muted to get the full effect of the spacializer.
Just one more thing
Letıs annotate our Matrix so that we donıt forget how it works.
From the Options menu, you can choose to show the Annotation Window. To enter your text choose Edit Annotation. You will now be able to enter text in the window.
You can type anything you like in the window.
Perhaps something to remind you how you made the Matrix.
You might want to distribute your Matrix to other CellSynth users. You can put your credits in this window and it will be saved with the Matrix.
It may have seemed complicated to get to this point, but as you become familiar with the features of CellSynth, youıll be able to knock out something like this in minutes. It is much more complicated to describe than to do. Having said that, by looking at each step in detail we have covered many of CellSynthıs features along the way.
Take a little time to look at the finished example and you will soon get the feel of the flow of sounds you have created, which cells are muted, and why, which cells are used as simple sample playback.
Of course, there are a million and one more things you can do with CellSynth. We havenıt even looked at using MIDI yet.
Using CellSynth for Auditioning Drum Loops Part 1:
This example covers two areas, recording audio and retuning samples to fit to a tempo.
Quite often, when producing music with sampled drum loops, samples taken from sources of varying tempo are retuned so that they can be used together. This can be a tedious task, but CellSynth has some useful shortcuts to make this process much easier.
First, lets look at how you would record samples directly from CellSynth.
Step 1 - Record your Drum Loops
Record your drum loops, either using CellSynthıs record function, or your favourite audio application. Once you have them in a format that CellSynth can import, drag them onto the Matrix.
Of course, if you record them through CellSynth, you can use CellSynthıs features to process the sound.
To do this you must first ³Enable Sound In³ from the Options menu.
You will need to choose the input from a standard Sound Manager dialog.
The ³Sound In² icon will be displayed in the top left hand corner of the matrix, along with a Mixer Cell, which is used to connect the input to Cell Synths output (otherwise no sound would be heard!)
From here you can feed the input into any combination of Cells, using CellSynth as an effects processor.
Record the resulting sound using the Recording Toolbar (Command-B). Record as close to the number of bars you require.
You can choose the location of the Recording scratch disk by selecting "Choose Record Disk" from the File menu.
Save the recorded audio by clicking on the disk icon on the Recording Toolbar (or Command-B).
although not relevant to this particular example, you can set the record time and Fade Length from this dialog, accessed from the File menu:
Drag a Sample Cell to the Matrix, choosing your new file when
Click on the Cell to open the Cell Edit dialog.
Click on the Sample Button on the Cell Edit dialog and a simple Waveform will be displayed.
You can use this to set the start and end points for the sample.
ğ In the Sample Waveform window, you can drag the start and end markers, use the magnifying glass to zoom in (move the mouse over the waveform) and zoom out using the option key or the command key (fit to window).
Move the start and end markers until you have a smooth loop.
ğ When a sample cell is set to follow MIDI note-on/off the sample always plays from zero to the end mark and then, if looping is on, loops back to the loop point. If key follow is NOT on then the sample always starts from the beginning of the loop.
This example only works if MIDI key follow is off.