Mixcraft’s allows fast and fun creation of entire tracks using MIDI and audio clips. Though it can be “played” with a standard MIDI keyboard controller (or no MIDI controller at all), it’s best suited to a grid-style MIDI controller such as the Novation Launchpad. Don’t mistake it as a simple grid loop player; the Performance Panel has some nifty tricks up its sleeve!
The Performance Panel can be thought of as a grid for simultaneous playback of multiple MIDI or audio clips (since both behave mostly the same in the Performance Panel, we’ll refer to both as “clips”). A project can have only one Performance Panel. Clips in the grid work similarly to standard clip playback in the main clip grid in that only one per audio track can play at any given time (i.e. horizontally). The track list to the left of the Performance Panel functions exactly the same as for “normal” clips in the Main Clip Grid: volume, pan, solo, mute, etc. all operate as usual. MIDI and audio tracks work the same as well, so be aware of whether a track is a MIDI or audio track when placing clips in the Performance Panel grid. It’s usually sensible to keep audio and MIDI tracks grouped together to avoid confusion.
Performance Button – Click the Performance button above the Track List to hide or view the Performance Panel grid (or press the P key).
Sets – A Set refers to a group of clips that play concurrently. Sets are arranged horizontally across the grid with each set consisting of one or more loops arranged vertically “on top of each other”. You can create as many sets as you like – to add more empty sets, simply click the +add button above the Performance Panel.
To rename a set, double-click on the text, type a new name, and press return (or click outside of the text box area).
Performance Panel Grid – The grid where clips are dragged and dropped for playback.
Play and Stop – There are numerous play (right-facing black arrow) and stop (small black square) buttons in the Performance Panel. Dependent upon their location, these toggle start and stop of playback of individual clips, entire sets, or tracks.
+ Add – Don’t worry, this button won’t increase Attention Deficit Disorder, it simply adds more blank set locations to the right of the last set. Keep in mind that all set locations may not be currently visible depending on the Performance Panel view width. To view all current sets, scroll sideways (see Performance Panel Horizontal Scroll Bar below), or widen the Performance Panel view width. To widen the current view, position the cursor on the leftmost area of the main clip grid (the grid on the right side of the screen where you usually play and record clips, not the Performance Panel Grid); you’ll know you’re in the right place when the cursor turns into left/right arrows. Hold the mouse button and drag left or right to change the Performance Panel width.
Solo – The Performance Panel Solo button mutes all clips in the main grid during playback. This allows you to use the only the Performance Panel for audio and MIDI clip playback. This is very useful in live performance applications.
When the Solo button is clicked, all clips in the main clip grid will turn gray. To unmute them, simply click the Solo button again.
Arm – Clicking the Arm button causes any playback of sets to record in the main clip grid. This is a powerful tool for song creation, enabling continuous recording of set group performances, including changing sets, muting and soloing of clips and more. It’s especially fun and creative when using a hardware USB grid controller. Keep in mind that Performance Panel “recordings” don’t actually create new audio files on your hard drive, they only create new clips in the main clip grid that refer to existing audio files. This means you can go nuts creating songs without filling your hard drive!
Cue – The Cue button defines how long Mixcraft will wait to switch playback from one clip or set when play buttons are clicked during playback. At any setting other than Off Mixcraft always switches exactly on the beat, which is tremendously helpful for keeping playback on the beat and in sync. When Cue is set to any
value other than none, the clip’s Play arrow will flash indicating it will begin playing following the length of time specified by the Cue setting. We recommend beginning with 1 Bar or 2 Bar.
If Cue is set to Off, clips and sets will switch immediately upon pressing the play button. This isn’t usually desirable when switching loops, because loops can easily get off time from the project metronome. There are times when you’ll want to set Cue to trigger individual sounds in the grid immediately when clicked
(for one-shot drums or sound effects with an external pad controller, for example), but since the Cue button affects all clips in the Performance Panel, it’s a better idea to set the Cue parameter individually for specific grid locations; this overrides the global setting. (See Performance Panel Sound Tab Parameters in the next section.)
Performance Panel Horizontal Scroll Bar – This is the the scroll bar at the bottom of the Performance Panel Grid. Slide this left of right to view all sets as described above.
In addition to the Performance Panel controls described above, most of which affect all clips simultaneously, Mixcraft includes a number of parameters that allow you customize the behavior of individual clips. To access parameters for individual clips in the Performance Panel grid, select a clip (or clips) by double-clicking it, then click the Perform tab, toward the bottom left of the screen.
Cue – This works just like the Cue pop-up menu described above in the Performance Panel Controls section - it defines how long Mixcraft will wait to switch playback from one clip to another when a play button is clicked for a new clip in the same column, but it applies only to individual clips. If the Sound tab Cue pop-up menu is set to Project, then the clip will behave as selected in the pop-up menu at the top of the Performance Panel controls (i.e. the clip won’t behave any different than normal).
If the Sound tab Cue setting is set to any value other than Project, its setting will override the global cue setting for individual clips. This is pretty important, so let that sink in. In practical application, this offers a lot of flexibility for customizing the behavior of individual clips. Note that clips in the Performance Panel default to Project setting unless the setting is individually “customized” in the Performance Panel Sound Tab.
Trigger Mode – This lets you customize how loops trigger when their play button is pressed.
Retrigger – Clip will repeat from its start each time the play button is clicked. If global or Sound Tab>Perform Tab>Cue is set to any value other than Off, Mixcraft waits until the set note value has elapsed, then retrigger in time with the project metronome.
Trigger Once – Once play has been initiated for a clip either with its own play button or with the Set play button above, the clip continues to play until it is stopped with one of the stop buttons in the same row, the master stop button in the upper left corner, or Mixcraft’s transport stop button (or space bar). Firmly whacking your computer with a sledgehammer should also halt clip playback, but it’s not recommended and may violate your warranty. Kidding aside, Trigger Once is a good option for “foundation” beats that you want to remain solid during performances.
Transition In Sync – Similar to Retrigger mode, but instead of starting at the beginning of the clip when the play button is clicked (after the Cue value elapses), the newly selected clip continues playing at the same position as the currently playing clip. In other words, if the currently playing loop is at beat three at the transition point, the new clip will play from beat three. Transition In Sync works well in live performance, because it allows seamless transitions between clips and prevents multiple clips from becoming “turned around” in time from one another (i.e. the downbeat plays on the wrong count).
One Shot – With the the One Shot box checked, clips will play one time
only. This is best suited for single-hit drum and percussion sounds and effects. You’ll probably want to set the Cue value to Off to ensure that the sound triggers immediately when played.
Performance Control – Specifies how clips behave when clicked on with a mouse or hardware USB controller.
Down – Clicking a clip play button will start playback. Dependent upon Trigger Mode setting, the clip will continuously loop or play through one time. You can think of Down mode as similar to striking a note on a piano while holding down the sustain pedal.
Down/Up – Clips only play when the play button is held down – pressing down initiates playback, letting up stops it. This works best with the Cue time set to Off, for example, for temporarily dropping a fragment of a loop or musical passage into a mix. If Cue is set to any value other than Off, you’ll need to hold the play button until after the Cue note value elapses, then clip playback begins.
Toggle – This works like an on/off switch: press play to start a clip, and press again to stop it. Note that the Cue setting affects the clip’s start and end points - Mixcraft waits for the Cue value to elapse before starting to play, and if the play button is pressed again before the Cue value has elapsed, playback continues to play for the duration of the Cue value.
Move clips – To move a clip or clips, simply click and drag to another grid location. To select multiple clips, click and drag a box around the clips by starting in a blank area of the grid (i.e. no clips in the grid).
Duplicate clips – To duplicate a clip or clips, simply click and drag to another grid location while holding the CONTROL modifier key. To duplicate select multiple clips, click and drag a box around the clips by starting in a blank area of the grid and drag to empty grid locations while holding the CONTROL modifier key.
Dragging clips to an occupied grid location will overwrite the existing clip, so careful there, loopmaster!
Selecting Sets – To select an entire set for editing, right-click in the set name area at the top of the Performance Panel grid and click Select in the pop-up menu.
Duplicating Sets – To duplicate a set, right-click in the set name area at the top of the Performance Panel grid and click Duplicate. The entire set (i.e. all clips in the vertical column) will be copied to the next column over to the set’s right. Duplicate behaves as an “insert” function, so if there is a set (or sets) to the right of the one being duplicated, existing sets will be shifted over one column, and Mixcraft will automatically create new sets if necessary to accommodate the move.
Delete Set – Sets can be deleted by right-clicking in the set name area and selecting Delete in the pop-up menu. Existing sets to the right of the deleted set will shift over. Just like a spreadsheet, but more fun!
Resizing the Performance Panel Grid – Column widths can be adjusted by hovering the cursor between the set names at the top of the Performance Panel – when
the cursor becomes left/right arrows, simply hold down the mouse button and slide horizontally to resize.
Vertical grid size follows a track’s vertical sizing. You can resize tracks vertically by hovering between track names in the track list; click and drag vertically when the mouse becomes up/down arrows. To reset to default height, right-click a track and select Properties>Height>Small/Normal/Large in the pop-up menu.
To use to the Performance Panel, simply drag clips into individual grid locations. You can drag in loops from the Mixcraft loop library (click the Library tab at the bottom of the screen to view and audition loops), the main playback grid, or even directly from the Windows File Explorer. Loops from the Mixcraft loop library contain information about the tempo and key of the sound embedded into the file – this means clips will play back in perfect time with project tempo. (see sidebar: Embedded Tempo and Key Information)
Once you’ve dragged loops into the Performance Panel set, initiate playback by clicking the playback arrow to the immediate left of the set number (i.e. Set 1, Set 2, etc.).
You’ll notice small playback heads – these move at different speeds dependent upon the length of the loops. Though loops in a set do not need to be the same length, we strongly recommend using even loops lengths in units of two or four. Mixcraft will play back loops of any length in time, but repeat and cycles may become difficult to keep track of.
(Actually, If a clip is a really odd size, Mixcraft rounds its length to the nearest quarter- note and tacks a little silence on the end before looping back around. This happens transparently, but trust us, unless you want your music to sound like a bag of rocks poured down a steel slide, this “rounding off” helps to keep things sounding musical.)
You can switch which set of loops is playing by simply clicking another set or loop’s play button while the current set or loops is playing. Dependent upon the Cue setting, the Performance Panel will transition to the next set or loop either immediately, or wait until the Cue setting note value elapses. Clips can be stopped by pressing a row’s dedicated stop button located at the far left of the Performance Panel, or by pressing the stop button in an empty cell in the same row. You can stop all clip playback either by pressing the master stop button in the Performance Panel’s upper-left corner, or by pressing the stop button in Mixcraft’s transport controls (or by pressing the space bar).
Embedded Tempo and Key Information
Most of the clips in Mixcraft’s included library contain “built-in” tempo and key information (the exceptions would be things like one-shot sound effects that
don’t have discernible rhythmic timing or a musical key signature).
This is gives Mixcraft a timing and key “roadmap”, allowing multiple clips to automatically lock in time and play in musically relevant keys without user
intervention – in other words, they just work. Yay for technology!
The Performance Panel can be used with a standard USB keyboard controller (see "Using Generic MIDI Controllers and Control Surfaces", pg. 309) or even just your computer’s mouse or trackpad, but it really shines when paired with a Novation Launchpad USB grid controller. Instead of controlling set and cell playback with individual mouse clicks, the Launchpad features a multicolor 64-button grid for rapid control of cell playback, as well 16 additional buttons for controlling set playback and navigation. Mixcraft includes some special features designed to specifically take advantage of the Launchpad controller.
The Novation Launchpad doesn’t need any special drivers. Here’s how to get it up and running in a jiffy:
1. Plug the small end of the included USB cable into the the Launchpad, and the big end into an open USB port on your PC.
2. Upon plugging in the Launchpad, Mixcraft will display the following window.
This simply acknowledges that you’ve plugged in a new piece of hardware. Click OK.
3. In the upper-left corner, click File>Preferences, then select Control Surfaces. In the left column, choose Launchpad. In the Input and Output columns to the right, select Launchpad in each of these. Click OK at the bottom of the Preferences window and you’re ready for Launchpad rock!
Main 8x8 Grid – The main 8x8 button grid functions just as the corresponding onscreen set, clip, and grid play and stop buttons.
Unoccupied grid locations do not illuminate.
Occupied grid locations not currently playing a clip display amber illumination.
Currently playing grid locations light up green. If a new set or clip is selected with Cue value set to any value other than Off, the location will blink green until cell playback begins; the cell will then turn solid green. (Not to be confused with awesome disco dance TV show “Solid Gold.”)
Pressing an unoccupied grid button during playback will stop playback for clips in the same row, following the duration of the Cue setting (if any). The button will flash red during this time, indicating that clips playing in this row are about to stop.
1 – 8 Buttons – These start and stop sets just like the play/stop buttons along the top of the Performance Panel
A – D Buttons – Though there are Launchpad’s main grid buttons “only” comprise an 8x8 grid, Mixcraft’s onscreen grid has no size/cell number limit. When Mixcraft detects a Launchpad controller, a 8x8 cell blue box appears in the Performance Panel; this surrounds the current corresponding cells represented on the Launchpad controller.
(Keep in mind this only becomes relevant if the Performance Panel grid is larger than 8x8 cells).
The 8x8 cell grid represented on the Launchpad can be shifted up and down with the A and B buttons, and left and right with the C and D buttons. The blue box surrounding the 8x8 grid will move accordingly.