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Hands-on guide to customizing the Novation Circuit

It’s not so much how complex or simple an instrument is – it’s how much you can make it feel your own. We covered a series of updates last week to Novation’s Circuit hardware. This week, as part of a collaboration with Novation and their product specialists, we’ve put together an exclusive hands-on guide to how to customize it for your own use.

First, here’s a video overview of how loading your own samples works, and why it’s important:

What you can customize

The “Novation Components” update covers a number of areas. You can…

  • Load your own sound samples (60 seconds worth).
  • Record external MIDI control and notes. (As mentioned last week, this is also a way of transferring MIDI clips from your computer to the Circuit – sync the two, then record the pattern.)
  • Transform the onboard synths with a special editor and MIDI control. (That unlocks a lot of hidden parameters and mappings, then lets you assign them to the onboard controls.)

In short, if you looked at Circuit and said, okay, this is just a bunch of stock sounds with some knobs and a step sequencer – not any more, it isn’t.

What you’ll need

To take advantage of the new stuff, you’ll need some different updates and downloads. It might not be immediately obvious, so let’s cover it one step at a time, in order.

1. Get the Google Chrome or Opera Web browser. You’ll need these browsers because they have full support for browser MIDI. (Don’t laugh at Opera; I actually just switched to it – it’s now based on the Chrome engine.) You can then grab the rest of the files/links at:

2. If you’re on Windows, install an updated driver.


3. Install the updated firmware. Circuit 1.2 firmware (as of this writing) adds all the features you need. Connect your Circuit to your computer, run the updater, and you’re ready to go.

4. Install the editor. Isotonik have built an editor for the Circuit’s synths. You can download two flavors – one standalone, and one for Ableton Max for Live. You’ll register on Isotonik’s site, and then each is a free download. Note that the Max for Live version requires Ableton Live 9.2 and Max for Live 7.0 or later. The Isotonik page is here (scroll down):

Now you’re ready to get started.

Novation has consolidated most of what you need at Once you open that site in a supported browser (recent versions of Chrome, Opera), it'll first check to see if you've got a Circuit connected via USB.

Novation has consolidated most of what you need at Once you open that site in a supported browser (recent versions of Chrome, Opera), it’ll first check to see if you’ve got a Circuit connected via USB.

Next, you're prompted to switch your Circuit to "bootloader" mode.

Next, you’re prompted to switch your Circuit to “bootloader” mode.

Finally, you'll see a pattern of green lights indicating you're in bootloader mode and ready to communicate with the browser tools. (Don't worry if your pattern of green lights doesn't match exactly.)

Finally, you’ll see a pattern of green lights indicating you’re in bootloader mode and ready to communicate with the browser tools. (Don’t worry if your pattern of green lights doesn’t match exactly.)

Load your own samples

As seen in the video, one of the big features in the new firmware is the ability to load custom samples. So, for instance, I’m a huge fan of Goldbaby’s grimy, retro drum samples. Any pack of drum sounds can now replace the four drum parts on the Circuit.

You can also load melodic samples (or anything else). Here, you’ll want to chop up those samples in advance. In Logic Pro X, I like to first add transient markers to audio (automatically). Once you’ve done that, and adjusted transients to your liking, you can right-click the audio, and choose Slice at Transient Markers. That creates a bunch of regions which (as of Logic Pro X 10.2.1) you can now batch export – so it’s perfect for this job. (Choose File > Export > [x] Regions as Audio Files.)

In Ableton Live, there’s a bit of extra work to get the actual samples out. If you have a Drum Rack, you can go to each slot, open the Simpler or Sampler instance, right-click, and choose “crop” on the audio file. Then you’ll find the files inside the /Samples/Processed/ folder.

Some other DAWs make this easier, and you can also use tools like the free Audacity editor, Propellerheads’ ReCycle, or a nice dedicated tool like Oscillicious BeatCleaver.

Once you’ve got your files, you’ll want to understand how Circuit organizes them.

Because of the available memory on the Circuit, you can load up to 60 seconds total playing time of 16-bit, 48kHz audio, as uncompressed WAV files. (MP3 files work, too, but not other formats; I recommend WAV.) There are 64 sample slots in total. So, for instance, you could take a 60-second melodic file, and divide it into up to 64 slices.

Circuit access these samples via Drum 1, Drum 2, Drum 3, and Drum 4.

To load the files, open Circuit Components in your Opera or Chrome browser. The first time you load a compatible browser, you’ll see a prompt asking for your permission to use Web MIDI; approve it so your browser can access your hardware.

Next, choose Sample Import. You’ll be prompted to enter bootloader mode if you haven’t already. Hold down Scale, Note, and Velocity with the unit powered off, then hold the power button to power it on. You’ll see a pattern of green lights.

Then, choose New Sample Set.


The first time you create a Sample Set, you’ll do so manually. You drag one file at a time to one pad slot at a time. (Hopefully we see a future update that allows multiple file drag-and-drop – browsers support that possibility.)

Don’t panic about the “bootloader mode.” You can always go back to the defaults by choosing “Load Default Samples,” so you won’t do any harm!

Once you’ve loaded all your samples, choose Send to Circuit to load them onto the hardware. After they’re loaded, you can also try them out by hitting the Play button.

You can only have one sample set loaded on your Circuit at a time. So, once you have a sample set you like, choose Download as File. Now you can upload different sample sets as .syx files, without any more drag-and-drop.

You can also use the Librarian in Circuit Components to save everything in the cloud.


Play with sample sets

There are some limitations to how you can use your custom samples. Since they’re loaded to Drum 1-4, you have just four simultaneous sample parts. You can swap any one of those parts between samples, via one of two methods:

1. Switch samples via the pads. Hold down Shift and tap the Drum part you want. Now, you can change samples on-the-fly by tapping one of the 32 pads. Drum 1 and Drum 2 default to slots 1-32 first, and Drum 3 and Drum 4 default to 33-64; to get to the other 32, use the octave up/down buttons.

2. Switch samples via MIDI. You can’t automate sample changes on the Circuit itself, but you can via MIDI. Control Change messages sent on channel 10 will switch samples: CC 8 (Drum 1), 18 (Drum 2), 44 (Drum 3), and 50 (Drum 4). That means you can have some fun creating clips in, say, Ableton Live, while you play, or map to a controller and switch samples live. (Check out the Peavey faderbox in our artist video, for instance.)

You can also control parameters of the samples, just as with the drum parts, via Circuit’s encoders.

Unauthorized tip: I’m fairly certain Novation don’t want me to say this, but it’s a bit cool. I discovered by accident – as you probably will – that an empty sample slot makes a little “click.” That click you can even re-pitch and distort and sequence. So, as a big fan of music like the stuff on raster-noton, I’ve actually taken to making some sequences with this. Have fun with it before they decide to “fix” it.

Play chords (not just melodies)

Synth parts can be polyphonic as well as monophonic. That means you can enter chords into the sequencer. There are a few tips for making some unique use of this feature.

First, enter your chord progression. Hold down the step you want on the bottom half of the pads, then either play a chord on an external MIDI controller, or on the keyboard on the top half of the pads. Now that chord is stored in that step. (You can add up to six notes per step, for six-note chords.)

Normally, these chords will play along with the step sequencer. To stop that from happening, mute the Synth part. Press Mixer to switch to Mixer mode, and then mute the associated part by tapping the pad underneath Synth 1 or Synth 2. “Mute” is something of a misnomer – you’ll still hear the part, but it won’t play in the sequencer, meaning you can trigger chords manually.

Now, with the sequencer playing or not, you can tap the step to trigger the associated chord.

Here’s the fun bit: with the Circuit as a controller, you can use those chords to trigger another synth. So, for example, Olly at Novation has built a whole Ableton Live set in which he uses the Circuit to trigger custom synths and arpeggiators using these chords.

Stay in the flow while playing

Two new features in the firmware update can be a big boon to keeping your flow going as you play – that’s really essential if you use hardware live, as I do.

First, you can now write automation for just the part of the sequence you want, rather than overwriting the whole sequence. (Boy oh boy do I wish I could do this with some of my other gear.)

Hold down record as you turn one of the encoders, and “momentary record” writes automation data only as the record button is depressed.

You can also add and remove automation to just a particular step, when the sequencer isn’t running. To add automation to a step, stop, make sure recording is armed (with the record button), press red to select it for editing (it’s highlighted red), then move the encoder.

To remove from the same step, also with the sequencer stopped and record is armed, tap the step you want, hold down clear, and then twist the knob you want to clear just that automation.

You can also review these techniques with the 1.2 firmware video from Novation:

Tinker with synths

So, you can transform Drum 1-4 by changing samples. But you can also get much deeper with Synth 1 and Synth 2 – if you don’t like the stock, preset sounds, you really can make Circuit sound like just about anything you want. A lot of the character of the instrument isn’t so much the engine as those preset sounds; you can push it in very different directions. There are three ways you might about this.

Modulation routing along can do some crazy things to your instrument patches. And it's far deeper than you might suspect looking at the Circuit front panel.

Modulation routing along can do some crazy things to your instrument patches. And it’s far deeper than you might suspect looking at the Circuit front panel.

The software editor. Isotonik’s Circuit editor, built in Max, is kind of amazing. You’ll see that hidden behind the Circuit’s eight encoders is an entire synth engine waiting to be customized. One good way to start is by re-assigning the Macro knobs so you can control what you like with those encoders. If you want to dive down the rabbit hole, try the modulation section in the bottom right-hand side. We could practically do a feature just on this editor, but that’ll get you going.


External MIDI control – including the LaunchControl XL. The editor works because all these parameters are accessible via MIDI. But then the editor isn’t the only way to get at them. You can also use an external MIDI controller, as My Panda Shall Fly did with his Peavey. If you don’t feel like manually assigning those, Novation has built a set of layouts for its LaunchControl XL control surface. The Mixer alone is huge, plus there are pages for controlling each synth and drum part. And because the LaunchControl XL works in standalone mode, you can even do this without a computer. (Since the LaunchControl XL lacks MIDI DIN ports, you’ll need a hardware USB MIDI host like the Kenton USB host.)

Check out the layouts here:

Using Launch Control XL With Circuit


iOS and TouchOSC. If you have an iPad, you can send MIDI from that. Again, Novation has built one solution for you out of the box, in the form of an iPad-only (sorry, no iPhone) layout for TouchOSC. Because it’s a TouchOSC layout, though, you can open it with the TouchOSC editor and modify it – as some CDM readers have already done. For instance, you might want to make an X/Y pad for controlling parameters with sweeping gestures of your finger.

Get it here: What is the TouchOSC Circuit template? [also the Jeopardy answer to the clue: “This download lets you control the Circuit with your iPad,” in “Novation downloads for $200”]

Capture ideas with MIDI

If the onboard step sequencer seems limiting on the Circuit, you can also record external MIDI.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a MIDI clip you like in Ableton Live (or any other program that sends MIDI from clips).

1. Sync. Make sure your computer and Circuit are synced via MIDI clock.
2. Set length. Set the length of the clip to the length of the Circuit step sequence. That pattern/clip can be anywhere from one to eight bars in length. Choose Patterns on Circuit, and then set the length (for instance, for a full eight-bar length, press pads for pattern 1 and 8 at the same time.)
3. Capture. Then, simply hit record on the Circuit whilst your MIDI clip is playing. Now the MIDI sequence on your computer is on your Circuit.

You can also use an external MIDI input to play in a sequence from any other controller.


Got more tips? Other things you want to know? Let us know.

For more information, see the other parts of this series:

Artists share Novation Circuit tips, with Shawn Rudiman and My Panda Shall Fly

Make Novation Circuit your own, with updates, browser tools

And you can see these techniques in action in our artist video:

Vector art of the Novation Circuit provided by the wonderful Vector Fun with Synths.

Disclosure: This guide was produced with support from and collaboration with Novation.

The post Hands-on guide to customizing the Novation Circuit appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

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How I Play: Mr Bill + KJ Sawka, The Future Of Live Controllerism?

It’s rare that a duo comes along in the dance music world and does something completely rebellious and unique – but after a recent Mr Bill and KJ Sawka interview we were inspired and excited. See how live drumming, Ableton manipulation, and finger drumming all are combined in their behind-the-booth video inside this article.

Without a doubt KJ Sawka and Mr. Bill are doing something really cool here – not only are they performing live, they’re focusing their entire set on recreating their own songs and remixing them together. It’s a collaborative process that seems unparalleled (although Keys N Krates live setup and performance style has some similarities) in the dance music community.

You might be wondering who these awesome dudes are – KJ Sawka actually is a part of two very different other live band projects, playing in both drum and bass’s Pendulum as well as bass music’s Destroid. Mr. Bill is a prominent Ableton educator as well as a producer in his own right.

Check out more of each of their music below:

Special thanks to both KJ and Mr Bill for allowing us to film with them, and to Oakland’s own Wormhole Presents for opening up their soundcheck and warehouse to us for this shoot. 

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Wildfire – I Got Money EP (Jump To This)


If you didn’t already know, the music scene in Australia is one of the best in the world, and from there comes one of our favorite labels, Jump To This. The JTT imprint, run by Hey Sam and Torren Foot, always delivers some hard hitting underground music, and lately, has been killing the G-House game. Their latest release is a two-track EP from Wildfire. This party-thumping, bass-pumping extended play is murder on the dancefloor, from the club to the house party. Don’t sleep on these guys!


Release Date: 2016-04-25
Labels: Jump To This
Catalog #: JTT048





The post Wildfire – I Got Money EP (Jump To This) appeared first on Music is 4 Lovers.

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Vanilla Ace – Let It Go EP (Sleazy Deep)


Our homie Vanilla Ace doesn’t know how to stop! His newest release is a true testament to that UK house sound, and what better label to showcase it on, other than Sleazy Deep! The extended play features three incredibly groovy and soulful cuts, with collaborations from Hotspot & Kamaroff, Adam Banks, and CRAM. We wouldn’t be surprised if you’re hearing all these tracks on rotation all summer long this year! Cue up the drinks, grab a towel, put this EP on and hit the pool deck!


Release Date: 2015-04-25
Labels: Sleazy Deep
Catalog #: SLEAZY078





The post Vanilla Ace – Let It Go EP (Sleazy Deep) appeared first on Music is 4 Lovers.

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Premiere: Eluize – Make Me Sin (Original Mix)


Emma Sainsbury aka Eluize premieres a track off her Talk in Technicolour EP, the debut release of cross-continental imprint Night Tide. The release is rounded out by remixes from Hans Berg & Seth NK and a trippy spoken word recording discovered while digging in the archives.

The Australian born DJ, producer and vocalist draws inspiration from all corners of the globe and has a passion for combining the music she uncovers and shaping soundtracks for all hours of the dance floor. Her recent touring schedule has found her selecting for world class venues such as Watergate & Tresor Berlin, Le Batofar Paris, Wasteland Amsterdam, Club IIII Ghent, Lightbox London, WIP Barcelona, Lounge Lisbon, S.A.S.H. Sydney, Revolver Melbourne, and The Observatory Ho Chi Minh City.

Acting as the Night Tide imprint founder, Eluize’s EP features three original tracks that showcase her unique sound. A limited batch of thirty records will come with a special cassette edition. The tape features a remix of ‘Up All Night’ by Seth NK, in which his version reconstructs the track into a murky vision directed by cascades of trash-canned percussion. Flip the tape over and you’ll discover a bizarre recording of a young woman describing her LSD-induced psychedelic experience.

Talk in Technicolour EP will be available April 29th via Night Tide.

Artist PageSoundcloud


The post Premiere: Eluize – Make Me Sin (Original Mix) appeared first on Deep House Amsterdam.

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Mondo Label Shows How They Made Their Liquid-Filled ‘Aliens’ Vinyl

alien vinylalien vinyl

Get this. Mondo, the franchising production company that focuses on the production of movie-related posters, toys and soundtracks, have given a behind-the-scenes look into the making of their quite revolutionary new product: the liquid filled vinyl record made especially for the re-release of the soundtrack to horror movie Aliens. Interesting fact: each copy of that liquid-filled vinyl release took over an hour to make.

Mondo dropped the news of their newest release last week, which is to be a 75-copy only special edition of James Horner’s Aliens soundtrack, filled with green blood of the infamous xenomorph. The special edition vinyl was released today on Alien Day.

Now Mondo has released photos that show steps in the process of creating these monstrous slabs of vinyl. Behold some true artists at work here.

Source: Mondo





The post Mondo Label Shows How They Made Their Liquid-Filled ‘Aliens’ Vinyl appeared first on Deep House Amsterdam.

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Buenos Aires To Ban Electronic Music Festivals Following Time Warp Deaths


With the recent deaths at Buenos Aires’ Time Warp festival, the Argentine capital is putting a temporary ban on all music festival’s effective immediately.

5 death and 4 others landed in critical condition during 15 April Time Warp festival, each attributed to drug overdoses. With that, the city’s mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, says it will stop issuing permits for big electronic music festivals until new legislation relating to drug use is formed.

Aside from the drug overdoses, patrons also complained that the festival was over sold, while also providing poor ventilation. Since, five people have been arrested.

Source: Guardian

The post Buenos Aires To Ban Electronic Music Festivals Following Time Warp Deaths appeared first on Deep House Amsterdam.

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