If you haven’t already got DMP, you can download it from Microsoft's Download Site. Once you’ve downloaded it and installed it, fire it up. After it has finished loading, you will see something similar to this screen.
This is what you’ll be seeing all the time that you’re working in DMP.
Looking underneath the toolbars and menus, the white strip on the left
is called the “Project Tree”, and this area is where all the files
related to your composition are shown for easy accessibility. The large,
textured area on the right of the Project Tree is the Edit Window, and
this will change depending on what you have currently selected in the
Project Tree. (You will get the picture as we start using DMP.)
Now, find the icon that looks like a MIDI port, and click on it. You’ll see the MIDI/Performance Options
dialog box pop up. The only thing in this window that concerns us lies
in the bottom right, in the frame marked “Download Status”. For the
purposes of this tutorial (and OMFBG), you should have set up that area
as it is in the screen shot. That is to say, the “GM Set” option should
be set to “Unload”, and the “Custom DLS Sets” should be set to
“Download”. This will ensure that we don’t hear any wrong sounds while
composing our masterpiece! (Let’s face it, would you rather hear a
feeble bleep, or the monstrous bass sound that you want to hear?) Click
OK, and we’re done with that screen.
Before we start on making something cool, I figure you’re going to
need some sounds to work with. For this tutorial, I’ve gathered up a
small collection of sounds which will be quite adequate to compose
something with. (This tutorial only uses the samples I have provided.)
You can grab the ZIP file of all the samples here. Unzip it somewhere and we’ll get down to business.
Click “File” then “New” to start a new project. You’ll now see the Create New File(s) dialog box.
Make sure “Project” is selected. Now, uncheck the “Use Default Names”
box, type in a name for your project, and click OK. It will now show up
in the Project Tree.
Songs are created using Instruments, Bands, and Segments. This
creates a pretty logical workflow. You create the instruments, then you
make the band to play the instruments that you made, and then you make
segments which tell the band which notes they have to play, using the
instruments you told the band to play.
So, let’s start with creating an instrument. This one will be a
synthesized bass. Right-click on your newly-created project in the
Project Tree. Select “New”, then “DLS Collection”. Uncheck “Use Default
Names” and type in a suitable name. Now expand the “.dlp” file in the
Project Tree, and you’ll see two folders, “Instruments” and “Waves”.
To make an instrument, you need to import the wave file(s) for the
instrument and then create a reference to each wave file, so that it can
be played in a segment. The wave files go in the “Waves” folder, and
the references to the waves (the “instruments”) go in the “Instruments”
Right-click the “Waves” folder, and click “Insert Wave…”. Now
navigate to where you unzipped the provided samples and import the
“SyBass.wav” file. For convenience, it’s best to right-click the
newly-inserted wave file and rename it to something more useful, such as
“Synth Bass”. Now, right-click the “Instruments” folder and click
“Insert Instrument”. Rename the instrument, too.
You will get a screen that looks something like this.
Now, you may be a little worried at the mass of information that has
just been presented to you, but I’ll go through what we need. The stuff
that we will need for this tutorial is all in the “Region” frame.
Instruments are made out of regions, and there can be any number of
regions in an instrument. Some instruments may have only one region (for
example, our bass sound) whereas others (for example, a drum kit) will
have several regions. (This all makes sense when you consider that only
one wave can be assigned to any one region.)
We will only need three things in the “Region” frame. “Wave” is the
name of the wave that you wish to assign to the region you are currently
working on. “Root” is the note at which your sample plays at its
original pitch. (If you’re confused, this will become clearer later,
once we get onto crafting a drum kit.) Finally, “Note Range” is where
you set the boundary points of your region. The sample you have assigned
to the region will not play if you strike a note that is outside of the
note range that you set.
Now, we’re going to apply all this to our bass sound. Firstly, make
sure the name of your bass sound appears in the “Wave” box. Now, since
you don’t usually play bass notes in the middle of a keyboard, it would
make more sense to take the root note lower down the keyboard. Try
setting it at C3. We’re also not going to want to play our bass sound
across the whole keyboard, because after a certain point, it just starts
to sound horrible. So, reduce the Note Range to something more
sensible, such as from G2 to C4. The instrument should now look
something like this.
So, we have our bass instrument set up. Before we start composing,
however, we will need to make a band, and tell it to play the instrument
we’ve just created. Right-click on your project name, and select “New”.
Select “Band, and give it a name in the same way you named everything
else. You should now see something looking like this screen. (The grid and track displays will show different things for you than it does in the shot.)
Right-click on the first row and select “Properties”. You should now see the PChannel(s) Properties box.
Make sure the “Instrument” box is ticked (we will be using an
instrument, after all). Now click the button under the word “Instrument”
and select the bottom-most option: “Other DLS”. You should now see your
bass sound in the box in the “Instruments” frame. So, select it, and
click OK. When you’re back at the channel properties box, tick the “Vol”
box and whack it up to 127 to ensure it will be the loudest it can
possibly be. (We can always reduce the volume later.) Now close the
channel properties and let’s get onto what we’re all here for!
With all the instrument and band set-up bits out of the way, we can
start on crafting a bass line. Right-click on your project and choose
“New”. Select “Segment” and give it a name. The Segment Length dialog box will now appear. Set “Number Measures” to 24 (because we’re composing a 24-measure loop). You will now see the Segment Designer window behind the Add New Track(s) dialog box.
Add a Band track, a Tempo track and a Sequence track by holding Ctrl
and clicking on each of the track types in the list. Click OK, and we
should have them all in the Segment Designer window.
First of all, expand the “.bnp” file for our band (if it is not
already expanded). Now, drag the actual band (the entry underneath the
“.bnp” file) into the start of the first measure of our Band track. This
will ensure that we hear the correct sounds when we come to play our
Right-click on the Sequence track and select “Properties”. Rename the
track from “Sequence” to something more useful, like “Bass”. Exit the
Properties box and then double-click the bass track to make a grid
appear into which we can enter some notes. Now, try and see if you can
copy this bass line
into the grid, using the following method: Click where you want to
place a note, and a grey block will appear where you click. Press the
Insert key to insert a note at the position of the grey block – the grey
block will change to a blue one. If you want to lengthen or shorten the
added note, then simply click and drag the right side of the note. If
you want to adjust the velocity of the note (how hard a key is pressed,
which basically amounts to how loud the resultant note is) then you can
drag the top edge of any of the blue bars up or down. Oh, by the way,
even though it looks like there’s only one note stretching from measure 1
into measure 2, it is in fact two notes – one reaching the end of
measure 1, and the other starting at the start of measure 2. Blame DMP
for not making it clearer.
You can enter each note manually if you wish, but the way I did it
was this: I composed one measure of the pattern, then copied it three
times to give a four-measure loop. (Just select the parts you want to
copy, and go to “Edit”, then “Copy”. Then click anywhere at the start of
the next measure and go to “Edit”, then “Paste”.) I then selected the
entire last measure and positioned my mouse cursor over the centre of
one of the selected notes (so that the mouse cursor changed to an
arrowed plus sign). I then clicked and dragged everything up one row on
the grid. Now hit the Play from Start
button to hear our lovely bass line. Before we move on to setting up
the drums, select our entire four-measure bass pattern and copy it right
up to the end of the segment. If the music doesn’t sound fast enough
when you play it back (it didn’t sound fast enough for me), then
right-click your Tempo track in bar 1 of your segment and go to its
properties. Now change the box next to “Tempo” from 120.00 to something a
little higher than that. (Just for the record, I eventually settled on
(A quick word to all the more experienced composers: you probably are
already following your own agenda, but if not, you’re free to do so.
However if you’re stuck for inspiration, or just want to follow my
tutorial to the letter, then by all means use my example patterns.)
Now, go back to our DLS Collection. Right-click the “Waves” folder
and insert all the waves except “rezolead.wav”. (It’s best to load the
waves in one by one to stop you getting confused.) Rename each wave as
you load it. These are all the drum sounds we want. Insert a new
instrument and rename it. As you know from setting up the bass, we
already have a region. But we will need more. However, let’s set up this
first (provided) region as the kick drum. Make sure your kick drum
sound is the “Wave”. Since drum sounds are typically only played on one
key, we are going to set the note range to only one key (naturally), so
set the kick drum’s note range from C3 to C3. Click on the C3 key (the
one with the 3 on it), and listen. The sound is too low. Therefore, we
must also set the kick’s root note to the same note we are playing the
sample from. Both note range boxes and the root note box should all be
saying the same thing. Now expand the drum kit instrument (if it isn’t
already), right click on the “Regions” folder and select “New Region”.
Use the same principle given above to put the clap sound on D#3, the
closed high hat on F#3, the open high hat on A#3 and the sonar hit on
Before we create the drum part, we have to tell our band to play the
drums! So, go into our band file and right-click on track 10. (Track 10
is the standard track for drum parts.) Go into the track properties and
set up the drums in the same way you set up the bass earlier. Now we’re
ready to put down a drum part.
Open up our segment again. Right-click anywhere and select “Add
Tracks” (it should be near the bottom of the menu). Make a sequence
track and go to its properties. Rename this track, and make sure its
PChannel is set to 10, so that it matches up with the setting in our
Double-click the new sequence and lay down a “four-to-the-floor”
(one hit per beat) pattern on the note C3 - our kick drum (the bottom
sequence in the shot is the one that shows this). Make one measure of it
and then copy that measure seven times to make an eight-measure loop.
But, it would be pretty boring if the kick drum were playing this
pattern all the way through the loop, wouldn’t it? So why not “dress up”
the kick part a little? Add a few extra hits in between the ones we
already have, to make the part sound less boring. Adjust the velocity of
some of the notes, if you want to. Just as a reference, this is what I did. (It’s just your standard dance kick drum pattern).
Now, to add in the rest of the drum parts that make the basic pattern. The claps (D#3) are easy. All you have to do is stick one with every second kick drum.
The high hats (F#3 and A#3) are just as easy. It’s as simple as putting
a closed high hat on every kick drum, and an open high hat right in the
very middle, between one kick drum and the next. You may want to lengthen the open high hats, if you want, because according to your taste, they may sound too short. Personally, I went for a mix of short and long open high hats, which allows the track to sound like it’s “bouncing” a little.
So now we have an eight-measure drum loop. Copy this entire loop
twice more until we have the drums playing throughout all 24 measures.
But, there’s one instrument we haven’t used. What the heck, I’ll let you
have a little bit of fun with this one. Using the “sonar hit” sound (on
the note E4), come up with an interesting rhythm. Now, make it play
from measure 9, all the way up until the end of the loop. Just for
reference, here’s mine. (It’s the line of blue bars just under the “No CC Tracks” text.)
Now, set up a new instrument using the “rezolead.wav” sound. Go to
the band window, and right-click on channel 2, setting this channel up
to use the instrument you’ve just created. Go back to our segment and
add in a new track, setting it to use channel 2 (if you don’t know how
to do this, refer back to earlier in the tutorial). Now, enter this lead line
from measure 9 to measure 12, and copy it into the next four measures
as well. You may wish to elaborate on the pattern, or you can just leave
it as it is, if you don’t feel adventurous. End the pattern by copying
the first note in measure 9 into the start of measure 17.
I feel like showing you something spiffy. Go back to our band, and
set up another resonant lead instrument on channel 3, and make the
volume of the track to around 75 or so. (You can adjust this value to
your taste, later.) Now copy our lead line from track 2 into track 3, so
that you have the same thing in both tracks. However, shift the entire
pattern on track 3 to the right two grid spaces, so that the pattern
starts in the middle of the first beat in measure 9. Have a listen, and
you should hear a slight echo, or a trailing sound. Spiffy, huh? And
yes, how I’ve done it is exactly how Saul does it, too.
Because this is a linear piece of music, it plays through from start
to finish and then stops. However, if you wanted to make it loop (which
will be especially useful if you wanted to compose a linear piece of
music for OMFBG), you would be able to do so using something called a
Jump Table, which is a table of links that will basically do the job of
pointing the segment back to itself once it has finished, so that it
just keeps playing over and over. (I will be teaching you all about Jump
Tables when I go through making a dynamic piece of music for use in
Hmm… this track needs to be messed with more, though. But I’ll leave
that up to you. You may want to add in more instruments, or mess with
volumes or “Pan” positions (that is to say, where the instruments are
placed between your left and right speakers). If you want to add in more
bars (to make the loop longer), go back into the segment’s properties,
and make sure you’re in the “Segment” tab. Next to “Length”, you’ll see a
button with the current length of the segment on it. Click that button
and change “Number Measures” in the same way we did earlier in the
By the way, if you want to listen to my version of the track I have just helped you compose, then listen away!
(All I’ve done to my version is add a little harmony to the second copy
of the lead line, and take out all the drums in the last bar except for
the first hit. Maybe I might just add more sometime…) If you’d like to
download all the source files that were made in this tutorial, then here they all are, too.
Well, now you know how to compose songs in DMP. It may have taken
some time to follow this tutorial, but the processes involved are really
pretty simple, and the more you practice, the faster you’ll get at
moving around in DMP.
Oh, and watch this space, because the next tutorial is going to be something even more special.