I must admit that I am curious about the Elektron Analog 4 (A4), but not in the market for new gear while I am still on my honeymoon with the DSI Tempest. So, I thought to myself that as complex and sophisticated as the Tempest is there must be some way to simulate something like the A4 parameter lock (a sequencer feature that allows for real-time manipulation of synthesizer parameters on a per-step basis). So, I tried a few experiments using an unorthodox method that requires adjusting the system settings while simultaneously playing in a sequence with a MIDI keyboard. Not an ideal alternative to the workflow of the A4, but useful for me none-the-less. Distraction Surplus Syndrome was produced using this technique. The bass and sustained melodies were played on the SCI Pro-One. Let me know what you think, share your experiences using parameter-lock-like techniques, or read on for recipe details.
I started by copying the same synth patch to all 16 pads in bank B within a new Tempest project. Then I made minor adjustments to all the sounds in the bank (filter, envelopes, LFOs, etc.). This set up the project with 16 sounds ready to be sequenced in such a way that they would sound like they were the same patch p-locked to different settings at each step. The next thing I did was step program each pad onto adjacent steps and then edit the pitches of each step. After doing this I had a pretty convincing p-lock sounding beat, but it took ages to adjust the pitches on all the steps. I knew that it was not practical to use this time consuming method, so I tried another approach.
Still using 16 synth sounds in bank B I hooked up a MIDI keyboard controller and played in the notes by hand. The Tempest allows for external control of one sound from an external MIDI controller that’s set via a parameter in the system settings. To get a parameter-lock-like sequence I started recording, went into system settings, and played in notes from an external keyboard while turning the “MIDI: Synth Sound” knob (pads A1-B16). This takes a bit of coordination, but with a little practice I was able to play in parts with my right hand while switching the setting with my left hand so each note recorded triggered a different sound in bank B. Using this method I was able to program in a whole bank of parameter lock sounding beats in a matter of minutes without ever stopping. If playing the notes in by hand is not your thing you can run an external arpeggiator and just move the pad setting around as the notes are playing into the Tempest. I tried this with Ableton’s arpeggiator and it worked as expected.
A couple of things to watch out for are: 1) accidentally tipping over into bank A and getting an unexpected cymbal recorded (if that’s where your drums are — if you have synth sounds in both banks then this is not an issue), and 2) occasional stuck notes, but this went away once I got out of the system mode and restarted the beat. With the stuck notes it’s not ideal for a live show. However, it works perfectly if you are pre-recording beats to use in a performance. I realize that making changes to system parameters while simultaneously recording in notes is unorthodox, but sometimes weird workarounds and unexpected behaviors are where the magic happens. Another nice thing about this technique is that you have 16 mutes for the part you played allowing for some really interesting variations using the 16 mutes mode.