Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baba O'Riley intro sound - tutorial

Let's try to explain how to obtain the sound used in the intro of one of The Who's masterpieces. Pete Townshend in the original recording used a Lowrey organ with a feature called "Marimba Repeat" that gives the exact effect of the song. Basically it is an arpeggiator-like technique: the notes on the keyboard are splitted into two parts. The first ones play down beat and the others upbeat, thus creating a rapid alternating of them.

So, in Baba O'Riley, F and C play down beat and, say, D and E play upbeat. I managed to emulate that effect using my KORG Triton with 2 custom arpeggiators and splitting the keyboard. Maybe I'll write something about it or just upload the patch. Instead, I wanna explain how to use a simple VST I coded for the exact reason of emulating the "Marimba Repeat".

First of all, you need to use some kind of modular or semi-modular VST host (the kind that allow you to "wire" audio & midi i/o the way you want) because, due to techinal issues, applications like Cubase don't allow you to use the plugin as a "MIDI Effect". A good host is Plogue Bidule.

This is a picture of the patch you have to create:

It is pretty simple: Input Device -> Marimba Repeat Emu -> VSTi (mdaEPiano in the image) -> Audio Output. The brighter wires are MIDI connections. The audio i/o of Marimba Repeat Emu are dummy and are there only to make some VST hosts happy.
All you have to do now is playing some notes to hear how it sounds like.

Let's explain the MRE interface:

It's pretty minimalistic and there's also a small help if you click on "Help/About". This is how it works: instead of playing certain notes down beat and the others upbeat it splits the keyboard in two part (much like my Triton patch does) so that the left keys play down beat and the right upbeat. It also allows you to transpose the right part of the keyboard. The "keyboard split" parameter adjust the key used to split the keyboard. "BPM" obviously sets the speed and velocity (%) sets the MIDI velocity associated with the notes.

So, to play Baba, with the left hand keep plaing F C F C F and so on in sync with the arpeggiator and with the right hand play, for example, D and E.

I made this crappy video to show my triton patch but, since the principle is the same, it gives you an idea of what you get doing what I suggested.

Download: Marimba Repeat Vst


  1. THIS IS AWESOME! Thanks so much :D

  2. do you think you could make a tutorial / vst that works for like say the "won't get fooled again" sound? That would rock!!!

  3. Thank you very much :D
    I've already wrote a tutorial ( Be prepared, it's way more technical than this one, but if you read it you can get an idea of how ot works and then try to implement it your own way :) Lemme know

  4. awesome! Just found it right before you commented back :P

    It's a crime this has like only 1 comment!!!

    I'm Connor M commenting as anon because i'm too lazy to sign in. Also, i'm wondering if you can use Reaktor PLAYER instead of full reaktor in the wgfa tutorial.

  5. I've subscribed to your blog! You remind me of myself a lot :D I'm a musician/ wannabe programmer, so we probably have a lot of common interests.

    I do a lot of PHP/SQL stuff.

  6. Thank you again :D
    Btw, I don't think Reaktor PLAYER gives you the ability to modify patches, but you can always try ;). But, if you already have some kind of modular synth it is easy to replicate. To make it easy you can just put an organ[ish] sound -> Low pass filter controlled by a square wave -> output... it won't sound that good but you'll get the basic effect.
    You could use PureData (free/opensource) but it doesn't work that good as sound source. Using a VST wrapper for PD and a modular VST host you could use PD as an effect in the same way I use Reaktor... but for free :D

    Sorry for my English, not my mother tongue :P

  7. Oh no problem about the english. I have a pretty good vst host (it's called REAPER, and it treats MIDI as if it was audio, you can put audio vsts on midi etc).

    I've never gotten into stuff this complicated but I'll figure it out. Perhaps i'll have to find a demo of reaktor full.

  8. I'm using native instruments B4 xpress as my organ/keyboard sound. Is that good enough?

  9. Even a simple/free hammond vst would do the job. It's not very important because, once you put that effect on it, the quality of the sound won't make all that difference.

    I have an idea: download a free step filter vst. Set it to 2 steps: one with high cutoff frequency and one with (almost) zero. Now setup B4 xpress (o whatever you want) as instrument and the step filter as vst effect. Adjust the filter's rate and just play some notes.

    This should do the trick. If you are using a DAW it's probable that you'll need to press the "play" button to hear the effect due to sync between the filter VST and the playback of the track.

    You'll probably get some clicks in the sound, caused by the speed at which the cutoff frequency is changing. Try to modify the 2 frequencies 'till you get something good.

    In the end, you should add another effect: LFO controlled low pass filter (I'm sure there are some free ones). You should set the LFO frequency low and the waveform to sinusoidal. This is to get the slow "wah"-like fx.

  10. i use mixcraft for the sound and image lines vst minihost modular beta to wire the marimba repeat plugin to my midi controller i use the mini host as the instrument click edit and make a chain first the marimba effect then i link it to mixcrafts minimougeVA then link it to audio out on the minimougeVA i use preset 30 with a little tweeking using the VAs on screen knob its almost exactly as baba oriley

  11. then i duplicate the patch i set the first patch so it ranges from the keys f-3 to f-4 for the f-c-f pattern the i set the duplicate patch to the keys a-4 to a-5 for the fills and if i want i can assign f-1 to f-2 to a piano sound for the piano part then when im all done i save the patch

  12. I have a triton extreme and need to play this tune in an upcoming show. Do you think I can get a copy of that patch?

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