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Hands On - Emu Proteus (part 3)

How much variety can you get out of a mere (‘mere’ in today’s terms) 8 Megabytes of samples? A lot is the answer, if those samples have been carefully selected and trimmed down to occupy a minimum amount of space...

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How much variety can you get out of a mere (‘mere’ in today’s terms) 8 Megabytes of samples? A lot is the answer, if those samples have been carefully selected and trimmed down to occupy a minimum amount of space. Those of us with samplers tend to get a bit lazy. My Akai S1100 is fitted out with 10 Megabytes of memory and rather than spend tedious and frustrating hours (at least it seems like hours) on looping, I’ll just take samples which are six or eight seconds long, if possible, which is usually enough for the longest notes I ever want to play. Emu’s programmers obviously have a lot more patience than I have because there is a considerable wealth of material crammed into the 4 or 8 Megabytes that a Proteus offers. Not only that, the samples have been carefully chosen so they can be mixed and modified to offer an even greater variety of sounds. Sampler owners could definitely learn a few lessons from Emu.

There are plenty of editing parameters to get your teeth into, but I’ll concentrate on just a few - the ones in my opinion which will give you the most value and the easiest pathway to sonic variety. When you have begged or borrowed a Proteus, or stolen a few minutes in front of one, press the Edit button and let’s explore. In Edit mode the Data entry knob will allow the selection of the parameter to be edited and modification of the value depending on where you position the cursor. Rotate the Data knob until you get to Link 1. When I was explaining the multitimbral operation of Proteus earlier, skeptics might have been saying, “Aha, it is simple but you can’t assign more than one preset to a single MIDI channel.” Well this is where you can do just that. Under the Link parameter you can assign any other preset to play on the same MIDI channel as the preset you are editing, with no compromise other than the fact that both presets have to work within the 16 note/32 voice limit. And you can set two other links. Linking presets, on this and other instruments, is a very powerful technique for developing new sounds. This is where the XR version excels, even if you have the facility for external System Exclusive data storage. With 384 presets to Link this creates a range of possibilities in excess of 50 million. If you could try one every two seconds it would take about three and a half years to go through them all. (With the standard version it would only take five months!).

Linking sounds is a good way to create new ones, but the limitation is that they always end up sounding thicker than the originals. Although once upon a time (the DX days) synthesists considered thickness to be something akin to the Holy Grail, thick sounds are now ten a penny (four a pfennig!) and not always what one might be looking for. Another way of easily modifying sounds is by manipulating the Primary and Secondary Instruments. In the same way as the Emu Emax, each preset can use one or two sets of multisamples. If you start with a preset which uses just the primary, then you can try adding different secondary instruments. If the preset started with primary and secondary already in place, then you can try changing one or the other. This doesn’t always lead to an increase in the thickness of the sound because Proteus is well stocked with basic waveforms that you probably wouldn’t use on their own, their function is to complement and enhance.

So far, you know about enough of Proteus’ possibilities to last you well into retirement so you probably don’t need to know about any more. You do? Read on…

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
Learn music production