Rolands Zenbeats...a quick and easy way to explore Scaler & ScalerAudio

[caveat //on]
I’m not a musician, I’m a nerd who loves making noise that approximates music and Scaller makes some of that noise sound pretty darn good. I’m sure there are similar ways to do this in other DAWs, but it works for me so I thought I’d toss it out there.
[caveat //off]

Sometimes, loading a full blown DAW when I just want to quickly sketch an idea or continue exploring all the cool things I can do with Scaler, can be a little heavy. Recently, I brushed the dust off Rolland’s free Zenbeats as a host for Scaler and a lot of my other VSTs. Roland recently purchased ZenBeats so it will probably be around for at least a little while. While the arcade game like UI in Zenbeats can feel a little shall I say…limited, it is simple to learn, there is a stable engine under the hood and it plays very well with Scaler and ScalerAudio. It is easy to setup a couple tracks and explore Scaler and your instruments quickly and in near real time.

My Scaler quick and dirty sandbox in Zenbeats

Track 1 - MIDI instrument
Instrument Track - with any Zenbeats or VST instrument loaded
On that instrument insert a Midi FX which is set to a Scaler 2 VST
Now when enabled, Scaler will drive that instrument and you can quickly swap instruments and presets with one or two clicks. I just get a sequence running and cycle through settings. I’m constantly blown away by how different presets and instruments change the nature of the Scaler performance sequences.

Track 2 - Audio file
Audio Track - to hold any audio file that I want ScalerAudio to detect chords on.
On this track I add a Send Track and set it to a ScalerAudio instance

Track 3 - Audio FX Send Track
The Send Track referenced from Track 2 - This contains an instance of ScalerAudio so when I arm the Detect and I play the clip in Track 2, I get any detected chords.

Now if I want play the chords I found in the audio clip on track 2, while in Track 3 (ScalerAudio) I move the detected chords to a Scaler Pattern then hit Synch in Scaler. Now my Scaler VST that I’m driving with the track 1 instrument matches my detected chords and I can play the audio clip while I goof around with the Scaler chords/progressions.

If you are anything like me, you have hundreds (and probably thousands) of instrument/preset combinations and exploring them can be tedious.

For me, a quick way to cycle through presets on an instrument is to setup a Pattern in Scaler with a simple progression that has a unique ending… da da da da da da dadada + 3 rests. Now I hit Loop and Play on the Scaler Pattern and if I time the rests correctly, I can click through the presets, effects and even instruments with a “near seemless” transistion between sounds. Scaler keeps pumping out the notes and I can just change things underneath. It’s really pretty cool and I bet you finds sounds you did not know you had.

If I find something I like and want to use, I can save the Scaler cords or state, export the midi or bounce the audio.

Since Zenbeats has such a simple interface and is so lightweight, this process is quick and easy. My 8 year old PC loads Zenbeats and my Scaler Sandbox above in about 13 seconds which is a far cry from trying to do the same thing on my full DAW.

Any way. not the highest tech solution out there, but it’s easy, stable and (partially) free. Hope it helps someone.