MuLab is a lightweight, crossplatform, modular music production environment. It offers a free version with some limitations.
It features a powerful Multisampler environment and lots of useful effects out of the box. The interface has its own logic (but that is the case for almost all music production software..) but once the principles are clear it offers an efficient workflow and is easy to use.
Also, MuLab does not require an installation and can be run from a USB stick which simplifies distribution and testing.
Another advantage is that MuLab is quite agnostic to MIDI control numbers, which makes it very flexible for mapping. (Other DAWs have several pre-assigned controllers (e.g. to control the volume on the mixer or playback) which in our case would be confusing)
(see also MuLab Online Help and the MuLab Forum at KVR)
(for introduction to MIDI go here.)
- Make sure MIDI interface is activated (in menu “edit” -> midi setup) and running (check using midi monitor in menu MuLab > Help)
- Make sure the Midi Keyboard is set to the lowest octave using the "transposition" function/buttons. This makes sure that your Note-Trigger events start with the lowest MIDI Number (= 0). Usually, the Note “0” corresponds to the Note “C-2” (sometimes “C-1”).
- In case your midi keyboard/controller offers “presets”, make sure you NEVER change the MIDI keyboard/controller preset, once selected, as this may change the controller assignements!
- Note, if you need to use output & input simultaneously, or if you want to use Bluetooth audio devices: On OSX you may have to create an “aggregate device” combining Input / Output (builtin) or to enable the use of Bluetooth Audio devices (which show up as two separate devices in the Audio-midi Setup).
(also Read the information in the MuLab Doc)
- Create an instrument track in the rack by clicking the small plus-symbol
- In the "Choose Instrument" window select Devices > Instruments > Multisampla
- In the "Multi-Sampler" section of the "MultiSampla Front Panel" window double click the black input field (or click the small arrow) to open up the Multi-Sample view
- Create Sample Zone by drag & drop a soundfile (wav / aiff) or by doubleclicking the area under the keyboard and dragging the mouse
- Samples should always be uncompressed WAV or AIFF (performance/latency)! If a sample can’t be loaded, change format to aiff / wav and samplerate / bitrate to project rate
- Make sure your samples have simple systematic names, to simplify coding later.
- Assigning your sounds starting with the lowest midi note value: C-2, / decimal value “0”. This makes it easier to build a functional prototype.
- When you use a synth it may be necessary to transpose the synth so that sounds are audible. Transposition is achieved with XPOS
- Make sure the velocity sensitivity (VS) is set to zero (VS knob in multisampler AMP section) -> ensures that the sound is played at equal volume no matter how strong you press the key (simulates a simple trigger)
- Save Multisampla presets ("save as" icon in Multisampla, navigate to desired location).
- Rename the multisample set (sample-to-note assignements) using the cogwheel icon to be able to identify samplesets.
- Configure Loop (Loopmodes): Start of playback, start of loop and end of loop. Usually “alternating” is the best mode
- Add Loop point for three-step loops (Start / loop start-point / loop end-point) by double-clicking the timeline.
Important to understand: A multisampla instrument for us is an independently controlled sound generator unit. All sounds in it are affected by the effects and keyboard mappings in this rack. If we want to control another simultaneous sound by another effect (or have it NOT affected by a certain effect) we need to create another multisampla instrument instance on a second rack. This is described below.
MIDI Mapping for Realtime Control of Sampla and Plugin Effects
- Create a Midi Mapped Controller (e.g. transpose -> XPOS): Right-click on interface (knob, slider) and select “map controller“, then move the desired control (know, slider) on the Keyboard
- there are also LFO and envelope generators in MultiSampla, e.g. for ADSR curves for the amp (e.g. to create a smooth fadeout at the end of a loop)
- NOTE: if using the filter in the Multisampla, make sure “key tracking” (knob “KT”) is set to zero in the submenu of the filter (otherwise, the filter cutoff changes based on the note pressed)
- Plug effects directly into the Multisampla instance. There are four slots available.
- Map controllers again with right-click on the control interface
- You can also plug effects in the rack, after a sound generator, and map controllers in the same fashion as for Multisampla
- Use mapping overview for each rack (right click on rack -> edit MIDI controller map) for overview and editing controller mappings
Working with Multiple MultiSampla Instances: Managing MIDI Focus
As mentioned, we need to use several racks to enable independent controls / different version of same sample, etc. For this purpose:
- Drag the Multisampla down one slot and insert a “send to the desire rack". (Send needs to be inserted before sound generating instance in rack in order to send MIDI events, otherwise it would send audio)
- Add a new, independent Multisampla instance in the rack receiving the send data.
- If you need futher instances, repeat 1 & 2
- You can chain put multiple Racks and Multisamplas in this fashion
- select the first rack in the row, then deactivate "Automatic Midi Focus" in Menu "Project"
- Alternative/advanced possibilities: edit "Focus midi map" in menu “Project” to force MIDI input to the desired channel/rack
- Add your working folder to the favorites: In a save / folder browsing dialog, click on the smiley-folder and choose “add as favorite folder”
- Be careful: the undo function is not always available! Save often.
- You can limit parameter ranges for midi mapped controllers in the “Map controller” dialog (right-click on the desired parameter controller)!
- Keep a list of your trigger and control change mappings! You can open an inventory of the mappings in MuLab by right-clicking a rack and chosing “Edit Midi Controller Map“
Project Finalisation and Deployment
- Make the project self-contained: Menu “Project” -> “Manage Audio/Sample Files” -> at “Sample Files” via Dropdown: “Embed Into Project”. Then SAVE! the whole project.
- Now, MuLab and your project can be run from a USB stick on any computer (with the same OS)!
Working with Effects
MuLab offers a huge range of effects, and a modular structure for creating own effects.
To load an effect, click an empty slot in a rack (AFTER a sound generator), or an Effect slot in the MultiSampla Front panel.
Then go to > MuTools > Devices > Effects
Generic effects are: MuVerb (Reverb) and MuEcho (Echo-like Delay)
For more preconfigured effects go to > MuTools > Factory Presets > Effects
Here you can find effects such as:
- Chorus: Fattens a sound by layering
- Flanger: similar as chorus, but with a distinct frequency shifting effect. Very spacy.
- Filters: here you can find filters with two or more bands. This is already available through the MultiSampla Filter section. But you may try “Wah wah” as special effect…
- Distortion: Here you can find amp-like distortions as well as “bit crushing” effects (makes a sound “digital sounding”
- Pitch Shifter: Two-Channel Pitch Shifter (without affecting duration of sample)
- There are some interesting “experimental effects”, such as the audio freezer
Rendering A Sound Idea in MuLab
Normally, we would use Reaper for “static” sound design.But you might find a great effect and modulation with mulab effects that you would like to “freeze” into a new sound file that you then use in the multisamper.
You can do this by:
- recording the performance: click the round “record” button in the transport area on top, perform the sound with the keyboard and make the modulations in realtime. This generates a sequence with the midi notes, and separate “control change” tracks.
- then render the sound by selecting: Menu “Project > Export tracks as audio files.
- Select an appropriate storage location. The filename is generated automatically based on the name of the track. You can rename it later.
- After recording, you can discard the recorded seqences again.
Mulab is modular. So you can build almost everything.
Example: Building an Audio based Trigger for a Multisampler event, keeping the original audio signal audible.
You can create an audio trigger that triggers a note in the multisampler and at the same time transforms the origninal sound input. You can do this like this:
- In a new rack, load the “Audio Envelope Follower” (under “Modules” > “Event Generators”
- in the Audio Envelope Follwer, select the desired midi note to trigger
- Insert a multisampler below (or use your existing multisampler)
- Insert a sample at the desired Note
- Now go to “Modular” View in the main window
- Double click the module “Audio File” and route its output (“output to”) to send its signal to the rack which contains the envelope follower.
- Now you get a signal into the envelope follower. Set the values in the envelope follower to achieve the desired behaviour (loudness triggers event).
- You can also use bandpass filters to “look” for specific frequencies to trigger the follower! Eg to create a “singing interface” which triggers if a specific pitch is sung.
- Now you can insert a send on top of the rack, and send the audio signal to a second rack. Like this you can make the original signal audible together with the triggered sample, if desired. You can of course then apply processing to the sent signal as well.