Getting a tight drum sequence is an essential element of the backbone in any track.
But for those of us who want to dig past the standard drum kit paradigm, the task can quickly become tedious and even daunting with slicing, layering and processing…oh my. Most of us just don’t have the time to run our own sonic deli shop!
Even so, pretty much every DAW out there comes equipped with easy to use sequencers or piano rolls that can produce on-tempo rhythms, but very few include internal processing, layering options, and definitely not high quality samples. Tempo alone can’t get the job done – people need substance!
iZotope BreakTweaker provides all of this and much more.
Cutting their teeth in the deeper aesthetics of audio production with high quality processing plugins, Boston plug-in devs iZotope teamed up with the pioneer of the ‘stutter edit’, BT, to produce something that combines unique audio processing tools with high quality arrangement features.
First off, the layout of BreakTweaker is very easy to navigate. Upon launching, users are encouraged to arrange Steps and trigger Patterns within the presets. Steps mark where a layered sounds or samples will be triggered while the Patterns house the arrangement of the Steps.
There are a max of six Tracks in each Pattern that can be arranged/edited in real-time, and a max of 24 Patterns that can be saved within a single preset.
Nothing is over complicated on this grid. And, of course, all standards including velocity, duration, MIDI CC, etc. are available.
I’ll take my sequence to-go!
Like any pattern sequencer, the method of arrangement gives a leg up when it comes to hearing your changes being made while playing back. This also raises a point regarding users worried about CPU usage:editing while looping can eat up CPU power quick!
Well, lucky for you, each of the six tracks in BreakTweaker have a dedicated output that can be routed into individual tracks within your DAW. Six cheers for multi-channel outputs!
Unique Arrangement Tools
– Each of the six tracks can have independent lengths within the loop playback. This can make the movement of patterns very interesting.
– Based on tempo, playback of tracks can be individually adjusted to playback at Regular, 1/3x, 1/2x, 2/3x, 3/2x, Double, and Triple speed.
– Combining these two arrangement options can open up a completely new dimension to arrangements for those willing to explore.
Snap On Your Surgical Gloves
Directly below the Pattern window lies the driving force in BreakTweaker – the MicroEdit window.
Selecting a Step brings an enlarged view of it to the operating table, containing options to easily slice and arrange the selected source in a number of ways. Edits are immediately displayed – great for visually seeing what is audibly happening to your sample.
Its basic function is to duplicate the sound retained within the Step but, further, the sound of micro-edits can be fine-tuned with Type, Slope, Gate, and Step Effects. At least half of the tools are there to help smooth out any slicing done, while the rest are used for musically arranging.
Users with a basic understanding of chord structures and music theory will find the tools here extremely useful. Most of the tools offered here either allow for cleaning up slices or arranging to musical scales, chord structures or notes. For example, the Course Pitch Offset tool can transpose the pitch of a selected Step up or down by a semitone, third, fifth, etc.
To my surprise, the Generators are hardly mentioned when I hear praise of BreakTweaker. The source of BreakTweakers sounds, each Track can layer up to three Generators of any combination of:
- Synth Generator – Wavetable synth with a huge selection of multi-waveforms to choose from. All samples waves range from basic to complex and everywhere in between. There are also multiple synthesis types:
- Ring Modulation
- AM (Amplitude)
- FM (Frequency)
- Sample Generator (.wav and .aiff) – Effectively introducing a sample feature to Breaktweaker, any sound of the appropriate format can be loaded or dragged and dropped right into the display window.
Shoutout To The Shape Slider
Both Generator types come loaded with sculpting tools including a number of modulation options that can create stunning movements. My favorite option, by far, is modulating the Shape slider to any of the three Envelopes or LFOs
In a single Generator, the possibilities for sound creation are practically limitless. Especially considering the Sample Generator’s ability to import other sources. Tons of modulation options, specialized Filters, panning, pitch, multiple distortion options – All to sculpt a single sound. But wait…what if I layered a synth with my sample?
I found myself spending hours just sculpting sounds in the Generators section. Each option can change your source significantly but I’ll say it again – I loved modulating the Shape Slider with LFOs and Envelopes.
The feature creates a smooth transition from one waveform to another, and back again if you’re feeling frisky.
Like any new piece of software, figuring out a workflow took some time but it paid off. The minimal sections of BreakTweaker make it easy to do for such an expansive plug-in. I absolutely encourage anyone with it to deeply explore all of the options the plugin has available!
Did I mention that BreakTweaker has expansion packs available? Well yes, they do!
These add-ons introduce new preset patterns and arrangements, and they also bring in new, high-quality samples to play with. It’s tough to say which is my favorite but I will say that the Cinematic Textures took what I thought BreakTweaker could do to the next level. The following are preset examples all triggered within BreakTweaker…three short preset clips arranged by me.
Too Much Salt (Cons)
Since the MicroEdit window is the easiest feature to access and since it is simple to use, I found myself drawn to it immediately. Soon after, I found myself getting tired of the effect really fast. But, think about it this way – adding too much salt to your favorite dish will quickly destroy the flavor.
So I found that the best solution was to carefully place this feature where it would enhance the sequence and not steal the show. Again, that’s just my personal opinion. I’m sure there are other users out there who like tons of salt on their food!
A Match Made In Heaven
Enjoyment is more inspirational than frustration. BT and iZotope have teamed up for their second consecutive plug-in in an attempt to bring modernized rhythm to the masses as easily as possible.
They absolutely nailed it! It’s tough to remember the last time I spent hours sculpting a single sound purely for the sense of discovery. The pivotal Microedit feature as well as all other features took that enjoyment even further. The duo created an incredible musical tool that can be quick when you need it and deep when you’re ready to evolve your sound.
For an MSRP of $249 ($299 Expanded), this is a no-brainer. Put BreakTweaker up against your current piano roll – you won’t be going back any time soon!
Gabriel Lamorie has worked and studied in the field of audio engineering for seven years. En route for a degree in CSc, his primary focuses include audio synthesis and programming with services in audio production. Work of his can be seen at rootsaudio.com.