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Creative Drum Processing with UltraPitch

Jan 09, 2014

UltraPitch is a wonderful tool for giving character and depth to pretty much anything. It doesn’t sound like any other plugin I’ve come across. I love using it in unusual places. I think it’s particularly fun on drums. Let’s explore this a bit.


Before you start using UltraPitch there’s something you need to understand: UltraPitch is designed to add voices for vocals and other monophonic harmonic instruments. Treating drums is the last thing it’s designed for! Which, of course, is why I am using it on drums.

Now, this plugin is alive. It has a pitch detection algorithm which affects how the plugin behaves, depending on what is coming in at any given moment. The pitch detection can be adjusted a little bit, but you can’t disable it. This causes occasional shifts in timbre when using it on polyphonic content such as drums.

So if you’re like me and use it for strange things, sometimes it bites back. But hey, that is part of the charm, and oftentimes, very cool things can come out of that. I love all kinds of random elements in plugins as I think music production easily becomes too clinical these days. In any case, it’s good to be aware of this when using UltraPitch. Remember, you can always render/freeze the track if you need it to be static.

Now, let’s get to it.

The Starting Point

Here’s what we have to start with.

Nothing miraculous, right? Just a quick drum loop I made. Let’s put a new twist to it. We are going to use three plugins: UltraPitch for the effect and H-EQ and L2 for final adjustments.

Let’s add the UltraPitch plugin on the drum loop.

I’ve used the “Darkfuzz, octave down” preset as a starting point. I’ve made a few edits to it:

  • I’ve muted the dry (center) component. We don’t need it this time as I think the end result sounds better without it. Experiment with this.
  • I’ve set “Animation” to 0ms. You can use this setting to introduce deliberate random movement to the sound – it can work like magic sometimes.
  • I’ve edited the Pitch Detector area. This helps contain the pitch detection algorithm a little bit so that it doesn’t get in the way too much by introducing random shifts in timbre. Again, experiment with this until you find a setting that works.
  • I’ve selected the “linear” voice character setting. This is the real magic trick of this tutorial as it transforms the sound completely. Make sure to experiment with all the different character settings. A lot of UltraPitch’s special effects power lies here.
  • I’ve brought the gain down to avoid clipping the output.

Here’s how our loop sounds with UltraPitch and no other plugins on:

I’m sold! However, the stereo image gets a bit wild. We do want some stereo depth here, but the low end especially should not spread around too much. Also, the dynamics are getting a bit jumpy. This is where H-EQ and L2 come in.

Taming the Stereo Image

The H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer has a very useful M/S mode which means we can EQ the mid (mono) and side (stereo) parts of the signal separately. This, combined with the built-in spectrum analyzer, makes H-EQ a powerful tool for precision crafting your stereo image.

Here’s what I’ve done:

I’m filtering out the low end starting from about 450 Hz on the side signal. This gets rid of the excessive stereo low end and makes the loop sound tighter. I’ve also boosted the highs a bit on the mid signal. This is to compensate for the loss of highs that occurs as things are getting pitched down by UltraPitch.

Simple stuff. Just bringing things back in balance.

By the way, it really pays off to learn to use the analyzer controls in H-EQ. On this occasion I set it up to show how much stereo low end is present in the incoming signal, and how much is going out (yes, you can see both curves at the same time – very useful).

Dynamic Control

Finally, we need to control the dynamics. The UltraPitch effect has created some peaks which we want to shave off. The L2 Ultramaximizer is perfect for that kind of job. I’m using it to cut about 5-6 dB off the highest peaks.

Finishing Up

Here is what our final loop sounds like with H-EQ and L2 added after UltraPitch.

Notice how after adding H-EQ, the stereo image is now more controlled, and the L2 makes it loud and steady?

There is just something that UltraPitch does to drums that is very unique and appealing to me. It sounds grungy and deep. Of course, an aggressive approach like this is not going to work for all situations. I wanted to keep things obvious here, but keep in mind you can go in a lot more subtle and mix some UltraPitch effect in with the original signal if you like. This can sound great with the right settings.

It’s also very quick to come up with different variations by playing around with the settings in UltraPitch. As an example, here is a different version I came up with in just 10 seconds:

Happy tweaking and let me know about how you like to use UltraPitch!

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