Back to school – Star6 tutorials!

August 27th, 2009 by John Liu

Star6Jason Forrest, the Berlin-based musician with whom Agile Partners collaborated to create Star6, wears many hats: electronic music producer, performer, record label owner and photographer, just to name a few. However, if you take a look at the Tutorials section of the Star6 website, you’ll see why I think teacher should be added to the list.

The Tutorials section has everything you need to know to make the most of Star6. My tutorial began with a quick look at the features diagram on the landing page. It’s a “must-see” chart for every new Star6 user because in 15 seconds you’ll get a 10,000 feet perspective of the app’s key features (“Wow, the app does all that?”). If you’re a pro user of Star6, the At-a-Glance Features chart may be all the instruction you’ll need. Fortunately, for novices like me, “Professor Forrest” provides us with much more.

I next opened up a PDF file titled, Sample Editing 101 (remember, I’m a novice). My eyes wandered to a “Sampling (music)” wikipedia link and I was amazed by the amount of information in the article. There’s a history of sampling that begins in 1961 when James Tenney created Collage #1 (“Blue Suede”) from samples of Elvis Presley’s recording of “Blue Suede Shoes.” I sampled (sorry, pun intended) the rest of the article and bookmarked it because I was more interested at that moment in learning how to make some cool new sounds with Star6.

Back at the Sample Editing 101 PDF, I found a link to dmoz.org which provides “a list to other sites where you can download more samples.” Super! Up to then, I had only experimented with the free samples that come with Star6. I was eager to find new samples on the Internet and I wanted to try the upload/download manager that is built into Star6.

I quickly jumped over to the dmoz site and was thrilled to find a long list of samples and loops (“Wow, I could spend a lot of time here!”). After checking out a bunch of links, I ended up at looperman.com where I registered, found some awesome loops, and downloaded several of them. The Star6 upload/download manager worked flawlessly; a physicist might call it “frictionless.”

Using one of the simpler loops that I downloaded, a blues guitar loop, I took the time to really understand the differences between the six process effects — Pitch, Gate, Speed, Jitter, Size, Random — that Star6 offers. To do so, I first went through the Process Effects section of the Star6 User Manual PDF. Professor Forrest did a great job putting together the User Manual — it’s fun and colorful like Star6 itself, and filled with Goldilocks explanations (“Not too much, not too little, just right!”). The User Manual includes lots of helpful images which does make the PDF larger, however a text-only version is also provided on the site if download time is a concern.

Next, I watched Professor Forrest’s Grain Mode Tutorial video which steps through through each of the Process Effects in Grain Mode. (Star6 has two audio engine modes, Grain Mode and Sync Mode. More on that in a future blog post.) Watching the video was really helpful for three reasons. First, the video reinforced my understanding of what I had just read in the User Manual. Second, I stopped and started the video to experiment as Professor Forrest stepped through each Process Effect. Last, but not least, the video was shot outdoors in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz which sure beats a boring classroom and blackboard setting any day of the week!

With Star6′s rich feature set, the tutorial resources already on the website and additional video tutorials to come, I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot more in the coming weeks and blogging about it here. For now, see that screen shot at the top of this post? Well, Star6 also comes with Help Topics built into the app itself. You see, Professor Forrest has you covered!