With a limited number of physical knobs to control an ever increasing number of software goodies you need to find a way to get more out of your control surface. Using a single knob to control more than one parameter is one of the best ways to do that. A good example of this is the effects section of my VCI-100SE. Each effect in Traktor has 4 knobs and 4 buttons but my vci-100 only offers 2 knobs per effect. How can this be effective? Super knobs!
First check out this video in which Moldover explains his use of super knobs among other things. Here you can see how each part of the knob kicks in a different effect or sound. This is the most complicated way of accomplishing the goal and requires advanced midi translators, Reaktor or max msp to accomplish. Don’t fret there are some easier ways to try it out at home.
In Ableton you can easily assign several knobs to different functions and have them react in stages, kicking in different effects as you slowly increase the knob. A simple goal for example might be spicing up the basic low cut filter. Cutting out the bass and sweeping up a filter until there is no more sound is a tried and true digital dj trick but you can seriously improve it by adding several other effects to the top of the sweep!
First you need to assign your knob to the frequency function of a hi pass filter in Ableton. All the settings are stock to begin with. You can use the “Cut O move H” preset of the auto filter for this example but lower the resonance.
Next lets add a basic ping pong delay to our effect chain. Here I am going to assign the same knob to the dry/wet mix. Just leaving that assignment as-is will double up the effects, so I have a filter and echo working at the same time all the way through the sweep. Thats not what I want. The delay should only kick in at the top of the sweep when all those bright high frequencies are twinkling so the low end does not get messy. To do this, all you have to do is lower the max setting. For this example 30% is a good place to start. Bingo, now you have a delay that kicks in at the top but you may notice the volume drops a lot and the track looses a little energy. No, problem- just add one more effect!
Now I will add a basic compressor to raise the volume when the bass is lost. Assign the same knob to the threshold and see how it works. Right off the bat, its all wrong. The compressor starts all the way on and then is compressing less as the effect increases. We need to reverse that action. Again using the min/max functions I am going to flip the values so the min is higher than the maximum. Match the values in the photo to the left to get a good starting place and then adjust them to your liking.
There you go, now you have a very expressive low cut filter that wont get old after a few uses. If you don’t use Albeton for djing check out this post which will show you how to use the effects in Ableton while djing through another program. Next I will explore some uses of super knobs in other dj software like Traktor and Deck A Dance.