Geist 2 by FXpansion
It is not a live drummer, but thankfully it offers absolutely everything else in the drumming world – a Swiss Army knife for all your loops, kits and hits. A drum come true.
by Alex Arsov, Sept. 2016
Geist 2 comes to town. At least for me, it proves to be the ultimate drum tool for all those “not a real drummer” drum needs. It is one of the best drum samplers and loop manipulation tools, and one of the most advanced drum machines including a step sequencer, offering a large array of tools for all three of the aforementioned options including a great collection of preprocessed loops and kits and of course also separate kit elements. It comes with additional engines allowing you to combine loops with other loops or even various different drum machine sequences with other loops, samples or other drum machine sequences containing different drum kits. It also offers an enormous number of drum triggering pads and other additional tools, effects and enormous editing possibilities. Replacing any loop element with any other sound takes just a second, and this is just one of the many options and possibilities. It is definitely a tool that won’t be easily outgrown. I started with Guru years ago, switched to the first version of Geist and now I’m on Geist 2, and after all these years and various new tools, Geist 2 and all their predecessors remain my secret tools for adding new drum elements to my arrangements. Even if I use real drums and a real drummer for my tracks, there is always some additional rumble in the background, mostly produced through Geist 2.
My favorite use of Geist 2 is to put part of my song in a loop, then navigating the Geist 2 browser to my main Loop directory containing all my drum loops sorted into subdirectories. Browsing through various loops, tempo synced with the project, hearing them in context. After finding the appropriate one I click Done, saving it in the first engine. Geist 2 has eight engines. It is similar to loading different instruments in Kontakt. Every engine contains everything you see in the main window, so loading another engine is like loading a new instance of Geist 2 that can play along with all previous instances. If you want to use some variation of your loop or MIDI pattern from any engine, you can copy it to another Pattern and change the details there, saving it independently inside the same engine. Each engine contains up to 24 Patterns (they are in upper right corner of the main graphical interface).
Actually Geist 2 offers so many things that it would be impossible to go through all the small details, therefore I would rather concentrate on some of the elements I find quite useful, the ones that can allow you to achieve better results in no time.
We already mentioned engines and patterns. The next big thing is a handy browser at a left side of main graphical window, with additional options to save our favorite directories and with a scalable Pad window at the bottom of the browser. The Pad section contain four banks with sixteen pads that are automatically filled with hit elements from the loop that is currently selected. Every pad can contain up to eight layers that can be triggered with various velocity values. As the whole interface is vectorized, you can scale and resize Geist 2 and its elements as much as you want. The Pad window can be dragged up, or even down, making the browser or a Pad section a bit bigger.
The next thing that grabs my attention is an option that I’ve adored in Fxpansion Tremor and now we also have it in Geist 2: an option to freely reduce the number of steps for particular kit element inside the step sequencer, building constant variations inside sequenced loops by setting different number of steps for particular kit elements. It works wonders if you use this option for some effected hat elements or even some pitched percussion rumbling in the background, adding the impression of constant movement without breaking your main rhythm.
Similar results could be achieved with the probability graph function that could be applied to any kit element in the step sequencer by simply clicking on a drop down menu on the left, near the name of a step sequencer’s lane, choosing Playback and then Probability. With Offset you can set the value in percentages determining how much chance some hits will have of being triggered. It works nicely also with some extra crowded hats.
At this point all madness is just beginning. A bunch of effects, filters and even the so called Transmod section, a very powerful Modulation section offering some common sources that can be applied to the selected pad, along with another sixteen “global” modulator slots where you can apply various LFOs, “bouncing ball”, “Math” and few other more normally named functions. The modulation slots are ranked at the bottom in one small narrow row, where you can connect functions directly to the pad, while for those additional freely selectable slots you will find additional settings in the Transmod submenu which can be found at the top of the browser. At the end of the bottom row there are even four other Macro knobs that can be connected to anything and have a MIDI learn function, so it is up to you what sort of madness you will apply to your rhythm.
Geist 2 Structure
Until now, we have mostly talked about the things that happened inside the Pattern view, a default view that is visible when you open Geist 2. In the upper row, from the middle to the right side of the main graphical interface, you see a menu where you can open some other views. The second one is a Layer mixer view, where we can apply different effects, various Distortions, Dynamic processors, different equalizers or reverbs and a nice number of modulation effects. Of course we can also set level and pan, along with setting different output channels for every one of eight layers that one pad can contain. Considering that Geist 2 comes with very advance sample editor placed under the step sequencer in Pattern view, where every single hit inside a loop or even separate samples inside every layer can be edited in every detail, it is obvious that Geist 2’s editing possibilities are almost endless.
I’m not much of a programming person, using mostly 20% of Geist 2’s editing possibilities, but I’m sure many programming fanatics will be thankful for all those additions. Fxpansion hooked me already with an improved stretching algorithm, not mentioned anywhere, but quite noticeable as I don’t have any issues anymore with some more complex third-party loops. Now all loops sound very natural and loading time is also quite improved. Add a scalable graphical interface, probability graph, along with that step reducing option taken from Tremor and I’m totally into Geist 2 just for the sake of those few new things.
The next one is a Pad mixer with an identical arsenal of effects and functions, just with one significant difference, that all those mixer channels with channel effects are connected to particular pads and not those up to eight layers that can be used inside every drum Pad.
Global mixer offers the same arsenal to eight engines along with all additional audio outputs.
The next two views are Scenes and Song. Scenes is aimed mainly at live performance where you can trigger patterns from all engines, while Song is actually an arranger window where you can build whole songs by arranging blocks that contain various patterns from the step sequencer. A quite similar system to Fl Studio, where you can draw kick, snare, hat and other blocks, building your drum arrangement over the time.
The last one is a Mapping view where we can view automation that we applied through learn mode. And so it goes.
There are a million other small details forcing me to read the manuals, most of them usefully telling you how to achieve best results in a shorter amount of time while some others really go a bit too deep into drum programming, offering some options that I will definitely not use in this reincarnation.
All in all, over the years, Guru, then Geist and now Geist 2 have proven to be essential tools for my production. I found my way to work fast and effective, the only additional function that I would like to see in the future is an option to slice loops in a similar way to how it is done in Ableton Live, dividing it into just three different frequency groups: kick, snare and hats. This way every audio loop can be played, actually replaced with any drum kit and everything is done in just a few moments. All you need to do is to move one or two hat beats to the open hat position and that’s that.
With Love From London
Otherwise, Geist 2 is a dream-come-true drum tool. A drum sampler with advanced sampling and editing possibilities. A drum machine with a great multi-function Step sequencer with some unique random functions. Best loop slicer on the market with the perfect stretch algorithm, and after all – we can finally export edited audio files directly to a DAW (I can’t believe that this is something that I’ve debated with FXpansion developers in every reincarnation of this tool)
It is absolutely the best tool for all sorts of “not a real drummer” needs that you can find on the market at the moment, and the price is also very fair, especially considering all the functions that Geist 2 offers. I admit that my essential arsenal is quite crowded with a considerable number of tools, but this one makes a real difference. It is always tricky to find appropriate loops for a composition, it’s even harder to find a tool where you can save more loops, allowing you to compare them or even combine them into one big rhythm. Ladies and gents, that is Geist 2.
More info on https://www.fxpansion.com/products/geist2/