This post aims to cover the basics around the Hydrogen Drum Machine interface and hopefully get a newbie feeling comfortable with the setup. Firstly, start up JACK and then Hydrogen. Once in Hydrogen, you want to select a drumkit which will suit your song the best. You can do this by opening the View menu and selecting Show Drumkit Manager. This will look like the figure below:
You can select which drumkit best suits you and then click Load Drumkit. If you don’t like the default selection of kits, there are quite a few you can download from:
Hydrogen Drumkits or Hydrogen-music.org Drumkits
Once you have chosen your kit, you can familiarise yourself with the Hydrogen interface. The components of the interface are explained below:
The Pattern Editor
This is where you write each drum pattern or fill by selecting which drum/instrument (y-axis) makes a sound at what time (x-axis). The figure below shows what this looks like.
As you can see from the above figure, the time at which an instrument is meant to play, is represented by a dot. The vertical line below each note represents its volume. If you click and drag the line down, the volume of that particular note will decrease. Attached to the pattern editor window is some useful stuff shown in the figure below:
Explaining the figure from left to right: The pattern number and name; the size defines how long a pattern is; the resolution defines how many notes can fit into that size pattern. The recording bar allows you to record what you play on your computer keyboard or via a MIDI input. Play around with the pattern size and resolution to get a better idea of what it does.
The Song Editor
This is where you schedule when each pattern will play during the song. As seen in the figure below, many patterns make up an entire song and these patterns can be repeated or overlapped. You can also change a pattern’s name by right clicking on its name and selecting Properties.
This allows you to change the level/volume of each drum and also allows you to add effects or pan the instruments. The mixer is shown below:
A total of four effects can be added to each instrument. These are added by clicking on the Edit button and selecting an effect you like. The wetness (or level) of the effect can then be varied on each instrument by using the four dials found above each volume fader on the mixer.
The Transport Bar
The transport bar is shown in the figure below. It allows you to play back either one pattern or the whole song. The tempo is shown as large numbers which represent the beats per minute. This tempo can be altered by selecting the + and – buttons found next to it or by double clicking on the numbers. The transport bar basically allows you to navigate your way around the song and to play it back.
The Instrument Editor
This window is not too important for making a Hydrogen song but can be used to edit the drum sounds. To find out more about this window, read my post on How to Make a Hydrogen Drumkit.
Those are the basics of the Hydrogen interface, now you can get cracking with making some awesome drumbeats