Beginner’s Guide to Tidal

By Cameron Sperling

So, you want to learn how to use Tidal? Well then, first things first, let’s start with the basics. Creating a strong foundation on which to build your understanding is vital. In this tutorial we will cover two important topics to get you started. How to create a sound, and how to modify your sound.

The first thing to do is decide which synth connection(s) you want to work on. If you’re in a group, you should number yourselves off. For these examples I’m just going to use connection one. This is inputted as d1. Connection two would be d2, connection three, d3, and so forth. Once that’s done, you need to choose a sound file and type it into the line of code. For these examples I’m going to use “bleep”. You can choose whichever file you want. If you’re unsure as to which files you can use, check the Dirt-Samples folder which comes with SuperDirt. Once you’ve decided, you type the following beginning with d1… (do not include “Eg. 1:”).

Eg. 1: d1 $ s “bleep”

Let’s break down what all that gibberish – that strange code – means. As previously mentioned, d1 tells the program to use channel 1. $ indicates to the program what level of priority this piece of the code has. The s tells the program to play a sound, and bleep is the name of the sound file being played (see “sound bank” below). Note that it needs to be inputted inside quotation marks. Finally, all that’s left is to actually run (evaluation or execute) the program. You can do so by pressing the shift and enter keys simultaneously.

So, you got Tidal to play for you? That’s great! Now it’s time to move on to the next step, changing and modifying your sound. The first thing that we need to do is clarify some terminology. In the last section, I used the term “sound file” for simplicity’s sake, but that wasn’t really accurate. It would’ve been more accurate to have used the term “sound bank”. You see, the name that was inputted in my example was “bleep”. This isn’t actually the name of a single sound file, but a collection of sound files that are numbered off starting from 0. (Not inputting any number, as was done in Eg. 1, is the same as inputting 0) There are two ways of changing which file in the soundbank to use, a basic method (Eg. 2) and an Advanced method (Eg.3)

Eg. 2a: d1 $ s “bleep:0”
Eg. 2b: d1 $ s “bleep:1”
Eg. 3a: d1 $ n “0” s # “bleep”
Eg. 3b: d1 $ n “1” s # “bleep”

Changing sound files isn’t the only way that you can add variety. You can also modify the sounds that you’re using too. Tidal has many different functions, but to keep this from becoming too long, I’m just going to explain three, gain, crush, and up. Gain is the simplest of these, it just controls the volume level. If the value is less than 1, the sound is quieter. If the value is greater than 1, the sound is louder. Generally speaking, going about 1 is dangerous and make lead to digital distortion (levels to hot).

Eg. 4a: d1 $ s “bleep” # gain 0.8
Eg. 4b: d1 $ s “bleep” # gain 1.2

The crush function crushes the bit depth, creating a more crunchy sound. The smaller the value, the more the sound gets distorted. The value can’t go smaller than 1.0, however.

Eg. 5: d1 $ s “bleep” # crush 5

Finally, up shifts the the pitch of the sound file. The value provided equals the number of semitones up (or down if you use a negative value) the sound file is shifted. It should be noted, the pitch and speed of a sound file are connected, and so the higher you shift it, the faster/shorter the sound will become.

Eg. 6: d1 $ s “bleep” # up 5

You may have noticed that in the most recent examples, a # was used. Similar to $, this symbol is used to indicate a level of priority to the program.

And there you have it! Tidal is a complex program, with lots to learn about how to use it, but I hope that you found this tutorial useful for getting you started. Thank you for your time.


Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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