Funny Shapes (Part I)

What are the funny shapes that appear on top of the waveform in Chronotron? There are circles, triangles and sometimes even diamonds!

I’ll come to the meaning of these symbols shortly, but even more important than the shapes are the vertical bars behind them. These bars represent transients, that is, sudden changes in intensity, like percussive sounds or note attacks. The height of the bar represents the relative loudness – or strength – of the transient.

You may think that transients would be observable in the waveform anyway, but this is not always the case. In some flavors of modern music, the mix is so loud that no features stand out. Look at the below waveform, for example.

Luckily, transients are there to give you points of reference within the waveform; a sort of map, if you will. They make the song’s rhythmic pattern more apparent.

Not all transients are equal, though, so the app goes one step further and classifies them for you. And that’s what the funny shapes are about.

Chronotron does AI!

Chronotron groups similar transients together and assigns a shape to each group. This is achieved by having the app “listen” to many different samples and “learn” the most common transient patterns. Doesn’t it sound exciting? Well, in the same way that the term Cloud is abused nowadays as a fancy synonym of The Internet, AI sometimes describes nothing but applied statistics. Whether you’re amazed or unimpressed, it’s quite a feat nonetheless.

Here’s what the intro of Toto’s Rosanna looks like:

The categories are meant to be arbitrary – no specific shape is assigned to any particular sound. In this case, though, the circles clearly represent the bass drum and the triangles the snare drum. Go ahead and give it a try.

Personally, I rely a lot on this feature for my practice routine. If, for whatever reason, you want to disable transient detection, note that this can be done from the Settings pane, Performance section.

Does transient detection help for your usual workflow? Let me know in the comments section below.

In the next part of this series I’ll describe which other Chronotron features rely on transient detection.

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