User Interface

Before we delve into the details, let’s take a step back and look at the overall interface.

The ALK user interface contains the following basic elements:

Arrangement Window: This window houses the current ALK session, displaying the loop arrangement, transport bar, toolbar and track leaders (which give access to the various track panels).

_images/arrangeview.png

Plugin Editor: Clicking on any VST/AU plugin within the track panel opens the plugin’s user interface in a new window where its settings can be edited.

_images/arrangewithplugin.png

The document follows a hierarchical structure: songs contain tracks, each track contains loops, while its track panel contains inputs, outputs, plugin instruments and plugin effects, and so on.


Arrangement View

The arrangement view is the main view in ALK. Before we enumerate the main parts of the interface, note that the arrangement view is essentially a stretchable Surface that allows a look at the song at arbitrary levels of detail. You can Zoom in on a part of the document by using the Pinch Gesture and scroll using the Scroll Gesture or using the mouse.

Below is an annotated screenshot of ALK’s arrangement view. In the arrangement view, you can:

  • manipulate the Transport, allowing you to control the tempo and length of the song as well as the standard play/record buttons;
  • create and delete tracks, and modify their:
    • volume/power/solo/… functionality: these can be controlled in the Track Leader widget, and in the Track Panel.
    • inputs and outputs: these are accessible in the Inputs and Outputs sub-panels of the track’s Track Panel;
    • add and remove plugins: VST or AU instrument and FX plugins can be loaded in the Instrument and FX sub-panels of the Track Panel.
  • create and delete loops, and modify which record loops the play loops will link to.

Below is an annotated screenshot of the ALK’s arrangement view.

_images/arrangeview_annotated.png

We shall now go into more detail on each of the image’s annoted elements:


Drawing Modes

The toggle buttons in this panel modify user actions on the main Surface.

_images/drawingmodes.png
_images/drag_selection.png

Selecting using Select Mode

  • Select Mode: in this mode, you can select groups of loops, by pressing and dragging the mouse over the loops you want to select. You can add to a selection by pressing Shift while drag-selecting. Loops can be unselected by hitting the Esc key.
  • Record Pencil Mode: in this mode you can draw record loops. You can also enable this mode by pressing and holding down the Cmd key while clicking and dragging.
  • Play Pencil Mode: in this mode you can draw play loops. You can also enable this mode by pressing and holding down the Alt/Opt key while carrying out the draw operation.
  • Zoom Mode: this mode you to zoom in and out, both vertically (making the individual tracks larger or smaller) and horizontally (zooming in and out on the time axis). You can enable this mode by pressing and holding down the E key and dragging vertically for time zooming.

Transport

This panel contains controls that dictate the tempo and length of the song, as well as buttons to engage Record mode – that is, to perform the song – or Play mode – to playback the preview performance). Finally, there is the Rewind Button, which brings the playhead back to the start.

_images/transportbar.png

  • Track Length Control: the track length control on the left hand side of the of the Transport dictates the length of the song in minutes and seconds. Songs default to length 00:30 (i.e. 30 seconds). Clicking inside this control allows you to change the length through typing.
  • Tempo Rotary: the tempo rotary allows you to change the tempo of the song. Note that that the tempo of a song cannot be changed while recording; only in Play Mode (or Stop Mode). The tempo can be changed via mouse and scroll gestures, as well as with the keyboard by clicking on the BPM text field. - Time Signature: the time signature determines the number of beats in each bar (top) and the note value equivalent to one beat. Both values can be changed by clicking the appropriate number.
  • Snap: switching off the Snap function allows for free drawing, editing, resizing and moving without being locked to the grid. By default this option is left on.
  • Silence MIDI Notes: Clicking here silences all currently playing MIDI notes stops playback. Handy for killing occasional stuck notes.
  • FPS: displays the current visual frame-rate per second
  • CPU: displays the current usage of the computer’s processor as a percentage

Global Loop

Global loop is used for continuously repeating a section of the song. It can be activated by selecting an area of the arrangement and pressing “GG” or choosing Toggle Global Loop from the Transport Menu.


_images/globalloop.png

Global loop can also be set to repeat any loop in the arrangement by clicking the loop and pressing “GG” or choosing Toggle Global Loop from the Transport Menu.

The global loop can be deactivated by pressing Esc, pressing “GG”, clicking the global loop or choosing Toggle Global Loop from the Transport Menu.

Add Track Button

_images/addtrackbutton.png

Use this button to create new tracks. Clicking on the button pops up a menu on which you choose one of the 5 track types available in ALK: Audio, Instrument, MIDI, Command and Control. As more tracks are available in ALK, they will appear here.

Track Leaders

Track leaders give you quick access to some of the most commonly used functions for tracks. The track leader has the following elements, from left to right:

_images/trackleaders.png

Track Type Icon indicates the Track Type, and is not interactive in any way

Track Name Text Field displays the track name. To edit a track name, click within the text field, then type to change the now-selected text.

Power Button: The power button controls the overall state of the track in question. If the power is off for a track, no signal comes out of a track. It behaves in the opposite way as a regular mixer’s mute function.

Solo: The solo button behaves exactly the same as its analogue in the physical mixing world. Pressing solo allows a track to be heard unaccompanied.

Audition On` (button/icon): controls – in the Stop and Play modes – whether the live input to a track is heard for monitoring purposes. (During Record mode, record loops are automatically monitored, so you always hear what you are playing.) Note that while Hover Auditioning is enabled, this button becomes an non-interactive icon, since the audition state is now controlled by the mouse location rather than the manual state of a button.

_images/trackmenu.png

Options Menu: has the following items:

Disable/Enable Hover Auditioning: when hover auditioning is enabled, a track is auditioned by hovering over it. When hover auditioning is disabled (and we are not recording), the Audition On turns from an icon into a button which can be toggled on or off.

Lock Performances: this function temporarily locks all record loops on the track. In this mode, entering a record state will not overwrite the current clips. This can be useful for isolating and practicing difficult areas of a song, without having to play the neighbouring loops each time.

_images/normalloop.png

A record loop in unlocked state.

_images/lockedloop.png

A record loop in locked state. Locked loops are assigned the color of the track.




Duplicate Track: clicking on this duplicates the track, its settings and all its loops.

Delete Track: clicking on this pops up a confirmation dialog, asking if you’re really sure you want to delete the track. If you click “Delete” on this dialog, the track will be deleted.


Keyboard Commands

ALK contains many keyboard shortcuts to help you speed up your workflow. ALK key commands assume US keyboard key locations so the position of commands remains fixed with international keyboards (ie: On a German keyboard, Z to undo becomes Y to undo).

Transport Commands

Key Function Notes
<Spacebar> Play/Stop  
<Enter> Record  
r Rewind Cycles: rewind to beginning of loop/beginning of song.
cmd+, Open Preferences  
fq Snap on/off Toggles on/off snap to grid
b+↓↑←→ Change tempo Changes tempo by +1/-1 (↓↑) and +10/-10 (←→)

Movement Commands

Key Function
Move left
Move right
Move up
Move down
E+←→ Smart move

Primary Gestures

For maximum ergonomics, zenAud.io ALK uses modifier keys to allow quick navigation and operation of useful functions, enabling a speedy workflow.

Modifier Trackpad Keyboard Function
cmd Pinch in and out ↓↑ Zoom in time axis.
cmd Drag horizontally ← → Draw record loop.
alt (⌥) Pinch in and out ↓↑ Zoom in track axis.
alt (⌥) Drag horizontally ← → Draw play loop.
cmd+alt   ↓↑ Zoom in time and track axis.
E Drag vertically   Zoom in time axis.
E Drag horizontally   Scroll in time.
E   ↓↑ Zoom in time and track axis.

Copy, Paste, and History Commands

Key Function
z Undo
⇧+z Redo
x Cut
c Copy
v Paste

Selection Commands

Key Function Notes
a Select All Cycles between selecting all in song, all in track, and none.
⇧+← Select left  
⇧+→ Select right  
⇧+↑ Select up  
⇧+↓ Select down  

Track Commands

Key Function Notes
g+↓↑ Track Gain After pressing this key, use movement keys to set volume.
l Lock Locks loop if mouse/caret hovers over, otherwise locks track.
ts Solo Toggles solo of current track
tp Power Toggles power of current track
tna Create audio track  
tni Create instrument track  
tnm Create MIDI track  
tnc Create control track  
tnt Create command track  
ta Audition Cycles: audition off, audition on, hover auditioning.
tt Toggle Track Panel  
t+↓↑ Change Track Panel  
tii Open instrument editor  
ss Set reference clips Sets the currently selected clips as reference clips
sr Reset to reference clips Resets the currently selected clips to the reference clips
p+⌫ Empty clip Requires selection or hover of record loop
tr Rename track  
tv Duplicate track  
t+⌫ Delete track  
t+Del Delete track  

Play Loop Commands

Mouse must be hovering over a play loop.

Key Trackpad Function
cmd Scroll up/down Adjusts the pitch shift in semitones.
cmd Scroll left/right Adjusts the offset in bars, beats and beat fractions.
ff Hover over/after loop Extend loop to length of arrangement.