Novation Circuit with Thavius Beck

Novation Circuit with Thavius Beck


Hello, everybody. My name is Thavius Beck.
I’m Novation’s Brand Ambassador and today I’m here at Kraft Music to show you a brand
new product called Circuit. Now, for great deals, check out the bundles at Kraft Music.
So, let’s get into Circuit and exactly what it is and how we can use it. Circuit is Novation’s
first standalone groovebox. What that means is that it has a step sequencer and it has
all of its own internal sounds. We have four drum parts, two synth parts, and the synth
parts utilize the Ultranova’s synth engine, so it’s a very powerful, flexible synth engine.
I’m gonna turn this on right now. This is actually running off of 6 AA batteries, so
when I turn this on you’re going to be able to see the battery level right there. I’ve
been traveling with this for quite a bit and the batteries have not failed me, so that’s
a good sign. When you turn this on, initially what you’re seeing is the first synth part,
and the top two rows are showing us notes in this synth part that we can play, and the
bottom two rows are showing us steps in the step sequencer. Now, we’ll get to that in
a bit, but we’re gonna start with some drums first. I have my drum parts here, that I can
select by simply pressing the button that’s related to that part. So I have Drum 1 and
Drum 2, and these are grouped together. If I hit my Play button right now, you’ll notice
there’s a little white play head that’s moving through the steps in my step sequencer, so
each pad here represents a 16th note or 1/16 of the pattern. I can start inserting notes
by simply pressing these pads here and placing some notes into my sequence. So, let’s lay
down a kick pattern… and I’m gonna lay down a snare. My snare is Drum 2. Drum 2’s sequence
is down here. All right, so we’ve got a very basic drum beat going on right now. Now, if
I’d like to change any of the drum sounds that I’m using—again, the drum sounds are
all internal—I can simply hold Shift and then press the drum part that I’d like to
change. I think I’d like to change my snare sound, maybe to a clap, so I’ll hold Shift,
press Drum 2, and now the pads change and these are all different sounds that I can
choose. So I have some claps down here… nice, I like that. Now I’m going to go to
Drum parts 3 and 4. I hit Drum part 3—again, the drum parts are grouped together in twos.
3 and 4 are together. Drum 3 is typically a closed hi-hat; Drum 4 is typically an open
hi-hat. So, I’m gonna lay down a quick little hi-hat pattern… All right, so that’s my
closed hi-hat. I’ll lay down an open hi-hat here… actually, I’ll put that right there…
all right. So, with my sequence created for my drums, I have a one-pattern—a one-bar
pattern. Now I can start tweaking some of the parameters of my drum sounds. Since the
drum sounds are grouped together in twos, the knobs up here—we have eight knobs—the
top four knobs will let me control the first drum sound in that group. So, for example,
Drum 1 and 2, the top four knobs will let me affect parameters on Drum 1, which is my
kick. The first knobs affects pitch… the second knob affects the decay, so I can make
this shorter or longer… the third knob affects distortion… get some nice fuzz going on
there… and your fourth knob is either a low pass filter or a high pass filter, depending
on which direction you turn it. Now the beauty of all these knob movements is that every
knob movement can be automated by simply hitting the Record button, turning the knob and turning
record off, and then you’ve automated that parameter. So if I want to automate the pitch
of my kick, for example, I’ve hit Record… and just like that I’ve automated the pitch
change on that kick sound. All right. Now, I have a Pattern button right here, and if
I press my Pattern button, now the display changes and each pad represents a one-bar
pattern. Each pattern has sixteen steps. So you’re not limited to just a one-bar pattern.
You can actually these patterns together or you can treat them as individual sequences,
if you want. To chain the patterns together, all you have to do is just hold one of the
pattern buttons and then hold another pattern button, and now I have a two-bar pattern…
you can see there’s a second bar that was blank, here’s my first bar. So I’ll add some
sounds in there… All right, so now we’ve got more variety with our drum pattern here…
I have a area here for my mixer. If I press my Mixer button, now all the buttons below
my parts will allow me to mute the different parts here, and the knobs directly above each
part will allow me to control the volume. Gonna turn that hi-hat down just a little
bit… there we go. Below the Mixer button, we have an Effects button. If I press my Effects
button, now I can start to send these sounds to delay or to reverb. The top two rows here
are different sync rate settings for the delay, and this third row is basically different
decay time settings for the reverb. So, let’s maybe add some reverb to my little clap sound.
I’m gonna choose a decay time setting, and the knob directly above the part that I want
to add this effect to, I just simply adjust it. As the LEDs get brighter, that’s to let
you know that I’m sending more of that effect to this particular sound. It’s a nice feature
of the knobs that the LED will indicate the value of that parameter which you’re adjusting.
The brighter it is, the higher the value. Now, let’s say maybe I don’t want reverb on
every single clap. What I can do is, again, just automate this knob movement by hitting
my Record button. So now I’ve got reverb just on that first clap. My delay settings are
up here. Maybe we’ll add some delay to one of these claps. Nice, OK. I’m gonna go back
to my kick and I’m gonna shorten the decay time here because I want to add some synth
sounds and don’t really want that pitched kick getting in the way. So let’s go to Synth
part 1. Now as I explain this, I’m gonna use this big Filter knob—this is a global filter—and
we’re just gonna initiate the low pass filter here so I can speak more clearly over the
music. All right, so in the synth parts the layout’s a bit different; I alluded to that
initially. The top two rows are showing me notes that I can play and both synth parts
adhere to a scale. You can choose the scale, and then that way the notes that you see are
notes that are in that scale. The purple button is the root note, and by default you’re in
C. Go to my mixer here, let’s turn that up… Oh, because of my filter, let’s open the filter
up. There we go. So, if we want to change the key that we’re in or change the scale
type, I can hit my Scale button, and when I do that the top two rows here are gonna
show me notes on the keyboard, so I can choose the key that I want to be in. This row here
is basically the white keys; this row up here are essentially the black keys. As you change
the key that you want to be in, the keyboard reflects what notes are in that particular
scale in that key. So like I said, by default you’re in the key of C. Down here you have
different scale types, so the first one is a minor scale, and this is the default setting.
The one next to that is a major scale and you have a bunch of different scale types
here, blues scales, things like that. The very last one is a chromatic scale, so that
way you can play every single note without having them filtered out. So, let’s stick
with our minor scale here. I’ll go back to my synth part, and I have two ways to record
notes in the synth parts. I can either hold down a step and manually enter the notes,
or if I want to I can record this in real time. So I’m gonna clear the steps in this
pattern, I’m gonna simply press each step and then I’ll press my Clear button so then
I can erase those steps. All right. And then I can start recording something in real time.
I hit my Record button. All right, so now we have this pattern recorded. Now, when you’re
messing with the synth parts, all eight knobs are going to affect the synth in a certain
way, and each knob will affect up to four different parameters of the synth patch that
you’re using. You can change the synth patches. There’s sixty-four synth patches built in,
internally, and there’ll be an editor arriving shortly. So if we want to adjust this… I’ll
just kind of give you an idea of the sonic possibilities here… So you have a very high
quality synth engine in here. And again, if you want to change the sound, you simply press
Shift, select the part that we want to change, and now we have a bunch of different sounds
to choose from. All right, I like that, that’s nice and subtle. Now the synth engine on here
is polyphonic, so you can enter six voices per step, six notes per step. Some of the
patches are monophonic, like a, you know, monophonic bass patches, and some of them
are polyphonic. Synth 2 defaults to a polyphonic patch, so I can start playing some chords
with this if I want to. So, again, I can record this in real time or I can enter chords per
step, which is a really cool feature and I’ll get more into that in just a bit. But for
now, I’m gonna hold down this step, put a chord there… All right. Now, I entered these
chords in different steps, but I didn’t do it because I want them to play in this particular
order. What I’d like to do is be able to play these chords in real time. I can do that by
simply going into my Mixer. I’ll mute this track by hitting the button below Synth part
2, so now it’s not going to play the pattern, but if I go back to Synth part 2 I can play
these chords in real time. This is a very cool feature. This allows you to use Circuit
as your own personal ‘chord builder’ and then you can play these sounds—either the internal
sounds, or, if you’re using Circuit as a MIDI controller, which you can do very easily,
you can play other VSTs or even external synths. OK? So, with this going on, let’s go ahead
and add maybe a little effect to our synth part… let me unmute that… and we’re gonna
add a little bit of reverb to this. Let’s see, there we go. Effects… got the delay,
we’ll add some reverb, as well… and we’ll turn it down just a little bit… there we
go, nice. So, some other things that you can do with the synth parts… if we look over
here, we have a few different buttons that will allows us to do some different things.
This Note Mode is what you would go to if you want to start playing your synths. If
you hold Shift and press Note, in the synth parts it’ll expand the notes that are available
to you to play, so now you can play up to four octaves instead of just two. If you go
into the drum parts after you press Shift and Note, now you can play the drums in real
time. So you have four pads here that you can play and it’s velocity sensitive, as well.
Now let’s say you want to change the velocity of your notes. You have a Velocity button
right here. If I press that, it’s showing me the velocity of the notes entered per step.
If I want to change these, I hold a step, simply adjust the velocity like this. OK.
Below that, we also have a Gate button. What the Gate button—this allows you to change
the length of the notes entered per step. On Synth part 1, I entered these notes manually,
so that way each one is just one step long. If I want to lengthen these I can hold this
button and adjust the length of the steps like this. Go ahead and mute this so we can
hear that a little bit better. Below that, we have a Pattern Nudge button, so we can
nudge this forward or backwards by a certain number of steps to kind of change the pattern,
give us some variation. And below that you have a Length button. The Length button is
nice because it allows you to change the length of the synth parts. So they don’t have to
be multiples of sixteen steps. This allows you to create some unique polyrhythms by having
odd-numbered pattern lengths playing against your drums. So, for example, right now the
top two rows are showing me the length of this pattern… so you can very easily change
the length of this and, again, just add more variation to your patterns. Now, once you’ve
created something that you like, you can easily save these different patterns into sessions.
We have a Session button right here. If I press this, you have thirty-two blank session
slots that you can save to. Now, this is where some of the power of Circuit really starts
to reveal itself, because each individual session will save any automation, any sounds,
all the different settings for each individual pattern that you’ve created. This allows you
to take one pattern, let’s say this one, and I’ll save it to that session slot. I’ll also
save it to a separate session slot, and this one, maybe I’ll go into my Scale Mode, maybe
bring this up a minor third… maybe I’ll change my drum sounds a bit… I’ll change
the snare to something else… maybe I’ll change the drum sound, as well… and maybe
we’ll mute out the hi-hats in the mixer… and now I can save this to that second session
slot, and I essentially have two unique, different sessions that I can jump back and forth between.
If I go to this first session, it waits until the beginning of the bar, my sound settings
are preserved, so this way you can take a basic idea and really evolve it into a more
fully arranged song. Few other things to point out—there’s a lot of features here. We have
a Sidechain button next to the synth parts, so the Sidechain button essentially emulated
sidechain compression, so you get that nice, kinda pumping sound that’s very popular in
house and techno and more straight-beat styles. This takes the input from Drum 1, which is
typically your kick, and it’ll cause a synth part to duck every time the kick plays. If
the red button is highlighted, then the side chain is off, and the further you move to
the right the more intense the sidechain ducking or sidechain compression becomes. So you have
that for both synth parts and that can be adjusted individually. We have a tempo readout,
which is actually a really nice feature. You hit Tempo, now you get a numerical display
showing you the tempo. We’re at 120, we can go as low as 40 bpm and as high as 240 bpm,
for all you happy hardcore heads out there. So let’s bring this back to, about 115 is
nice. We also have swing. By default there’s no swing. What’s nice is that you can add
either positive or negative swing, so we can move the notes a little bit behind the beat
or ahead of the beat. So I’ll adjust this… got some nice swing there. Or I can go the
other direction and get a very wonky pattern here. So, depending on the style of music
you make, this can be very, very handy. So, everything I’ve done—all the sounds, all
the effects, automation—all that was done strictly just using Circuit. I have Circuit
running through my Audiohub right now, this is my audio interface. I’m able to send and
receive MIDI because my Circuit is connected via USB to the USB interface on Audiohub.
So, what this will allow me to do is interact with a DAW, if I want to, and Ableton Live
happens to be my DAW of choice. So, what I want to do is utilize an instrument in Ableton
Live but play the chords that I’ve recorded on Circuit. So this is how we can do it. If
I go into my mixer mode here, I muted Synth part 2, and that means that it’s not going
to play that sequence. However, if I trigger those chords I’m still going to hear the internal
sounds in Circuit, so I’m also going to turn down the volume of that particular track.
I’ll go back to this synth part—the way that the synth parts and the drum parts output
MIDI, Synth part 1 outputs on MIDI channel 1, Synth part 2 outputs on MIDI channel 2,
the drum parts output on MIDI channel 10. So, if I want Synth part 2 to control something
within Ableton Live, I’ll simply go into Ableton Live here, open up my inputs and outputs,
and I’m gonna make sure that this track, this is a grand piano sound, I want this to receive
MIDI directly from Circuit, but only from MIDI channel 2. There we go. Now, I happen
to have my trusty Launchpad Pro over here on the side. I can use this to arm this first
track, which I’ve just done there, and now… so now, I’m playing a grand piano from Ableton
Live, but if I press play on Circuit, I’ve still got Synth part 1 playing from Circuit,
I’ve still got my drums playing from Circuit. So that’s one of my favorite features, because
being able to generate your own unique chords that adhere to a certain scale, it’s just
nice to have that functionality. The other thing is that if I change the scale that I’m
in or change the key, the chords that I played will adhere to that change. So if I go to
scales, again we’ll go up maybe a minor third here. All right, so we get that change there.
Very, very nice, very useful. Other things you can do: you can actually use Circuit’s
sequencer to sequence things, again, on an external MIDI device or in a DAW. If I wanted
to, I could actually sequence drums, sequence different things like that without recording
clips in Ableton Live and just do that all right here. If you MIDI map the knobs on Circuit
to different parameters within a DAW you can automate those changes by recording them to
Circuit’s sequencer. So it’s a very powerful device, whether you use it standalone or you
integrate it into a bigger workflow. So let’s say I want to use Circuit in tandem with my
Launchpad Pro alongside Ableton Live. I’ve already shown that I can control a virtual
instrument inside of Ableton Live directly from Circuit. Using the Launchpad Pro allows
me to launch other clips very easily or maybe play other instruments, as well. So, let’s
do this. I’m gonna go ahead and start the transport on Ableton Live. I have a few drum
clips here that I can play around with. I’m gonna go ahead and launch an 808 clip. So
as soon as I launch that, since Circuit is connected via USB it’s automatically syncing
to Ableton Live’s clock. If I hit the Tempo button here, it now says ‘SYN’ for sync. That’s
quite nice. So what I like to do—let’s go ahead and change my scale, go back to the
key of C. Now, this particular MIDI track here is an 808 kit and since I didn’t change
the MIDI preferences we’re actually getting MIDI on this track, as well, from all the
MIDI that’s being output from Circuit. So I’m gonna change this so it’s only getting
MIDI from my Launchpad Pro. All right. I’ll do the same thing here with another Drum Rack
sound that I have, and I’m gonna arm my Drum Rack track here so I can add some extra drum
sounds that I have from Ableton Live to go along with all my sounds that I have coming
from Circuit. So with my Record Arm button on the Launchpad Pro I will arm this extra
track here so I can play something different there. All right, so now I’ll go into my Note
Mode, find some sounds that I’d like to add. So when I’m ready to record this idea, I can
hit my Record button here… So I just recorded that idea on the Launchpad Pro into Ableton
Live. I’ve got these drums playing alongside my drums on Circuit. I can still go to my
second Synth part here, and—oh, let’s arm my piano track. So, again, Record Arm, arming
Track 1… So now that I have Ableton Live going I can go to my session page here, and
if I arm a clip to record I can now start recording these custom chords that I made.
So, we’ll go ahead and wait for the one… one, two… So now we have Circuit, Launchpad
Pro, and Ableton Live all shaking hands, having a good time together. It’s a very nice way
to integrate all of this into your workflow. Let’s go ahead and stop all that, there we
go. So, again, as a standalone unit it’s very powerful, it’s a great way to get ideas out
of your head very quickly, but also it integrates very nicely into a setup that you may already
have. And, again, if you’re not an Ableton Live user, maybe you’re just a hardware user,
being able to sequence all of your other MIDI hardware directly from Circuit is a very nice
way to work, as well. So, in summation, Circuit is a standalone groovebox. All the sounds
are internal. You can send MIDI directly using the 5-pin DIN MIDI adapter, or you can send
MIDI back and forth to a DAW using the USB cable. You run this on six AA batteries, which
are included in the package. You also get a power supply in case you don’t want to use
the batteries. One thing I didn’t mention is on the bottom you actually have a built-in
speaker, as well. So when you’re on the go, sitting on your couch, you have a way to interact
with this if you don’t have your headphones nearby. You can automate all the knob movements,
and, again, it’s very easy to integrate into a workflow so it doesn’t just have to be a
standalone box. Very flexible, very powerful device. So, thank you for listening. My name
is Thavius Beck, here at Kraft Music, Novation Brand Ambassador, showing you Circuit. Thanks
a lot.

36 thoughts on “Novation Circuit with Thavius Beck

  • Thank you for this very good review. Mine arrived just an hour ago:-)  Very informative review and one of the best yet as far as workflow and device settings. This Novation Circuit is very intuitive and provokes creativity. Just slide the pizzas under my door and I will be out in Spring!

  • Thanks Thavius,
    been looking for a stand alone and so far this seem to be the one.
    I'm looking to connect a Novation lunchkey 25 and also was thinking of getting the Novation hub as well and possibly using my iPad. c and this be done? also what cables will I be needing for such setup? any help will be much appreciated.

  • Is it possible to change the midi channel on which the different parts send out midi? (and if yes can this be done on the unit or do you need the editor for this?). And is it possible to change the cc's which the knobs are sending?

  • This mans review of this box is a genuine pleasure to watch. He has a calm clear and relaxing to watch way of explaining everything I imaging hes an amazing teacher.

  • I believe I watched every video on YouTube about the Circuit. A good 50 videos at least..shutup haha This tutorial by far answered so many of my questions and if this was something I could or wanted to implement into my system and style of playing. I won't be using it in a DAW but I will use it with other midi modules and synths thru a midi patchbay with a controller keyboard. So yea, just ordered me one this evening, Thanks KraftMusic and thank you Thavius for this amazing detailed review! Peace Out …

  • The most comprehensive tutorial I've seen so far. At last I understood how this beauty works without ever trying it. Thanks Mr Beck!!

  • dude!! this is amazing I play a lot of guitar but looking to move my stuff to a different level and I think this will do it the only thing that would make this better is if I could add my electric guitar into the mix

  • I'm the owner of two Novation products that died very shortly around (or before) the time the warranty ended which was 3 months for the Launchkey. My Launchpad started to go haywire after about 6-9months but wasn't in the Country to claim the warranty. Both products weren't used that much. I really want to buy the circuit – it's a sweet groove box but my concern is the production quality? Are the plastic shells for these products still made by the same Co. ? Great demo BTW, I'm pretty much sold on this for pure stand alone functionality and the price is right ?

  • Hey Thavius, I believe you just sold me on the Novation Circuit. I was on the fence but not anymore. Add the Native Instruments MASCHINE micro and we are on fire.

  • Question, can you also control the synth of the circuit by putting the launchpad in Midi mode and playing on there? Or using the Midi drum mode to send some drums to the circuit?

    Also does the circuit support polyponic aftertpuch?

    Last but not least can you also connect the circuit to Ableton using USB?

  • This is the best tutorial on the circuit. I want to take another stab at it soon hopefully tomorrow. I’m 41 years old and maybe I can finally get launched into outer space.

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