FXpansion Geist by Lights
FXpansion Geist is an all-in-one workstation (standalone or plugin) for beat creation that will likely satisfy just about any workflow.
- Geist can be used as a drum machine—loading individual samples onto pads and playing them directly with MIDI or using the built in step sequencer.
- Geist can be used as a looper, loading and automatically slicing WAV and REX files onto pads and converting their slices into patterns that can be arranged and re-arranged.
- Geist can be used as an arranger, with song mode similar to Acid, allowing you to lay out beats or even a whole song.
- Geist can be used as a live playback instrument, allowing you to call up saved snapshots of different beat arrangements at the click of a mouse or the press of a key or pad on a MIDI controller.
- Geist can be used as a sampler and sound design tool, allowing you to sample anything from your DAW or from Geist itself.
The thing you need to know is that once you learn Giest, you’ll wonder how you got along without it. A great example of the most basic use of Geist can be seen in this user-generated video (not my own): Beatmaking with FXpansion Geist - YouTube
Geist is divided into the following key areas:
- The browser: This can expand or collapse to the left of the main window and allows you to browse Geist kits, full Geist songs, and any REX or WAV files on your hard disk. Here you can load files directly into a Geist Engine.
- The slicer: The slicer lets you load up any WAV or REX loop and slice it onto pads. When you click on a WAV or REX file in the browser, you can choose to load the file directly into the slicer. The slicer automatically slices the file for you based on meter (even slices) or transient detection, but you can tweak a slice point, add, or delete slices. You can also classify a slice as a kick, snare, cymbal, or percussion and Giest will arrange them all in rows on your MPC-style pads. Geist can layer multiple samples on a pad so don’t worry if you need more than 16 slices. Once you’ve sliced the file, not only do you have the files on the pads, but Geist has automatically created a pattern based on the original WAV file. If you’re just using Geist with single hit samples, you don’t really need the slicer, but it’s the best UI I’ve seen for handling loops.
- Engines: Engines are essentially unique drum kits. Each engine has its own set of pads, layers, patterns, effects, etc. You can have up to 8 engines playing at once. You can mute, solo, and turn on and off engines when you need them in your mix.
- The pattern editor: You can have 24 patterns per engine. The patterns can be pretty much as long as you could possibly need. As I said above, if you loaded a loop onto an engine, the slicer has automatically created the first pattern for you—the one that was represented in the original loop. You can extend patterns, copy them to other pattern slots, draw your own, etc. You can mute pads or rows or individual notes. There is an ample automation section, similar to automation lanes, that allows you to draw automation curves for any individual pad. All of this allows you to create a tremendous amount of pattern variations.
- The pad editor: You can edit each pad sample (and pads can have multiple layers), controlling pan, gain, envelope, time stretch algorithm, and filter. You can also control which of Geist’s many sub outputs you send each pad or layer to in your DAW, so you can mix then individually with VST effects if the onboard Geist effects don’t do it for you. Geist lets you use multiple samples per pad and you can trigger them explicitly in the pattern editor or split them across velocity.
- The mixers: You have a mixer for the pads, layers, engines, and all of Geist. Here you can route, level, and build effects chains. The only downside is that Geist isn’t a VST host, so you are limited to Geist’s internal effects. The good news is that they aren’t bad for basic mixing and they even include some effects from Overloud.
- Scene mode: Scene mode allows you to capture the current state of all of the engines and call it up later at the press of a MIDI key. This is really simple stuff. Set up your engines the way you want and press the little “snapshot” icon on the scene and it will record the state of Geist and map it to a MIDI key. I have found this to be the best way to use Geist within my DAW adding a rhythm track to my songs. I simply save scenes that map to things like verse, chorus, and bridge and then use MIDI to trigger the scenes. However, this is also a great way to use Geist as a live performance tool.
- Song mode: This is essentially a mini DAW arranger inside of Geist. You can sync this to your DAW or use it in Geist as standalone mode to create a full song.
You can integrate Geist into your DAW in several ways, playing the MIDI to trigger the pads directly, dropping patterns into MIDI tracks assigned to each engine, automating the changing scenes, or syncing song mode. You can also sample the audio from any track into Geist and then slice and dice it onto pads for use in the tool. A special plugin called the “spitter” allows you to capture the audio entering the plugin into Geist. (Geist can also resample itself.) Geist offers several audio subgroups you can send its output through, which you can manage down to the layer level.
Geist does everything, and as such the learning curve can be a little steep. But since it’s very graphical, you just need to work with it end-to-end on a song or two and you’ll have it down.