According to Google ‘The Finger’ is either a suggestive gesture which people make or “a live performance and remix effect” which is apparently released by Native Instruments. Note that I’m not kidding here by the way; try looking up “The Finger” on Google and you’ll see for yourself; even the order matches 😉
I’m obviously going to write about the sound effect, in case you’re wondering 😈
And although I’m well aware that ‘The Finger’ is a bit dated this doesn’t stop me from reviewing it anyway. Its an effect I came to enjoy very much myself, I needed a change in topic on my blog and who knows; maybe someone will learn something new here today.
A Finger in the Reaktor
When keeping the previous Google results in mind one can only agree that the name of the effect is simply brilliant. Also because it really covers the effect quite well; all you really need is one finger!
But what is this all about anyway ?
The Finger is an insert effect which was created by Tim Exile using Reaktor. Reaktor is a modular audio environment developed by Native Instruments and it allows you to build your own instrument(s) and/or audio/MIDI effect(s) and use them in any (DAW) environment you’d like. Because Reaktor can be used in both a stand alone fashion as well as a VST plugin it provides a maximum amount of flexibility.
Tim Exile originally created the Finger for his own performances and later decided to share this with the world; something Native Instruments quickly picked up on.
One keyboard; one effects array
The Finger is actually a collection of many audio effects combined into one unit. As suggested it basically turns your keyboard into a massive collection of effects. But what makes the Finger so special is that you can chain these effects in a single sequence, up to 6 effects at the same time.
So, for example: say you have a sound and hit a key which triggers the loop effect. While keeping this key pressed you will now hear a continuously repeating loop. Now, while keeping this key pressed you can press another key and then the sound which was generated by the previous loop effect will then be send onto the new effect which you just triggered.
The Finger has a total of 42 different effect types which you can either use “as is” or further customize yourself. Some of the support effects are: Highpass, Bandpass, Boost, Cut, Distortion, Degrade, X-Comb, Smudge, FM 180, Pitch Shift (also Random and Jitter), Reverser, Stretch, Loop…
When you first load the Finger you’ll get a collection of 44 presets which each contain a specific setup collection of the previously mentioned effects which you can apply on your sound.
Giving Ableton Live the Finger 😈
As mentioned above the Finger is a Reaktor effect, as such you need Reaktor in order to use it. You can either use the free Reaktor player or the full version. Because Reaktor can be used as both an instrument as well as an effect it provides several plugins to use.
In order to use the Finger you need the insert effect, or FX, version.
Once you pulled Reaktor-FX onto one of your tracks you can load the Finger, and then you’re good to go; its that simple.
A good way to give the Finger a test run is by putting the effect onto an audio track and then simply point a MIDI tracks output to the same audio track.
As you can see on the right Live will automatically pick up the Reaktor VST and recognize that it can process incoming MIDI, thus allowing you to send that straight in.
Now all that’s left to do is create some audio, in my example I used an audio clip for that, and then start pressing the keys on your keyboard. Each key will trigger a new effect and as mentioned earlier; pressing a new key while keeping the previous key pressed will route one effects output onto the other.
Keep in mind that different presets give you different selections of effects which you can use.
Customizing your Finger
If you check out the screenshot above you’ll see that the Finger has several dials which you can use. The big dials in the middle (left) configure the way the effect is being used while the little dials (above and below) define the amount in which the setting influences your audio.
For example; in the screenshot above you’ll notice the first dial is labelled “Amount”. Because the ‘Sine’ effect is active this means that this dial sets the amount of the sine or wobble effect. The small dial below it determines how much this effect will be influenced by the used key velocity (how hard or fast you hit the key on your keyboard). And the small dial above configures the amount in which the optional mod wheel should affect this parameter.
But each effect will provide different parameters which you can use to tweak. Notice how the 3rd dial has no label under it ? That’s because the first and 3rd dial represent effect parameters and as such will change depending on the effect you’re using.
The twisters on the middle right will cycle through the effects in each of the 4 represented octaves.
Building your own presets
But what if you don’t really ‘dig’ the way the effects have been setup?
For example; the ‘Replayer’ preset (or snapshot) is all about, well, replaying in a different manner; loops, stretches, level/pan, reverses… All you’d use to really mange your music. The ‘Bad Man’ preset is all aimed at applying nasty effects which will really change the way your audio sounds.
So what if you want to use effects from both presets?
That won’t be a problem with the Finger:
If you press a key on your keyboard (C1 in my example above) and then click the FX type menu (to the left of the white ‘Copy’, ‘Paste’ and ‘Init’ keys) you’ll get the full selection of available effects in the Finger.
Now all that’s left to do is select the one you want. In the example above C1 already has the ‘Pitch Random’ effect loaded. Would I click on, say, ‘Degrade’ then I’d set C1 to trigger that effect.
And speaking of those white keys… Say we only want “Level/Pan” (F1) from the Replayer and “Cutboost” (F#2) from the Bad Man. Its simple really; you merely create your own preset (or snapshot) and then simply copy & paste these effects into your own setup.
Thus effectively leaving you with 1 preset which contains 2 effects.
So basically; The Finger effect is as easy as it is extensive.
The Finger is a very specific audio effect and I think this is why some people maybe a bit overwhelmed and/or wondering if this would actually fit their work and if so; how well it would perform.
But honestly; the Finger is really as easy or as extensive as you make it. In its default setup you can simply press 1 key and then the associated effect will be applied to your sound. Of course; pressing another is where the fun begins 😎
Yet although this effect was build and customized to be used in a live session (on stage, not Ableton Live ;-)) this doesn’t mean that you can’t use your sequencer to automate the way you want things to sound or work.
So for me the Finger really is a classic. Its dated, but still a timeless effect which I honestly think can benefit anyone.
To finish I’ll leave you with the official Finger demonstration video, and I hope you enjoyed this post.