Dr T's Tiger
Never one to use a word when an acronym will do, Dr T's have christened their new sequencer The Integrated Graphic Editor and Recorder. Glen Darcy puts a Tiger in his tank.
If you ever find yourself wishing your sequencing software offered a little more in the way of editing facilities, TIGER is one way of adding them without having to learn a new sequencer.
TIGER, 1. A large carnivorous Asian cat having a tawny coat and black stripes; 2. A hip term used as a pick-up line in '60s American films, as in "hey Tiger, wanna see some action?"; 3. A graphic editor from Dr T's Music Software.
Dr T's TIGER (The Interactive Graphic EditoR) is a graphic sequence editor that is designed to make the tiresome task of editing sequence data easier. It does so by displaying note and controller information in a graphic format as opposed to the standard text listings found on most sequencers. The program will work in its own right or it can be used with any sequencer that stores its file information in standard MIDI File format. I used it with Dr T's KCS v1.7 sequencer, which, with their Multi Program Environment (MPE), amounts to a very neat and complete system.
Although it can be run on its own and record MIDI events, TIGER is not really a sequencer as we've come to know them. Its major purpose in life is to be an editor, so we'll consider it as a companion program for other sequencers.
THE SCREEN DISPLAY looks much like other graphic editors on the market (those included within a sequencer, that is), although it seems a little less cluttered than most. One problem I've had with other programs is that they get icon-happy and fill the screen with functions that aren't used very often. With your monitor at any distance over three feet, you can't tell what you're doing or where you're clicking. TIGER makes use of icons and pull-down menus in a way that makes good sense and keeps you from squinting when your computer monitor can't be kept within arm's reach. And while TIGER will run on a monochrome or colour monitor, the owners' manual suggests that you use a monochrome screen.
I didn't find the program instantly intuitive. You can't get away with not reading the manual (of course, you always thoroughly read your manuals) but it is well written, and includes a good tutorial that will get you going fairly quickly. I found after reading just this section alone, I was able to get around TIGER pretty well and could work out a lot of the functions not covered in the tutorial. Between the contents and index, I was able to find an answer to all my questions quickly. Each of the pull-down menus and icons are described in detail and there is a chapter describing different ways of utilising the program. In the back are also some useful MIDI charts and quick reference tables for most of TIGER'S functions.
TIGER allows real-time editing of note, controller, tempo, and time signature data. Loop points can be set so that you can hear and edit a phrase without having to re-run it. And if you really mess something up you can hit the Atari's Undo key and the last edit will be undone. Multiple Tracks can be brought up on the screen at one time, and each of these Tracks can be edited in real time. I personally liked this because I record my drum parts on separate tracks and it's very helpful to be able to see where every drum strike is, in terms of time and velocity.
TIGER'S playback functions are fairly extensive. Tracks can be solo'd, individually muted, grouped together for selective playback, or you can press the space bar to hear all tracks from the beginning (muted ones excepted). I appreciated being able to point the mouse at a measure, hit a number on the numerical keypad, and hear that many bars played. For example, point the mouse at bar 12, hit "3", and bars 12 to 14 will play in an endless loop. Up to six cue points can be set and recalled. If you're using KCS v1.7, modifying these cues in TIGER will also modify them in KCS and vice versa.
AS STATED EARLIER, the display is typical of many graphic editors. Notes are displayed as L-shaped characters - the stem height representing velocity (note stems can be set to a uniform height for legibility) and the length representing duration. Controller data is displayed as vertical lines, with height representing a value between 0 and 127. Controllers such as pitchbend, whose values are offset (0 being equal to +63), can be centered or balanced around the value of +63.
At the top of the note display is a text area that reveals things such as active track number, MIDI channel number, group on/off indicator, mute indicator, program number, initial volume level, and track offset (the time at which the first event happens). To the left of the note display is a vertical keyboard. This can be used as a reference during note entry or you can click the mouse on a selected key and it will transmit a note on the track's selected MIDI channel. Standard GEM scroll bars allow you to move vertically (pitch) and horizontally, allowing you to move forward or back in time.
THE GOOD NEWS is that TIGER is loaded with features, large and small. The bad news is that there isn't enough space in this review to cover all these features thoroughly. I'll try to cover the ones I found most useful.
You must first select the note or notes you wish to edit. TIGER offers many methods of note selection. Individual notes can be selected by pointing the mouse and left-button clicking on the desired note. Multiple notes or phrases can be selected by pointing the mouse, holding the left button and dragging the mouse to the desired end point. Separate note ranges can be selected in this way by limiting the vertical distance of the mouse (selecting notes between C5 and C4 will select only those notes that fall within that range). By selecting Widgets (a pulldown menu), you can select notes in a global manner for the current track. This menu allows you to select notes by pitch (all D#3s in track 4), select all notes below or above a certain pitch, select by pitch class (all D#s regardless of octave), select pitch range, and select all.
"TIGER will improve the efficiency of the sequencer you're already familiar with, and can stay with you if you buy another sequencer program."
Once the required notes have been selected, you must select the attribute or attributes (pitch, duration, velocity, value, and so on) that you want to edit. Pitches can be transposed, set to a fixed value or inverted around a specified pitch. Velocities can be increased, decreased, inverted, set, and scaled by a selected percentage. Velocities can also be clipped to fall within a specified range or deleted if they fall below a specified value. Note durations, pitchbends, and any selected controller can be similarly modified.
Many sequencers allow certain functions to operate globally on an entire track, such as quantising. With the ability to select a note range on which to perform the edit function, many possibilities are open to you. And speaking of quantising...
The quantise functions within TIGER include all the standard functions found in most sequencers, plus some extra options, such as Quantize With Offset. With this function, you can set your quantise value to the normal values (quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes), but then you can specify an offset (in clock pulses) to push everything ahead or behind the quantisation value. There is also a Quantize With Swing option with a variable swing amount, and a Quantize To Sequence function that uses another track as the reference. Selecting this will quantise the selected note range to the timings of another track.
All standard cut, paste, move, erase and copy functions are supported in TIGER, with the addition of a Fill command that duplicates the selected range of data to the end of the track, and a copy/transpose function that is pretty self-explanatory. An interesting command that I liked was the Stretch/Shrink function. This allows you to expand or contract, in time, the currently selected notes.
MUSIC SOFTWARE IS an odd concept. It should be simple to use in order to facilitate quick, easy work without interfering with your creative whims, yet it has to be extremely flexible and allow intricate fine-tuning of your music. Finding both these qualities in one package has been my software quest for some time now - and TIGER fulfils both these wishes.
I used the program with a WX7 wind controller which transmits pitchbend, aftertouch, and MIDI volume in mass quantities. I usually have problems with the WX7 sending extraneous Note On messages if my fingering isn't perfectly accurate, causing note glitches and multiple triggering. I found TIGER invaluable for editing the kind of complex controller and note data that I transmit. It allowed me to fine tune my sequences in real time with a minimum amount of effort. It did take some getting used to, but as I mentioned before, once I read the manual it was very easy to get around the program. Since it can read standard MIDI Files, TIGER will improve the efficiency of the sequencer that you're already familiar with, and can stay with you if you ever decide to buy another sequencer program.
The only feature I had any problems with was the Zoom Screen function. There were times when I wanted to zoom in or out three or more times. The problem is that, after you click the mouse, TIGER immediately begins redrawing the display without waiting to see how many times you want to zoom. This can be time-consuming when you have a controller or two displayed with dense note data. One way around the problem is to use a feature that allows you to store different screen displays in RAM and instantly recall them with the function keys. Another problem I experienced was that the smallest zoom window gets extended as the pulse per quarter note resolution decreases. In other words, the lowest zoom time may display no fewer than four or five bars if you've imported a MIDI File that was recorded at 24ppqn, as opposed to displaying only one bar in a sequence recorded at 96ppqn or higher.
Nonetheless, these minor modifications would probably be the only things I would change in TIGER. All in all, I liked it very much and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in making their editing life easier.
Price £129 including VAT.
Review by Glen Darcy