Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints, tips and update news from the world of music software.
This month's column clarifies a few points arising from the free Trackman 1.4 software update. Many thanks to those of you who suggested these improvements, more of which will be implemented in the next free update.
The ability to record System Exclusive data within a Trackman sequence is primarily intended for reasonably small amounts of data: a single patch dump or parameter change, for instance. The dedicated MIDI send and receive facility is better for transferring large amounts of MIDI data; it uses less memory and is faster for large blocks. The bulk dump facility is deliberately made 'dumb'. It just sends whatever it received. This could be a bank of synth patches or a sample dump. It is not limited to just one block; you can build a giant System Exclusive file that loads patch banks or samples into several different synthesizers all in one go. After sending the data from the first device, instead of hitting ENTER, switch the ST's MIDI input to the next device and capture it. Continue in this manner until you run out of synths (or memory!) then press ENTER to finish the job. The maximum size for a bulk dump is about 250K on a 520ST or 700K on a larger machine (due to disk space).
Apart from using Memory Loop creatively, some new possibilities exist for correcting an unsatisfactory section. To emulate a tape transport, activate Memory Loop/Overdub Off and switch off the 'Start Punched In' menu item. Set the locate counter to a bar or two before the trouble spot. Assign the footswitch to RECORD. If you have another footswitch assign it to LOCATE, otherwise assign the ST's spacebar to LOCATE instead. Press LOCATE then press RECORD. At the appropriate time press the RECORD footswitch to punch in. Press the footswitch again to punch out when you finish playing. If you are satisfied with this take press STOP, otherwise press LOCATE for another attempt.
Use Work Loop to extract the required section. Record using Memory Loop as usual. Play the new part and if this is OK, use Work Loop/Replace to splice the new section in place of the original.
Trackman 1.4 also includes the ability to co-exist and communicate with other programs. Instead of rewriting GEM and introducing yet another 'standard', we have made full use of a capability that already exists within GEM to enhance the performance of the system. It provides a multitasking environment which, along with other enhancements like Instant Redraw of screens, improve the performance of the ST without abandoning the standard GEM interface which many people are accustomed to.
Hollis Research will shortly be releasing the first product to take full advantage of Trackman's new capabilities. MIDIman is a Universal Editing Controller. It can be used as a patch editor or MIDI mixer with almost any synthesizer (it must have MIDI, though!). MIDIman is a desk accessory, which means you can call it up instantly to edit patches or remotely control any MIDI equipment even while the sequencer is still running.
Currently supported synths include Yamaha DX5, DX9, TF1, TX7, DX21, DX27, DX100, FB01, TX81Z; Roland MT32, D10, D20, D50, D110; Oberheim Matrix 6, Matrix 1000; Korg M1, plus general purpose MIDI control and mixing. And there are more synths to come!
It is also possible to make up your own patch editors or customise the ones supplied to suit your own preferences. Additionally, when used with Trackman, MIDI Controllers can be mapped to any editing parameter and recorded as performance controls.
This month, more on the Arrange mode, but first a quick piece of news: version 2.1 of Creator and Notator will probably be on the streets by the time you read this, containing enhancements and new features. Ensure you are registered with Sound Technology, and if you have not yet updated to version 2.0, please do so now! Version 2.1 has Creator goodies such as an increased internal clock resolution; 'Dynamic Mouse', which turbocharges the ST rodent; loads of Unitor support (like slaving your sequences to a live signal, such as a drummer); and Notator features, like entering rests with the mouse.
Arrange mode parameters are positioned below the Arrange window and include Upbeat, Cut, Transpose, Length and Delay, plus Arrange Mutes, which are to be found in the Mutes column.
Like all of Creator's parameters on the main (start-up) screen, those which apply specifically to patterns in the Arrange mode are real-time 'play' parameters, in that they have no effect on the data in the memory but act on the data as it is transmitted from Creator. These play parameters are the last commands that MIDI data receives on its way out, and therefore override or add to whatever is in the memory.
Furthermore, the Arrange mode parameters, being the highest level of the Creator data hierarchy, add their data to any track parameters present. For example, the Transpose track parameter may already be shifting a track up an octave, but setting a value of '7' in the Arrange Transpose for the pattern in which that track is contained will further transpose that track (and all the other tracks in the pattern) up seven semitones (a perfect fifth).
Each pattern entry in the Arrange window can receive its own set of parameters: you could have a pattern appear several times in the window, and each time it could receive a different set of instructions.
This field shows the overall length of the cursored pattern in the arrangement. This is where you alter the length of a pattern. You should not alter pattern lengths by scrolling the start bars of the patterns, since this entails unnecessary calculations, and is long-winded. Pattern Length has the effect of scrolling all the following patterns back/forwards as you increase/decrease your pattern length, making it easy to keep control over the order of the patterns.
As it is a real-time 'play' parameter, the effect of setting a particular length is not destructive to any data in tracks which happen to be longer than the overall pattern length: it just sits 'muted' in the tracks and is not heard. On the other hand, if your pattern length is (say) eight bars, and no track in that pattern is more than four bars long, you will have a 'gap' of four bars in that chain.
When a pattern is situated at the end of a chain of patterns, or is on its own in a chain. Pattern Length will read 'Unlimited', to indicate that there is no following pattern to mute it; its potential length is unlimited. As to how much music you have in there depends on the length of the pattern's tracks. More on Arrange parameters next time.
Selecting a Groove Quantise value in the main page's Track Parameter window will affect the whole track. It is, as usual, a real-time 'play' parameter, therefore reversible and non-destructive to the music. Clicking the parameter with the right mouse button accesses the readymade swing/shuffle templates, which are stored away out of sight (like the Quantise templates) in the software.
The left mouse button brings you into the world of 'user-defined' quantisation, which is a posh way of saying: you say what goes. Unlike the Quantise templates mentioned above, Creator's User-Defined templates are visible and entirely under your control; in fact, the quantisation steps are represented as notes which you store in a track, and other tracks take their quantising orders from that master track. The master track's notes can either be musical (ie. your performance in a track, which forms part of your music sequence, sets the template for the timing of other tracks), or non-musical, where you 'Hide' the master track and insert notes into it (eg. with the mouse). The pitches of these notes are irrelevant, but their timing is not.