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Hints, Tips & News from the World of Music Software

More hints, tips and update news from the world of music software.



Version 2.1 of both Notator and Creator ushers in the world of human feel for C-Lab users, either via the analysis of the timing of MIDI notes or the conversion of acoustic triggers, or both together. These types of input can both slave Notator or Creator (via 'Manual Sync') in real time, and the incoming tempo can be recorded as Pseudo events or (together with Unitor with its SMPTE timecode) laid as a tempo map ('Sync Reference'). Because you can now do so much with the 'human' side of the programs, to save you having to think too hard, here are five example ways of using the Tempo Interpreter:

1. MIDI Tap (Unitor not required!)

In 'Manual' sync mode, your real-time MIDI input of music or taps played on the keyboard (drum machine, etc) is analysed and its tempo extracted and used to continuously set the tempo of the sequencer. The Tempo Interpreter is a sophisticated window which allows the 'masking' out of unwanted tempo triggers, where you allow only the desired portion of your playing/tapping to act as a tempo trigger: this allows you to play really complex parts and still provide the desired tempo information - more musical than simply tapping out the tempo in strict crotchets, quavers or whatever. Everyone will probably have their own fave Tempo Interpreter settings, depending on their style of playing - so experiment! You can determine a count-in, which is great fun to use, and you can record the resulting tempo triggers in a track as 'P-USER 1' events, fully editable. This track can then be 'read', if desired, by the new Sync window's 'Create Using Tempo Of' feature for syncing to tape via Unitor.

2. Tap/SMPTE Learn (using Unitor)

If you have Unitor, you can use the above MIDI Tap feature and simultaneously feed in SMPTE/EBU timecode, thereby creating a 'human feel' tempo map ('Sync Reference') for use with music that is on tape: the command for this is 'Tap/SMPTE Learn' (in the 'Options' menu), which will automatically place the software in a wait mode for the arrival of SMPTE and MIDI notes.

3. MIDI/SMPTE Learn (using Unitor)

The same concept can be used in the specific (and very useful) area of post-syncing to music recorded with other synchronisers. Without going into details, it is a fact of life that no two synchroniser manufacturers will agree over what constitutes, say, 120 bpm. 'MIDI/SMPTE Learn' (under 'Options' menu) is one solution to this problem (the other is discussed below), where the software can learn the tempo and SMPTE offset characteristics of the original sync box, and will from then on pretend to be that sync box with all the advantages of Unitor, such as speed. Only one pass of the song needs to be conducted, with SMPTE being fed to both Unitor and the soon-to-be-jettisoned sync box, and a MIDI cable feeding the latter's MIDI clocks to any of the C-Lab inputs. One pass of the song later, you put Notator or Creator into 'SMPTE Sync' mode and kiss the old synchroniser goodbye!

4. (Acoustic) Tap (Unitor with Human Touch)

The long-awaited C-Lab Human Touch unit piggy backs on top of Unitor and interfaces with the mysterious Multiport. It provides the ability to use acoustic sources as tempo triggers. Human Touch uses the same Tempo Interpreter masking as MIDI Tap (see above), including its ability to 'fly-wheel' along without triggers once under way. The resulting tempo changes can be recorded on a track. Any acoustic source is acceptable (you can EQ the input to home in on a bandwidth) and there's even a built-in microphone.

5. (Acoustic) Tap/SMPTE Learn (using Unitor with Human Touch)

Here, exactly the same things are on offer as (2) above, the only difference being that tempo information is being sourced from an acoustic performance rather than via MIDI. This can be useful for the post-syncing of music which was created using another synchroniser, where you no longer have the old synchroniser available but can create a click track out of, say, the hi-hat or kick drum on tape.


Here's a tip for people who sometimes perceive a slight sluggishness in the timing response of their M1s, D10/20/110s and other multitimbral synths when in the Arrange mode. In a nutshell, these devices are capable of receiving on many MIDI channels at once. At the end of each pattern in the Arrange list, an All Notes Off command is sent by the software to switch off any notes that may still be playing, in order to allow the next pattern to take over. If the device is still sounding notes at the end of the pattern on a number of MIDI channels, the fact that it also receives a number of All Notes Off commands can slow down its capability to interpret all these MIDI events at the same time, and this is perceived as a slight hesitancy in the overall timing - nothing to do with the timing of the program, which remains optimised as usual. The simple solution is to introduce a short upbeat throughout the arrangement of, say, six ticks (use [Shift]-t-[B]), which will ensure that notes are turned off just that bit earlier, enough to reduce the pressure on the downbeat of the upcoming pattern but not enough to be heard.

1040ST OR MEGA 4?

As you know, Notator and Creator will currently run on the Atari 1040ST. However, the time is approaching where serious and/or professional users will have to think about which type of ST to buy if they want to take full advantage of the upcoming new products from C-Lab. Don't worry - Notator and Creator will still run on the 1040ST in the future, but it is an inescapable fact that the more a sequencer is able to do, and the more demands are made for an open-ended data structure of the kind C-Lab are developing, the greater the requirement for computer memory (RAM). Please speak to Sound Technology plc if you are unsure as to which model to buy. Basically, if you want to opt for one of the bigger STs, go for the Mega 4 - the Mega 2 is only a halfway house.

Note: contrary to public belief, you cannot upgrade your Mega 1 or 2 to the equivalent of a Mega 4 by slotting in extra memory cards! It would seem logical to have that capability, but it is not possible. So avoid Mega 1s, since they are simply an expensive version of the 1040ST, and think seriously about buying a Mega 4 if you were thinking of getting a Mega 2.



Satellite is a desk accessory that comes free with Steinberg's new programs Cubase and Avalon. It reads the BANK files from all Steinberg voice editors and displays all the voice names. Two important points: you do not need the key/dongle of the editor program to be present nor do you need to load the editor software itself.

As you click on the name of the sound it is transmitted to the synth via the MIDI route you selected without stopping the sequencer. We could have left it at that, useful as it is, but there are eight software sliders on the screen that allow you to perform global edits on the selected sound, in real time without stopping the sequencer. There are controls for Attack, Release, Brightness, Fatness, Gristle etc.

A particularly clever facility is the fact that you can open a pipeline to Cubase and glue the System Exclusive dump of the voice to the record track on the sequencer. It appears as a short pattern that can be moved around if necessary and is even given the name of the sound as defined in the editor. Satellite can also glue multiple MIDI dumps from disk to the Cubase song configuration. Up to 50 dumps can be sent to specific MIDI outputs on starting a song.

Finally, the Dump Utility functions (generic MIDI storage) are on Satellite. These again are much expanded over the facilities in Pro24.

There are 32 saveable 'Macros' for storing dump requests, and it will handle the creative use of the MIDI standard adopted by certain manufacturers. Even the buffer size is variable up to 53K - big enough even for complete Yamaha RX5 and Korg M1 dumps.


The M.ROS Switcher is an update of the Steinberg switcher program. This new version forms the basis for your work with the Steinberg MIDI multitasking operating system, M.ROS. In the switcher you assign the available memory to each application in the system. With the new Switcher it is possible to switch directly to any program using the key combination SHIFT, CONTROL plus one of the function keys. This will not interrupt any MIDI operations, so Cubase can, for example, continue to record/play back while you make some adjustments to your Korg M1 sounds using the Synthworks M1 program.

For each application a Program Change command can be defined so that a programmable MIDI patchbay can be controlled. Non-M.ROS software can be used with the Switcher but multitasking abilities will then not be active.

The M.ROS Switcher comes free with the Cubase Desktop MIDI Recording System.


Synthworks M1 is the first program in the series of Steinberg editors to be updated to M.ROS.

This new version can now be used in parallel with other M.ROS programs, such as Cubase, on one computer (Mega ST). As in any M.ROS application, the sequencer can be controlled directly using the numeric keypad of the Atari. You can start, stop, wind, enable cycle or go to cue-points from Synthworks. Through the M.ROS pipeline, Korg M1 programs or combinations can be copied directly onto a track in Cubase or Cubase tracks can be directed into the Synthworks Combi page.



At Hollis Research we have concluded that 'README' files are a rather unsatisfactory way of documenting software improvements. To correct this we have produced a printed version of the Trackman changes made to date, complete with relevant extracts from this Software Support column. Your copy should arrive before this edition of SOS is published. In the unlikely event that you do not receive it, please contact us and we will attend to it promptly.


This month's column explains how to use the pages within our MIDIman universal editor as 'presets'. First, think about the type of parameters you want to remember for a setup. A good starting point would be the patch changes, pans and volumes for a group of eight MIDI channels. This is handy for most multitimbral setups. Load the standard MIDIMIX.PAN control file and select the first page. These are the controls for the first eight MIDI channels.

We are going to make three more copies of this panel. First click on the Edit box so that it is ticked. Now click and drag the first page selector and drop it on the second page. That's it, the page has been copied. Do it again for pages three and four. We now have four identical pages. It would be helpful to label these, so double-click on each page selector in turn and give it some relevant name.

Select each page in turn and set the patches, pans and volumes as required. Click SAVE to keep a copy of your control panels and all the current settings. When you need to recall a setup, simply select a page then click SEND. Every control setting on the page will be sent to the appropriate device. This 'pages as presets' trick is also useful with MIDI-controlled reverb units and to remember changes to factory presets on a synth like the MT32, which has no store button.


Here's a DIY tip. For diagnosing MIDI transmission and distribution faults, fit both a standard DIN 5-pin plug and line socket with an LED across pins 4 and 5, anode to pin 4. The LED needs to be very efficient as there is not much drive available. A suitable low current LED is available from RS Components Ltd (part number 588-364). Here are some common cable faults:

Pin 4 shorted to screen or pin 5:
- LED flickers on equipment MIDI Out
- LED permanently off at end of cable
Pin 5 shorted to screen:
- LED flickers on equipment MIDI Out
- LED permanently on at end of cable

With a little practice, normal MIDI data can be easily recognised by the LED flickering characteristic. Keyboard playing, drum machine patterns, tempo clocks, active sensing clocks, pitch bend wheel movements, aftertouch and system exclusive blocks each have their own distinctive appearance. The LED intensity will not be very bright, but will be sufficient to show that an output or cable is functioning properly. Do not use it in parallel with a MIDI input.

More from these topics

Previous Article in this issue

The Cocteau Twins

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The Music Network

Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Jul 1989

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman


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> The Cocteau Twins

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> The Music Network

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