Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints and tips from the world of music software.
The Soft Link update for Creator and Notator has been officially announced for the Autumn - date and (minimal) cost undecided as yet, so please do not ring Sound Technology, we will be writing to you!
Soft Link was given its first UK showing at the BMF, where four programs were running simultaneously on an Atari Mega 4ST (Notator, X-Alyzer, 1st Word Plus and Digidesign's Turbo-synth). With a Mega 2, or preferably Mega 4, Soft Link is capable of allowing any software house's program to run simultaneously with Creator or Notator 2.2 SL, with the ability to record the MIDI data of these third-party programs directly into the C-Lab programs. Some third-party programs may need a slight modification to get them to conform to the Atari standard MIDI routine: we will know more about this as time goes by.
For those who will not have the opportunity to take full advantage of Soft Link (after all, Mega 4s don't grow on trees!), the new C-Lab Director desk accessory will allow anyone with Unitor or Export, who also has third-party synth editors etc, to get these non C-Lab programs to address any of the six MIDI Out ports in the system. And the 2.2 updates will have the usual plethora of enhancements.
A word of caution to SLM804 users from Atari: if you own this laser printer and it is connected to your Mega ST, it is vital to have the laser printer running while you are working. A laser printer connected but not powered up will corrupt any file you save on disk. Tip: if you need to have the printer connected but find the noise distracting, you can power up as normal, but then open the access hatch to the paper feed, which will stop the noise but keep the electronics going; make sure, though, that no foreign body gets into the printer with the hatch open.
The current version of Trackman works perfectly well on a 520ST giving a capacity of approximately 25,000 notes or 50,000 events. With the MIDIman desk accessory installed, the note capacity drops to around 20,000 but for many users this is still adequate.
You will have noticed that when software manufacturers release new versions of programs, these invariably require more memory. Indeed, Trackman Version 2 is being prepared and it does use a little more memory. However, to offset this we have developed a more efficient method of storing notes so that although the available memory decreases the note storage capacity will actually increase!
If you do have a 1040ST then you will obtain a substantial improvement in note capacity; typically 25%, bringing the total note capacity to over 100,000! Even with a 520ST you will get some increase on note capacity, so you will not need a new computer to run Version 2. To maintain total compatibility, your existing sequences will be automatically converted to the new compact format. This also saves disk storage space.
Supplied with your Atari ST was a disk containing the Control Panel desk accessory. It must be on your 'boot disk' (the disk installed in your machine when you switch it on) if you want to use it. If you are not already using the Control Panel you may be missing out. If you have a colour monitor you can use it to alter the four medium resolution screen colours. This can yield a much clearer and more easily read display - try using light letters on a dark background, for instance.
Another handy facility is the mouse click speed control. This appears as five boxes labelled 0 to 4 with a picture of a mouse at each end of the row. Any time the computer can accept a double-click it must wait a short time after the first click to see what you do next; another click or nothing. This results in the response to a single click being slowed down to the time required for the double-click. The mouse click speed control determines how long the computer waits after the first click. For someone just getting used to using a mouse this 'wait period' needs to be quite long or the computer will keep thinking their slow double-click was two single clicks in succession. An expert user can set this mouse click speed really fast and have the benefit of quick response to single clicks.
The Control Panel also lets you set the computer's idea of the time and date. If you own a Mega ST, you have a battery-backed clock to tell the computer what time it is. If not, then you have to enter it each time you switch on the machine if you want the computer to register the correct time and date. The computer automatically time and date stamps any file when it is saved or copied to help you keep track of your work.
If you use MIDIman with Pro24, the mouse responds in a different manner to its usual mode of operation in MIDIman. Providing your copy of Pro24 is named 'TWENTY-4.PRG', MIDIman will detect it and change mouse mode automatically. To move a control, point to it and press the left mouse button. Pointing at the left half of a control decreases the setting and pointing to the right half increases it. You can move the mouse while the button is held down if you find this more convenient.
The concept of drum machine-type phrase arrangement as a method of song construction is much more appealing to some musicians than others. Enthusiasts of the linear, tape recorder-style approach are very difficult to shake from the virtual multitrack recorder method of storing MIDI events. We are continually being asked for an upgrade to a phrase arrangement option on Pro24. We have to reply that you are not getting it... because it has been available since Version 2.1.
The Arrange Song function on Pro24 combines the advantages of simple entry of the music and the graphic re-organisation of the patterns into songs. There are some simple rules you should follow to make the process very much easier to use. All the patterns that you record across the various tracks must have the same start and stop time. For example, if the verse bass pattern on the bass track goes between 1/1/0 and 9/1/0, make sure that all the verse patterns lie between the same points. Write the rest of the song in the same way - you don't have to write the song in the right order, and we all know that inspiration rarely comes at the right time.
It is important to name your patterns in a logical way. This does not matter to the program, only to you when you are presented with 15 patterns all called 'NONAME'. Next, switch Pro24 from Tape mode to Seq mode. The switch for this is over by the Tempo control. Now double-click on all On/Mute indicators on the tracks that you want to take part in Seq mode. The 'ON' will change into a little 'S'. On Pro24 not all tracks need to be in this mode. This can be great for doing 'tape type' overdubs along with Seq patterns in the background. Try doing that on a pattern-only sequencer!
Select the track that you want to be the source for the Seq operations by clicking on the relevant track box. Now select the Arrange Song page under the Tracks menu. This will show you all the Named patterns on that track in the tall window on the left. If you click on one of these names two things will happen. At the bottom of the screen the length and time signature is shown, and the boxes labelled 1 to 24 will be selected if a pattern exists on other tracks that line up with the start and stop times of the selected one. Simply drag the patterns to the larger windows on the right in the order you want the song to play. Drag unwanted patterns to the trashcan. To insert a pattern in the sequence just drag any pattern as normal, but place the mouse pointer on to the shaded band. All following patterns are then moved down the song by the length of the new pattern. Patterns can be dragged from their present position list to another if you wish. The Play functions are very useful on this page to test what you have written so far. One feature that many people have missed is that you can drag a pattern in the arranged list to the Play button, and the song will play from that point.
When you are finished, click 'OK' and return to the main page. The arrangement will play from this page as long as the Mode Selector is set to 'Tape'. The Arrangement and the Mode status are saved to disk.
A very important point is that the patterns have not been re-ordered on the tracks; rather, new instructions have been used to govern where they are played. The arranged tracks will play for the duration of the song. The arrangement does not use more memory than the original patterns, however many times a pattern is called. You can freely record along with the pattern sequence on the ordinary tape-style linear tracks (notice that their status indicator is 'ON', and not 'S' like the sequence tracks).