Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints and tips from the newly updated world of music software.
The C-Lab Soft Link operating environment is an evolutionary concept: it is offered in three levels, rather like a stairway (to heaven?), which allows users and the general MIDI world to grow into the system instead of being thrown in at the deep end. For a start, it is offered as a normal update to existing Notator and Creator owners. Secondly, in recognition of the inescapable reality that the vast majority of users have 1040STs, not Mega STs (Soft Link Levels Two and Three will run only on machines with 2 Megabytes or more), Soft Link Level One (actually a C-Lab desk accessory called Director) is able to run on the 1040 ST and allows owners of the Export multiport and Unitor sync/expander to address the MIDI Out ports of these peripherals from their editor programs - whatever their make.
Level Two is the next step up. It allows more than one program from any manufacturer to be loaded simultaneously with Notator 2.2SL or Creator 2.2SL in the same computer. In most cases, MIDI programs are immediately interactive with the two C-Lab programs: changes made with an editor can be recorded in Notator and Creator. This, of course, is a massive step forwards in terms of helping the musical juices flow even more smoothly, but C-Lab don't pretend that this is the ultimate stage, hence...
Level Three, which, as discussed in the manual, is intended to be a result of co-operation between interested parties, and will offer a complete alternative to the Atari standard operating system which Level Two currently uses. Watch this space for startling inter-company announcements!
There is one occasion when the use of a timing resolution as high as possible really is necessary: when you play at a slow tempo and do not want to quantise the music. Recording a piano piece at 60bpm means that a sequencer's internal clock resolution is halved, compared to what it would be at 120bpm; so having the option to double the internal resolution at will means being able to bring to slow tempos the same subtlety that high tempos enjoy. The standard C-Lab resolution of 192ppqn, which is fine for virtually every other situation, can be doubled to 384ppqn.
Why not have it permanently set at 384ppqn? (a) Because it would mean the user having to deal with a heck of a number of pulses (96 per 16th note) when most music, at least in the commercial sphere, does not need that sort of fine control (especially where you are quantising everything to the nearest 16th or whatever!); (b) Because at moderate tempos or higher, the transmission speed of MIDI and its serial nature is not able to translate the potential increase in timing fidelity offered by 384ppqn into reality; (c) Because 384ppqn halves the number of total bars you have at your disposal (from 1356 at 192ppqn to 678 at 384ppqn).
There are a great number of uses for the Autofade function in the Transform window. It calculates a linear change between two values, and can most obviously be seen at work when gradually changing note velocities over a given number of bars (though if you are doing this simply to alter volume, think about whether it would be simpler to use the RMG faders). To create a smooth change of velocity from 127 to 1 on existing notes between bars 18.104.22.168 and 10.1.1.1, enter those bar locations in Position with condition 'Between'; enter 'value Two may be processed' (since column Two refers to velocity when transforming notes - see manual); enter Autofade 'On', Start '127', End '1'. Now here's the important bit, which is different from Version 2.0 software: if you want the Autofade values to replace the current ones (we do in this case), switch to 'Multiply: 0.00'; if you wanted the Autofade values to be added to the existing values, don't use 'Multiply'; finish by clicking 'OK'.
Before carrying out this operation (useful for MIDI File preparation and for printing out patterns you wish to be contiguous in Notator), the manual tells you to convert the real-time Play parameters such as Pattern Transpose and Pattern Length into reality using 'Normalize' etc where, for instance, you have a pattern eight bars long, of which you are using only the first four bars in an Arrange entry. In fact, the resulting long pattern is very usefully automatically chopped up by this copy function according to the lengths set by each entry's Pattern Length value.
The action of entering the RMG window automatically places the current Track (recorded or empty) into 'Original MIDI Channel' mode. This is necessary because the RMG needs to be able to address up to 16 MIDI channels per port, something it obviously could not do if the Track was still re-channelising to just one channel. This explains why, when you enter the RMG window and play your master keyboard, you find that it no longer triggers the device it was triggering before you went in: because the RMG is not re-channelising, your keyboard's transmit channel is being allowed through unchanged, and so is playing some other device, or nothing at all, depending on the transmit channel in use. In the RMG window, it can therefore make sense to be able to change your keyboard's transmit channel, an action which, in any other situation in Creator or Notator, is unnecessary precisely because of the re-channelising of the MIDI Thru (always via an empty Track).
All the Deleting, Keeping, Transforming and Transcopying activities of the Transform window can be imposed on more than one pattern simultaneously, eg. 'delete all Note C3s from tracks 2 and 3 in patterns 4 to 10 inclusive'.
This is the first of our monthly series of bulletins giving update information and tips for the Virtuoso sequencer. At the time of writing Virtuoso is up to Version 1.09, although by the time you read this Version 1.10 should be available. The current version cures all known bugs and has a number of improvements, as follows:
- The Disk page has been optimised so that it only looks once at the disk unless you specify otherwise. Users felt that this would be quicker and easier. Virtuoso also now has the ability to load and save the current Arrangement plus all the other Blocks at once. This is done by selecting 'Environment' from the file format options on the Disk page, followed by 'Load' or 'Save'.
- It is now possible to record whilst in Arrange mode, and also to edit music as it plays. The latter is achieved using the new Unlock button on the main panel. This is particularly useful in Cycle mode, as edits can now be monitored in real time as the Block cycles.
- An Unmerge option allows the separation of multi-channel data in a Track into separate tracks - very handy when transferring songs from other sequencers in cases where the other sequencer does not support standard MIDI Files.
- Virtuoso Version 1.10 will contain all of the above plus SMPTE and MTC support, full implementation of the Time Signature Map, and MIDI Tokens (for MIDI control of sequencer functions). This version will be on demonstration at the PC Show.
Cubase is not an operationally difficult program. Common rules are used on all windows, which saves a lot of re-learning as you move from window to window. Here are a few things that users are missing in some cases.
The horizontal and vertical scaling of the windows can be changed by clicking the right mouse button on the window arrows. Without this your view of the windows will merely be the default settings. The chosen settings are memorised for each window and even saved to disk so that each arrangement comes back as you last saw it. It is in fact possible to see at least 150 bars and 23 tracks on the Arrange page. Incidentally, a large-screen version of Cubase will be available shortly, which will show much more.
The Song Position Cursor can be manually re-positioned at will on the Song Ruler (the bit with the Left and Right settings along the top of the screen). Just hold the Alternate key and point at where you want the Song to play from. Other ways of setting a point to jump to are by double-clicking on the Song Position box or by pressing 'P' on the keyboard. This will open a field; type in a number, then press Return. There is absolutely no need to stop Cubase to do this. This point brings up the multitasking nature of Cubase. Users are stopping the Play function before doing anything else. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is really no need to do so. Just select a function to perform and Cubase takes all the appropriate actions for you.
The Visual Song Processing is being underutilised by many people. While you can move or copy the Parts around the Arrange page simply by dragging them with the mouse, they can also be 'group selected' with the mouse if you hold the Shift key down while doing so. Then release the Shift key, and dragging any one of them will cause them all to move/copy as one. This is quite apart from the grouping functions that are available.
If you create a dummy Group Track on an arrangement you can draw boxes around Parts. All the ones that you touch or surround are then selected. Move them or copy them where you please. Hold the Shift key and de-select some Parts that you may not want to move.
There are two forms of copy that can be used. Select a Part(s), drag it whilst the Alternate key is held and you are making true copies. Select a Part(s) and drag it whilst the Control key is held and you are making 'ghost' copies. These act in all ways like true copies except for two important points: they use hardly any more memory; if you edit one, all other ghost copies change at the same time.
There is some confusion over the use of the term 'Song' in Cubase as opposed to Pro24. The Cubase Song can contain 16 Arrangements. Each one of these Arrangements is analagous to a Pro24 Song. Within the memory of your computer you could have various Songs, and then freely cut and paste between the Arrangements. These Arrangements can be saved and loaded separately while the Song is running, or en masse as a Song. For live performers, Cubase will load an Arrangement into the 'background' without interrupting the Arrangement that is currently playing.
There is a problem with the insertion of new Groups on a Group Track. If you hold down the Alternate key, the subsequent Groups should move down the Track accordingly, but they do not. See page 13-11 of the manual. Until this bug is fixed, you can use the Global Insert command to achieve exactly the same thing. As another method, click on the first Group that follows where the new section needs to go. Hold down the Shift key and the right arrow key on the Atari keyboard. This selects all the following Parts. Simply drag the remaining Parts down the Track and drop them in the right place.
The Undo functions on the main screen are most comprehensive. It is always the last edit function that is undone, though the last edit may be more than just a single delete. If you shifted a whole group of Patterns to a new location as one move, the Undo function puts all the Patterns back where they were. Similarly, the Eraser will wipe out as many Parts as you want in one action. That complete set of erasures can be undone as one function, not just the last Part to be erased. There is an equally comprehensive ReDo function available, also.
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.