Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints and tips from C-Lab, The Digital Muse and Steinberg.
If you have the C-Lab Unitor plugged into the cartridge port of your Atari ST, it is vital that Unitor and the computer are physically sitting on the same surface: this ensures a good connection between the two. Never let it 'hang off' the side of the ST. Unitor's rubber feet are important, too, and remember that the Mega STs have their cartridge ports at a slightly different height to the 1040s, hence the provision of alternative locations for the rubber feet. If you work with both types of computer, use the recessed foot wells, supporting Unitor (say, on an old disk) when interfaced to a Mega. [Isn't high technology wonderful - Ed.]
When you want to 'ghost' a track in Creator or Notator, you are required to enter the specific track that you wish to ghost. If you are realtime ghosting, it does not matter which empty track you ghost since (as you should know by now) any empty track defines the set of MIDI Thru parameters. This means that a realtime ghost track will pick up on anything you play - and here's the thing to remember - even if you are currently addressing a track in a different pattern with the Arrange mode switched on. So if you are in Arrange mode, and for some reason an extra MIDI channel keeps playing when you play the keyboard, look for a wild ghost track that you forgot to delete in one of your Arrange List's patterns.
As you know, you can cycle between two locator points and record overdubs at the same time; each cycle layer is shown as a number (1-16) in the track's Status column. This number serves to tell you what cycle number you are in (which therefore allows you to pinpoint a particular layer and erase it while still in record mode by right mouse button clicking the appropriate track number); this number is also telling you that each cycle layer is being assigned a new internal MIDI channel, which replaces your master keyboard's transmit channel. This allows Creator to Demix All Tracks, Extract One Channel etc, after you have finished cycling.
Because your cycle track is addressing a MIDI channel on the main page, this behind-the-scenes business can all remain hidden, since externally you are always addressing the same channel. If you want to change MIDI channel while cycling (eg. from bass to drums, then sax etc) you have two possibilities: you can change tracks, channel etc while remaining in record mode; or you have the interesting alternative of letting your master keyboard do the channel assignment: set your track to Original Channel, then record into one track, changing your master's transmit channel to select different sounds. All your different sounds will now come from one track, because it contains different channels which are all being sent without any re-channelisation - in Original mode, the internal reassignment of channels does not take place.
With any function that uses Punch (eg. Auto-drop), you will start playing with a Start or Continue command, not Record. The whole point of using Punch is to be able to go into Record mode at a given point in the music and replace a section.
There are eleven Transform sets (0-10), allowing you to store favourite templates for use when the occasion arises. Set number 0 can be used for normal data-altering Transforming only: this is to ensure you have a set for normal use that is guaranteed not to have any real time consequences.
As you know, you can get Creator to extract the tempo of your playing or tapping from your MIDI performance (no need for Human Touch with Unitor, since we are not talking about an acoustic performance). You should use a MIDI keyboard for this: although the [Tab] key appears to have the same effect as tapping via MIDI, you are not advised to use it for tempo activities.
The Lyric mode automatically stretches the notation to fit the entered lyrics. Note that if you are entering lyrics for a double stave (aka 'great staff'), it is the positions of the upper stave's notes that define where the lyrics go.
The latest update of Virtuoso on full release is version 1.09, which has many improvements and some new functions. The major improvement to the program is the facility to edit while the sequence is running. A new button on the main panel, Unlock, is provided to stop the grid page from following the music. Once stopped, the notes displayed are available for editing in the normal way, using the left mouse button to adjust note timing, the right button for note length, and both buttons for pitch. The other editing options, such as Delete and Velocity Edit, are also active while the sequencer is running.
Other functions that operate while the sequencer is playing are Hard Quantise, the Zone Edit page, the Track parameters and the Chop and Wipe buttons. The Copy and Unlock buttons are also active when Unlock is selected.
A new editing option called Gate is provided on the grid page, which alters selected notes to a particular length. Select the Gate option, and pick a note length value from the icons to the left of the Gate box (the Gate box still works to provide any kind of tuplet, just as it does for step input). Any note you now click on will be altered to the chosen length.
There are also many new key equivalents for the sequencer controls, particularly for the quick copy functions on the main panel, and for the jumping to locator and cue point facilities. Details of these are contained on the READ.ME file which is on every Virtuoso disk. This file is designed to supplement the user manual and give full details of all updates that have been introduced since the program was released. Please make sure that you read it every time you get a new version of Virtuoso, otherwise you might miss some of the new features.
The easiest way to read it is to double-click on the file icon; a dialogue box will pop up, giving you three options. The Cancel option is provided in case you clicked on the file by mistake, whilst the Show option will display the file on the screen for you to read. The file will be displayed one line at a time and can be scrolled one line at a time by pressing [Return] on the Atari keyboard; or a page at a time by pressing the spacebar. Should you wish to stop reading the file, pressing the Atari's [Q] key will return you to the desktop. Perhaps just as useful, especially for keeping a permanent reference copy of the new key commands mentioned earlier, is the third option, Print, which will direct the file to your printer.
By the time you read this version 1.10 should be just being released, so make sure that you have returned your registration forms so that you will be updated immediately. To whet your appetite, some of the new features are listed below.
Clicking with the right mouse button on the MIDI Velocity Display shows a slider for each of the track parameters. These sliders can be used to set the parameter values by dragging with the left mouse button, and their positions give a graphic display of the parameter settings. If used in single parameter mode, for instance for the volume parameter, the sliders will control and display the relative volumes of all active tracks, and can be used as a MIDI 'mixing desk'.
There are two new parameters in the Track parameters list: Chase Back and Channel Override. Chase Back is a comprehensive way of making sure that the data at the point of play is always up to date, for instance so that patch changes and volume levels will be set correctly wherever the track is started. One of four Chase Back set-ups can be separately assigned to each track, each of which state whether a MIDI message type should be updated when a new location is reached (Hunt) or when the sequencer is played (Play), and how many bars should be looked back on for each type of MIDI message.
The second new track parameter, Channel Override, lets any selected track be assigned to a particular MIDI channel, effectively overriding the routing specified by the MIDI devices. This is a quick way of sending MIDI out on a particular channel, without having to go to the Setup page and assign a device.
Version 1.10 will support The Digital Muse's new SMPTE and MIDI Out hardware. The SMPTE unit will write and read all four SMPTE standards, and will take an audio trigger input to enable syncing to live or recorded acoustic material. The MIDI Out hardware will provide four independent MIDI Outs, and allow assignment of MIDI Clock and MIDI Time Code separately to individual Outs.
Users of Prodigy, the new entry-level version of Virtuoso, will probably already know that their Prodigy music files can be loaded into Virtuoso, should they upgrade, but they may also be interested to know that Virtuoso files can be loaded back into Prodigy. As long as only 32 tracks (or fewer) are used in the Virtuoso file - this is the maximum number of tracks available within Prodigy - the file will be accepted. Of course, the data will be played at Prodigy's lower clock resolution of 120 ppqn (pulses per quarter note), rather than the 480 ppqn of Virtuoso.
Some of you may have had trouble editing notes that are particularly short. It is common, and very effective, to use short note lengths to produce clipped or damped sounds, such as guitar sounds or sequenced arpeggios, but this can make picking up and dragging such short notes very fiddly. It is much easier to use the Zone Edit page to lengthen the notes a little before you edit them, and then to shorten them to one or two clocks in length once the note values have been set correctly. If the track contains some short and some long notes, set the Length parameter in the note selection box to cover only the short notes, so that you do not affect the length of the longer notes.
The new system for Songs and Arrangements within Cubase might be a little confusing for some people moving up from Pro24. Pro24 is a one Song sequencer; you load a Song, work on it and then save it again. If you want to transfer bits from one Song to another, just save it as a Pattern to disk, and import it into the new Song.
In Cubase the options are very much more open, but not really more complex once the nomenclature has been mastered. The big difference is that a Song in Pro24 terms is equivalent to an Arrangement in Cubase. Up to 16 Arrangements can be current in the memory of Cubase at any one time. They can all be quite unrelated pieces of music; they aren't dependent on each other at all - but they can be.
Each Arrangement can be saved or loaded separately, or can be loaded and saved en masse as a Cubase Song. Can you see now where the confusion arises? You work on Arrangements and save them as such; save or load with Cubase Songs brings everything back, or saves absolutely everything. This is great for experimentation on different versions of a song or overdubbing bass parts on all of your tunes at one sitting. Also, it is now a simple matter to Cut/Copy anything, from a single note up to all the data for a tune, from one Arrangement to any other.
Cubase allows continuous Undo of quantisation, even if you quantise and save to disk. The quantise functions never affect what was recorded irrevocably, unless you specifically Freeze Quantize - this makes the current quantise level permanent, ie. the quantisation will Undo only up to these values. Imagine that you inappropriately quantise a part to 1/4 notes; many people are undoing the quantise, and then requantising to 1/16 notes as intended. This is quite unnecessary; just re-quantise, at any time, to any value.
Finding your place in a Song is a very visual process in any case, but there are a couple of extra methods in Cubase that you may find useful. Without stopping the sequencer, hold down the [Alternate] key and, with the left mouse button, place the song pointer on the Song Ruler. As soon as you release the mouse, the song plays from that point without delay. Additionally, the Fast Forward control takes on an extra function when used with the right mouse button. Now the song will fast forward with audio, but the horizontal mouse position on the table governs the cue speed.