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Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software

Article from Sound On Sound, June 1991

More hints and tips from the software manufacturers themselves. This month: C-Lab & Steinberg.



Creator Version 1.3, many moons ago, introduced compatibility with colour monitors. Regretfully, this is no longer the case with Notator and Creator Version 3.0 and later. In common with most high-end programs on the Atari, such as DTP packages, only the Atari SM124 hi-res monitor is supported now. You may find that you can work with a colour monitor, but there is no guarantee that weird things won't happen. Only a tiny handful of users still use a colour monitor; everyone else knows that the hi-res monitor is a treat on the eyes by comparison.


It has come to our attention that some Hewlett-Packard DeskJet users experience occasional random printing problems. It would appear that this is not confined to C-Lab programs, as the fault seems to lie in the Atari's RS232 port, which sometimes delivers an inconsistent level for the DeskJet.

It appears to depend on the actual computer you own as to whether you will have intermittent problems or not: it is not related to a model or type of computer. The cure appears to be the use of a 'Centronics Parallel Booster', which brings the signal up to the acceptable level. These random problems are experienced by very few DeskJet users, and information is still being gathered on this subject.

AKAI S900/950 & RS232

User Eric Baird has discovered that Akai S900 and S950 owners can make direct use of Notator or Creator's extra MIDI Out ports B, C or D without having to purchase the C-Lab Export MIDI Expansion box. Like the Atari, the S900 and S950 have a built-in RS232 port; all you need is the cable to link the sampler to the computer. In the sampler, go to the appropriate page that selects MIDI or RS232 communication, set the baud rate to 31,250, and off you go!


It is a good idea to make a copy of a track first before using the Punch function on it, because Undo, exceptionally, does not restore you to the position you were in prior to using Punch; having a copy means you will be able to return to the original.


Normally, it's the Notator owners who make triplets! To achieve triplets in Creator, either play them in real time and quantise to '12', or manually enter the notes into the event editor Matrix, having previously changed the screen 'Format' from 1/16 to 1/12. The Format value changes the division of the beat in the Matrix editor (as indicated by dotted lines) allowing you to enter the notes exactly on the desired lines.


Notator's fonts compatibility, which appeared with Version 3.0, is proving to have far more to it than meets the eye. User Alan Middleton, a harpist, has found that the text fonts are just the tip of the iceberg. He, and others around Europe, are rapidly finding that the fonts capability is a powerful feature that is an unending source of help, in that it provides the means to create symbols of any kind which can be positioned wherever you like in the score editor. As an example, you may be frustrated by the fact that a certain symbol is missing from Notator's pop-up partbox: using a font editor, you can now create the desired symbol and insert it using the Text icon.

There is a catch: the user has to roll up his/her sleeves and do the font editing/creating without any outside help, using a font editor such as Fontkit Plus (current Version 3.2). To quote Fontkit's editor: "Designing fonts is less difficult than many people believe... Once you get the feel for it, it is also enjoyable and addictive!" One gets the feeling, however, that as users around the world start to flex their font muscles, various PD (Public Domain) fonts for Notator will appear in time. At the recent Frankfurt music fair, new symbols were seen that had been created by users; these symbols ranged from the useful (the 'rf' dynamic symbol which is not available in Notator, or the provision of little representations of drumsticks, beaters, brushes etc for percussionists) to the esoteric (blobs of grouped dots surrounded by a frame to describe certain electronic music instructions!).

Don't make the mistake one user made: under the impression that the fermata symbol could only be placed over/under a note, he spent time with the Fontz! font editor, designing the same symbol so that it could be placed anywhere. Everyone ought to know by now that Notator's fermata, and many other symbols, can be placed anywhere by pressing 'Alternate' as you enter the symbol!



There has been a spate of problems recently regarding the use of desk accessories with Cubase and Cubeat software. Assuming, for the moment, that you understand what a desk accessory is, the problems they create can be many and varied, and they are not always limited to the actual operation of the accessory itself. Cubase has been written to allow the use of GEM desk accessories, and these should themselves be written in a very specific way so they are truly transparent to the main application you are using, ie. Cubase. However this is not always from the case.

The rules of accessory writing are quite precise, and if they are obeyed to the letter DAs will cause no problems at all. There is no 'programming law' against breaking any rule you wish, but in the name of compatibility is it a good idea to stick to them. Nowadays, when many of the weak areas of the Atari operating system have been identified, accessories and additions to the operating system have appeared to fix them. There are screen savers, alternative file selectors, mouse speeders and so on, before we even get onto the subject of true 'functional' accessories such as voice librarians and the like, that may be of interest to musicians.

If you are using Cubase and then buy a desk accessory, and everything works as you wish, then carry on. If after installing your desk accessory thing do not work as they should, firstly remove the desk accessory (or disable it by renaming it *.AC_) and reboot the whole computer. If everything returns to normal, you have a non-compatible desk accessory. At that point you need to talk to the supplier of the accessory, not to Steinberg. In nearly all of these cases people ring me before they even try to remove the offending accessory. Then they ring again asking what Steinberg are going to do about the supposedly 'universal' desk accessory. The answer is "nothing", because it's not our problem. That may seem a very blunt response, but the problem is outside our control. It is obvious to me where the problem lies, but many users are very cloudy in their understanding of how the Atari computer works at the simplest level, so if something doesn't work as they first expect, they don't apportion blame fairly.

To give an example: if you bought a new car and it worked without a hitch, but you then installed a fabulous energy-saving-performance-enhancing electronic ignition system that you spotted in back of Hot Car magazine, and the car no longer accelerates smoothly, who do you call? The car manufacturer perhaps? Guess what they are going to tell you to do with your additions. How about calling the maker of the ignition system? Or the salesperson who said it would work?

I hope you see what I'm getting at; if not, and you are saying, "Ah, but that's different," in fine tradition panto I reply "Oh no it's not!"


On the Cubase logical edit page you can transform data in many ways. It is a very versatile system but it can take a clear head to operate it to its full potential. In this instance I would like to draw your attention to one fundamental setting that will make an enormous difference to the way the page will work.

If you look at the top left hand corner of the screen you will find the Primary Condition box; when this is set to EQUAL, the type of event can be set to any valid MIDI type. A problem can arise if you leave it set to ALL when you go on to adjust any other condition box along the top of the screen. You may be thinking about notes when you set the VAL 2 column to +20 (ie. an increase in velocity — for notes) but ALL the event types with a byte in the VAL 2 position will be edited. This can lead to confusing results, as all sorts of other data is modified as well. So remember to set the Primary Condition box to the type of events that you wish to change.


I can remember in the early days of MIDI instruments when 32 voice memories seemed like luxury itself. Who could really need more? The provision of 128 possible patch numbers via MIDI may have looked like extravagance then, but only these few short years later many keyboards have broken through the 128 barrier, offering 200+ voice memories from which to choose the right kind of strings to get drowned in your mix.

However many voices you have inside a particular keyboard, MIDI program change still only supports 128 voices, like it or not. It simply is not a parameter whose range Steinberg can increase.

The technical reason, for those interested, is that a full MIDI program change message is a 2-byte (8-bit) message. The first byte is the Status byte, carrying the information that this is a Program Change and specifying its MIDI channel. It always has its first bit (of the eight) set to 1; that is how it is identified as a status byte. The second byte carries the new program number itself. This is the data byte, and to differentiate this from status bytes it always has its first bit set to 0. This leaves only seven bits of the message to carry the number itself. Those of you who remember your binary arithmetic will know that the biggest number that seven binary bits can represent in decimal is 127, giving the range 0-127 — 128 discrete numbers. That is non-negotiable, and remember MIDI counts internally from 0, not 1, even if it is displayed otherwise.

So, you could have more voices in your synth than MIDI can access. Most devices give you a patch map table so you can select which voice the device will use when presented with a particular MIDI Program Change. This is internal to the keyboard, and cannot normally be accessed via MIDI. There are some exceptions, but these functions are unique to the receiving system, and we're not being spoil sports when we say that we can do nothing about it.

In the future, keyboards may start to use the new MIDI bank change facility. This uses MIDI controller 0 to specify a bank within which a standard MIDI Program Change will access one of the 128 patches it could contain. As a MIDI controller has 128 positions itself, the total number of voices you can address in this way would be 16,384 (128x128).


In recent times I have been receiving an increasing number of calls from people who report some very strange things happening to their computers — files vanishing from disks and sluggish mouse pointer activity on the screen seem to be among the commonest symptoms. Those of you who have your wits about you and have been reading your computer magazines will probably already suspect that a virus of one sort or another was to blame. You would be correct, but the plot thickens.

I had a very similar call from a Cubase owner who happens to live a mile or so from me. He had these exact symptoms, but was using a virus detector/killer which assured him that there were no viruses on any of his disks. When I took my freshly copied Cubase disks and used them on his Atari, the problem immediately disappeared. Delving deep into my trouble-shooter's pocket I removed my anti-virus program, and lo and behold, all his regularly used disks were infected. So why the difference? His anti-virus program came free, sticky-taped to the front of a computer magazine. Mine is a commercially available product that was part of the programming language I happen to use.

What I want to warn you about is the false sense of security that an anti-virus program may give you — it may give a clean bill of health to an infected disk. This can happen for two reasons: either the program was fairly rudimentary in the first place; or it is simply out of date. Any commercial program tends to be updated from time to time to cope with the new viruses that appear, and while you may get a degree of protection from a freebie, the likelihood is that if a program is any good, it is probably not distributed via newsagents.

You cannot afford to have a cavalier attitude to virus attacks if your work means anything to you. It is important be clear about what damage a virus can do to your data. It is not the case that the data on a scrambled disk will become usable again after it has been disinfected — removing the virus only stops any more damage occurring, it doesn't clean up the mess it left behind.

Finally, if you meet anyone who indulges themselves in virus creation, make sure that they cannot leave the room and still breed.

Product information contained within these pages is supplied directly by the software manufacturers, or their UK distributors or agents. The intention is to provide a 'bulletin board1 service for SOS readers who own or use software for any type of computer. Although we may occasionally publish new product information, the idea is to publicise update/upgrade news, bug fixes, and hints and tips about software and computer peripherals. It is therefore up to all software companies to keep us posted.

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

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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Sound On Sound - Jun 1991

Donated by: Rob Hodder


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