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Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software

Article from Sound On Sound, August 1991

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



Here is a tip (thanks due to Martyn Phillips) that really can save time; think the process through to see how you can use it. A Creator or Notator Ghost track is one that plays the data of another (source) track without actually containing the data itself. One advantage of these tracks is that the data will play according to the Ghost track's parameters which can, of course, be different from those of the source track. The time-saving advantage comes as a result of the fact that you can 'ghost' a source track without that source track having to be in the song that the arrange mode is playing.

Example: it is often the case that a bass line remains the same for all the verses, even where the melody, chords etc. change from verse to verse. The same bass part might even be used for the chorus and intro. If you have put the verses and other parts of the song in separate patterns and arranged the patterns in the arrange mode to construct your song — this is the most flexible way to work — then you would normally copy the bass line (eg. using the 'Shift-C' method) to each of the patterns. However what happens if you later decide to alter the bassline? You would have to delete all the bass lines and replace them with the new one. Time consuming.

Try this: record the bassline on a track in a pattern that is not part of the song. Instead of copying that track to the other patterns, simply make a Ghost track in each pattern that 'looks at' the source bass line (you can click the pattern and track values of the Ghost parameter independently). If you later decide that the bassline should be different, simply edit the source track, which is immediately Ghosted by the Ghost tracks in the song. Once you grasp the fundamentals, the sky's the limit!


When score printing, drag the dividing line between the score editor and the event list up as high as it will go to give the score maximum space, and use Print Single Pattern or 'Shift-P' to start the printing: this allows Notator to print at top speed, since it minimises the number of screen-redraws. Printing a page from Page Preview allows you to print single pages, but this is a slightly slower process since more screen-redraws are necessary.


The Pre-monitor and Post-monitor functions are very useful when attempting to set up a successful synchronisation situation in the Realtime Tempo Interpreter window. They are enabled/disabled in the Tempo Interpreter, and help by telling you which of the incoming clicks are 'hitting the target', ie. triggering the Tempo Interpreter and hence altering Creator/Notator's tempo. The Pre-monitor indicates all incoming clicks with a high-pitched click over the Atari monitor's speaker and a visual beam moving across the MIDI Thru panel situated below the pattern window. The Postmonitor indicates all clicks that are accepted by the Tempo Interpreter with a low-pitched click over the Atari monitor's speaker and a visual beam moving across the SMPTE panel situated below the pattern window. You should be aiming to condition the incoming signals to produce a reliable Pre-monitor display, and to set the Tempo Interpreter so as to accept those signals that will produce reliable tempo commands, as displayed by the Postmonitor.


For those of you who work live on stage, Rat Trap is an accessory program that stops the mouse automatically pulling down menus; you have to click a menu heading first. This stops the well-known problem of mouse-wander due to acoustic vibration, which can cause the mouse pointer to pull down a menu, preventing you from stopping the sequencer when both your hands are occupied tickling the ivories.



Even in this hi-tech, go-faster-striped world, where the technology should provide an answer to all of a MIDI user's problems, some bases are left distinctly uncovered. One of them is the transferral of MIDI song data from one sequencer to another.

There are times in some MIDI-dependent users' lives that the sequence of notes you really need is locked in one box, and wants to stay there, but you need it somewhere else. A typical instance might be when an original sequence was created in someone's trusty ol' hardware sequencer but must now be transferred to more modern technology.

There is less of a problem when using software MIDI sequencers where both source and destination software are MIDI-file compatible and run on the same type of computer. Although some people still believe that "MIDI files are MIDI files", the real world of MIDI files is fraught with difficulties. Different companies all conform to the MIDI specification for standard files as they interpret it, but they still fail to be 100% compatible with everyone else.

Even assuming 100% MIDI-file compatibility in terms of file structure, the source and destination computers may be of different types, and the disk formats are therefore unlikely to be compatible. In this case you could resort to modems and communications software, and actually transmit the MIDI file from one machine to another. If you are in the fortunate position of owning a Mac (with a Superdrive floppy disk drive), and want to transfer files from an Atari or a PC (with a 3.5" drive), you can do so via Apple File Exchange, reading files straight off the Atari/PC disk. Note that you cannot read regular Atari disks, only those formatted as MS-DOS disks. There is, however, a Mac desk accessory called DOSreaDA which will read all ST disks, as well as MS-DOS disks.

If none of the above solutions are applicable to you, your only recourse may be to transfer the data in real time from one sequencer to the other via MIDI cables. However even this apparently simple task can be beset with difficulties.

Take a MIDI lead from Out on the source sequencer and plug it into the MIDI In on the destination device. You can now play the song on the source machine, and record the data on the target machine. This simple setup ignores the issue of synchronisation — unless the two systems are synchronised, the result of the transfer just described will that the music will appear to be in perfect time when heard in isolation, but the timing will bear no relation to the bars and beats on the target sequencer, which makes any subsequent editing very tricky.

This could be corrected by simply sending MIDI clock data along with the note data, and asking the target device to synchronise to that. Unfortunately there is a problem with this also: as MIDI clock data has a higher priority than note data, some notes will be displaced slightly. It is much better to ask the target device for the note data to be the source of the clock data.

What you do is this: turn off the MIDI soft thru functions on both machines. Connect the MIDI Out on the source machine to In on the target, and Out on the target to In on the source machine. Put the source machine into external MIDI sync mode, and ask it not to transmit MIDI clock data itself. Put the destination sequencer into internal sync mode, and specify that it should transmit MIDI clocks. All you have to do now is press record on the destination device; it will perform its count in, then start sending out MIDI clocks. This drives the source, which sends out MIDI note data (and all other MIDI performance data) to the destination's MIDI In.

The last major issue on this subject is speed: at what tempo should you perform the operation. As the two systems are locked together, it might seem that the actual tempo during transfer is irrelevant, as the final recording can be still be played back at any speed. Why waste time on the transfer — crank the tempo up to 250 bpm and save some time. Bad idea. The MIDI transmission rate is fixed, and it is sufficiently 'sluggish' to be significant at higher tempos. In sections of music where the MIDI event density is high, you will observe a slight 'smearing' of the timing of the events. This happens at any tempo, but the severity of the effect is directly related to tempo. Once you have checked that a short section is being transferred correctly at normal speed, go back and start again, and use the slowest tempo your sequencer has. You could use the time to empty the ashtrays.

If you own an MC500 (or any of the MC series), you can take advantage of a Roland system disk that will convert the company's proprietary disk format files into MIDI files. This may be worth investigating if you do a lot of transfer work.


As you are doubtless aware, Steinberg's Atari software is protected by keys that are inserted into the cartridge port on the side of the computer. This represents a secure proof of ownership and means that our programs can be freely copied on disk. I don't intend to enter into the debate about the rights and wrongs of the actual presence of software protection in any shape or form; all I say is that I'm not convinced that some of the people who make the biggest fuss about it are really as beyond temptation as they claim.

Meanwhile back with the keys, apart from the (hopefully) obvious things you must not do, like inserting or removing keys while the computer power is on, there is very little to go wrong with a key beyond insertion upside down, or death by size 10 Doc Marten (size 44 for Europhiles).

The most frequent cause of problems is a faulty connection between the key and the cartridge port. This can be exacerbated by regular removal of the key, as the cartridge port contacts will eventually lose their grip. If you sometimes get the "No Key" message when you start up the program, this could be just a fluke and you need worry no more about it. However if it happens on a regular basis you will need to do something about it. Many people assume that once the key has been found once, that is the last time the computer refers to the key. In the good old days that was the case but now many more cryptic calls are made to the key during the operation of the program. If it is not found the program will not work as it should. So, if you have an intermittent key connection during boot up, you will most probably have a intermittent key connection during the operation of the program. If this is happening to you, a quick visit to your dealer will sort things out. You may be wondering why the "No Key" message is not used elsewhere in the program. The reason is that the messages would act as markers in the Cubase code for hackers to get a foothold.

PLEASE NOTE: 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 board' 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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Oberheim Drummer & Strummer

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Sounding Off

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

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Sound On Sound - Aug 1991


Previous article in this issue:

> Oberheim Drummer & Strummer

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> Sounding Off

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