Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints and tips from the software manufacturers themselves. This month: C-Lab, Steinberg, and Coda.
Creator users will be pleased to hear that macros are supported in version 3.1. All Notator and Creator users should beware of the 'mad mouse' syndrome, where your mouse pointer suddenly moves around of its own accord for some time: this is due to a macro which has been triggered by a certain keypress. Once you find what the keypress is, cancel its macro: [Alt-Spacebar], followed by the keypress, then [Alt-Spacebar] again. A macro could suddenly appear under a keypress for two reasons: either a friend has been experimenting with your software and accidentally (or deliberately!) left a macro programmed there; or, more likely, you accidentally simultaneously pressed the [Alternate] key when you last used the Drop function, which uses the Spacebar.
When you press Stop twice to return the Main Bar Counter to 126.96.36.199, this resets the Arrange mode to the top as usual. However you will find if you are using the GAM, that the 'current chain' appears to sometimes arbitrarily swap to a different chain from the one you were in. What it is in fact doing is going to the chain whose first entry is at the top of the arrange list; you can check this by showing the list (press [K] or click the word 'Arrange') and seeing which chain the top entry is in.
The Graphic Arrange Mode contains a very helpful mouse-driven feature for positioning. Right-clicking and holding at the desired bar position in the 'bar-ruler' down the lefthand side of the GAM sets the sequencer in motion from that point on; releasing the mouse button stops the sequencer. Dragging the mouse up or down with the right button pressed makes the sequencer play back backwards or forwards accordingly, rather like jogging the tape on a tape recorder in cue mode. This makes it that much easier to find bad notes etc., in that as soon as you hear the problem, you can release the mouse, go into that track's event editor, click 'Catch' (press [L]) and the cursored note will be the offending one (or very close to it).
Putting Notator or Creator version 3.1 into Fostex Mode places the sequencer into a form of Local Off operating mode: for example, clicking Start will start the sequencer by dint of the fact that the click sent a SysEx command to the tape recorder, which set the tape in motion, which transmitted the SMPTE timecode to Unitor (in other words, clicking Start does not directly start the sequencer itself — it goes via the Fostex first).
In many ways the Grid edit has fallen into disuse on Cubase; as the other three edit pages offer a more 'immediate' representation of the notes in a piece, many people have not bothered to learn what it can do.
Its most important feature is that it can show all events types in true chronological order, not just the notes. In many cases the precise interplay of notes and other data is not critical, but in others, for example whether a program change or note on comes first, it can be very important. On Drum and Key Edit you can see both events if you open the Controller window, but you cannot see the order in which they occur.
This is precisely the occasion when Grid edit comes to the rescue. It is a literal display of the contents of a Part. People still find it difficult on first viewing — I can still remember demonstrating an earlier incarnation of the Grid edit concept on Pro24, and certain users always asked to see the Score Edit as to them it was more immediately understandable. To some people the gross compromises of converting a real performance into a readable score may be more 'accessible', especially if you are already au fait with the glories of musical dots, but a score is not a definitive account of the data recorded, it is merely a culturally defined interpretation of the notes alone. (I have met many people who will dispute this point ad infinitum, but they fail to impress me, mainly because: firstly, they generally do not know how to use Grid Edit, and therefore severely weaken any comparative argument they have; and secondly, they tend to sign their letters with all their musical qualifications appended to their signature.)
The Grid Edit page itself can be broken down into two main sections: the text list and the block graphics. You can edit both, and they are totally integrated, but for the moment I want to concentrate on the text. The central window divider can be moved over to the right to look at the entire text event, or conversely moved over to the left to see only the blocks. This is actually a constraint of the size of the monitor itself, and on a large monitor you can view all the text if you want, and the block display is then only limited by the increased width of the screen.
The current event in the list is marked by a small cursor next to the horizontal entry in the list. A complete entry consists of a time (when the event occurred), its length (if appropriate), its values (expressed in pitch values for notes), and a text description of the type of event. The important point is that the entries are always in chronological order.
The most difficult hurdle to overcome is understanding the link between the text event in the list and the graphic display of the blocks. Fundamentally, the link is a very simple level; each line of text has a block associated with it, and it is always on the same horizontal line as the text event. To prove this to yourself, click on a text event to select it; the graphics will redraw if necessary to show this block on the screen.
The block on the graphic display exists in time domain that is mapped out with the cursor running along the Song ruler at the top of the screen. If you press Play you will see the song position cursor sweeping across the blocks. Now comes the time where you will either understand the Grid Editor or say "Show me the Score". So why do the blocks on the graphics grid always run diagonally downhill? Well, if you were paying attention earlier, things will be becoming clearer. If the entries in the text list are always in chronological order down the page, and each has a graphic block which always lies on the same horizontal line, and the time domain to the graphic grid is expressed from left to right across the page, the blocks must always form a downward slope. If you still don't understand, try reading that last bit again while pointing at the bits of the screen to which it refers. Having some simple data recorded will help.
As said before, the text entry can be adjusted with the mouse, but the graphics can be altered with the mouse as well. Using the tool box you can move the blocks, and copy or erase them either singularly or in groups, a point that has evaded even some very experienced Cubase users. The group selection of notes on the Grid editor is much the same as on any other Cubase page, either hold down shift and touch any event you want to be selected or de-selected or drag a box around any group of notes you wish. When drag selecting, the shift key will prevent any changes to previously selected notes. As the selection of notes can be used as the source of many other edit operations this is a powerful way of making the changes you need.
The premise of this explanation of the Grid Edit is that it shows you all data types together and in order. There are times when you cannot see the wood for the trees, or perhaps more accurately, you cannot see the program changes for the aftertouch. Grid Edit will allow you to graphically filter the data you see. This will not remove any data, merely remove some of it from view. On the Cubase for Atari you will find two rows of display filters marked with their initial letters (eg. NO, PP, CT, PC, AT, PB); on Cubase for the Mac, if you click on the 'f' button, the display filters appear as strip across the screen. Remember to turn them off again, as they stay set until next time you un-set them. The concept of display filtering is taken one step further with the Mask functions, but the explanation will have to wait until another time.
The Cycle mode on Cubase has been changed from version 2.01 onwards; it is now possible to change the Left and Right Locators while Cubase is playing in Cycle mode without a pause while the recalculations are done. Cubase has a function called smooth cycle, which means that when you hit the play button it calculates not only what it has to do to play from the current time, but also precalculates what it has to do to start playing from the Left Locator point. When a 'jump to cycle start' is performed at the cycle end point, the process is a quick as if it had merely played the next tick. Previously it wasn't smooth if you changed the Left Locator while running. All the calculations are done in the background now so you can change things on the fly without any discontinuity.
Never double-click the program icon and start afresh, ever. This very evening create a master template, which will contain all the preferences you'll ever want in creating music. To prepare a template, you should do the following:
Load in all the useful libraries — chord Suffixes, Note Expressions, Text Expressions, Executable Shapes, and one Allotment Library (recommend Q=4).
Set up the page margins the way you'll want them. If you leave the defaults as they are, your piano braces and instrument names will get chopped off when you print, so go up to Format and change the Left margin to 200.
Set up measure numbers and page numbers the way you like them.
Using the Font selection item from the Special menu, set the font for your lyrics ahead of time.
Using the Lyric tool's On-Page Create option, position the baseline with the triangles. Do the same with the Chord tool's baseline.
It's very important to realise that Finale, unlike most other programs, doesn't automatically space the music as you go. In other words, you've probably noticed that 16th notes tend to run together until you manually widen the bar.
Spacing, therefore, is a manual operation, and there are two quick ways to do it. If you have an Allotment Library loaded, as recommended, just do the following to space your music at any point:
Click the Mass Mover tool.
Choose Select All from the Edit menu.
Hold down the '4' key and double-click any highlighted staff.
Finale will whir for a minute, and come up with proper spacing. If you still find it just a little narrow, click to the left of the staff (to select it all), and double click. As the dialogue boxes come, select Edit/Measures/Measure Widths/Add To, and type 100 (about 1/2") into the box. Then 'OK' your way back out of the dialogues.
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