Hints, Tips & News From The World Of Music Software
More hints and tips from the software publishers themselves. This month: Steinberg; Passport; Opcode.
If you were asked whether you were synchronising your music software with MIDI clocks or MIDI timecode, what would be your answer? If it was yes, rather than one of the two options given, read on. You and many others I speak to every day regard the two as somehow equivalent or, at least, varieties of the same animal, doing much the same but with slightly different names. You could not be more wrong, which is why so many people wonder why the synchronisation they hope to achieve doesn't happen, however much they cross their technical fingers.
MIDI CLocKs (MCLK) and MIDI TimeCode (MTC) both are used to synchronise MIDI systems but do so by very different means. MIDI Clocks have been around for a long time, since the inception of MIDI itself. It is conceptually a very simple system: if a master device is going to control a slave using MCLK, all that happens is that the master sends out MCLK data at a rate that is directly proportional to the tempo of the master's song. MCLK is always transmitted at 24ppqn (pulses per quarter note) so if your master device is running at 120 beats per minute, each beat (a quarter note) occurs in half a second, so in that space of time, 24 clocks will be transmitted via MIDI. Increase the tempo of the master, and the number of MIDI clocks per second increases. The slave listens to these incoming clocks and advances its 'song position' accordingly, playing all the MIDI data associated with each step.
It is, in reality, a bit more complex than that as the 24ppqn is relatively low resolution and the listening sequencer has has to fill in the spaces between each clock to match its own internal resolution. This was not always the case; there were some hardware sequencers in the olden days (about four years ago) that operated at 96ppqn in internal mode but dropped to 24ppqn when listening for MCLK data.
This may seem a little laboured as an explanation to the MIDI cognoscenti, and I know I haven't mentioned Song Position Pointers at all, but to be sure in your own mind about the nature of MCLK synchronisation is important as we move into the seemingly uncharted waters of MTC.
MIDI Timecode is more difficult concept than MCLK, but the extra level of abstraction is very useful to integrated systems that can do rather more than merely play back your musical doodling, ie. control your mixing desk or your tape recorder.
Hopefully most of you will have come across SMPTE/EBU code. It is a code that can be recorded to analogue tape that describes the time of day exactly; it contains no tempo information at all. The hardware that can write such a code on tape can generally read it back and recover the digital 'time of day'. All MTC consists of is the 'time of day' recovered from such a device, or sent directly from a program like Cubase or Cubeat, packeted up into neat chunks and sent over the MIDI system. A MTC reader, again, such as Cubase or Cubeat, can read these packets of data and reconstruct from them the 'time of day' as transmitted.
At this point sit back and contemplate the differences between the MCLK and MTC. With the former the end result is a pulse train of clocks that describe the tempo of the system; with the latter, you have a pure time, with no tempo relationship, advancing in the way all clocks do, forward at a fixed rate.
The tempo of a sequencer controlled by MTC is derived from a tempo table and a start time. If you tell your MTC sequencer to kick off from a specific time with a table of tempos describing what happens to the tempo over the entire duration of the song, the system can start up from any MTC time that is presented to it. In the Cubase/Cubeat system this is called the Mastertrack, and has the advantage of being contained within the sequencer and hence saved with your song. Conversely, if you are using MCLK to synchronise your system, any tempo changes are defined in another device and you must take steps to save that data separately.
I would not want to predict the death of MCLK data — it still has a job to do with the lower market hardware products that MIDI has helped to make possible — but it is becoming less important to open-ended systems as the years go by. In mixed systems where you could be controlling your mix-automation to 1/4-frame accuracy, along with a sequencer working from a tempo derived from the same MTC source, and that MTC itself could be coming from a MTC equipped multitrack like the Fostex R8/G16/G24, it is the way to go.
Passport's Encore notation/sequencing software for the PC requires a hard disk, a Microsoft compatible mouse, and at least 2MB of RAM. Encore will not run from within any mode of Windows, because Encore uses the PC's 'Protect Mode', and as Windows also uses this mode there is a direct conflict.
If you are having difficulty getting Encore to run the first thing to do is check your free memory. From the DOS prompt run "WHATMEM.EXE" (this is in the same directory as Encore). Encore needs an absolute minimum of 1,400k to run; if "WHATMEM.EXE" gives less than this, then either you haven't enough memory, or something is reserving memory.
If you have Windows installed on your computer check your CONFIG.SYS file. You will find this at the top level (Usually C:V directory). You can view and edit CONFIG.SYS with Windows' NOTEPAD accessory. Check to see if there is a line which reads "SMARTDRIVE SET To =". Save this file as CONFIG.OLD, then change this to read "SMARTDRIVE SET To = 256". Save the new file as CONFIG.SYS and then re-boot the computer. (If you wish, edit Autoexec.BAT (the line which reads WIN/s or similar) so that Windows doesn't automatically boot next time you boot the computer). Now run WHATMEM.EXE again; have you got 1,400K of free memory now? If you do you can boot Encore, if not, then something else is reserving memory.
If you don't have WINDOWS installed: have you a RAM cache set up in CONFIG.SYS? (If so, remove or reduce to 256.) Have you any memory resident programs running? (Disable or remove)
Increase the memory of the computer; to 4MB(extended) at least.
• Encore runs OK, but after recording several staves of music it suddenly quits on input of any kind. This is indicative of memory threshold being reached. The only cure is to increase the computer memory.
• Encore still won't boot! If after checking that your memory allocation is sufficient you still have problems booting Encore, there could be an interrupt conflict. Encore expects there to be an MPU401 MIDI interface card installed. These usually default to interrupt #2 (factory setting), so Encore will expect the interface to be set to interrupt #2 upon first booting (The card does not have to be there, but if it is it must be set to IRQ #2). This can be changed, but beware! (Consult the instructions which came with your interface card to find out how to change the interrupt; some cards come factory set to IRQ #2.) Encore also needs Interrupt #5 to run. Have you another card set to this interrupt? if so remove it. Don't assign the MPU401 MIDI interface to IRQ #5 (if you wish to run Encore). After booting Encore for the first time the software setting for the MIDI interface interrupt can be changed, (you will then have to power-down your computer and change the interrupt on the card itself before re-booting Encore).
Master Tracks Pro and Trax now run in Windows 3. The best mode to run them in is Standard Mode, which will allow the computer to use as much memory as is available, and the MIDI interface IRQ will not need to be changed. To launch Windows 3.0 Standard Mode use the command 'WIN/S'. It is possible to run Master Tracks Pro and Trax in Windows 3.0 Enhanced Mode, but as Windows 3.0 Enhanced Mode uses IRQ #2 the IRQ of the MIDI interface will have to be physically changed on the interface board, and the MIDI setup for MTPro and Trax changed in the program. If you must use Windows 3.0 Enhanced Mode we would suggest IRQ #7, do not use IRQ #2 or IRQ #9. (Consult the instructions which came with your interface card to find out how to change the interrupt; some cards come factory set to IRQ #2.)
Coda Finale will not run in Windows 3.0 Enhanced Mode; you must use Standard or Real Mode. If you keep getting the message "cannot find MIDIDRVR.DLL" when you run Finale, or open Finale files, this should solve the problem: move all the *.DLL files from the Finale directory to your Windows\System directory (C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM if you used the defaults when you installed Windows).
Finale runs under System 7.0 but note the following:
• Subscribe/Publish and Balloon Help are not supported. TrueType fonts are not yet available for Finale; users with the LaserWriter LS or the StyleWriter are advised to use Adobe Type Manager for the time being.
• When compiling a PostScript Listing under System 7.0 you need to have a copy of the Petru and/or Sevil PostScript printer font file in both the System folder and the Extensions Folder. The Screen Fonts should, however, only be in one place (normally installed into the Finale program folder). If you need or want to install them into the System File you will have to start up from a System 6.X disk and move them using the Font/DA Mover. (Font/DA Mover V4.1 for System 7.0 is available from Apple Dealers, but does not come with System 7.0.)
• Apple decided to move a number of Option-Shift characters from fonts. This has little or no impact for most Finale users, but it does mean that certain characters may not be placed as text items. It has more impact on foreign language fonts, since many of the special diacritical characters are in these locations. The disabled characters are Shift-Option: e, g, l, m, n, r, u, x, and z.
• MusicProse runs under System 7.0, but is not compatible with TrueType fonts at this time, (there will be an upgrade in the future). MusicProse is very sensitive to INITS, if you have problems start up from a plain Mac System disk (without any non-Apple system additions) and see if the problem persists.
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