Technical questions answered by Ian Waugh
Q I recently purchased some Cheetah Drum Pads and was wondering if you could help me. The Cheetah Pads trigger via an audio lead to my Alesis D4 and I want to trigger my Roland R8 and S1000 via MIDI. Is there a converter of some sort available? If so, how much do they cost and where can I get hold of one?
Also, how can I configure the system so I can trigger directly into my Atari ST?
A What you need is a pad-to-MIDI converter and there are a few options open to you here. The Alesis D4 actually transmits a MIDI message when it receives a trigger input, so you can use this to do the converting without actually having to buy any other gear. How's that for cheap!
However, you can't allocate some triggers to play the D4 and others to play via MIDI - they all play the D4 - the only way to stop them is to turn the volume down.
That's a good place to start but if you want more flexibility you'll need a dedicated unit. Cheetah produced a cheapo one which cost about £150 I think but the general consensus was that it was not very good. And Akai produced one - the ME-35T - but this has been discontinued. However, you might find one of these second-hand if you're lucky.
Of the current models, the two major players seems to be the MIDI KITI by Kat and the Simmons ADT. The MIDI KITI costs £479, but one could say it's the equus asinus' gonads. It can layer, fade, play chords and alternate sounds, and an auto train feature allows the easy setup of MIDI Channels, notes, volumes and velocity levels. For more info about this wondrous beast contact Nick Owen at Soundscape ((Contact Details)) who have just taken on UK distribution.
The Simmons ADT is no slouch either (though rather more expensive) and features its own 'Learn' version of the KITI's auto train facility. Having been designed by a company who have dedicated themselves to producing equipment for drummers, you can take it as read that for sensitivity and playability the ADT would be just about impossible to beat. (Contact FCN on (Contact Details)).
You can record into your ST simply by plugging the MIDI Out of the unit (the D4 or the Out of a converter) into the ST's MIDI In. You'll need a sequencer for the ST, too, of course. Most sequencers have a Soft Thru function which transmits messages arriving at the ST's MIDI In back through the MIDI Out so you could plug the ST's Out into the R8 or S1000.
For a more advanced MIDI setup - perhaps including a synth - you should be looking at a MIDI Thru box and/or a MIDI Switcher. But that's another topic (See my reply to David Hunt's query in last month's issue.)...
I want to be able to use the QY10 sequencer to record Wavestation sounds using the Novation MM 10 keyboard. If I connect up as shown in the diagram, when I play the Novation I can't activate the Wavestation.
If I play the QY10 'keys' or press the QY10's play, I get the Wavestation sounds activated, of course, by the QY10. The Novation will also drive the QY10 - but only the QY10 sounds play (though at least it's now touch-sensitive). How can I use all three without having to go to through the ridiculous MIDI cabling exercise of using an expensive MIDI Merger? Isn't there a way around this problem? It seems so fundamental.
A Tch! Tch! Well, if you had read all the MIDI By Example articles, particularly the early ones, you'd probably know how to solve your problem. I really don't know if we should help you at all (help the man, Waugh -Ed)...
Oh, all right. Your problem is not as basic as you think although it's a problem which most people come across during their early sequencing days.
What you want to do is to control the Wavestation from both the QY10 and the Novation keyboard. And you can't, at least not without a MIDI box of some sort.
If the QY10 was a dedicated sequencer it would probably have a 'Soft Thru' function which would pass on data arriving at its MIDI In socket through its Out socket. But it isn't, it doesn't and it can't!
You could connect the Novation's MIDI Out to the Wavestation's In and connect the Wavestation's MIDI Thru to the QY10's In. This would let you play both instruments from the Novation and record into the QY10. But - and it's a big but - if you play back what you have recorded on the QY10, it would not sound on the Wavestation. To hear it you'd have to run a MIDI lead from the QY10's Out to the Wavestation's In.
Well, that's the cheap way of doing it but it's not a good idea to continually repatch MIDI leads - and it's not conducive to creativity. What you need, Richard, is a MIDI box.
The cheapest option would be the Philip Rees 2S MIDI Selector (£14.95) which you could patch into your system as shown in Figure 1. To record, you set it to input from the Novation. To play back from the QY10, switch it to the QY10 input. However, with the Wavestation's Thru connected to the QY10's In, whatever the QY10 is playing would feed back to itself. If this caused a problem you would have to disable the Thru on playback.
A better solution, albeit a bit more expensive, it to use the Philip Rees W5 Dual Input Thru Unit (£55.95) which would be wired as in Figure 2. This would allow you to select the Novation or the QY10 as the input source and select the Wavestation or the QY10 as the recipient.
It would avoid any potential problem with the Wavestation's MIDI Thru and would let you play the Wavestation, the QY10 or both from the Novation. What it wouldn't let you do is play the Wavestation from the QY10's sequencer and play extra Wavestation sounds from the Novation.
To do that, here's yet another alternative and a yet more expensive one. It's the Philip Rees 2M MIDI Merge unit (£69.95) which would hook into your system as in Figure 3. Here the Novation will play the QY10 and the Wavestation. The QY10's sequencer would play the Wavestation, too, and you could play the Wavestation from the Novation at the same time although it would also send to the QY10. Got that?
One advantage of the Merge unit is that it doesn't have any sliders to slide or switchers to switch - it's permanently configured. You pays your money...
Philip Rees make exceedingly good MIDI boxes and can be found at (Contact Details).
Got a problem? Ian has the answer. Write to Technically Speaking, (Contact Details).
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