Making The Most Of Your Mirage (Part 3)
Tony Hastings brings you his third instalment of Mirage hints and tips which begins to unravel the confusion that surrounds the use of the MASOS functions - including 'ramp scaling'.
Part 3 finds Tony Hastings extolling the virtues of the Mirage sampler's MASOS functions.
Hello, good evening, and welcome to the third part of the series which takes a practical approach to working with the Mirage sound sampling keyboard by detailing hints and tips to help expand your understanding of the machine.
After the first instalment was published we received plenty of interesting letters and even got a card from a reader in Sweden who wanted to know more about 'Ramp Scaling'. As Ramp Scaling is one of the MASOS functions (probably the most misunderstood element of the Mirage) I thought it useful this month to attempt to clear up the confusion by looking at the first four of these functions, up to and including Ramp Scaling, the rest I'll discuss next time.
Before delving into MASOS, however, I'd like to talk briefly about the latest Operating System software (version 3.2).
One of the great virtues of the Mirage is that it's Operating System is constantly being updated by Ensoniq. This means that as new ideas are thought of (and software bugs spotted) they can be incorporated into any generation of the instrument, so you don't have to buy the latest model, only the latest software to keep up to date.
When the 3.1 Operating System was released earlier this year it allowed for much greater control of the Mirage via MIDI. It facilitated for program changes and disk loading to be done remotely, and also for the Mirage to receive Aftertouch and Breath Control information as MIDI controllers (thus making it an ideal partner for a DX7). Unfortunately, the 3.1 OS (Operating System) also introduced a few software bugs that caused problems when using the Mirage with an external MIDI sequencer. These bugs were quickly eradicated but not soon enough to stop them appearing on many disks. So version 3.2 was released to overcome the problems that the former software had.
Now I know that there are many of you reading this who begrudge paying X pounds for official Ensoniq disks and are probably still using the 2.0 Operating System or worse, but believe me, for the price of just one new OS disk you can have a much easier and more up to date life with your Mirage. Anyway, those are the latest facts so think it over...
One of the first things I said in the opening part of this series was that you should have access to the 'Advanced Sampler's Guide' and a MASOS disk because a lot of the techniques I shall describe will use them. Well, all of this next piece hinges on your ownership of the said articles, so if you still haven't got them you will have to beg, borrow or buy them as soon as possible (contact your Ensoniq dealer).
MASOS is an alternative Operating System which reconfigures many of the Mirage parameters ready for use in the sampling/editing mode and also introduces extra commands that are not present within the normal Operating System. Unfortunately, you temporarily lose the onboard sequencer facility when using MASOS, but as you probably won't require it whilst sampling anyway, it's no great tragedy.
Before we can implement any of the MASOS functions we have to use the seven MASOS parameters to specify exactly which bit of the sample we wish to operate on and also where it's going to end up (if we wish to move samples around in the memory that is). I'll list them here to save you looking them up or in case you've mislaid your 'Advanced Sampler's Guide' book.
|85||Source Start: Page number|
|86||Source Start: Sample number|
|87||Source End: Page number|
|88||Source End: Sample number|
|89||Destination Start: Page number|
|90||Destination End: Sample number|
|94||Destination Bank: Up or Lo|
Two more parameters are used for the Ramp Scaling function only (see later) and are as follows:
|95||Scale Factor Start: value = 00 to FF|
|96||Scale Factor End: value = 00 to FF|
(Remember: all values are specified in hexadecimal)
Altogether there are eight available MASOS functions, so we'll explore four this month and four the next. Here we go...
This first function is used for copying a section (or all) of a sample to another place in memory. As you probably know, there are already two commands on the Mirage for copying a sample -  and  - but these limit you to movement of a whole sample only, when often it could be creatively more useful to be able to 'chop' a sample up and move it in segments (when splicing a violin's attack characteristic onto the start of a piano sample, for instance).
The best thing to do is to load a sample into the Mirage so that you can try out the functions as I describe them. The easiest way to do this is to actually take a sample, say of your voice. Plug in a microphone, set parameter  to 35 and select 'Lower Sample' (record).
Now press 'Enter' and record approximately two seconds of your voice (until all the memory is used up). Alternatively you can record anything you want if you don't own a microphone, but I'll carry on using the voice as an example.
Now we have the whole of the Lower Memory filled with just one voice sample. Remember that the Mirage has 256 'pages', each containing 256 samples, in each memory half, so our Lower Memory now has 64K (256 pages x 256 samples = 64,000 approx) of stored voice and the Upper Memory has 64K of nothing. Ensoniq have opted to use hexadecimal numbering for their values which, at first, can be more than a trifle confusing to the newcomer. Hex is a counting system with a base of 16 rather than the decimal 10 we use in everyday life. To count in hex you go from 0 to 9, as normal, then from A to F instead of decimal 10 to 15. In the Mirage, 00 and FF (255) are the lowest and highest hex values you can input.
There is no easy answer to learning hexadecimal, you just have to keep using it until it becomes familiar, though there is a handy hex-to-decimal conversion chart at the back of the 'Advanced Sampler's Guide'.
Back to the Copy function: let's say we want to copy the last half of the voice sample that we've just taken and put it in the first half of the Upper Memory. Set parameter  to 80. That tells the Mirage that we want to start the copy from 'page' 80, which in hexadecimal is exactly half of 255 (the end of the sample). The next value to set is that of parameter  which should be 00. This sets the sample within the Start Page that we will copy from, in this instance we want to start right at the beginning of page 80 so we set it to 00.
Next we must specify the End Page of the copy by calling up parameter  and giving it a value of FF (hex for 255, the last page). Again we can choose which sample within the End Page we want to copy to and in this case it should be the very last sample, so parameter  needs setting to FF also.
Now we have set all the parameters for the Source of the copy, the next step is to set the Destination values. As the length of the sample has been designated in the Source Start values, we only need to set a Destination Start value for where we want the sample to go. I said earlier that we would copy to the first half of the Upper Memory so set parameter  to 00. That is the first page of memory. Parameter  should be set to 00 as well (this is the sample within the Destination page that we will copy from). To choose between the Upper and Lower bank for the Destination you must use parameter  and set it to 'Up'. Lastly, just make sure that you are currently 'on' the sample you wish to copy by selecting the 'Seq Play' button and setting [L1] in the box (for Lower Sample 1).
To actually execute a copy you must now press the 'Seq Save' button. The LED will flash (Fn) asking you to input the MASOS function that you want. Press  (for the Copy Data function) followed by 'Enter'. After a few seconds the LED will flash (Fc) indicating that the function is now complete. Now play the two halves and listen to the results.
TIPS: That was a very simple explanation of how to use the MASOS Copy function with only two samples. When you begin to apply it in a multisample set-up you can easily find yourself using the wrong sample - the lowest sample on the keyboard doesn't always have to be Lower Sample 1 etc. To verify that you are about to edit the correct sample you should first do something very obvious but reversible, like changing the relative amplitude (parameter ) or adjusting the relative filter (parameter ), and check that the selected sample is indeed the one that is being affected by your actions. Also, you should always make sure that your sample is saved to disk first, because MASOS functions are permanent and irreversible and it's easy to get careless and accidentally copy to the wrong place or set the wrong Source value etc. Motto: think once, think twice, think SAVE!
The next MASOS function is fairly obvious for it allows you to fade in a part, or the whole, of a sample. It's what is known as a 'Linear Ramp' fade, which is another way of saying that it fades smoothly and evenly from nothing to maximum volume over the amount of sample that you specify with the Source Start parameters. The Linear Ramp is said to go from 0 to 1, where 0 represents silence and 1 equals full volume. You don't need to set a Destination value for this function because the sample isn't moving anywhere.
Let's suppose that we want to fade in gradually over the entire length of our original voice sample. First, load your sample from the disk... what do you mean, you didn't save it on disk?! Sample your voice again and this time save it. Well done all of you at the front who saved your voice sample first time around...
We must now set new Source Start values. Set parameter  to 00 (the first page) and  to 00 (the first sample). Now set  to FF (the last page, which should already be set to this value) and  to FF (the last sample). Notice that all the parameter values remain set from the last time you set them allowing you to quickly do different things to the same section of sample. Now press the 'Seq Save' button followed by  and 'Enter'. When you see (Fc) flash in the display you can play the Lower Sample. With luck it should fade smoothly right in.
This is just the same as the previous MASOS function except that it fades the sample out on a Linear Ramp rather than fading it in. Follow the same procedure as for our Fade In example but instead, press button  after pressing 'Seq Save'. You should then hear the sample fade out smoothly when played.
The fourth MASOS function is Ramp Scaling which provides a more flexible way of fading a sample in or out on the Mirage. The normal fade uses a fixed Linear Ramp going from 0 to 1 but Ramp Scaling allows you to specify any two hex values between 00 (silence) and FF (255 or full volume) so you can set a fade in that goes, for instance, from half volume to two-thirds volume or from silence to half volume etc. Let's create a quick Ramp Scale fade from silence to half volume on our favourite demonstration Lower Sample (you can load it in now by the way).
We can keep all our Source Start values the same as for the previous fade in and out examples, what we need to set here are the Scale Function values.
First select parameter  (Scale Factor Start) and set it to 00 ie. no volume. Now select  (Scale Factor End) and set it to 80 (half volume). Press 'Seq Save' and button  followed by 'Enter', then play the sample and listen to the fade in.
To obtain a comparison, try loading your sample again and copying it (in total) to the Upper Memory so that you have two samples exactly the same. Now fade in the Upper Sample using a normal Linear Ramp fade (MASOS 2) and Ramp Scale the Lower Sample as I have just described (MASOS 4). Now play the two samples one after the other and compare the results.
TIPS: If you set a larger value in the Scale Factor Start than in the Scale Factor End, you will create a fade out instead. Also, you can (using the Source Start and End values) Ramp Scale lots of small sections of your sample with different Ramp values to produce a non-linear fade (that is to say a fade that is not a smooth transition from one volume to another).
That concludes this episode, next month I'll cover the remaining four MASOS commands plus more useful tips. Meanwhile, don't forget to join 'Oasis', the official UK Mirage User's Group. I know we keep plugging it but ultimately you are the one who benefits from its existence, so why not give it your support?
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