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Hints, Tips & News From The World of Music Software

Article from Sound On Sound, March 1992

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



One of the major features of Notator 3.1 is its ability to allow you to export sections or complete pages of notation to desktop publishing (DTP) or graphics programs.

Desktop publishing means using computers, with appropriate software, to design anything from a simple letter to a complex magazine (such as this one) containing pictures, diagrams, headings, text etc. DTP programs give you full control over the page layout, thus providing you with immense possibilities for creating your own textbooks or teaching aids which lie outside the realms of Notator itself.

The program that we will be discussing here is Calamus V1.09N. If you are using Didot Professional, Timeworks, Pagestream or Fleet Street Publisher, don't worry, since the principle remains the same whatever the program (it's the details that will cause problems).

The first step is to create your piece of notation, or simply load up a song that you can use as an example. If you have only one megabyte of memory in your computer, you are going to be limited as to how much notation you can load into your DTP program. Professional DTP is probably the most memory-intensive application your computer can be put to. But don't panic, it is something to bear in mind; that's all.

Once you have decided on your music, don't forget to include any ornamentation, text, lyrics, fonts etc. While we are on the subject of fonts, you do need to keep in mind which printer you are using, whether it be a 9 or 24-pin dot matrix printer, or a laser printer, or inkjet. This is because you need to select the appropriate fonts. For each font that you use in Notator you need a screen font and a printer version of the same font. As a guide, note the following:

SCREEN/72 DPI is used for the screen, and 9-pin printers without microfeeds

180 DPI is used for 9-pin printers with micro-feeds and 24-pin printers without microfeeds

300 DPI is used for 24-pin printers with micro-feeds, laser, InkJet and BubbleJet printers.

For example, if you are using a 24-pin printer with microfeeds, try this example in the Font Configuration page:

----------------SCREEN HEADINGS---------------
Slot Filename.FNT Style Screen/72DPI 180DPI 300DPI

Select the following fonts and information:

slotd ATTR10 4 d e
slote ATTR10LS 5 f g
slotf ATSS18 6
slotg ATSS18LS 7

Once you have done this, you use styles 4 and 6 for the screen only, and you need not worry about the others (5 and 6) as they take care of themselves when it comes to printing or exporting notation. Position the text on the screen, or if using an existing song, change font style numbers directly from the event list editor, or by double clicking on a line of text in the score editor and changing its font style number to 4 or 6, but not 5 or 7.

Now re-name and re-save this song with the new settings. The above fonts, by the way, were supplied with the Notator V 3.0 update on a separate disk.

Now we're ready to start discussing the mechanics of getting the notation over to Calamus, which involves saving a .IMG file to disk from Notator and loading it up in Calamus. Go to Notator's Page Preview function by pressing P from the score editor. You will see a miniaturised version of your music on an A4 page. Let us say that you only want to include four bars of a double stave system in your finished page layout in Calamus. Now do the following:

Go to the Printer Adaptation page (Edit menu), then left-click 'Load Printer Adaptation' and select the 'Printer' folder with the menu selector, and then the 'Image' folder; because we are using a 24-pin printer in this example, select the file IMG300_0.PRT, then click OK. For now, go to Page Preview and a squashed-looking page will appear: just observe this, and check to see that the notation fits within the page borders, or make sure there is not too much space around it. For now, click on 'Exit' in the Page Preview box.

If you find that you need to make an adjustment to the size of the Preview Page, whether it be an enlargement or a reduction, you now need to left-click 'Edit Printer Adaptation'. On this page, you need to increase or decrease the Length and Width settings. Note that you must must make sure that the Length and Width settings you choose are divisible by 8, so have a calculator to hand. If this is not done, the notation will be completely distorted when it appears on the screen in Calamus. If the calculations bother you, I suggest inputting the following numbers: Printer Left Limit 1 1 1 1, Right Limit 5 1 1 1 = ON, and Justify Last Stave = ON.

As an example, four bars of double-stave notation might have the parameters: Width = 2304; Length = 1408; Dots = Img; Fixed Font = 3. Tip: do not increase the Width setting over 2304 for A4 printers in portrait format.

These are approximate figures: settings change dramatically according to how many notes per bar there are, and which resolution you have chosen.

Next month we'll finish off by looking at choosing the right resolution for your image, saving the file to disk, and using it in Calamus.

With thanks to Pete Dudley of Holiday Music.



Just when I thought that it was safe to leave the comfort of my office and nip down to the supermarket without being assailed with shouts of "what about the delays caused by MIDI Thru connections?", because surely everyone now knew the truth about that, a new cry was heard rising from a few sad looking MIDI musicians: "Well, we've got a play algorithm in our sequencer that prevents MIDI choking."

Disheartened I return to the dark sanctuary of the office, turn on a computer and decide that it is up to my word-processor to save the humble MIDI musician from the malicious claptrap spoken in the name of MIDI sequencing...

Back in the real world of cold MIDI facts, when a MIDI output is asked to output a lot of data in too short a time, the integrity of the timing of the MIDI data emerging from that socket is diminished. That is a fact, true for any sequencer, from any manufacturer, running at any resolution.

Let me tell you another absolute truth. A MIDI output socket can transmit a full note on message (as a 3-byte message — no running status) in just under 1 millisecond (1ms = 0.001s). While we are on the trail of absolution, the actual time is 960 microseconds, but for that type of message it is never any quicker, never any slower. It doesn't matter how many notes you would like to transmit at a particular instant; each one can only 'pop' out of the MIDI out socket after the previous one has gone. The result is a regular stream of data sent in 1ms partitions.

MIDI sequencers use output buffers to make sure that no events are lost at busy times. They work somewhat like this. Imagine a long one-way pipe that is only wide enough to fit a single event, but could be long enough to hold 500 events. At the output end there is a shutter that will only allow one event out at a time, meanwhile at the other end there is a sequencer stuffing MIDI events into the pipe whenever it has an event to output.

The shutter knows that it will take 960 microseconds to transmit a full note message, and therefore lets events pass out of the tube only when the previous event has gone. As the sequencer could be throwing buckets of events into the pipe, while the pipe is clearing at a steady rate, the amount of data in that pipe (the buffer) will vary.

This means that at busy moments, the relative timing of the events you want to output will have changed. No, it isn't a fault of the sequencer, it is an attribute of the MIDI system. To give an example of this effect, if you ask your sequencer to output an 8-note chord hard quantised to a particular time, its transmission will actually be spread in time over 7ms by the MIDI system.

The concept of a 'play algorithm' as something unique to one brand of sequencer is totally bogus. All MIDI sequencers employ a play algorithm; that is how they decide what events, at what time, to send out, or in this analogy to pour into the input end of the tube. All respectable sequencers consider that when things are getting busy it is probably better to adjust the order and perhaps density of certain classes of MIDI event that are to be thrown at the output. Even that will not get around the fact that however clever you are in writing a 'play algorithm', when things get busy there will be queuing in the buffer to the MIDI out socket. In reality you only have to send a stream of note events to the buffer slightly faster than one millisecond, on average, for the buffer to start filling up.

If other manufacturers could have written a play algorithm that avoids any output-queuing, they must have to do some very strange things with your data! Take an example where a large number of notes must leave the sequencer at a particular instant — if queuing is to be avoided entirely, they must have to either make decisions about which notes not to send, or save them for later transmission. This can't really be seen as a great benefit.

I personally think that the designers of the systems concerned know only too well the points laid out here. The worry to me is that when someone puts absolute facts about MIDI in print, others may jump on the pseudo-technical soapbox (read commercial self-interest) and proclaim it not to be true of themselves. I just hope that it is a result of a lack of understanding rather than a deliberate act to confuse the issues. I have heard enough nonsense other the years, mostly from non-attributable sources, but let me tell you now the facts of life: MIDI Thru sockets cannot cause delays; the world is a sphere; some people have more to eat than others; and MIDI Out sockets can disrupt the timing of MIDI events.

So in this grim world, what is to be done? The only way to get more MIDI data out of your sequencer with a greater timing integrity is to distribute the load of data over more MIDI Out sockets.



The only Passport programs that won't run under Macintosh System 7.0 are Notewriter II and Sound Exciter.


Passport software does not support Opcode's MIDI System (OMS) via MIDI Manager. You can run most Passport programs with OMS with 'Allow Non-OMS Applications' checked in the OMS setup, and MTP 4 can be run without using MIDI Manager, thus bypassing OMS.

AudioTrax requires MIDI Manager, and won't run with OMS. (You will have to take OMS out of the system folder).


Early purchasers of Passport AudioTrax (budget direct-to-disk digital audio plus MIDI sequencing software), may like to know that there is a free update available (to V1.0.1). This fixes lots of minor glitches found in the original version (V1.0). If you would like this update please send your original AudioTrax program disk (disk 1) to Martin Tennant at MCM.


The current versions of Passport Trax and Master Tracks Pro for IBM PCs and compatibles have a new MIDI setup procedure. This won't affect users who can use the usual default interrupt for the MIDI interface, but on 286 computers there is sometimes another device using interrupt #2 (usual default), so the MIDI interface interrupt has to be changed. After changing the physical interrupt setting on the board (to #7, we suggest) and before rebooting Trax or MTP, you must change WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI. These files can be changed using the Windows Notepad accessory, or from SYSEDIT.EXE (found in the \Windows\System directory). Open WIN.INI and find '[MPUDRVR.EXE]' Change the 'IRQ=' to 7, and save. Open SYSTEM.INI and add a line at the bottom, type '[MPU401.DRV]', new line, then 'int=7'. Save again. You can now run Trax or MTP without problems.

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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Publisher: Sound On Sound - SOS Publications Ltd.
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Sound On Sound - Mar 1992


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