Tag Archives: MIDI

Cubase DAW evaluation

It is always good advice not to switch to a different DAW if you are comfortable and familiar with another one. And, if you aren’t getting the sound you want from the DAW, spend the time learning that DAW before considering switching. Even so, sometimes it’s worth looking at other DAWs if they have a ‘really want’ feature that yours doesn’t or to get ideas of other ways to do things in your current daw.

So I got a copy of Cubase 6 LE as a ‘freebie’ with another product I bought. I know it’s not the latest version of the software nor is it as feature rich as the ‘pro’ version but the midi score editing capability was enough to get me to try it. I also wanted to see the workflow and if the visual is any better than what I’m using. I even watched some tutorial videos so I wouldn’t be completely lost.

I’m not out to start a ‘my DAW is better than yours’ war’. If you like what you use, keep using it. Unless you’re just starting out, you have too much invested to change now.

In my opinion, the workflow of Cubase is more difficult than my current daw. There were a few midi features that were better but not enough reason to switch. The midi music notation editing feature that I most wanted to see was not good. I’ll take PG Music’s Band in a Box (or RealTracks) notation editor over this any day. (For the record, I use Sibelius 7 to create scores then export to midi or play the midi into my daw).

Not that I was seriously considering changing but I will definitely be sticking to my current DAW along with Komplete Ultimate. The DAW I use is the $60 full-featured DAW that even pro-tools professionals have switched to. That is Reaper.

So, Cubase users, any reason I should go back and take another look at it? What is it that made you decide on it rather than something else? Does the latest version have a better interface and workflow than 6?

iPad music apps – revisited

iPad music apps revisited

If you have some time, please listen to my music on iTunes (Click here)

One of the most popular articles I’ve written here on my blog has been about sheet music apps for the iPad. I wanted to do a followup letting people know what I’ve found most useful and what I use regularly for music in general.

forScore

This is my go to app. For viewing sheet music, this is the one. As a performing musician called upon to perform from sheet music and someone who plays far too many different titles to memorize everything, I need something to display my sheet music. This program is the hands down winner. The latest version (compatible with iOS7) adds some nice features. The only complaint I have is they have implemented non-standard html in their ‘console’ interface that allows you to manipulate your score database via your desktop browser. It won’t work with Windows 7 & the latest Chrome browser.  (Let’s face it, doing anything that requires typing on the iPad is a futile effort, particularly if you touch type).

MIDI related apps

One comment. I think the iPad has a long way to go before it can be considered a content creation device. It’s great for consuming content, but terrible for making it. If you have no choice but to make your creation of music recordings “on the go”, then you really have no choice. For me, it takes three or four times longer to do the same on the iPad, if I can do it at all, as it does on my home PC. Maybe, just maybe someone who has never used anything but the iPad can do it fast, but I doubt it. One also has little choice but to by external (expensive) hardware to use with the iPad in order to make it possible to do any creating of content. In that case, I might as well buy a laptop. And let’s not even talk about the terrible speaker that comes with the iPad. (I know, use headphones, but that’s just something else to have to carry and/or buy).

iRig MIDI – This program requires the over-priced iRig MIDI hardware interface that often slips out of the iPad. Good if you need to hook up an external midi device to your ipad (for playing in or playing out). Complaint, the app isn’t very good. You can’t transfer midi files from your computer to the app. Many midi files I’ve created and then transferred to my computer cannot be read by any software I own. But, when I play them directly into my computer and record them into those same software programs, it records just fine (but takes 10 times as long to do). ikMultimedia won’t fix the problem.

TouchOSC – I’m disappointed with this. I loved playing with it when I first got it, but 99% of the time, I don’t use it. I perform on an acoustic piano or organ so I have no need for using it live. When it comes to studio based production, I can do everything as efficiently using the computer mouse and keyboard. I never used a midi controller prior to having this, so maybe it’s just that I’m not use to controllers. If you are, then, given the very expensive price of the iPad, it makes sense to use it as a hardware controller rather than buying one. So for that, it’s good. For entering midi notes (like a pianist would on a regular synthesizer), forget it, you’ll be frustrated.

SampleTankFree – I’m told that professionals use it (and it’s paid cousin) to make tracks that go straight to albums or they export to a DAW. For me, it’s too toy or game-like and very limited to do anything serious with. I know the free version is a teaser for the paid version, but frankly, it’s not done the job. If you are never at home and never able to use a midi keyboard or computer to enter your music, then this might, just might work while you are away from them.

Piano Lesson or Educational software

I like the following. They all have their pluses and minuses.

Pitch Invasion (ear training)
QF Notes (note flash cards)
Dust Buster (for new piano students, young students)
PlainText (a plain notepad for entering notes about students or anything).

Other software worth mentioning

WavePad (basic audio recorder)
unrealBook (another notation program. Good for leadsheets)
dbVolume (a SPL db meter to tell you how loud things are)
TraktorDJ (lookup Traktor on the native instruments website. DJ software)

Software I have my eye on

NotateMe – Supposedly allows you to hand-write your music on the iPad and then transfer to your computer for importing into Sibeliius or Finale.

Thanks for reading. Please comment and let me know what you’re using.

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MIDI project

Among my regular activities as a musician, I was hired to work on special MIDI project.

I thought you might be interested to hear some of the details.

There are a number of churches that have organs but nobody to play them. Many of the organs are midi capable but the midi files they can find online are, let’s face it, not the greatest. Most them sound like they weren’t played by an organist (or for that matter anyone with any accompanying experience). Others consist of only one verse of a hymn or they don’t have introductions. Others are only on channel one. Many organs don’t use channel one as their ‘Great’ manual and this leaves out the pedals, always on a different channel. Yes, one could create their own midi files, but that’s a lot of work. They could edit the files they find off the internet, but generally speaking, they would require too much editing to make them ideal.

So, I was hired to travel to the Orlando, FL area to record some hymns on an organ with midi capability. The organ in question uses channel 12 for the great, 13 for swell and 14 for the pedals. That is not typical for organs, but this unit (an older Rodgers organ) was designed to be supplemented with an external sequencer/sound module that uses channels 1-10 for general midi sounds. The organ also used sysex codes to change the pistons and stops. I recorded one hymn at a time onto a Roland external sequencer (an RD-70).  Rather than try and set tempo on each hymn, we just recorded at the default tempo of 120. A so-called ‘free form’ recording.

We were able to capture the sysex codes to be able to use when editing sequences on a computer. In total, I recorded about 100 hymns and a few ‘service’ pieces. The client the midi files will eventually be used with is an Episcopal church so we focused on them as well as some hymns that span all denominations. The session took about 2 full days with plenty of breaks. I used my iPad where I use the app forScore to view the PDF files of the hymns.

It would have been helpful to have people singing, not so much to adjust to their singing as a good accompanist would, but rather to help me remember which verse we were on and not to forget to include an introduction. There were several titles that I forgot an introduction or I played one less or one more verse than was in the hymnal. I did some post-production on the computer to take care of those issues.

Since most organs use channels 1 for the Swell, 2 for the Great and 4 for the Pedals, it is an easy thing to edit the hymns I did so they can be played on any organ with midi capability. (Channel 3 is used for a Choir or Positiv, if present). Unfortunately, every organ manufacturer and every model within their companies use a different method for selecting stops or picking pistons (aka presets). Since different organs have different stops to choose from, it is impossible to do midi sequences of hymns that automatically select appropriate registrations unless I know the midi implementation and stop list of each organ that wants to use the sequences. However, if someone is willing to sit at the organ console and select a piston or stops just before each hymn plays, then it is quite possible and very realistic to provide high quality hymn accompaniments.

There is a great deal of discussion in some churches about how terrible it is to use the organ and how old-fashioned it is. I say nonsense. Most likely those churches have suffered at the hands of an accompanist who really doesn’t know what they are doing (even if they think they do). Or the instrument itself was the wrong instrument for the auditorium. When the church I play for recently got a new organ with a top notch speaker system – a pipe organ was out of the question for such a small facility and the musical needs the church has – I had one person tell me they never really liked the organ, until now. Now they really like it. Most people just thought it sounded much better. The point is, if you want good music in a church, you need a great accompanist and a good instrument. You’ll be surprised at how many people really do like those ‘old-fashioned’ hymns when played by someone who knows what they are doing and how much they really don’t like drums, synthesizers and guitars playing a bunch of music that stylistically is 20 years behind the times and is being attempted by a bunch of amateurs.

If you’d like to read more about how to be a good accompanist, visit the Amazon Kindle store and check out my book In the Shadows but still in the Spotlight.  It gives some good tips on how to be a better accompanist.

So, loaded with these sequences, it was time to put them to test in the real world. A small church too far away for me to play there and make it to my current church has a midi capable organ similar to the one I recorded on. The church has its 5 general pistons setup from soft congregational accompanying (1) to loud festival hymns (5). The church emails me a list of the pieces for the coming Sunday. If it is one of the ones I already recorded, I double check it to make sure it has the right number of verses, an intro and the right piston changes at the start and, if needed, between verses. If it isn’t one I’ve already recorded, I get the hymn into my computer sequencer – I use the DAW Reaper for my recording work – add piston changes and make sure all is correct. I then email the church the sequences. The person on that end copies the .mid file to a floppy. (And yes, they still make 3 1/2 inch floppy disk drives and drives). He puts it into the sequencer, hits play and that’s it. For special situations, like an upcoming patriotic choir accompaniment, I utilized the sounds on the sound module (strings, winds, drums, etc) in addition to the organ.

The results? The vicar of the church, who I know and who regularly hears me play for services, says it is just like having me there playing the organ. The breaks between verses, the breathing spots, introductions and stop changes are exactly like if I were there. I’m very pleased with those results.

For you? Even if you do contemporary music, if you have any instrument or sound module that is midi capable, it is possible for me to create a high-quality midi accompaniment sequence of your music. Just insert the disk (or usb memory stick), select the piece and hit play. For those with midi capable organs, I can provide the hymns just like described above.

That’s why I’ve not been doing much here on the blog.

I have posted a few new videos on my YouTube channel. Do check them out when you get a chance.

If you are on Spotify, here are some playlists you may want to check out:

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/5amPipKSeCefguofXXbtJV

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/4COYvc3upBFoabQy6nfwJ8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/1LrdQ4tq9BRwyN8rVMJim8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/64gzlDm2FIgX693FBAZG7T

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/0sG01jRAD22KlYO6j7PIcV

Enjoy.

(edit: removed some redundant text 6/29)

More on iPad apps for music

iPad music apps

See also an updated article HERE

If you have some time, please listen to my music on iTunes (Click here)

This is a followup to my previous blog about sheet music apps for the iPad.

My favorite and the app I use the most for viewing sheet music is still forScore. If you don’t like it, another good one is unrealBook.

In addition to creating music, I also teach lessons, mostly piano, but also composition & theory lessons. Here are some apps I find useful for one or more of my musical endeavors, whether teaching, performing or creating. Some of these will also work on the iPhone while others are only for the iPad.

dbVolume – not really music, but it measures the db level of any sound source.

FinaleSong – If you use the Finale notation program, you might find this useful. (I wish there was a similar free app for Sibelius)

iRig MIDI recorder – This app could be a lot better but it allows you to record MIDI using the iRig MIDI adapter. If you could move existing midi files from your computer to it via itunes I’d find it helpful. I find that the iRig MIDI adapter tends to slip out of the iPad if there’s the least bit of motion in the iPad or the midi cables. But for free, it’s helpful if you don’t need a full-blown midi sequencer or DAW just to record MIDI.

iTalk Record  and Pocket Wave – for recording my piano students during lessons to give them more feedback about their playing. The built-in camera app is good for video of performances.

English: An image of an iPad 2.
from Wikipedia

MIDI Monitor & MIDI Wrench – for troubleshooting midi connections

miniSynth2 – a nice 2 Oscillator synth with some nice features

Musical Terms – a dictionary of musical terms, with an option to hear an Italian speaker say them. (I forget if it just does Italian).

Pitch Invasion – a neat video arcade game that helps teach ear training

SampleTank Free – Another disappointment from IK Multimedia, but I guess for free I shouldn’t expect more. A 4-track only (even in the full paid version) sequencer. Contains a variety of sounds & loops. Can use with or without the iRig MIDI adapter. But really, only 4 tracks and again no way to transfer midi files from my computer to the app? Decent if you need to put together a sequence and you don’t have anything else to use.

Sound Brush – An interesting way to compose music. Useful for teaching purposes.

TouchOSC – If you use a DAW or musical instrument software (like Reaktor), this is is nice. It turns your iPad into a hardware controller. Depending on how you set it up and what you’re trying to control, you can use OSC or MIDI for the controlling. It is easy to design your own control templates. Since you already spent a lot of money on the iPad, why spend more buying a hardware controller when this can pretty much do what you want for around $5?

Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Back in 2011 I did a YouTube video showing the Animator function of Session Strings Pro. It was a quick overview and not terribly detailed.

At the request of a few people, I’ve come back to the Animator to take a more detailed look. The video is intended as a starting off point for you to be able to use the Animator function yourself.

 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC95fzwLtsI]
Please consider subscribing to the YouTube channel and checking out our website

Reaper, MIDI, VST YouTube video

This video is now available on YouTube. In it we look at how to use the Reaper DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) along with VST software instruments and MIDI to record and produce a song.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc1kkJQcLyQ?hl=en&fs=1]

This features VST instruments Plex2, FM8 and Massive. The piece is entirely done in MIDI. The video also looks at automation of both the VST parameters via MIDI controllers (CC) as well as Reaper’s built in automation.

A full tutorial on all of this would take several hours, but this is hopefully a good introduction to the subject. If you are interested in seeing more detailed videos on specific topics covered, comment on the video at YouTube or leave a comment here.

Komplete 8 Ultimate Studio Drummer & Retro Machines Demo

Here’s another article about one of my YouTube videos. This video has a very rough piece of music in it using the Studio Drummer and Retro Machines from Kontakt 5 (part of Komplete 8 Ultimate) and Reaper. No processing was added. The sound is straight from Kontakt.

I loaded a midi file into reaper, added an instance of Kontakt 5 (as a folder). Under that folder I added two tracks, the midi import and the drum track. The drum track was created by dragging the grooves from Studio Drummer to Reaper. In Reaper I used a midi routing FX to route the midi drums from channel 1 to channel 2 as I had the retro machines on ch 1 and the drums on ch 2. The midi file was originally created as an export from Sibelius 6. I did no editing to any of the midi files (the song or the drums).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfk_f7tW7Jo?hl=en&fs=1]