T's keyboard controlled sequencer
takes a look at a powerful MIDI package
sequencers on the market today are graphically
based. Most of the functions of the program
are controlled with the mouse. This provides
an easy, intuitive method of working.
complex programs, however, the amount of
information that is needed on the computer
screen increases. This leads to crowded
work areas filled with tiny icons that are
less intuitive to use.
Omega from Dr. T. The "Keyboard Controlled
Sequencer" is one of the most powerful
MIDI sequencers ever developed on any platform.
It provides the user with a combination
of graphics and text screens. The graphics
interface is easy to use and covers the
MIDI recording and playback operations.
For advanced editing features you switch
over to a text based editing screen, which
is more difficult to learn, but offers flexibility
KCS is made
up of two basic work areas. "Track
Mode" operates like a standard tape
recorder, with Record, Stop, Pause buttons,
and various other functions that are activated
by clicking with the mouse. "Open Mode"
is where you rearrange your tracks in a
more generalized way, independently looping
up to 128 separate sequences.
Track Mode Record Screen
you boot the program, you are presented
with the track mode record screen. As soon
as you play a note on your keyboard, KCS
will start recording. There are 48 tracks
available, and tracks can be merged for
a limitless recording ability (dependant,
of course, on internal memory). Also on
the Track screen are switches for recording
continuous controllers and after-touch.
If these switches are not highlighted, the
corresponding data will not be recorded,
thus saving memory.
by recording a track in Track mode. Simply
click on the record button and start playing
music. The sequencer will start with the
first note played on your keyboard. If you
make a mistake, the track can be erased
and you can re-record it. If there are only
one or two wrong notes, you can use the
punch option to correct them. You indicate
where the mistake has occurred, and on playback,
recording will automatically start when
the track reaches that point. This allows
you to re-record that section as many times
as you like, with each new take placed on
a different track. The best take can then
be chosen, and the rest of the takes will
Track Mode Edit Screen
as many tracks as you need before switching
over to the edit screen. The edit screen
is similar in both Open Mode and Track Mode.
Half of the screen is taken up by an event
list, which indicates the notes, their velocity,
duration, and position. The other half of
the screen is a menu of editing options.
"Transform" presents you with
a menu where you can transpose pitches,
velocities, duration, controllers and pitch
bends. These (and all) edits can affect
all the notes in a track, or a selected
range. Pitch, velocity, and duration can
be either transposed (changed by a constant
amount), or inverted (causing high values
to become low, and low values to become
high). All these edits (except pitch) can
also be scaled between two values or by
percentage. If you scale velocity between
66 and 127 (for example), the notes will
gradually have a higher velocity.
Also in "Transform"
is a standard "Quantize" feature
with the ability to quantize note duration
independently. If your playing was a little
bit sloppy, and some notes fall a little
bit off the beat, Quantize will place them
exactly where they should be.
track, reversing the copy, and playing the
original and the copy at the same time can
create some great contrapuntal lines.
will allow you to fit a track into a specified
time frame by slowing down or speeding up
the music. "Time Reverse" causes
the notes in a track to be played backward.
Copying a track, reversing the copy, and
playing the original and the copy at the
same time can create some great contrapuntal
lines. Finally, "Channel Assign"
will change the MIDI channel of any selected
group of notes. You can specify one MIDI
channel that all notes will be transposed
to, or you can specify two MIDI channels,
say 2 and 6, and the notes will cycle consecutively
through channels 2 to 6. The first note
will be on channel 2, the second on channel
3, the third on channel 4, etc.
On the right
side of the screen is a standard group of
editing tools. Cut, copy, paste and paste
options allow you to remove any section
of a track, paste it to a different place
in the same or different track, or to delete
it entirely. After cutting or copying a
section, it is transferred to a paste buffer,
where you have the option of performing
any of the "Transform" functions
on the data before pasting it back.
option allows you make up to 16 lines of
comments on the current song. This can be
useful for describing how your synthesizers
are set up, or recording comments about
a piece. "Map" allows you to see
all current tracks and sequences, their
names and comments, their MIDI channel,
and length. When you are working with several
different takes of different tracks and
sequences, this feature can help you organize
the whole set-up.
Track" is used to enter notes one at
a time. You specify the value of the note,
(half-note, quarter note, etc.) and its
length, and then play the note on your MIDI
keyboard. Velocity can be recorded from
the keyboard, or it can be preset. Step-time
tracks can be appended to existing tracks.
include "Split" to create two
tracks split by MIDI note number; utilities
to allow you to transfer data from one mode
to another; "Merge", to mix two
tracks or sequences together; "Full
Environment", which give you control
over all the "hidden" aspects
of the sequencer, such as the number of
steps per MIDI clock; number of steps per
measure (for different time signatures);
MIDI clock out, for syncing external devices
such as drum machines; and many more features.
The user can set all aspects of KCS, and
any changes are saved automatically with
Mode is the true innovation of KCS. The
data is recorded in "sequences",
as opposed to "tracks". Sequences
can contain note data, controller data,
system-exclusive data, commands to start
and stop other sequences, tempo changes,
muting commands, pitch transposition, velocity
transposition, or just about any other manipulation
of data that you can think of. Any sequence
can be called from any other sequence. You
could have sequence 1 triggering sequence
2, which will trigger sequence 3.
This is very
powerful stuff, and can be used to create
extremely complex music. But if you're not
into music à la John Cage, there
are still plenty of uses here for "mainstream"
music. Create a series of drum tracks, each
slightly different from the others. Now
make a control sequence that will call the
different tracks at random. Do the same
thing with your bass tracks, and even the
melody line. Your piece will never play
in exactly the same way twice, but always
with subtle differences.
both the Open Mode and Track Mode edit screens,
there is an option labelled "PVG"
which stands for "Programmable Variations
Generator". This is an algorithmic
editor that can change the data in your
sequence or track in any conceivable or
inconceivable way. PVG allows you to specify
what kind of changes you want to make, the
amount of chance that will be inherent in
making those changes, and how those changes
will affect other changes.
PVG Changes Screen
on PVG brings you to the "Changes"
screen. This screen allows you to change
the data of your current track or sequence
in a number of predetermined or random ways.
Supposing you want to change the velocity
values of a given track to create more dynamic
range in the music. You would specify the
number of changes you want to make and the
amount of those changes. You can specify
whether the velocity changes will be a positive
value or a negative value or both. You can
specify which notes of the scale you want
the changes to occur on, or a range of notes
to change. The amount of change can be averaged
from the given values.
that we made to velocity values, can also,
at the same time, be applied to pitch, duration,
time, intervals, and time shifts. Each of
these factors can be changed independently
of the others.
is but one screen out of 11 in PVG. Each
handles changes to the data in specific
ways, from splitting the data according
to predetermined criteria, (such as a combination
of pitch range and duration), to adding
new notes in the track as "ornaments".
Are you getting
an idea of the complexity of PVG? Now consider
the fact that each of these 11 screens can
be combined in any way possible in the "Macro"
screen. Suppose you want to vary the durations
of the notes at the beginning of a track,
and raise by an octave the pitches of notes
with a velocity over 100, while adding ornaments
to the notes within the middle octave, but
only those notes on MIDI channels 8 and
12. Just set up a macro and away you go.
right? Except that PVG is incredibly complex
and difficult to learn. The manual contains
detailed descriptions of each screen, but
the mathematical concepts behind PVG can
be intimidating, to say the least. The best
way to understand it is to work with one
screen at a time, preferably with a simple
reference sequence, and experiment to see
what happens to your data.
Omega is the core of a musical environment
called MPE or Multi Program Environment.
Many other programs such as the patch editors
in the Caged Artist series, Fingers, Song
Editor, TIGER (a graphical music editor),
and Quick Score can all be loaded into the
computer and called from KCS. Data from
one song can be easily transferred to another
program, manipulated and sent back to KCS.
Or you can tweak a patch in one of your
synthesizers and hear the change immediately
in the context of the song you are working
Tim Conrardy for all the screen shots used.