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When Will I Be Able To Control Soft Synths The Same Way I Control Hardware Synths?


ggm1960
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The live setup I've been using the last year is crazy complicated and huge. Three keyboards; Korg TR88 (a 54lb great sounding boat anchor), Roland XP-30 (a 61 key kitchen sink dating back to the late 90's), M-Audio Venom (abandoned step child of a realistic analog synthesizer), and Roland Fantom XR (rack mounted sound doubler, sampler and catch-all). It's all controlled via Digital Performer on a MBP with a MOTU Midi Timepeice AV and a MOTU 828mk3 audio interface. With other assorted gear it all adds up to a three tier keyboard stand with a couple rack cases to my right and a lot of cabling between.

 

In DP I only need to load one file which contains sequences (chunks) of all the songs on the set list and for most songs, the chunks simply load patches on the synths. This way, with a couple key presses on a little Akai LPK25 controller, all four synths are loaded with sounds for the next song quickly and efficiently. There's a little more going on but I'm trying to keep this simple so I can eventually get to the point!

 

Recently I got a new Roland FA-08 which will replace the Korg, it's much lighter and has some great newer features and sounds. I think I'll also be able to eliminate the Roland XP-30 which will also help with reducing my setup/teardown time and load bulk/weight.

 

With the new board I'm basically starting all over; having to learn how the thing operates and create new patches (Studio Sets are a new Roland thing but it seems very similar to Korg Combis). It's at a time like this that I again wonder.........why the hell can't I have the kind of keyboard routing control over soft synths that I do over hardware synths for live performance!?!

Edited by ggm1960
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Sounds to me like you have found an untapped market niche. Now to build a product to fill it. Maybe a microcontroller that reads your set list and based on the song name loads patches for each instrument from a USB stick? I'm not sure if this fills your need, but it's one possibility.

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Greg, I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for; but straight out of the box, the Akai Advance series gives your VST instruments a workstation-like interface. In case you're not familiar with it, here's a review to help acquaint you:

 

Akai Advance MIDI controller reviewed: One ’board to rule them all?

 

I also recommend you look at the Native Instruments' Kontrol S-Series and Apple's MainStage app. Both are mentioned in the review above.

 

Best,

 

Geoff

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ggm1960,

 

I think what you`re looking for is going to require a major collaboration from most manufacturers and I`m not sure you`re going to get that considering software companies are designing their own hardware controllers specifically built to accommodate their own software….

 

Ableton Live/Push

 

Native Instruments Komplete/Kontrol Series keyboards

 

Reason/Nektar Panorama Series keyboards

 

Creating an all in one solution would jeapodize the sales of their respective products.

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Sounds to me like you have found an untapped market niche. Now to build a product to fill it. Maybe a microcontroller that reads your set list and based on the song name loads patches for each instrument from a USB stick? I'm not sure if this fills your need' date=' but it's one possibility.[/quote']

 

The technology existed in the MOTU MTP II with Clockworks "midi cannons" and such but was not taken advantage of at the time and was abandoned with OS9. It was much later that I discovered it and used it for a while but support and fellowship had long vanished.

 

These days it would be nice to, not switch to, but incorporate software synths. Coupled with a midi interface the typical DAW does a great job of loading patches and I'm able to route midi from different ports and channels in a flexible, albeit rather static, way. Soft synths on the other hand, hosted within the DAW, either take external midi keyboard input from everywhere or nowhere. For example, I can't tell SampleTank to just get input from the Roland FA-08 on Ch3. Also I don't know of a way that I could load Sampletank into a virtual rack and then have it load different patches when loading a different sequence.

Edited by ggm1960
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I've been using SONAR's VST track "envelopes" for getting subtle variations from my VSTi softsynths. Every single parameter in a modern softsynth will have a CC controller that can tweak it. Nodes along an envelope. It is a fiddly and cerebral way to work, no doubt. It's like, I want to stay in my "emotional, creative" brain, but very frequently I have to step out of that to my sharp, intellectual brain in order to twiddle numbers. Twiddling numbers is one of the evils of the new digital age, and frankly, adds a bit of "no fun" to home-studio music-making.

Edited by rasputin1963
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The technology existed in the MOTU MTP II with Clockworks "midi cannons" and such but was not taken advantage of at the time and was abandoned with OS9. It was much later that I discovered it and used it for a while but support and fellowship had long vanished.

 

These days it would be nice to, not switch to, but incorporate software synths. Coupled with a midi interface the typical DAW does a great job of loading patches and I'm able to route midi from different ports and channels in a flexible, albeit rather static, way. Soft synths on the other hand, hosted within the DAW, either take external midi keyboard input from everywhere or nowhere. For example, I can't tell SampleTank to just get input from the Roland FA-08 on Ch3. Also I don't know of a way that I could load Sampletank into a virtual rack and then have it load different patches when loading a different sequence.

 

MidiOx can do this stuff, but not elegantly or on the fly.

If one could come up with a GUI manager to setup or load these MidiOx tasks, I think it might be achievable.

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I'll continue to wait and see what the future brings. Currently I'm terribly frustrated by the inability to switch the FA-08 into Studio Set "mode" and/or get the board to switch between Studio Sets from a DAW while being underwhelmed by Roland Tech Support on this issue.

 

One thing I've discovered though while spending fruitless hours attempting to deal with this problem, it looks like Ableton Live may have some more flexible midi routing options than what I see in DP.

Edited by ggm1960
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I've been using SONAR's VST track "envelopes" for getting subtle variations from my VSTi softsynths. Every single parameter in a modern softsynth will have a CC controller that can tweak it. Nodes along an envelope. It is a fiddly and cerebral way to work' date=' no doubt. It's like, I want to stay in my "emotional, creative" brain, but very frequently I have to step out of that to my sharp, intellectual brain in order to twiddle numbers. Twiddling numbers is one of the evils of the new digital age, and frankly, adds a bit of "no fun" to home-studio music-making.[/quote']

 

Ras, I've been using just about any controller to do "scratchpad" control using SONAR's ACT function. In other words, I don't go for full, complex mappings, but instead do an on-the-spot "I need to control this parameter" and assign a knob to control it. It's fast and intuitive. This blog post in the Cakewalk blog should get you on your way. Basically, you need to do a fair amount of setup work to link your controller to SONAR, but after that, it's pretty easy.

 

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After many long frustrating hours of searching/reading manuals, forums, testing with different computers, interfaces, sysex messages and software I've finally hit upon the "fix" for my issue with the Roland FA-08. The FA units differ from previous Roland synth boards/units where the idiom I'm familiar with is; you're either in Program Mode (single patches) or Performance Mode (multiple patches/channels). With the FA you can play, and switch between, patches, splits and duals but overall you're apparently always under the umbrella of Studio Set "mode".

 

Ok, that's all good, fine and cool. My idea was to create a different Studio Set for each song on the set list, some can be as simple as just a piano patch while others are going to use multiple sounds, volume levels and key-bed splits. With 512 user Studio Set locations available there's little chance of running out!

Of course I need to control this board and my other synths the way I've done for a long time; from Digital Performer. This is not supposed to be a problem, just send a bank/patch change and there ya go...............well wait......... that's not changing my Studio Set, it's just changing a patch within the Studio Set. I tried several setup configurations but kept getting the same results with Roland support emailing me to just change the bank/patch all the while..........urrrrghhhhh!

 

So today I use a different computer (my newest MBP that's not part of my basement studio setup yet) and a USB cable (I've done all my testing so far with midi cables). At first this doesn't work any better just using the "generic" midi connection so I go ahead and install the Roland USB midi driver file available for my particular OS (OSX 10.10 in my case) and whala away it goes.

 

Now why the #$%^&@ couldn't Roland support just tell me that this functionality required a USB cable and their proprietary driver file??!

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I have a Novation Remote 25SL keyboard - little thing with a lot of buttons and sliders, very programmable.

 

I have it set up to control the console view in Sonar.

 

Button 1 toggles the mute on Track 1, button 2/track 2, and so on. Works like a champ.

 

So if I have all my VST instruments set to respond to MIDI channel 1 and a different VST loaded into each track - I can toggle any VST off or on via the buttons on the keyboard. If I run out of buttons, I could program the keys to do the same thing and just use the keyboard as a VST-switch and console controller.

 

Just an idea - there are always issues in implementation as mentioned. But mine works right here right now, so the concept can work.

 

Best of luck -

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

 

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Addendum after reading your "set list" issues -

 

The Novation keyboard has to load a program to set it up as a customized controller.

 

If you had a Novation configuration program for each song or each major change of instruments within a song, perhaps you could load a new program quickly into the Novation. No, it wouldn't be "at the touch of a button" to get a new configuration...but maybe it would be workable.

 

In my experience, the more fantastically convenient I try to make my setup, the more precarious the whole thing becomes in terms of crashes and maddening bugs. There's a compromise solution that usually is stable and usable, but never ideal.

 

nat whilk ii

 

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I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be able to use softsynths the same way within DP. What can't you do? What do you mean by 'routing'?

 

In a nutshell the problem is: on midi tracks I can assign different midi outputs but there is no way to assign midi inputs.

On a given midi track I assign an output port and channel so that only keyboard 1 receives this sysex message and this bank/patch change while the next midi track sends a different bank/patch change to keyboard 2 only because the data is going out a specific port/channel.

On the other hand if I add a new midi track all I can do is set it to record enable in which case it's going to grab any midi messages that come into the computer from anywhere.

 

This is live performance stuff so essentially there's no playing tracks and everything needs to happen quickly on the fly. I've got 3 synth keyboards on my stand Now if I set up a soft synth, I like to use SampleTank for an example, in my Virtual Rack and load some sounds into it there is no way to route keyboard 1 to play the sound in SampleTank channel 1 slot. All I can do is set the tracks that play the Sampletank sounds on to get midi, or off for no midi (record enable). So what happens is I set the Sampletank track to record enable and it receives anything I play on any one of the keyboards.

Edited by ggm1960
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Hmm... seems to me there are two options:

1. Add midi ports to the laptop so each keyboard has it's own. Assumes your DAW can access more than 1 port at once.

2. Use the single hardware midi port, but in your sysex messages set up each keyboard to output on a unique midi channel. Then set each software synth to respond just to the channel the keyboard is sending on. (This is the approach Tangent used when we had 3 or 4 synths wired to a single PC midi port.)

 

Or maybe I don't understand the situation well enough to even offer an opinion. A definite possibility...

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Hmm... seems to me there are two options:

1. Add midi ports to the laptop so each keyboard has it's own. Assumes your DAW can access more than 1 port at once.

2. Use the single hardware midi port, but in your sysex messages set up each keyboard to output on a unique midi channel. Then set each software synth to respond just to the channel the keyboard is sending on. (This is the approach Tangent used when we had 3 or 4 synths wired to a single PC midi port.)

 

Or maybe I don't understand the situation well enough to even offer an opinion. A definite possibility...

 

The MOTU Midi Timepiece AV is an 8 port, 128 channel interface that connects to the computer via USB. Routings, channel assignments, mutings and a slew of other configuration options are available and most easily accessible using the Clockworks software that comes with the unit. I doubt that anyone would argue that it's not the best midi interface that's ever been available.

 

My problem is gonna be software related. Now after discovering that I'll have to connect the Roland FA-08 with a USB cable AND have Roland's proprietary driver file installed this limits my midi routing options even more. I'll deal with it and make it work but this kinda sucks for two reasons; (1.) as mentioned, it limits routing options, midi ports do not function when connected via USB and (2.) I'll forever be dependent upon Roland to update this driver as OS's change and evolve, I won't be able to just swap out a computer without having that driver file somewhere handy. It gives the unit somewhat of a shelf life in this regard.

 

Kinda to get back on the topic though......I took a few minutes to check out Ableton Live 8 . I was a little bit excited when I saw the midi tracks had both an input and an output assignment. It didn't appear to work though when I tried to assign FA08 ch1 on the input and FantomXR ch1 on the output in the same midi track. The idea obviously was that I hoped what I played on the FA would go to the Fantom in real time. I suppose the midi output only works on track playback? Perhaps someone with more Ableton experience could confirm for me.

Edited by ggm1960
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Sounds like there might be a 'live monitoring' mode you're missing maybe.

 

Yeah I started to wonder about that also. I should have some time today to take another quick look at that, doesn't take long to check. If I could do that I might have to consider switching over and say good bye to my free time for another three weeks!

 

 

11/16/2015 UPDATE: Well fortunately a well informed and experienced user on the MOTUnation forum took a couple minutes out to get an idiot like me headed down the right path! I now see that DP has all the functionality I ever needed to route things the way I'd like which includes soft synths and being able to connect my keyboards via USB cables instead of midi. This will take me a long way towards more consolidation and having even better routing control than ever! Hooray!

Edited by ggm1960
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