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ASK the Doctor


11.Robert: Midi Clock/Midi Time Code/MIDI Machine Control? 5/23/97 
12.David: Is Notator on the Atari 1040-ST adequate? 6/25/97 
13.Doron: Problems with Cakewalk, AWE64 and a Yamaha PRS-60. 6/30/97 
14.Houston: Problems with a Yamaha PRS-60. 6/30/97 
15.Pvanvugt: analog guitar into an Atari 1040-ST? 7/1/97 
16.Phizy: A DW8000, a soundcard and a sequencer? 7/5/97 
17.Bob: what's impedance and how might it affect me? 7/7/97 
18.Denis: win95 driver not open? 7/21/97 
19.Dave: mix to multi-track software? 8/10/97 
20.Angel: Cakewalk, win 3.1, soundblaster & digitech 21 Pro? 8/18/97

11. Robert, Midi Clock/Midi Time Code/Midi Machine Control?

Is there anyone who makes a box/ pill/ potion that converts MIDI Time Code (MTC) to MIDI clock? I'm trying to slave a couple of Alesis SR-16's and a Korg M1 to the MTC output of the MMC-38 (the MIDI interface for the Tascam DA-38 MDM). The SR-16's and M1, however, do not speak MTC - only MIDI clock. Robert Ross

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Robert,

Your confusion about Midi Clock and MTC is very common. Midi Time Code and midi clock are related but actually intended for different purposes. Midi clock came first and its principle role is to tell listening midi devices what the tempo is. Midi Song Pointer came next and it tells other midi devices where bar 1 is, where bar 2 is, etc. As you can imagine, a high degree of accuracy (we're talking milliseconds here) is needed for consistent control and lockup between video decks, audio machines and midi equipment running together. Midi Time Code(MTC) was developed to give midi devices an absolute reference point, much finer than bars or even beats. Midi machine control was developed to allow the sequencer to chase the audio recorder OR for the audio recorder to chase the sequencer! Midi Machine Control uses MTC to keep things locked up.

With a sequencer and tape machine that support Midi Machine Control, either one can lead or follow the other. In your case, since the M-1 and SR-16's only support midi clock, you'll have to get a box that reads midi clock and spits out MTC, Jl Cooper may make such a beast. That would allow the DA-38 to chase the M-1 sequencer.

Another alternative is to stripe a channel on the DA-38 with SMPTE. Get a box that reads SMPTE and spits out Midi clock and slave the M-1 sequencer to the DA-38. The classic SMPTE to MIDI box is the Roland SBX-80, although many brands are available. The sequencer/Midi gear chasing the tape machine striped with SMPTE is a more common scenario.

If you're programming patterns on the SR-16's, they should be on external midi clock so they will chase the M-1 sequencer. The M-1 sequencer tempo will determine the tempo of the SR-16's. Actually, you don't have to program patterns on the SR-16's either. They can simply be sound modules and you can program their sounds from the M-1 sequencer as well. Simply put the SR-16's on a seperate midi channel and trigger the sounds just like you would any other module.

I'd recommend you get the SMPTE to midi box which is more industry standard anyway. JL Cooper makes alot of interface boxes that translate different formats, check into them. If you want to run the show from the DA-38, you'll need to get a sequencer that does MTC and MMC.

Check out my recording handbook for more info.

12. David, Is Notator still adequate?

I came across your web page when I entered "Notator Software" into the search engine. Yours was the only match. I see you are using Notator on an Atari. I have the same programme although I am not that good at using it yet. I am doing setting up a home recording system using an ARC44 interface card and Samplitude on a Pentium 200MMX PC. I was considering trading my Notator in for a sequencer programme that runs on my PC thinking this would be more up to date. However then I came across your webpage indicating that this machine is still adequate for you and I perhaps could use the Atari with the Notator as the sequencer linking it to my PC through the MIDI interface on my Soundblaster card. Is the Notator as good as what is available for the PC? Do you find it adequate? I have downloaded a copy of your beginners book and thank you for this. David Smith

the doctor's Rx:

Dear David,

Notator is a great program and I use it because it's fast and reliable. I started using it in 1990. At that time it was the only sequencer you could edit in real-time while it was locked to smpte timecode on tape. Another advantage was that it ran on an Atari 1040-st, which still is around and cheap! I'm a big believer in splitting up the studio chores among several boxes. That way when one breaks, you can keep working.

Your 200 mmx PC is a powerful machine. I use a 100 Mhz Pentium for my digital editing. But I have resisted the move to a sequencer on the PC. I recommend Logic Audio if you do decide to put it all in the PC, they are the same company that wrote Notator. You absolutely could use the MIDI connections on your soundblaster card to link the two systems.

The downside issues are the 'all in one box' issue, the money for all the plug-ins/digital to analog interfaces, etc. that are required to communicate with the analog world outside our computers and the 'screen real estate' issue. These programs do so much, filling the screen with so much info, that the burn-out from screen squinting factor goes off the scale. GET THE BIGGEST MONITOR YOU CAN AFFORD! And get into those manuals and learn your configuration details, most problems with software are bad drivers, wrong drivers, uninstalled drivers and incorrect configurations in the 3.11 and Win95 control panels. Good Luck.

13. Doron, Problems with Cakewalk, AWE64 and Yamaha PSR-60.

I have this problem. I use cakewalk audio 4.0 with awe64g (in 95) and a yamaha psr-60 as my keybord. Every now and then the sound of a channel I'm using (with the keybord to play along) goes weaker! If I use the scrim option it resets the channel and it comes back but a few seconds later it does it again! I also noticed that it happens in other programs like the vienna 2.0. thanks alot, doron

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Doron,

Are you listening to the soundcard and the keyboard at the same time? or just the keyboard? What you're describing could be "voice-robbing" within the keyboard. These multi-timbral keyboards and soundcards can only play so many sounds at a time. If the incoming MIDI information calls for more notes than it can play at once, the keyboard will decide on its own who gets priority. (Some sound modules let you set which sounds get priority if such a situation develops.)

For instance, you may have a 6-part piano sequence, a bass line, strings and drums. When it's too much, the keyboard may "voice-rob" from the piano part and only play 4 of the notes. So what may be going on in your case, is that the sequence starts and all the voices are on, but a little bit into it, there is too much going on and the voice-robbing cuts in.

If you are listening to the soundcard and the keyboard at the same time and both are playing sounds together on the same channel, for instance, a piano part, this volume change may be occurring because either the soundcard or the keyboard is having to voice-rob. The apparent difference would be a volume change from two sources playing a piano sound to only one playing a piano sound. Try playing each track alone. If they sound alright solo'ed but messed up when they're all on together, it's probably voice-robbing. Be sure to check that the volumes are all consistent as well and that you haven't inadvertently recorded a vol. change into your sequence information.

14. Houston, Problems with a Yamaha PSR-60.

Maybe you can steer me in the right direction. I have a copy of Passport Rhapsody v1.01 that can't seem to pick up the midi signals from my Yamaha PSR-60. Several months ago it was working properly and now it does not. When the keys are depressed, incorrect notes are pasted onto the staff. When I stop the recording, the cursur goes back to the top of the page and all of these notes are erased. Passport tells me the program is working properly (of course) and that it is a problem with my keyboard setup. They say that the keyboard must be in "local off" mode. I have followed the limited directions in the keyboard manual with no success. Frankly I couldn't find and switches or button combinations that would affect the local on/off setting. I know the cables are on correctly. Thanks, Frustrated in Houston.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Houston,

This is a classic trouble shooting opportunity. It was working properly, now it doesn't is a good thing. 'When keys are depressed, incorrect notes are pasted on the staff'. This means there is some communication, doesn't it. Are the notes random or is there a pattern, say, an octave off? If it's random you may have a bad key contact or stuck key, but usually this puts the same note in. "Local Off" simply prevents the keyboard from playing any sounds except the ones on the midi channel you're programming.

The fact that the sequencer stops recording and goes to the top of the page and erases all the notes says to me that the sequencer is sick. I would reinstall the sequencer software and any MIDI drivers, etc. and see if that fixes it. Be sure to save all your preferences and other files that you want to keep before you reinstall. Programs on computers get corrupted all the time and MIDI programs are no different. Thank goodness you can reinstall! Software, what a concept...

15. Pvanvugt, analog guitar into an Atari-ST?

Dear Doctor,

Roland has the GI-10. I'm searching for a simpler and cheaper way to convert analoge sound to the atari 1040 ST. A few years ago, discovery channel had an item about a simple and cheap guitar converter.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Pvanvugt,

I'm confused by your question. It sounds like you're looking for a way to play guitar as your MIDI controller and have that work with a sequencer running on the Atari 1040-ST. If that is the case, then there aren't a lot of options for you. Roland does make guitar pickups and guitars designed for this purpose. Basically it looks like a pickup and it is designed to "read" the note you play on the guitar and convert that to a MIDI note which can be hooked up to any MIDI sequencer/MIDI device. Casio also made a MIDI Guitar a few years ago which was fairly inexpensive, but they don't make it anymore.

This technology has come a long way, but in my opinion, the guitar is by it's very nature a problematic instrument for MIDI input. None the less, it can be done.

16. Phizy, A DW8000, a soundcard and a sequencer?

Dear Doc,

I have the Korg DW 8000 and an IBM type computer with MIDI capabilities. I also have the Midisoft Studio software. There are three miniplugs in the back of the computer. I have a sound card. There is an empty plug labeled AUX. in the back of the computer.


How do I hook up my DW8000 to the TriGem (Gem Master)computer to work with the STUDIO program? P.S. I loaded many midi songs from the internet that work with the Studio program where the notes are displayed on the monitor. Anxiously anticipating your solution. Phizy

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Phizy,

You have MIDI capabilities, but do you have MIDI plugs in and out of your computer? Currently you are dealing with MIDI only within your computer and from your success with midi files from the internet, this seems to be working fine. Now you want to connect a device on the outside, the DW8000. It will need a plug from the 'MIDI OUT' of your computer going into the 'MIDI IN' on it's rear panel so it can communicate with the sequencer in the computer. The technical term for a MIDI plug is a 5-pin DIN plug. For MIDI devices to communicate, there must be a MIDI-IN and/or a MIDI-OUT connection.

In your case, if you want the DW-8000 to play the midi files on your computer, it needs a MIDI-in from the MIDI-OUT of the soundcard. The soundcard has the MIDI connections on it that allow the computer sequencer, in this case Midisoft Studio, to "talk" to the outside world. This is how the sequencer software in your computer "talks" to the DW-8000. If you want to use the DW-8000 to play into the sequencer program, you will need to connect a MIDI-OUT from the DW-8000 to the MIDI-IN on the soundcard. When a sound module, with keyboard or without, is only playing back sounds, all you need is the MIDI-IN connection into it.

Those three plugs on the back of your computer are on your soundcard. The soundcard doesn't have these MIDI plugs hanging off of it. It has a multi-pin plug on it's backside next to those three mini-plugs, of which the AUX is one. These mini-plugs are usually for audio line-in, audio line-out and the AUX. You will need a special cable converter that has this multi-pin on one end and the MIDI plugs on the other. Check with the manufacturer of the soundcard first or perhaps the outfit you bought the computer from. Your local computer store may have them as well. The adapter plugs into the back of the soundcard multi-pin connector and it has the MIDI 5-pin DIN plugs for MIDI in and out attached to it. Good luck. 

17. Bob, what's impedance and how might it affect me?

How do most people consider impedance? Or is it just a term that is used but not actually dealt with in the recording profession? I was just wondering if it could cause solvable problems for a producer.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Bob,

I'm no expert on electronics, but in general, Impedance is a technical term used to describe a condition where the ability of an electronic signal to flow through a wire is 'impeded', hence the name, impedance. This condition is sometimes referred to as 'load' on the signal. In practice, as a music producer, there are a couple of situations you should be aware of regarding impedance. In particular, in hooking up your equipment.

Most semi-pro gear has -10 and +4 inputs and outputs. These numbers refer to the signal levels at these points and if you don't hook the right ins to the right outs and vice versa, you will have impedance problems. Often the gear will still work but you won't be getting the optimim performance from it. Sometimes these 'impedance mismatches' will be obvious, but that isn't always the case. Symptoms of this problem include 'fuzzy sounding audio', low levels, lack of headroom, more noises or buzz, etc. Be very careful interfacing your recorders, mixers and effects units.

ADAT's have both sets of ins and outs. Mixers, especially, have all kinds of different ins and outs, all for different levels. Some devices have switches to set different input and output levels. Though most are labeled well, be sure to check the manuals to ensure that you are connecting the right ins and outs. Professional levels are +4, usually referred to as 'balanced'. Balance wiring offers much better hum and noise rejection in general, but its also more expensive to implement and that's chiefly why semi-pro gear is -10 level. In practice, there's no reason why a carefully constructed -10 studio can't produce excellent recordings. 

18. Denis, win95 driver not open?

I got win95, and I can use my sounds program.... It says that my audio driver is not open... what do i do!!!!Denis

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Denis,

To use a soundcard properly, you need to install what is called a 'driver', which is a software program that communicates with the computer and tells it how to work with the device you're installing, in this case a soundcard. The driver is probably on a disc that came with your soundcard. There should be instructions in the manual that came with the soundcard that will tell you how to install the driver. Manufacturers usually include separate drivers for Win 3.1 and Win95. In your case, look for the Win95 driver.

19. Dave, mix to multi-track software?

How ya doin? I'm Dave, and live in Toronto. I've been around music of all forms in the studio, live or at home, for the full 19 years of my existence. I want to know if there is a way to split up a single from a CD, or tape, into its individual tracks as they would appear on a master without obtaining the master. I've been wondering if there is a piece of software to do this.

When it comes to details about EQing, and things of that type, I am lost. I can make a system sound OK, but I know there are things that I am missing. I d/l'd the handbook, and maybe this will help with all of my curiosities.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Dave,

Toronto is a great town! Per your question, "NO" is the answer. Using extreme EQing and filters you could accentuate different bands of frequencies in the single but you can't seperate it into kick drum, snare, bass, etc. as it exists on the master multi-track. Of course in the world of hiphop, this is exactly what is often done when using loops. All the highs might be rolled off to bring out the bass in one sample, while a drum loop might feature the top end, jingly-jangly stuff rocking over some programmed beat. When it's all mushed together it works, creating a sound that is only possible to get in this way.

20. Angel, Cakewalk, win 3.1, soundblaster & digitech 21 Pro?

Hi! My name is Angel Fuentes, my english is not very good (sorry...) I Have Some Questions for you. I Have a :

Digitech 21 PRO/L, Cakewalk 4.01

MK-4901 Keyboard (Controller), Midi Cable

Sound Blaster 16 bits, Windows 3.1

Can I Record my songs with this equipment? And I want to Know How Connect the Gsp21 to my computer and Record my Songs in my Cakewalk Home Studio, I'm begginer in Midi Configurations I tryed to comunicate my computer with the gsp21 but only can change the programs of the gsp with the cakewalk. Could you Help me please, I miss my User manual of the gsp21, Where can I get it? I Hope that you can Help me, Thank's a lot!

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Angel,

You can definitely record your songs with this setup, but perhaps not in the way you first imagined. Is the GSP21 a guitar preamp with MIDI connections? I think it is and if that's the case, then it's working correctly. The MIDI on the GSP21 is only suppossed to change the programs, not convert your guitar notes to MIDI notes for the sequencer. That takes a special guitar or guitar pickup and a "pitch to MIDI" converter box. Without the "pitch to MIDI" converter box that translates guitar notes into MIDI notes, your guitar cannot communicate with the computer (SEE QUESTION #15 ABOVE).

Right now you can use the keyboard to "talk" to the Cakewalk sequencer, providing it has MIDI ins and outs on it. You will need the correct adapter to get the MIDI connections in and out of your soundblaster soundcard (SEE QUESTION #16 ABOVE). When that is correctly connected you'll be able to play from the keyboard into the Cakewalk sequencer and the keyboard should playback from the sequencer.
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