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ASK the Doctor

ASK THE DOCTOR 3

Q & A INDEX
21.Chris: SoundBlaster 16 and a Kawai digital piano 9/1/97 
22.Uri: Can my computer be a 16-track recorder? 9/2/97 
23.Steve: How can I record my band's music onto a website? 9/10/97 
24.Reev: How do I sync my Korg Trinity to tape? 9/22/97 
25.Mark: I want to record digitally more than 2 tracks at a time! 9/23/97 
26.Brian: Setting up CakeWalk, Alesis SR-16 and a Roland Keyboard. 10/14/97 
27.Gary: Roland A80, JV-1080 and Studio Vision Pro. 10/24/97 
28.Gary(UK): Bad hum with my computer soundcard and Tascam 424. 10/28/97 
29.Adam: How do I make an audio cd with my cd-r? 10/29/97 
30.C.M.: What's the cheapest way to make my own demo for my rock band? 12/22/97



21. Chris: SoundBlaster 16 and a Kawai digital piano

I am trying to get my computer's MIDI ports to communicate with my KAWAI 230 Digital Piano. The MIDI out light comes on when I transmit, but the piano doesn't respond, nor does it transmit itself. I have a Sound Blaster 16 with a D-connector which plugs into my MIDI breakout box, and from there it plugs into my piano in the 5-pin connectors. I have checked (I think most of) the obvious things, but piano won't receive or transmit. regards.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Chris,

Do you have another piece of midi gear to check things out with? From what you're telling me, there could be a problem with either the sb16 card or the piano or both! Check that your midi in and out from the card are correctly identified and plugged into the piano the right way.

sb16 card/midi out to Kawai/midi in AND Kawai/midi out to sb16 card/ midi in.

What midi channel are you sending out of the card? The piano must be set to receive that midi channel. There are 16 midi channels. Try putting the piano on omni mode, if possible. This allows a midi device to "hear" all midi channels at once. Poly mode sets a midi device to listen on one channel, but you have to tell it what channel to listen for. Is there a receive indicator on your sb software to tell you if midi is getting into the computer?

Midi "idiot lights" are a must on every piece of midi gear you own, hardware and software! They will help you trouble-shoot and confirm that a unit is receiving midi information. If it is, that tells you the midi wires are alright. The next question is, "where is the sound?" If the audio connections are good, then it's usually a midi channel assignment.
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22. Uri: Can my computer be a 16-track recorder?

hello! Can my computer have 16 in's and out's (pentium) and act as a multi-track recorder? thanks, ur

the doctor's Rx:

Dear uri,

yes, but.... how much money do you want to spend? There are units coming out with this kind of recording power. More are available right now with 8 ins and outs, some with digital connections to ADAT's as well. Most of the units I've seen utilize external rackmount boxes for analog in/out that attach to cards that fit into pci slots in the pc. The digidesign Session 8 and Soundscape systems are 8 in/out like this.

Emagic has a new pci board called the AudioWerks that has 8 analog in/outs and stereo digital in/out right off the back of the card that's selling for $800.00(US)! a real bargain. Another possibility is from Creamware. They have a pci card with two ADAT optical in/outs on it and an analog stereo out. It's not cheap at $2198.00 but if you have a studio with ADATs, this is a powerful combination. They make an optional rackmount box with 16 analog in/outs to go with the card for another $1298.00. ProSonus also makes a soundcard with (2) ADAT lightpipes that is a bit cheaper. Check my CoolLinks page for manufacturer's websites.

With all these systems, check with the manufacturer as to the recommended computer specs for maximum performance. YOU WILL BE DISAPPOINTED BY SOPHISTICATED SOFTWARE RUNNING ON AN INADEQUATE HARDWARE PLATFORM!  
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23. Steve: How can I record my band's music onto a website?

Maybe you can help me? I have a Band and I would like to make a short clip of some original tunes to load on a web page. I have the songs on cd. I Have an Amd 586 x 133, a soundblaster pro & music Quest midi interface card, and a cd rom (kinda old 2 speed). How can I do it? Thank you.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Steve,

You have all you need. Make .wav files out of each song or piece of a song and post them to your website as you would any other file. Digitized audio is automatically saved as a .wav file. You can record them into your computer through the inputs on the soundblaster card.

The cd-player has "RCA" L/R output jacks and you'll need a mini-stereo plug for the SBPro line input... can you say Radio Shack? Take the audio outs of your cd-player and plug it into the audio input of the SBPro card. I recommend using the lowest sampling rate you can that still sounds okay. 44.1 audio files are stupid huge and take a stupid long time to download, so go "low rate" and make it easier and faster for people to download and hear your music.

On my site, I decided against using .wav files because they're so big and slow to download. I'm using RealAudio which compresses the file size by a factor of 10 and I'm starting with 11K mono .wav files before I encode them. Most of my audio selections are about 1:00 long as well so they download very quickly. You can go to the RealAudio site from my site and get their free player. If you want to make your own RealAudio files, download the free RealAudio encoder and turn your .wav files into RealAudio files. 
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24. Reev: How do I sync my Korg Trinity to tape?

What sync equipment can be used for the Trinity? I tried using a SMPTE machine but it didn't work. I really don't know anything about sync. I went to a studio to record a song and the technician said I needed a sync machine. I heard that Roland has a cheap sync machine. Please advise.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Reev,

I'm assuming the Trinity has a built-in MIDI sequencer? If that's the case, here's how to sync to tape. Sequence your song the way you normally would. When you're ready to "sync" to tape, look for the midi options on the Trinity. It should say something like "external midi" or "midi clock". The Trinity probably does not read SMPTE directly, most hardware midi sequencers don't. This option will allow the Trinity to "chase" or follow another device putting out the midi tempo.

SMPTE is a "sync tone" that is "striped" onto one channel of the multi-track tape. SMPTE is an industry standard "timecode" that is used for film and most automated mixing boards. By itself, SMPTE doesn't do anything but count time. Specific hardware boxes read the SMPTE and lock different video and audio machines together (a "synchronizer") OR put out a midi tempo (a "midi sync box).

The "sync machine" or "midi sync box" your tech mentioned is a device that reads the SMPTE off tape and allows you to program a midi tempo. Most of these SMPTE sync machines read and write all 4 kinds of SMPTE. Many also support MTC (midi time code) and MMC(midi machine control) as well. Roland does make a midi sync box. Others are available from JLCooper and MidiMan.
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25. Mark: I want to record digitally more than 2 tracks at a time!

Hi! I have a question. What are some options that would allow me to physically record more than 2 tracks at a time to my hard-drive? I have looked into "triple DAT" from Creamware, and into "Wave4" from Gadgetlabs, but there has to be more options out there than that! I looked at going with an ADAT, but the $$$ is too high for me to start out with! I want to stay in the digital-domain for as much recording, editing, effects, etc... as possible. Any ideas out there?

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Mark,

"more than 2 tracks at a time..." is the key dollars and sense issue here! Unfortunately at this time, that's the big money difference as well. There are getting to be a lot of under $1000 analog to digital interfaces with multiple outputs, but "2" INs at a time is all they offer. Logic Audio has just come out with their AudioWerks card that has (2)in and (8)analog outs for about $700.00. Big changes are on the horizon.

Check out the Event Electronics GINA and LAYLA systems. The GINA allows (2)analog and (2)S/PDIF digital inputs simultaneously with (8)analog outputs for $499.00! The LAYLA has (8)analog and (2)S/PDIF inputs simultaneously with (8)analog outputs, wordclock and MTC capabilities for $999.00! I saw them at the recent AES show here in NY. Even though they are advertising the units, I was told they wouldn't be available until early 1998.

Over $2500 and you get some other options, like the CreamWare and Gadget Labs hardware and software systems. But at that price, you are into ADAT territory as well. Check out the Sept.1997 issue of MIX MAGAZINE for an excellent article on what's available. 
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26. Brian: Setting up CakeWalk, Alesis SR-16 and a Roland Keyboard.

I HAVE CAKEWALK HS, ALESIS SR-16, AND ROLAND GM\GS KEYBOARD WITH NO MIDI THRU.I WANT TO USE CAKEWALK TO SEQUENCE; THE SR-16 FOR DRUM PATTERNS AND\OR SOUNDS AND THE ROLAND SC50 KEYBOARD FOR THE INSTRUMENT VOICES\CONTROLLER. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CONNECT AND USE THIS SETUP? brian

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Brian,
          COMPUTER MIDI CARD out --> midi in SR-16
             midi out/thru SR-16 --> midi in Roland keyboard
        midi out Roland keyboard --> midi in COMPUTER MIDI card in

                   AUDIO monitor --> stereo out SR-16
                    AUDIO monitor --> stereo out Roland keyboard

This setup should allow you to talk to the CakeWalk sequencer from the Roland keyboard. From the sequencer, you'll set different channels to send out midi. Set the Roland to receive on whatever channel you want it's particular sound to respond to. If the Roland is multi-timbral, then you'll be able to get a couple of different sounds on different midi channels. Set the SR-16 to recieve on one channel, say ch.15, and leave it. That way, Ch.15 will always be your drum channel and the SR-16 will act like any sound module, you'll just play it's drum sounds from the keyboard. 
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27. Gary: Roland A80, JV-1080 and Studio Vision Pro.

Being new to midi, I'm running into a few nagging problems. I'm using a Roland A80 controller, a JV1080 synth a Studio Vision Pro. My two questions - after I record tracks, one slip of the button on the 1080 and all my tracks play back with different patches. Is there a way to save my patches in Vision without having to perform a write operation (which uses up my user space) on the 1080? The other is when I call up my 1080 channels through Vision, I can only get drum tracks on Channel 10. Is it possible to get them on different channels as well? Thanks, Gary

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Gary,

You can save patches by doing a "bulk data dump". Read the 1080 manual on how to perform this operation(utility button). Leave a couple of bars blank at the beginning of your sequence and Record the data there. Then when you start your sequence, it'll dump the 1080 patch/performance data back in during those blank bars(providing the midi cables are connected correctly and you've successfully bulk data dumped...).

The 1080 is designed to work with a sequencer from the "performance" mode. This places different patches on each of the 16 midi channels. On most midi modules these days, channel 10 is the default drum channel, like the JV-1080. On some older midi modules, you can access the internal drum sets from different midi channels. You could also buy a seperate drum module or sample the JV-1080 sounds and play them from your sampler on a different midi channel
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28. Gary(UK): Bad hum with my computer soundcard and Tascam 424.

Hi, Gary from England here. Perhaps you can help me. I have a Yamaha XG soundcard in my PC which I have used as a straight midi controlled card to Cakewalk. Great sounds on playback. The XG is capable of effects such as reverb echo, harmony, etc. And I have tried to use it with the effects send on my Tascam 424 but the return is affected by the most awfull hum and is unusable as it stands. Do you know of a solution to this problem? Any help would be gratefully recieved.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Gary(UK),

Thanks for the visit. I've worked in England several times in the past 5 years and always enjoy it. Your FX return problem sounds like a ground hum or impedance (level) mismatch to me. For starters, the computer and 424 should be plugged into the same AC circuit. If they are not, this could be a part of the overall problem.

To find out if you have a ground hum, try taking a wire and touching some metal on the chassis of the 424 on one end and touching the other end onto some metal on the computer chassis. If that reduces the hum, then make the attachment more permanent. I have a couple of wires with alligator clips on them that I keep around for this purpose. I often encounter this when clients bring in gear and I have to interface it with my equipment.

The level mismatch might be from sending too hot a signal OR too soft a signal into the computer card from the 424. To check for this, try reducing and increasing the send from the 424. AND as always, check and double check your cables. 90% of hum problems are from funky cabling and connectors!  
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29. Adam : How do I make an audio cd with my cd-r?

I was wondering if there is a program out there to convert and burn audio files onto a CD so that it can be played on a normal audio CD player. I already have a CD-R drive, what else do I need?

the doctor's Rx:

Dear Adam,

You need "a program out there to convert and burn audio files onto a CD"! I bought the Smart & Friendly cd-r and the "cd burning" software came with it. It's the Incat cd-r/backup software, now owned by Adaptec, called Easy CDPro. I'm on a pc, so my audio files are saved as .wav files. The software tells the cd-r which files (and where to find them on my computer) to burn onto the cd AND to make it an audio cd. There are several cd formats, of which audio is one. The others are for file backup and multimedia support. To play a cd-r on your home stereo cd player, IT MUST be burned as an audio cd and the "session" must be closed properly or it won't play on your home cd player. 
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30. C.M.: What's the cheapest way to make my own demo for my rock band?

what is the best quality recording device i can get that would let me record at least 4 tracks onto a tape for a reasonable price????? i am guessing a 4 track recorder, right? how do these machines work? how do you work them? do you record tracks one at a time? and if so, do u listen to the first track as you record the second ... etc. ? or do you only record all the tracks at once? i have a freind who has one, but he gave me a VERY BREIF description of it. he says it records at different speeds and plays back at different speeds and you must screw with it to get the speeds right. what is all this about? do you use normal cassete tapes in it, the same i listen to in a stereo? what do you think would be the best way to record onto a four track?

i mean -1) one track for lead guitar - mic the amp 2) a track for bass and rhythm guitar - mic 2 amps with one mic in the middle - WOULD THIS MAKE A GOOD SOUND - i like metallica sound, heavy but not chunky . low mid. 3)a third track for drums - maybe two or three mics on the set - kick - drum - snare and cymbals - toms 4) singing - vocal microphone with air filter in front of it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS????? any suggestions. i would like to look into getting one of these recording devices - but am not professional and am tired of using a crappy tape recorder from a stereo that picks up air etc. please get back to me about this. what would one of these machines cost??? is there anything else i would need to buy to work it?

what does a stereo compressor do ,and what is it? i have mics, all the instruments and amps too, and headphones and speakers so equipment isn't a problem. but where can i get a Fostex or tascam 4-track??? and how much $$$?? i am looking for something that is bassically cheap. that works though. i just want something to record cool tracks and jams onto. does it make a clear sound, or is the recording any good? how does the speed part on the tape work??? and i guess i can just take the 4 track tape out of the machine and put in a stereo and listen to it too ???? later, thanks C.M.

the doctor's Rx:

Dear C.M.,

You definitely need to download my recording handbook and start reading the section on multi-track recording. As for your questions...

1. what is the best quality recording device i can get that would let me record at least 4 tracks onto a tape for a reasonable price?????

That would be a 4-track cassette recorder. Tascam and Fostex make these units. Basic models go for as little as $400(US), while those with more features can cost up to $1000(US). Always use Chrome/hi bias cassettes OR metal cassettes if the machine will take it. Some do have a switch for normal cassette speed or double speed. Use the faster speed for your 4-track recording. You'll get less recording time per cassette but tape hiss will be less of a factor. If you can spend closer to a $1000(US), then you should be looking at the 4-track mini-disc recorders from Tascam and Sony. Since the mini-disc is digital, there's no tape hiss to worry about and you can bounce down between tracks without adding noise. Fostex also has an 8-track hard disc recorder/8-channel mixer that is in this price range (DMT-8VL) that is a real bargain!

2.how do these machines work? how do you work them? do you record tracks one at a time? and if so, do you listen to the first track as you record the second ... etc? or do you only record all the tracks at once?

Normal cassette recorders record 2 tracks on each side of the cassette. A 4-track recorder records 4 tracks on one side of the cassette. However, You can only record two tracks at a time. For example, You can record your band playing all together at the same time onto 2 tracks, then record the lead vocals on the third track, while you're playing back and listening to the band tracks. This is called "overdubbing". Then you could record a harmony vocal on the 4th track while listening back to the lead vocal and band tracks.

3.what do you think would be the best way to record onto a four track. i mean -1)one track for lead guitar - mic the amp 2) a track for bass and rhythm guitar - mic 2 amps with one mic in the middle - WOULD THIS MAKE A GOOD SOUND?? i like metallica sound, heavy but not chunky. low mid. 3)a third track for drums - maybe two or three mics on the set - kick - drum - snare and cybols - toms 4) singing - vocal microphone with air filter in front of it.

You could also do it this way. I would recommend that you do the drums first though. In the end a recording will sound much better if you build it up on a solid rhythmic foundation. There is also another way to "overdub" as well. First You could record your drums in stereo on 2 tracks. Then have your bass player and guitarist record their parts and send their playing and the drums all to the other 2 tracks. This is called a "bounce" or "bouncing down". Then you would have the drums, bass and guitar on 2 tracks and you go back and record vocals over the old drums on the original 2 tracks. Yet another approach is to record drums on a track, bass on a track, guitar on a track and keyboards on a track AND then mixdown these 4 to your DAT recorder(or cassette machine). Now roll to a fresh piece of tape on the 4-track machine and record this mix onto 2 tracks AND overdub vocals or whatever on the other 2 tracks. So by "bouncing", "overdubbing" and live recording while you're bouncing, it's possible to get a lot more out of 4 tracks.

4. is there anything else i would need to buy to work it?

You will need lots of cables and adapters (thankyou, Radio Shack), at least one microphone (shure SM57, $100, more mikes if you're recording live drums), a stereo compressor (lots out there in the under $300 range), some headphones and probably a headphone amp because the headphone outs in the recorder won't be loud enough when you're recording the band, and an amp and speakers for listening back (keep the speaker volume off when you're recording in the same room with the recorder). A home stereo will do in a pinch, but as soon as possible, get a real amp and recording speakers like the Alesis Monitor Ones, Yamaha NS-10's or Tannoy PBM-6.5's.
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