Design Shortfalls In Music Software

Discussion in 'Sequencers and Music Software' started by William Brookfield, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    I am dictating this on my phone. Clearly my phone's software understands the word "jazz" but my music software does not. If I could find an ASCII to MIDI converter I could control my music software with my voice commands just as I am doing here to control this word processor with my speech. Unfortunately it appears that many disparate technologies that could benefit music production have yet to be integrated into music software design. Specifically these are speech interpreters, tempo interpreters, time signature interpreters, key signature interpreters, chord interpreters etc. The number of English words necessary to control a recording transport (“start, stop, record etc”) are miniscule compared and to the vocabulary needed for this dictation-to-text function in my phone.

    There exist however other problems with modern music software IMO. When one does a search on Google images for music software the musician is confronted with a dizzying array of complexity. While music production can be a complex task it does not start off that way. Lenardo Da Vinci did not start his paintings with a complex canvas. Typically I start off a production with a single MIDI track. Unfortunately it is at this point that I am confronted with an annoying incessant robotic ticking sound to which I am expected to perform like an obedient slave monkey. Here there is a perverse reversal of the master/slave relationship in which the computer (our slave) is given the role of master.

    There are other negative attitudes built into music software that limit music production. Music software appears to be modeled on work and not play. This results in music software being two-dimensional like a document or a spreadsheet instead of three-dimensional like a video game. I am working to fix this with 3D models but there's only so much I can do without better familiarity with programming code. I am after all, a musician and not a software designer by trade.

    Musicians are not programmers, qwerty'ers, mousers, or touch screen pokers by trade. I have three keyboards already. Where would I put a qwerty? Learning curves always increase when the user is forced to learn or operate something new instead of being able to draw upon his or her existing skill set. My hope is that software designers will hear the voices of performing musicians and design music software that maps to existing the skill sets of musicians. Kudos must go here however, to the designers of Intime software from Circular Logic who have freed me (and all humanity) from the robotic slavery of the tick. While this software is not yet perfect, it is a very real step in the right direction and the best tempo interpreter I have come across so far.
     
    William Brookfield, Mar 27, 2015
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  2. William Brookfield

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    This is a PEBKAC error.

    (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair)

    The truth is that modern DAW softwares are incredibly sophisticated and capable of everything you asked for, but you will have to wade thru a thousand pages of documentation to master a DAW like Cakewalk Sonar Pro for instance.

    This is not the fault of the designers. This is the fault of the users.

    I don't pretend to have mastered all the features of my chosen DAW but I can crank out a tune and turn off the metronome as well as the next man if I have to. Even the ancient version of cakewalk I use has a "swing function" which can spice up the tempos.

    Same thing with Photoshop. Almost anyone can use it to correct red eye or crop a photo but in the hands of a master professional it can create breathtaking works of art.

    DAW software has been around since the mid 80's and it's been refined and augmented annually and with each successive version comes a host of new features and controls to be further investigated and learned.

    But if you are telling me that you are 100% familiar with all the keyboard shortcuts and features of your own chosen DAW then I will call you a liar to your face.

    Modern electronic music is so involved and complex these days it can take decades to truly master a single instrument or piece of software and make it dance when you snap your fingers.

    Instead of criticising the shortcomings of modern software I praise the ease with which it has become today's standard for audio recording.

    Could you even begin to imagine what Beethoven or Mozart could have done had they been exposed to modern music technology?

    My advice is to hit the google machine and the docs a little harder to find out exactly what it is you've been missing. ;)

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Mar 27, 2015
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  3. William Brookfield

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    Gary, I agree that the issue with the "annoying incessant robotic ticking sound" can be solved by just turning off the metronome, and that today's DAW software is pretty darn amazing. But after reading a bit about Circular Logic's InTime program, I think William is talking about more than just turning off the metronome.
     
    SeaGtGruff, Mar 28, 2015
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  4. William Brookfield

    CowboyNQ

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    Wait 'til your DAW becomes self-aware, if you reckon you're a slave now.

    Won't be long before the darn thing has you bringing back its shirts from the dry cleaners. Time to form an underground movement, brothers!
     
    CowboyNQ, Mar 30, 2015
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  5. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    Hi everyone, thank you for all your responses. I should perhaps explain the way I now typically record.

    (1)The first thing I do is record my performance free form, into to a sequencer. (I have found that I get better {more musical} results when I concentrate on the music only - no tick.)

    (2) I then feed this recorded music (via MIDI yoke), to the InTime software - no sync. (I first tap into InTime the basic tempo of the piece and then set it to "wait for note." I then play my recording into the software and it maps it to tempo and beats.)

    (3) I then play (via MIDI yolk) or import (via midi file) my new InTime recording (notes PLUS tempo-map) into my main sequencer for further development.
     
    William Brookfield, Mar 30, 2015
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  6. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    BTW. InTIme is midi only software. If you have an audio track then play a rhythmic midi track along with the audio track and use that midi track to produce the tempo map.
     
    William Brookfield, Mar 30, 2015
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  7. William Brookfield

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    I don't like to use the metronome while playing or recording, either-- not because of the ticking (which certainly is annoying), but because I don't play well enough to keep up with the dang thing! Aside from that, it's more difficult to play expressively by varying the tempo if you're keeping everything synchronized to an unvarying mechanical beat.

    After reading your summary about how you record, my first thought is that you could possibly remove InTime from the process and record directly in the DAW-- using either the default time signature and tempo settings, or better yet a tentative tempo that you've set by tapping (if the DAW supports that)-- but with the "blessed" metronome click turned off. Then you should be able to change the tempo and time signature as needed, select the MIDI events for the entire track, realign the notes to the desired beats, and finally quantize everything if desired. But it might depend on whatever DAW you're using. I'd be surprised if any of the commercial DAWs won't let you do all that, but there's also the issue of how all its functions are arranged (read: "hidden away") in the menus and toolbars, or the various steps (read: "hoops and hurdles") you must navigate to accomplish some desired task, so the DAW you're using could make a difference.

    In any case, you'll probably want to stick with whatever work flow is most comfortable for you.

    When I was reading about InTime, what really intrigued me was the idea of playing along with MIDI tracks and having the DAW automatically adjust the tempo to keep the MIDI tracks in sync with one's playing-- slow down a bit and the MIDI tracks slow down to keep pace, or speed up a bit and they speed up as well, as controlled by clock signals sent from InTime. Or it might be possible to route a keyboard's MIDI output to InTime and then feed it back to the keyboard, so one could use the keyboard's auto-accompaniments yet have the accompaniment speed up or slow down in time with one's playing. That would be awesome! :)
     
    SeaGtGruff, Mar 30, 2015
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  8. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    Awesome indeed and I have had a lot of fun using InTime synced up in order to jam with. I have found however that the optimum setting (for me) is not quite available and I had to use a simple secondary filter (Logic, Notator etc) to make it work best for me.

    I used these filters to allow me to toggle with a momentary foot pedal between "2" tracking sensitivity and "7" tracking sensitivity. The "2" I use for playing the song (with some tempo freedom) and the 7 I use to free the tempo up in order to transition/play my gear to a new tempo of my choosing. The existing Intime by itself will only allow you to toggle between say, 7 and 0. That is, pedal control cc# "tracking sensitivity on or off."
     
    William Brookfield, Mar 30, 2015
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  9. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    I should perhaps mention that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an employee or shareholder of InTime software:)
     
    William Brookfield, Mar 30, 2015
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  10. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    [​IMG]
    Just an update. I have since discovered this great little midi program. I am now using it a lot for my strict tempo work and jamming. It is an Atari ST program and I use an internal "midi yoke" to attach it to my Audio Logic program when further editing and audio work is when needed. Both the Atari St emulator program "STeem" and "Sweet Sixteen" are free. The programs timing and stability is rock solid and it pops up like lightening whenever I have musical idea. It can be operated entirely by mouse (no qwerty needed). The program functions very much like CLab Notator. Notator however is not free and can't be run within and ST emulation program on a modern computer. For me Sweet Sixteen now serves as a great musical "notepad." Another cool feature is that I don't have to save my work, it just starts up right where I left off the last time I had it open.
     
    William Brookfield, Aug 21, 2015
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  11. William Brookfield

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    As long as we're describing workflow and preferred software, I'll explain mine here.

    I do my MIDI composing pretty much entirely with an ancient 1997 copy of Cakewalk Home Studio 9.01 under a Windows emulator in Linux.

    My approach is to either lay out in the notation editor a drum track or record from a canned beat on a device synced in tempo to the file.

    Once I have the drums and rhythm and bass recorded I turn off the metronome and lay down additional tracks either as synchronized layers or one layer at a time.

    It's not rocket science and a chimp could probably be trained to master this routine.

    Also re. your first post regarding the use of speech recognition, that would be a nightmare both to program and in practice.

    If you're in a studio setting and recording a final take with vocals how are you going to have the software distinguish between a spoken command and a song lyric. Likewise it would be insane to have spoken commands barked out loud throughout a song.

    I agree no one is born knowing how to operate a qwerty keyboard or a piece of software but no one is born knowing how to play a musical instrument either. Both are learned skills.

    100 years ago an accountant required razor sharp math skills in order to perform his job. The subsequent implementation of adding machines and then computers transformed bookkeeping and accounting and even the lowly cashier from skilled to unskilled labor, necessitating the education and perfection of entirely different skillsets to accomplish the same goals.

    Ultimately you can rant and rave against the evolution of music hardware and software all that you want, but you won't stop the wheels of progress.

    If you want to see some REALLY cutting edge music technology take a look at youtube and search on "Thought Controlled Music" or "Gesture Controlled Music" and see what's being done with all sorts of new input devices.

    Likewise take a look at some of the latest instruments being invented like the Harpejji or the Seabord or the Laser Harp or the Artiphon or even the Singtrix and the venerable Chapman Stick.

    Gary ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
    happyrat1, Aug 21, 2015
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  12. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    I would just like to here thank and publicly acknowledge the people who provided the great FREE!! software mentioned in my earlier post...

    Sweet Sixteen
    for Atari ST – Rolf Nilsson of Roni Music

    Midi Yoke – Jamie O'Connell of Cakewalk Music

    STEem - Atari emulator for PC – Anthony and Russel Hayward
     
    William Brookfield, Aug 22, 2015
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  13. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    Just an update; I now have patents pending in both Canada and the US of a new musically-intuitive DAW design. The idea is to map operations to the existing skill set of musicians so that musicians don't have to "wade through a thousand pages of documentation" in order to effectively use it.




    >The truth is that modern DAW softwares are incredibly sophisticated and capable of everything you >asked for, but you will have to wade thru a thousand pages of documentation to master a DAW like >Cakewalk Sonar Pro for instance. This is not the fault of the designers. This is the fault of the >users.


     
    William Brookfield, Nov 13, 2015
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  14. William Brookfield

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Since by your own admission you are a musician and not a programmer, do you have any ideas on how you plan to implement this idea and defend it in a patent court from the patent trolls out there?

    While I'll grant you that the US Patent Office has rubber stamped dumber software patents in the past be forewarned that the majority of them don't stand up in court and end up being thrown out entirely.

    IMHO you should have saved the not inconsiderable amount you spent on filing fees and spent it instead on a few programming courses :)

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Nov 14, 2015
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  15. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    Patent-ablity in Canada requires that the invention exhibits three characteristics.

    #1. Novelty
    #2. Ingenuity/non-obviousness
    and
    #3. Utility

    In order to satisfy the utility requirement (#3) I submitted a mathematical argument based upon the assumption that a computer is a algorithmic calculator. The argument was based, not upon my programming skills, but instead upon my knowledge of what a computer program is. In this thread I have not disclosed my invention. I have only discussed the underlying philosophy that led me to it.
     
    William Brookfield, Nov 16, 2015
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  16. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    On this topic, I recently instigated an internet search for "music software for sound engineers" and found "Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools etc". I then searched for "music software for musicians" and found the exactly the same titles "Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools etc." It seem that the software industry thinks that engineers and musicians have the same skill set. I would suggest however that "sound engineers" are machine operators and technicians while "musicians" are instrument players or vocal performers. The industry does not seem to see these people as different markets with different native skill sets. It seems to me that Sound engineers, and DJ's (machine operators) are very well served (by present software designs) whereas musicians (instrumentalists) are not yet well served. To some extent this is understandable given that computer software programmers are themselves machine operators, however at some point the industry would do well to recognize the market opportunity of "music software designed specifically for musicians."
     
    William Brookfield, Dec 8, 2017
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  17. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    Well this was unexpected. I am now using the “stone age” Sweet Sixteen by Roni Music Atari version as my main performance recording system. I will occasionally use Logic or some other program for editing my midi files (previously recorded in Sweet Sixteen). For audio mastering and midi window dressing I use my Korg Kronos.

    A few years ago I was involved in a recording project that seriously burned me out. After this I was unable to record any more in spite of there being more recording work available. Luckily I was still able to earn a living with my live concert work. Recently however (thanks to Sweet Sixteen) I am now actually enjoying my recording and recording clients are starting to re-appear.

    What makes Sweet Sixteen so good? (for me as least).

    Simplicity/Elegance:

    I can learn/sublimate the recording interface quickly and concentrate on my own music not on "how do I work this software?" or "how can I find my way back to where I was?" or "what just happened?"

    Completely Mouse Operable: I,E, Qwerty free!

    A qwerty "short cut" is not a short cut if your qwerty is on the other side of the room or in the garbage. My keyboard rig includes foot pedals (roland PK5) and two keyboards (PC3 and a 61 note korg or yamaha on top) have a chronic lower back issue from old piano hauling gigs and cannot be regularly reaching for a distant qwerty. I have tried mounting the qwerty on a sliding tray under my PC3 but I drum with my feet on my PK5 and I need that very room for my bouncing knee's.

    Thanks to the Steem Atari Emulator I have now been able to map Sixteen's few remaining un-mousable (store locator points and access stored locator points) functions to the mouse wheel, thereby removing the need for any qwerty typing. I can subsequently perform on my two keyboards and midi pedals without qwerty interference. In order to name my recorded tracks I don't type (I am not a typist, I am a musician) I simply use the wireless mouse beside me to load names from my list of pre-named (but otherwise empty) tracks and then click and drag to merge my recorded track and all its parameters onto the named track thereby naming it without any typing.

    No Unsolicited Controller Resetting:

    Many DAWs send large amounts of MIDI controller reset information (on all 16 channels) with every Play/Start command and at the start of every cycle. This often puts me in to a state of conflict with the music software wherin the DAW'S "play" command resets my PC3 and I must then re-press the PC3 set up button to get my synth back to the midi state I wanted it in in the first place which works until I hit "play" again. Sweet Sixteen records my Midi data but does not send me midi data that I don't want and don't ask for.

    The Sweet Sixteen transport is big, never hidden, and it never moves:

    The keys on my keyboard never change position. As a result I can learn/sublimate my keyboard and then concentrate on the music -- not on logistics. I never have to spend time looking for the keys on my keyboards and I never have to spend time looking for Sweet Sixteen's Transport buttons.

    No Distractions, no Popups, no Internet. Good!

    I am using Steem Atari ST emulator software that turns any modern Windows computer into a superspeed Atari ST. As a result there are no extraneous messages, windows menus, pop ups, viruses, adds, spyware, spyware warning, updates etc.. this allows me to concentrate on the music. I am presently running Sixteen on Steem 3.2 on Windows XP but it seems to run just as well and on any Windows OS from Windows 98 to Windows 10.

    While Sixteen is not perfect it is better than anything I have found thus far – for the way that I work. In order to quit Steem however I do have to hit esc on the qwerty and in order to name a song I do have to poke the name in (on the qwerty)...oh well. On the bright side I don't even have to save my songs. Steem saves the point at which I hit esc and when I boot it back up (say, a week later) Sixteen re-appears right where I left off in my song as if nothing had happened!
     
    William Brookfield, Apr 1, 2018
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  18. William Brookfield

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    I'm an old Atarian myself (VCS and XE), although I never got an ST. It's really cool that you're still using old Atari ST software for recording! I'll have to check out the Steem emulator. :)
     
    SeaGtGruff, Apr 1, 2018
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  19. William Brookfield

    Biggles

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    DAW software is overly complex to learn, this is definately not the fault of the user it is the fault of the designers.

    Gary quotes Photoshop, so I will comment on this software which as a Photoshop user for over twenty years it is software that in less than five minutes a new Photoshop user can learn how to crop, straighten and adjust the colours of an image. Photoshop is incredibly easy to get to use for the vast majority of tasks a user needs, it then takes many years to master.

    Take DAW software, it is not easy to get started with, it can flaky to get it working with the keyboard and also to get sound out of it. Then to master DAW is a long and complex process.

    So no, its not a user problem its a software designer problem.

    KISS, is the key to great design and use, simple to use for the basics then as complex as you need it to be.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
    Biggles, Apr 1, 2018
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  20. William Brookfield

    William Brookfield

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    It is worth considering the direction in which you wish to develop. If you wish to develop as a performing musician then your recording software options are not as good as if you wish to develop as a sound engineer IMO.

    Ultimately if, over the course of a project, you find yourself involved in non-rythmic a-tonal data-entry then you are developing the skills of a sound engineer, a computer programmer, an accountant etc not a musician. If on the other hand your software keeps you performing a lot of musical patterns -- tonal and rhythmic data -- then you are developing as a performing musician.

    BTW as to the "incessant metronome click" (my first post) it is not incessant any more. When I press an assigned momentary pedal my quantization (auto correction) scheme changes (along with the click pattern and/or sounds {click, pop, tick, boink etc). When I release the pedal it goes back to my chosen home quantization and "home click." Instead of having a single incessant quantization and click I now have handy musically perform-able "quantization clusters."

    As an example "All-pedals-off" can be set to 8th note quantization (or whatever I want) and the soft pedal can be set to 16ths resolution (or whatever I want) and the sostenuto pedal can be set to 12ths (or whatever I want).

    Theoretically such quantization changes could be performed later on the pedals after an unquantized track has been recorded. Sweet Sixteen however is a simple program so I can only record with such quantization clusters "on the fly" with the PC3's click changing its click pattern and/or tones to match every different quantization state. This however is still so much better than the orthodox incessant click.
     
    William Brookfield, Apr 12, 2018
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