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  #1  
Old 05-24-2015, 06:00 AM
nil nil is offline
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Default The most accurate MIDI modulation set-up ?

Hey all,

I have these tunes, almost completed ones, that I'm about to finish and release.

Here's my set-up:
- 99% of the MIDI was done in Numerology 4 Pro
- the remaining % consists of automations drawn in Live9
- Live 9 hosts all sofsynths and is used as an audio recorder
- a stack in N4 = an instrument in L9
- each stack has its owns MIDI channel
- each softsynth is heavily modulated by CCs coming from N4
- N4 is slaved to L9 via Rewire, to have a consistant tempo/transport sync.

N4's Control Rate is set at 1/4, which is the most accurate setting IIRC.

It works quite nicely actually, has many benefits, but it's also a CPU hog, timing isn't as perfectly perfect as it can be with the VST or Num standalone.

My goal? I'm just trying to capture the smoothest synths modulations. It's all about timing and accuracy, really. The tighter those modulations, the most hmm organic/natural (for lack of better world) my tunes will sound.

1. Obviously, having everything (sequences, modulations AND softsynths/FXs) in a Num4 stack would be ideal: audio-rate modulation sounds incredibly good, and there wouldn't be any precision-loss as I wouldn't have to convert CVs to MIDI CC. I've run some tests and it does sound better, especially with fast CV actions.

But I use U-He Diva extensively, and it puts Num on its knees, as Num doesn't support multi-threading yet. I know you're working on it Jim, I'm not complaining at all here .

Also, I'd miss the few automations I did in Live. I found a work-around though, by sending MIDI out from Live to Num, and then using the MIDI to CV module. It works, but induces some latency (because of the IAC bus required here). A small compromise, but a compromise nevertheless.

Jim, I imagine we can not import MIDI CC automations in Num yet, right ? Often, I wish it was possible to draw automation in Num's arrangement...

2. So I'm also investigating the VST version in L9, instead of using rewire as explained at the beginning of my post: timing is absolutely perfect.

But:
- I can't use my own Groove Clock settings... which is not that much of a big deal as I think that my fav custom setting is not that much different from the VST built-in shuffle.
- I can't map the CCs to Live parameters (stupid Live limitation!). I can still record the CCs and copy/past them afterward on the right automation lane. Which mean I would compose/arrange with the rewire setting, then switch to Num VST to export the audio tracks. A bit time consuming but I could live with that

Which would be a good work-around... if the automations were not that STEPPED! :S

Or maybe it's possible with max4live to directly route the CCs output from Num VST to any Live parameter and avoid that stepping? If so, tell me and I'll buy m4l in a heartbeat. Really.

3. I then tried recording/saving to disk the MIDI sequences within Num, to import them in Live... and they appear to be stepped as well I guess it's due to MIDI limits themselves?

So, I was wondering: when does the stepping happen? Straight out of Num or when writing the MIDI file? I'm not sure I've heard this stepping when playing my tunes (at least, part of them depending on what my CPU can handle) in real-time, with Num sync'ed via Rewire.

How would YOU guys do? Obviously, it's a game of compromise.

Any thought/help would be welcome.

THANKS!

PS: sorry for the lengthy post. Those kinds of techy post are hard to write in a concise and precise way, so let me know if I need to rephrase anything.
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Old 05-24-2015, 08:00 AM
nil nil is offline
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After further tests, Num4 standalone is definitely head and shoulders above the other options/combos: it's stunning how precise articulate the sound modulations get.

Now I have to find a way to make it all work... :S

edit: having external automations involved makes it all much more complicated And recreating them with ModulationSeq modules would take ages... Damn!

Last edited by nil; 05-24-2015 at 09:49 AM.
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:33 AM
TheTechnobear TheTechnobear is offline
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Id do what I do with another single threaded host... use Vienna Ensemble Pro

basically you run N4 standalone, and put a VEP AU into each of N4 stacks and it will then forward on CC/notes (and also automation) onto its multi threaded server. its really efficient.

but its (arguably) expensive, if your not going to use its ability to spread over multiple machines.

if i didn't use that, Id probably look at using Bidule? I think it can do something similar by running as a VST that hosts other VSTs... Ive not tried it, but many love it.

saying that, I quite like using Live... so often the way i play with N4

(the sore point for me is N4 + Push, works better standalone than in Live)
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Old 05-24-2015, 10:50 AM
nil nil is offline
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But wouldn't stepping happen as soon as CVs are converted to MIDI CCs and exported to a MIDI file / recorded in an other host?

Or maybe my hear are fooling me?

Maybe there is a way / setting to output CCs out of Num in the most accurate way that I'm not aware of?

I don't know, maybe running my Numerology MIDI session at an insanely high sample rate would do the trick (to reduce the stepping) if MIDI accuracy is tied to sample rate? I'm just thinking out loud eh

Or maybe there's an hidden, secret offline hi-res MIDI export option in Num?

Or maybe I should export modulations to audio files (with CV to Audio modules), as if I was using Silent Way, and then use the Audio to Midi option in Live to convert them back to MIDI?

Haha, bloody computers and archaic MIDI protocol !

Jim?
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:24 AM
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m5tevens m5tevens is offline
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The project I'm working on now is being composed in the N4 stand-alone, and I'm going to export midi files into Live for additional sound design / production / mixing. I did a test to make sure the midi export would function as expected and make it into Live correctly, hopefully I won't get any unpleasant surprises. I'd like to do everything in the N4 application, but I do some stuff that requires full automation, and I do a fair amount of compositional midi edits on the sequenced tracks after the fact.

If Ableton offered any way to get accurate timing and multi-channel midi from plugins at the same time, I could do everything in Live, but they don't and I can't. I'd go back to Logic if it offered similar, but I've been unable to get any confirmation on whether or not it'll provide accurate multi-channel midi from Au plugins and there's no demo to try.

We'll see how the import phase goes, but I've really liked working this way so far (I mostly use hardware synths, and don't use N4 to control synth parameters, not sure it would work as well otherwise.)
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:50 AM
TheTechnobear TheTechnobear is offline
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Automation isn't 7 bit.
For cc you have 14 bit IF your synth supports it.
Apart from that , some synths have smoothing - as are they aware of the limitations of 7 bit midi and stepping

Last edited by TheTechnobear; 05-24-2015 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 05-24-2015, 11:59 AM
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m5tevens m5tevens is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheTechnobear View Post
Id do what I do with another single threaded host... use Vienna Ensemble Pro
I was unaware of this, looks really interesting, thanks ...
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Old 05-24-2015, 02:46 PM
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m5tevens m5tevens is offline
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You could always use N4 and track each of your synths to audio and bring the files into Live.

No idea what sort of modulations you're sending to your synths, but maybe a better option would be to look into something more modular in nature that would let you just do the modulation internally within the synth.
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Old 05-24-2015, 04:18 PM
nil nil is offline
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It's really all about tradeoffs... I've kept on doing tests, and I'm likely to believe that stepping happens when recording to midi format.

So, except if Jim comes with a workflow suggestion, I might stick with my rewire template.

Basically, I use tons of CV to modulate all kind of parameters in Diva, ValhallaVintageVerb etc.. through Live macros.

For example, a single "Lfo" (well, actually a CV sequence generated by a CV Sequencer, mixed with other CV signals dynamically interacting with each other) might control the Frequency of one of Diva filters, the Decay of ValhallaVintageVerb and the pan of the whole synth chain, as well as the according Polynote's Vel. Adj... while the same Lfo, rectified (either via a SignalProc module or the CC Gen itself) is modulating the Frequency Modulation Depth of Diva's LPF.

Sometimes it's much simpler, sometimes it's hella complex (super tricky to reverse engineer!)...

Why the hassle? Because of the lushness the sounds get thanks to all those interconnected modulations

I've always used Numerology to this purpose (since v1)
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Old 05-24-2015, 05:36 PM
jim jim is offline
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I'll start w/ the MIDI bits: Diagnosing stair-stepping from MIDI parameter changes is sometimes a bit tricky, it can be caused by several things:

- The MIDI event itself doesn't have enough resolution -- CCs only range from 0 to 127 (i.e. 7 bit ints), so that isn't all that much and indeed that limitation is the most common issue -- *but not always*!

- The MIDI events aren't coming fast enough. This is typically only an issue w/ MIDI over traditional MIDI Cables, but MIDI processing doesn't come for free, and it is possible that some hosts may throttle MIDI CCs in some cases.

- The type of target parameter and how that parameter is implemented makes a big deal. With care, even lowly 7-bit CCs can work fine. By 'care', I mean that the plugin is smoothing out changes, and that the parameter is such that 127 steps is 'reasonably sufficient'. This is in fact usually the case -- MIDI is 'just good enough'.

For instance, event though 7 bits are definitely not sufficient for pitch -- even 14 bits isn't that great over more than an octave or so -- for say, lfo rates, envelope controls, even mix levels, it should be and usually is just fine. Filter cutoff is something where it really depends on the implementation, and even the sound itself. If you run a sawtooth wave into a 4 pole filter (i.e. 24 dB per octave), and slowly sweep it by hand (no MIDI at all), you can indeed hear a type of stepping as harmonics come and go.

Back to your situation: It may be the case that Live is doing some data-rate reduction when writing MIDI files, or when reading them back in and sending it to the plugin. If you don't hear any stepping when listening to a direct connection, but do when playing back MIDI, that is very possibly the case.

If that is the case, then one way to prove it would be to use the ever-handy MIDI Monitor from snoize.com: Have it collect all the MIDI over say a 2 bar period when sent from N4, then again when played back from a MIDI file in Live. Count the number of events or somehow compare the two -- if there is a difference it should be obvious.

Jim
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