Progressive Rock Artist seeks Audience

Month: January 2004

It’s all about communication

I suspect I am the only person in the world trying to use MIDIQuest with the Digitech GSP21. It turns out that the GSP apparently ignores requests for a sysex dump unless it is sitting on the utility menu option “Dump MIDI Data? Press V for Yes”. As soon as you get it to that point, you can tell MIDIQuest to extract the patch information from the device and display it in the edit buffer on the computer screen. What is also not obvious is that the only mode that appears to work is “ALL” information, but it *looks* like a single patch. If you right-click on the patch name, you get a drop-down list of all of the patches and you can jump to any particular one.

So, good news: GSP21 patches are backed up, and I got the POD backed up as well. And, I’ve discovered that the correct settings to get a decent guitar sound for that piece I’ve been working on: It’s the middle single-coil pickup on the Ibanez, through the “Paradigm Lead” patch on the GSP. And it sounds better still if I use the POD on the GSP’s effect loop for gain/distortion and use the GSP for tap delays only.

Stuck Soundtrack

Sometimes, when the urge to create gets too strong, I will work on a piece of music in my spare time.

I want to say “work in my studio” but the truth is that my “studio” is really just one wall of my office, totally occupied by 19 inches of rack equipment, two synthesizer keyboards, a mixer, and my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with two 15″ LCD monitors. In other words, when I’m in my office trying to work on some technical or business related thing that, theoretically, earns us some money, my “studio” is two feet away covered by an old sheet that reduces the rate of dust accumulation, but that does nothing to muffle the tiny electronic cries of neglect.

I have learned that their cries are impotent ones, because by themselves, the items of studio equipment do nothing to kick-start the flow of creative juices necessary for making progress on numerous musical projects.

About a week ago I pushed myself into re-working an older piece of mine that I was in danger of losing the “source code” for. I’ve had some success – the MIDI instruments have had their patches restored and the sounds safely rendered to hard disk in the form of 24-bit digital audio.

On the not-so-good side of things, I have been unable to remember how to play the bass line on my Chapman Stick, which, through lack of use, is kind of in a state of disrepair. Also, all the guitar sounds I’ve tried so far, sound horrible. It’s that old problem, the my-god-the-demo-sounds-almost-perfect-and-you’ll-never-get-it-sounding-that-good-again situation.

The other drawback is that I’ve played through the peice so many times that it is forming the continuous looping soundtrack to my brain. It’s particularly noticeable right now. Every time I pause in writing a sentance, thinking about what to write next, or try to put my brain in neutral to catch a mental breath, it’s there like demonic muzak.

Even in my imagination the guitar sounds like crap.

Editors note, August 2020: I have no idea what song I was referring to, here. I’m guessing, Painting Abstracts. I could be way off base.

Weekend Blues with MIDIQuest 9

Yesterday I bit the bullet and installed MIDIQuest 9.0 on the DAW. I’ve been a regular follower of Sound Quest’s universal editor/librarian since about version 6.0 but I never really managed to leverage it. I don’t think I even installed 8.0.

Well – given my recent paranoia about my older synths breaking down or resetting and losing their memory, you’d think I would have done this earlier, but I’ve always found the process of configuring the software to recognise the different instruments, and figuring out how to save the patch banks to disk to be daunting.

9.0 has been given a UI overhaul which seems to have improved things a lot. It’s still daunting, though. It seems to me that there is a market for a kind of “getting started” user guide that would be helpful for people in my position.

Due credit to SoundQuest, the manual is actually pretty good, and if I read it twice from cover to cover I’d probably be a lot better off. I’m sure the information I need is in there, and if it isn’t, it’s only because the number of different instruments they support is so big that there are going to be some gaps no matter what.

Anyway, yesterday things were going really well. MidiQuest 9.0 actually has support for every peice of equipment I own, including the GSP-21, J-Station, and Line6 POD 2.0.

I backed up the patch and combination memory banks of the Korg M1, Alesis D4, and Korg TR-Rack, but when I got to the TR-Rack “multi” configuration, I got a blue screen of death. This would be my first one since switching to Windows XP a year ago.

This is kind of sad, things were going so well. And I must bear in mind that “things aren’t backed up until you’ve proved you can restore”.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Walter.

Relishing the vintage

Something has been bothering me for the last couple of days, and last night I finally decided to do something about it. Basically, the problem is this. My “trusty” Korg M1 keyboard hasn’t really earned the nickname, because I hardly ever use it and it never goes anywhere. I acquired it in August 1989 – which means that it is 14 years old! This wouldn’t normally bother me, after all, old keyboards eventually die and are replaced by more capable machines. But the M1 was the last synth my brother and I really tweaked and programmed new patches into, and some of them are completely vital to some of the music we wrote. A couple of these pieces of music have been “on the shelf” for several years, waiting for me to go back to them and polish them up.

Again, this wouldn’t normally be a problem. These days, when working on music projects on the computer, I tend to “print” an audio track of each instrument/voice, so that I don’t have to be concerned with coming back after a period of time and putting a lot of effort into reconstructing the particular patch used.

Well – some of the music that relies on the customised M1 patches doesn’t exist in multi-track audio format. In fact, when I went back through my backups, I realised that not only did I not have digital backups of the multi-track (I was recording to 1/4″ tape at the time, cut me some slack here), but I was going to have to restore the MIDI sequence data from some of the first CD-R discs I ever burned! Yes, these are gold CD-R discs made back in the dim dark ages when every second CD you made was a coaster. Although I verified I could read them at the time, I hadn’t actually tried to read data from these disks for 10 years.

So I was little nervous… anyway, it turned out there was no trouble reading them even after all this time, and I have started building a new multi-track project in Sonar – with separate audio tracks for the M1 patches, for future use.

The Korg M1 worked as well as ever. No sign of aging other than the cheezy piano sample.

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