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MMD > Archives > April 1996 > 1996.04.08 > 05Prev  Next


Music Roll Editing Software
By Robbie Rhodes

In Digest 960407 Mark Fontana described his "dream" editing program, with all the features needed to create and edit music roll performances.  Bravo!  I need it!

But, almost in the same breath, Mark said he hopes to complete the programming in around 8 months at school.  Unbelievable -- and unrealistic!

Mark, I would guess that an experienced publisher of software, such as Opcode or Vision, would budget 3 to 5 man-years for the project. I surely hope that a kindly, wise, and industry-experienced professor will discuss with you a sub-set of your features which are achievable.  He should also share some Product Development wisdom, namely, "Don't waste time duplicating the competition's features. Put your effort into basic capabilities which no one else has."

Mature products on the market already have many of the features of your dream editor, including

  music-roll image display
  various data entry (recording) modes
  music play (via Midi)
  independent editing of event parameters (note, velocity, duration)
  adjustment of time base ("microseconds per quarter note")
  adjustment of Tempo ("Conductor Track/Tempo Map")

Editor/sequencer programs offered to the mass market have features which the publisher perceives as generating the biggest sales. That's reasonable.  But for us, the missing features are the special tools we need in editing music for automatic musical instruments.

Let's list the special tasks of editing we perform, and then see what features are needed.  (Creating the original performance file is a separate operation, whether it's live or step-entered.)

   a. Brushed notes must be removed, and obvious wrong notes corrected.
      This task is required for any live recording.

   b. The pedaling and associated notes must be edited for clarity and
      consistency.

Wayne Stahnke notes that nine decades of audio recording has created a "studio standard performance" for classical piano: it's as "note perfect" as the artist and technicians can make it.  Stahnke's "Live Performance" Midi publications continue this well-established editing philosophy.

The tasks above encompass all the editing tasks for piano performances ... as long as you're talking about a Midi synth or a solenoid piano.  Creating 1920s-stylized music rolls for band organs, orchestrions, and split-stack reproducing pianos requires many specialized operations that the "synth-composers" never imagined.

Most significantly: music rolls are quite coarsely _quantized_ in time, because of perforator limitations.  Although the media for SE and Disklavier pianos (Midi disks) have time resolution of 1/800- second, the perforated music roll resolves typically to less than 1/60-second.  Also, the finite hole sizes (of the paper hole and the hole in the tracker bar) limit the brevity of a note.  Therefore these additional editing tasks are usually performed:

   c.  The durations of all the notes in a chord are usually made
        equal, if only for a better visual appearance.

   d.  With the exception of arrhythmic grace notes, all music is
       quantized to perfect eighth-notes or triplets, or whatever --
       nothing is left to chance!

   e.  The "metronome" beat of hand-played recordings must be
   adjusted to metronomic precision, just as all the piano roll
   companies did in the 20s.

   f.  Auxiliary control "notes" must be created for instruments
      like the mechanical violin (bowing commands) and mechanical banjo
      (plucking commands).

   g.  Percussion instruments have large time-delays that must be
       compensated, and sometimes the logic is inverted.  (The drum is
       struck when the "note" goes "off".)

   h.  Some tracker bars -- notably DuoArt -- have control holes offset
       from the notefield holes.  Spatial compensation is needed.

Let's hear from the music roll arrangers and editors now.  How do _you_ perform these tasks?  Then we'll continue the discussion of desirable new features.

-- Robbie Rhodes


(Message sent Tue 9 Apr 1996, 02:28:06 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Editing, Music, Roll, Software

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