AWE-32 Sound Fonts for O-Rolls
By George Bogatko
> From: CandyTrax@aol.com (S. K. Goodman)
> In a message dated 96-09-18 01:59:14 EDT, you write:
> Jody: Is this usable on a PC? Sounds promising!
> S. K. Goodman
> [ The SoundBlaster AWE-32 is the sound board that George Bogatko
> [ is using. I've found two sources of software development
> [ kits for the board. One is a "formal" product and the other
> [ appears to be "shareware".
I've decided that it's OK to make the SBK file of O-ROLL sounds public. It's made up of:
* samples from the O-Roll machine that sits in Craig Brougher's
living room, (Thanks to Craig for permission to publish these
* a public domain piano sound that is very close to an upright,
and is velocity sensitive,
* a public domain harpsichord sound (for the "mandolin bar")
* a few ROM samples to flesh out the extra set of pipes that
There are 9 "instruments" in the bank (I'm doing this from memory, so .... ):
2. Piano with mandolin bar
3. Piano with acc. pipes on
4. Piano/mandolin with acc. pipes on
The piano sounds only those notes that really sound on
a real O-roll machine. The lowest octave is doubled.
5. Solo Pipes
7. Solo Pipes with Xylophone
The pipes are located at their real hole positions and
transpose correctly. The Xylophone reiterates.
All normal O-roll percussion, plus a ride cymbal and
a log drum. All percussion holes at their proper
The two snare holes operate as advertised.
9. Extra Solo Pipes (a bright reedy sound)
Instruments 2-4 and 7 are combined to conserve "voices" on the AWE32, which is limited effectively to 30 voices (not 32, as advertised) before notes start to drop out. "Painting the Town" suffers from note drop out because of all the doubling that had to go on.
All the "samples" were taken with a SONY professional cassette recorder using Dolby "C" noise reduction. I suppose I could have used a DAT, but the expense didn't seem justified. The samples were then pulled into WAV files using WaveEdit, which also comes with the AWE32. It allows editing of the files that is sophisticated enough for these purposes.
The soundfont was created using VIENNA, which comes with the AWE32. It is moderately confusing at first to use, but you can get used to it. The "looping" view is a little tricky, and the documentation doesn't help. However, it doesn't crash, and except for the loading time (it takes time to shove the SBK down to the card) it is very responsive.
I use Cakewalk Pro 3.0 to drive the AWE32. It's a PC program. Not dirt cheap, but affordable. It allows embedding of patch ("instrument") changes in a single channel. Thus to "lower the mandolin bar" I make a patch change from "Piano" to "Piano with mandolin bar". Hooking Cakewalk to the AWE32 is very easy, and the documentation actually works. Pointing the composition to the correct "user bank" where the SBK was loaded is a snap. By loading the correct "instrument definition", one is able to open the "percussion" view and see the holes correctly labeled. This makes positioning the control holes and finding the percussion holes very easy.
On "Frosty", I spread out the percussion into about 8 seperate channels so I could have individual control over the loudness of the instruments as they are playing. The SBK percussion section is still not perfectly balanced, but suits my purposes. Also, this allows me to add "expression" to the percussion as it's playing by moving the sliders in real time.
It is possible (I've done it with no trouble) to compose an O-roll arrangement such as Frosty, and then "merge" all the tracks and channels into one channel and have all the notes line up properly. I haven't had this alignment checked by a third party however, so there still could be mistakes. They are easily corrected. The only problem will be if a spurious (misaligned) note in one channel gets overlayed with another during a merge. Simultanous "on" events confuse most MIDI->perf programs.
The SBK file is large (3.2 meg) because it uses long fat samples. I suppose I could have made it more efficient, but there was no point in doing so. Besides it sounds more real that way. The point is that you'll need to add SIMM RAM to the AWE32 before you can load it.
Unless you are going to be writing your own piano roll editor, I'd go with Cakewalk Pro 3.0. The later versions incorporate "Pro Audio" features that allow hard-disk recording, and suck up vast amounts of disk space and CPU. Pro 3.0 just does MIDI editing, and does it very nicely. There is another program out for PC's, "FreeStyle" that allows a single "piano roll view" that can show all channels in one view by using color. It requires a CRAY to run, however. On a PC, it is beyond frustrating. I don't know about MasterTrax. The only reason I'd switch is if it had a combined piano roll view and was as fast as Cakewalk.
The one main advantage to Cakewalk is that it's very fast on a 486. When Arranging in the 'piano roll view' I am never waiting for the PC to respond. FreeStyle, as mentioned above, is molasses in January.
I can see, however, how an "o-roll player" could be created that responded to the o-roll control holes to affect MIDI velocity, patch changes, etc. I program for a living however, and am sick of it, so better minds can tackle that one. I have more fun writing new ones.
Jody has a ZIP file of the current "version" of this SBK file, plus a copy of Frosty.mid, and a Calkwalk "instrument definition". If he's willing, I'll be willing to let it be available on Foxtail's FTP site.
Enough for now, Ask more if needed.
[ Editor's Note:
[ I'd be happy to put it on the FTP site. It will be
[ It will be a day or two before it appears, though.
(Message sent Thu 19 Sep 1996, 13:42:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)