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MMD > Archives > January 2000 > 2000.01.27 > 26Prev  Next

Tempola Music Rolls Step Recording Piano
By Andy Taylor

Many of you have inquired how I arranged the MIDI file "Shake Rattle &
Roll."  Many of you asked if it was hand played... Well, yes and no. :-)

My arranging piano has a QRS MIDI strip, but the unit does not record
in real time though.  The sequence is "stepped through" via a foot
pedal (the MIDI CLOCK signal) to Cakewalk Pro Audio to insure the music
is on the measures.  It's very much like the old QRS "stop" piano which
J. Lawrence Cook used.

I find that the "stepping" method of creating new arrangements is far
superior to any other method I have tried (at least for me).  If a
piece is played in real time, sometimes the best MIDI input strip will
"bounce" and fail to send a note off command; also the pianist drifts
away from the timing, resulting in a file that needs major editing.
Very few people can play that accurately, although Bob Berkman once
showed me a hand-played file that was pretty darn close.

"Stepping" allows even the most crudest of MIDI input strips to work,
because speed and accuracy is no longer an issue.  Everything is in
"super slow motion", allowing the sequencer to be stopped, reversed,
or started again to re-record and pick up a missed note.  The operator
has plenty of time to think about the next chord, before committing
the next bar of music, resulting in extremely accurate and thoughtful
arrangements.  As far as I know, Tempola Music Rolls is the only
remaining roll vendor that still uses this method of recording,
combining the best of both worlds: full keyboard interaction with
digital accuracy.

My arrangements start out as a blank MIDI template using 240 ticks
per quarter note resolution.  First, I will hand-play in real time the
selection and save it to a file.  This file is not used for production;
it is only used as a reference, in case I forget the sequence or style
I want to use.

Next, a new file is opened, and using the "step piano" I then play and
hold the desired notes, inching through the MIDI grid, at 24 steps per
beat.  [The foot pedal generates ten clock pulses for each depression.]
I play the bass only, up to C4 [tenor 'C'] for the first verse, laying
the beat, or "foundation" of the song.  This also allows me to consider
the places that I wish to break up the beat, or change style for a few
bars, so the arrangement won't become boring.

Now, the bass is laid in.  I then go back, and lay in a one-finger
melody, in real time.  Since the bass is in time, the "real time"
melody notes can be easily quantized.

The next step would be to go back to the beginning, using the step
feature again, and lay in the complement notes for the melody via the
keyboard.  This is where the rips and glisses are added, as well as the
sixths, tenths and counter melody (if present) and other chords.
Everything is in time, and I have exact control over the note
duration(s) and I am free to take all the time I want .

Recording arrangements in triplet timing (such as eighth or sixteenth
triplet) really gives the selection a nice gentle "pushing feel" to the
arrangement.  J. Lawrence Cook almost always used triplet timing when
the selection permitted it.  He also used the same method of recording;
except that his machine was mechanical, it did exactly the same thing
that my computer version does.

QRS found that using the old arranging piano was very time consuming,
and retired it.  However, I like this method of recording, and since it
is interfaced with the power of a Pentium PC, it's as quick as any
other method.

Next, the file is imported into Richard Brandle's "Wind" roll editor
software and touched up.  This is where the loud pedal is added.  This
is the last step.  The reason that the sustain is added last, is to be
sure that the finished roll will sustain accurately, even if a player
piano doesn't have one.  Actually, the sustain is only added for

The file is then converted to the Tonnesen *.PRF format, ready for

Andy Taylor
Tempola Music Rolls.

(Message sent Thu 27 Jan 2000, 15:12:58 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Music, Piano, Recording, Rolls, Step, Tempola

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