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    Sequencers revisited

    I searched the archives for articles about sequencers and the last postings are from 10 years ago. At that time SD Midi Controller and Organ Assist looked promising.

    Not mentioned in that series of posts is Syndye's Pro-Filer. This seems to offer some good basic capability, but the only price I found on line is $957 which seems like a lot of money for what it does.

    If any of you can share your experiences with currently available sequencers I would really appreciate it.
    Bill

    My home organ: Content M5800

    #2
    https://reverb.com/item/10525385-rod...rgan-sequencer

    Comment


      #3
      The least expensive way to do it by far is with a lap top computer and software. Even an old clunker of a laptop has plenty of power to do a simple task like sequencing with ease. I have a program called "Sonar" which is the modern day descendant of "Cakewalk," one of the earliest and most esteemed MIDI sequencer programs.

      With a cheap laptop and a USB-to-MIDI adapter, you simply connect to the organ's MIDI in/out jacks, open your sequencer program (and there are many free or very cheap ones besides Cakewalk or Sonar), and tell it to start a new "song" or however it identifies a piece. There is some setup required the first time you use the program, such as making sure the program receives and transmits data using the MIDI adapter you've attached. But otherwise, you just click "record" and then play the organ as you normally would. When finished, click "stop" and then "save" the file under the name you want, and you will have a perfect capture of your performance, which you can play back just by selecting the file from a list, then clicking on "play."

      Even a smallish hard drive on a laptop will store hundreds if not thousands of MIDI sequences, since the files are quite small. And as long as the organ transmits standard MIDI data that includes of course note on and note off, plus stops, pistons, expression movements, etc., you will find it as easy to do this as it used to be to plop down a cassette recorder and record something. So easy that I've trained little old ladies to do it.

      A big advantage to doing it on a laptop is that you can easily edit the files if necessary. Most any sequencer program will display the data as notes on a staff if you choose, then you can delete or correct notes as needed, if you make mistakes. If you want to delve into the workings of it, you can even change things like stops and volume levels by editing on screen.

      I must admit though, as you may know, I use a hardware sequencer myself. At home and at church I have identical Allen "Smart Recorder" units. These are obsolete nowadays because they use floppy disks as storage. But I don't mind because I only need to record the processional hymn each week using the Allen at home, and take the disc to church to pop into the Smart Recorder on the Allen there. It works like a charm, even though it's very low tech. I only paid $250 for my SmartRecorder, ordering it on ebay. The seller turned out to be Allen Organ Company itself! I assume this device would work with any brand of organ, as it does nothing more than receive and record the incoming MIDI stream, then send it back out in the same form.
      John
      ----------
      Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
      Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
      Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
      Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
        The least expensive way to do it by far is with a lap top computer and software. Even an old clunker of a laptop has plenty of power to do a simple task like sequencing with ease. I have a program called "Sonar" which is the modern day descendant of "Cakewalk," one of the earliest and most esteemed MIDI sequencer programs.
        So glad you've brought Cakewalk Sonar up, jbird604. I absolutely LOVE using it. As you say, the files you create take up incredibly little space and the great advantage is the editing capabilities. If I want to use a harder organ piece it doesn't take hours of practice anymore -- I just input it very slowly with metronome, fix any wrong notes and reset to a normal tempo. It's been a great adventure learning how to exploit it to the max even with my extremely ltd technical savvy, e.g.:

        *giving music expression in slow motion
        *transposing/copying/cutting/pasting sections -- works exactly like any Windows-based word processor!
        *setting ranges of note "velocity" -- the volume, in effect, when using touch-sensitive sounds
        *changing basic settings for playing tracks on other instruments etc. Ironically, it's my old Yamaha Music Station toy that doesn't require any.

        Through this wonderful program I'm rerunning all my Sunday music for friends at Sunday dinners on a lowly Casio WK-1500 (alternately an ancient Clavinova), and it is a total GAS -- lots of them are music-major types and one's an organist.

        I started with Sonar version 7 and would be happy to coach anybody in its use. Got it cheap over Ebay. Some consider it better e.g. more user-friendly than later editions -- so I've heard. The main point, to me, is that you can take all the music you've ever wanted to work up (e.g. messed with but never finalized) and do so in a fraction of the time. If you have "midi" sounds at your disposal, the sky's the limit as to instrumentation -- I've used tons of piano/clavier repertoire in services including all the Goldberg Variations, plus some violin works.

        Sonar has built-in synths though I haven't yet succeeded in activating any. Would appreciate any help you folks can give there.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Victor Jules View Post
          So glad you've brought Cakewalk Sonar up, jbird604. I absolutely LOVE using it. As you say, the files you create take up incredibly little space and the great advantage is the editing capabilities. If I want to use a harder organ piece it doesn't take hours of practice anymore -- I just input it very slowly with metronome, fix any wrong notes and reset to a normal tempo. It's been a great adventure learning how to exploit it to the max even with my extremely ltd technical savvy, e.g.:
          You lost me at "input slowly with metronome, fix wrong notes ... " OMG. I'm sorry if this sounds elitist and/or controversial, but IMO that goes beyond the pale. I keep my job because I am amazing in real time. They love the "rompin' and stompin' on the pedals" that I have spent years working to improve. They must be able to see it as well as hear it. I can also sing (well) and play horn (badly), and I will use accompanists of much less attainment than myself on piano or organ before I record myself with a sequencer. It just starts the slide to replacement with pre-recorded accompaniment for all the worship music. It may happen anyway one day, but no one can say I gave them the idea.

          Comment


            #6
            As with any technology, sequencing software has its place but doesn't replace a real human being!

            Victor is talking about creating tracks for his friends and his own enjoyment, so one can't fault a person for doing that. It's like creating art all on your own, even when the music might otherwise be above your pay grade.

            Amateur players like me need all the help we can get. I must admit that I have used Cakewalk to create accompaniment tracks, and while it might not be as kosher as playing the music live, it does make it possible for me to take my choir places we'd otherwise not be able to go due to my personal shortcomings.

            For example, take a nice anthem they are capable of singing, but which would be beyond my playing abilities if I were playing and conducting at the same time. I can play it quite well if I do it in short sections and stitch them together. And knowing that I can go back and correct my wrong notes gives me even more confidence. And I can, if I wish, play it slowly, then adjust the tempo after I've done all my stitching and correcting. And there we have an accompaniment fully suitable for the choir without risking the disaster that might occur if I were to attempt playing while conducting, and at full speed.

            I only do this when it's necessary, and obviously there is quite a bit of prep time involved. As my skills have improved over the years I've done less of this, but it can really be a useful tool.

            Your point about inching toward real musicians being replaced by recordings is well taken. Those of you with really awesome playing skills honed by a lifetime of study and practice are not in danger of losing out to mechanical music though. No recording or sequence is going to bring that passion and drama and theatrics and sheer joy to a crowd the way a real performer can.

            However, as a choir director I see my task as much larger than just playing organ and/or piano. I wouldn't want to be known as a poor player, so I do my best and have become quite competent at the organ. But there are many things that we do as church musicians that can never be done by a recording -- adapting every work to the skills and resources of our choirs, helping choir members improve their vocal and music-reading skills, being an encourager, being an example of enthusiasm and devotion. TBH, if a church doesn't recognize the value of having a real live musician, they probably don't deserve you anyway!
            John
            ----------
            Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
            Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
            Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
            Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Victor Jules View Post
              If I want to use a harder organ piece it doesn't take hours of practice anymore -- I just input it very slowly with metronome, fix any wrong notes and reset to a normal tempo. It's been a great adventure learning how to exploit it to the max even with my extremely ltd technical savvy,....
              CHEATER!!!

              Seriously, I have been using Cakewalk since the early 1990s with a Zenith laptop, 10Mb drive(!), and a docking station with MIDI card. I think it's Cakewalk v.2 or v.4 (DOS-based). I now use a Mac version called Metro. When Cakewalk decided to go PC only, Jeremy Sagan took back the rights for the Macintosh version and sells it at sagantech.biz. Works just the same, and I love it!

              Word to the wise--just don't rely too much on a sequencer rather than honest-to-goodness hard work and practice. A sequencer can make one lazy, if they let it.

              Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
              You lost me at "input slowly with metronome, fix wrong notes ... " OMG. I'm sorry if this sounds elitist and/or controversial, but IMO that goes beyond the pale. I keep my job because I am amazing in real time.
              It's good you're sorry about sounding elitist. There's hope yet.

              I find several legitimate uses for editing performances via Cakewalk. Victor & John mentioned several already, but in my case, there is no one who is capable of performing at the level I need to provide the church. Therefore, I record the piano half of the piano/organ duet, and edit as necessary. The computer plays that part via the piano while I play the organ. Without sequencing technology available, my church members would never be exposed to other types of music enabled by the sequencer. As also mentioned, I pre-record my accompaniments when I play Saxophone or other instrumental solos. I also don't have to worry about the quality of the accompanist that way--I have only myself to blame. Believe it or not, people are just as fascinated to see the piano playing itself as they are with someone playing a difficult piece live.

              Bottom line, sequencing software allows smaller churches, or churches in musically destitute areas to experience something they otherwise might never hear.

              Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
              As with any technology, sequencing software has its place but doesn't replace a real human being!
              AMEN!!!

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

              Comment


                #8
                Cakewalk sonar is now free. That makes it the best one available

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by DavidBaldwin View Post
                  Cakewalk sonar is now free. That makes it the best one available
                  Seriously? Where?

                  Michael
                  Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                  • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                  • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                  • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Cakewalk by BandLab

                    Originally posted by DavidBaldwin View Post
                    Cakewalk sonar is now free. That makes it the best one available
                    Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                    Seriously? Where?

                    Michael
                    Well cakewalk's site says it's free to all BandLab users. (But who or what is a BandLab user?)

                    Further investigation yields a slightly better description from https://blog.bandlab.com/cakewalk-by...press-release/. So I guess the only hitch is that we need to sign up for a free BandLab account and download/install BandLab to be able to install SONAR as Cakewalk by BandLab.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Cinnamon,

                      Thank you for the link. I knew there must've been a catch, but for the right person, it won't matter.

                      Thanks again for sharing the link.

                      Michael
                      Originally posted by cinnamon View Post
                      Well cakewalk's site says it's free to all BandLab users. (But who or what is a BandLab user?)

                      Further investigation yields a slightly better description from https://blog.bandlab.com/cakewalk-by...press-release/. So I guess the only hitch is that we need to sign up for a free BandLab account and download/install BandLab to be able to install SONAR as Cakewalk by BandLab.
                      Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                      • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                      • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                      • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

                      Comment


                        #12
                        There is one use that no has mentioned yet for a sequencer. In my last (as in "most recent" and "final") church job, the organ had a built in sequencer. I used it to record pieces so I could go into the nave and hear what the organ sounded like there. Also, I find that it enables me to critique my performance better than if I do it while I am playing. Things will become evident that you may not have noticed while you were playing.
                        Bill

                        My home organ: Content M5800

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by voet View Post
                          I used it to record pieces so I could go into the nave and hear what the organ sounded like there. Also, I find that it enables me to critique my performance better than if I do it while I am playing. Things will become evident that you may not have noticed while you were playing.
                          Voet,

                          Thank you for sharing this. It reminds me of when I used to record my performances on a cassette player. For an OCD person like me, it can complete shut you down: Performances get worse because of fear of mistakes, nothing is ever good enough, and it can lead to a general sense of failure. I had to stop recording performances because I was nit-picking, and was never satisfied enough with anything to play. Fortunately, I had a good friend who helped me realize the general audience did not know the piece as well as I, so the minutia I was fretting over would never be noticed.

                          On the other hand, I have often wondered how the organ sounded (when placing an organ) to the congregation or audience, and have never been able to find someone who could play it well enough for me to evaluate. The sequencer could definitely come in handy there. Thanks for sharing the idea.

                          Michael
                          Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                          • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                          • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                          • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Using a sequencer has actually helped with my OCD. While recording I may feel like I'm making numerous mistakes, but when I hear it play back I realize how very minor nearly all of them are, and that nobody else is even going to notice. That seems to relieve my mind a bit

                            Nearly all Allen organs built since about 1990 have a little "scratch pad" sequencer built in. It's not a substitute for a full-featured sequencer, just lets you record one piece, then you must transfer that recording to an external sequencer if you want to save it permanently. Though it won't store multiple pieces, it does record all the data that an external sequencer records -- notes, stops, pistons, expression, etc. And when you play back your recording, the data is simultaneously sent out on the MIDI OUT jack, so you can capture it on your external sequencer for safekeeping or archiving.

                            I use the scratch pad to pre-record a few minutes of my communion music on walk-up Sundays, so I get to dismount the bench and take my communion with the others. I can get back on the bench before the piece plays out, and be ready to start playing live when the recorded section is over.

                            But I've also used it extensively to help me evaluate the organ as I've toiled over the voicing, speaker placement, and other tonal issues. I record a hymn on the scratch pad, then I can walk out into the nave to hear what other people are going to hear with my registrations and dynamics. It's a really indispensable tool for that purpose, since I don't normally have anyone around who can play the organ while I listen.

                            On Allens built prior to the MDS era, you can still use a sequencer to capture your note data for playback while you listen. You just can't capture your stops and expression, so you must set those manually before you play back the sequence.
                            John
                            ----------
                            Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
                            Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
                            Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
                            Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
                            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                            Comment


                              #15
                              There is a danger there, yes, but not (IMHO) if we play our cards right. The benefits of this stuff are numerous, amazing and exciting. To each their own. I'm helping to keep a hell of a lot more great organ music in circulation that I would otherwise -- it's all still my exact performances played live, just not by me

                              Comment

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