Author Topic: a few questions about different things  (Read 4348 times)

Offline musicalman

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a few questions about different things
« on: August 05, 2017, 15:06:52 »
Hi all,
I have a few questions about a few things I've messed with while experimenting with Open MPT. One of which is about tracking in general, the other two are about Open MPT. I'm also blind so it's very possible I'm missing something that's more visually obvious. If this is the case feel free to say so. Lol
1. I only recently was familiar with how tracking actually works, and the concept of rows, columns, patterns and orders... I think I understand it. But I want to clear up something I feel fuzzy about. Because tracking is very grid-based, it doesn't seem as open as midi sequencing. For example making rhythms that aren't so evenly divisible isn't easy to do, though there are potentially workarounds in certain cases. Triplets against strait notes could be a challenge I think. It's not as simple as putting a note here, and another one there, with up to 960 or even more ticks per beat as is the case with a sequencer. Is the grid-like approach part of what makes tracking an art? Is it visually easier to work with than midi sequencing for some people? Or is it actually frustrating to some musicians who are more used to midi sequencing? I have a few other ambiguities in my head with how best to do certain things in a tracker but I'll save those.
2. In Open MPT, it feels uncomfortable to make instruments and even patterns because I haven't figured out how to delete one or move stuff around, so I have to sort of build from the beginning and hope I don't miss something on the way. The reason this bothers me most is that I'm kind of OCD about having things nice and tidy and in order without gaps or odd turns in the sequencing. But I see many modules with orders referencing pattern numbers which look seemingly random. For instance, order 1 might have pattern 4, 2 might have 5, 3 might have 1. And while it sounds organized when you listen to it, to me it seems a little jarring. Sometimes there are huge gaps in the instruments in a module, and the sorting of the instruments seems disorganized. I was wondering if I'm just being too picky, or if there's good reason to want to be more organized, and if so, how to delete patterns and instruments with the keyboard or move them around in their appropriate lists. I haven't found mention of this yet.
3. Last one for this post. What is the tree view useful for? Is it mostly a visual thing allowing you to see the structure of things? I've never really used it, I use the items in the view menu to switch between tabs.
Thanks for reading and providing your input, and have a good weekend!

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2017, 18:22:01 »
Quote
1. (...) Because tracking is very grid-based, it doesn't seem as open as midi sequencing. For example making rhythms that aren't so evenly divisible isn't easy to do, though there are potentially workarounds in certain cases. Triplets against strait notes could be a challenge I think. It's not as simple as putting a note here, and another one there, with up to 960 or even more ticks per beat as is the case with a sequencer. Is the grid-like approach part of what makes tracking an art? Is it visually easier to work with than midi sequencing for some people? Or is it actually frustrating to some musicians who are more used to midi sequencing? I have a few other ambiguities in my head with how best to do certain things in a tracker but I'll save those.
For a more "natural" feel, note delays in the effect column are typically used. Another way is of course to increase the pattern speed, but at some point the pattern data just gets so "thin" that it's not that usable anymore. Most people probably track at 4 or 8 rows per beat, sometimes even 16 rows per beat. If triplets are used, typically these numbers change to 6, 12 and 24 respectively.
Of course the grid has advantages and disadvantages which may be more or less severe depending on the genre you're working in. For dance music it is often very suitable and speeds things up considerably; for something that is intended to sounds more "human" it can have disadvantages, but many people are determined enough to work around those.

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2. In Open MPT, it feels uncomfortable to make instruments and even patterns because I haven't figured out how to delete one or move stuff around, so I have to sort of build from the beginning and hope I don't miss something on the way. The reason this bothers me most is that I'm kind of OCD about having things nice and tidy and in order without gaps or odd turns in the sequencing. But I see many modules with orders referencing pattern numbers which look seemingly random. For instance, order 1 might have pattern 4, 2 might have 5, 3 might have 1. And while it sounds organized when you listen to it, to me it seems a little jarring. Sometimes there are huge gaps in the instruments in a module, and the sorting of the instruments seems disorganized. I was wondering if I'm just being too picky, or if there's good reason to want to be more organized, and if so, how to delete patterns and instruments with the keyboard or move them around in their appropriate lists. I haven't found mention of this yet.
See also the answer to question 3. For your need to organize things, you may want to look into the Clean Up dialog, which can be used to arrange patterns by their appearance in the order list, and to remove any unused patterns, samples and instruments.

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3. Last one for this post. What is the tree view useful for? Is it mostly a visual thing allowing you to see the structure of things? I've never really used it, I use the items in the view menu to switch between tabs.
It's useful for many things and even way to many sighted artists completely underestimate its power. First off, you get a representation of all the different parts of the module, and you can easily switch between different open modules by clicking on them. The tree view can also be used to delete, insert and duplicate patterns, samples and instruments (through the context menu) or to rearrange them (e.g. sample 1 becomes sample 2), but this is currently only possible by using the mouse, so it's probably not very usable through screen readers, unless there are commands in those programs that help with drag&drop operations.
Furthermore, the tree view is a sample and instrument browser that is always visible, so it can be used to preview samples and instruments and quickly load them into your open module. You can even open modules from the instrument browser and extract samples and instruments.
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2017, 17:14:18 »
Thanks for your answers! Number 1 was pretty much how I thought. It's a matter of being creative within limitations and deciding how you'll work within them. I definitely can see why it appeals for a lot of electronic music.

Also I did not know the tree view was that powerful, shows how much time I spent trying to figure out its functions. By the sound of it, there isn't much keyboard support there? Screen readers do support drag and drop from the keyboard but I've never been able to do it, probably because I was trying things which were too complicated in impossible ways. I haven't tried in years so things may have changed. I've switched screen readers and computers several times since, and who knows, maybe the tree view will play nice and I won't have problems. Again thanks for your help and I'll post back with further questions if I have any.

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2017, 17:37:00 »
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By the sound of it, there isn't much keyboard support there?
There are almost no OpenMPT-specific shortcuts there, but everything that can be done with a regular tree view as you know it from other applications is also doable in OpenMPT. But I'm always open to adding new useful shortcuts. Some of the things I mentioned (like duplicating items) can already be done with shortcuts in other places.
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2018, 02:18:14 »
Hi everyone,
I wasn't sure if bumping the thread or making a new one was best, but I know I'm going to have a lot of questions so figured avoiding clutter was the better route. I was hoping to start writing by now, but life just gets in the way as is often the case, so I haven't touched open MPT until recently. This time I have instrument questions.

Different formats seem to have different sample/instrument configurations. For example with .xm modules, if I load a sample, it's assigned to an instrument. But with .it modules, I don't think it works that way because when I load a sample, instruments don't make sound. I suspect the same would be true with Open MPT's format. I know I'm doing something wrong, but I can't really tell what to look for to find the problem. Maybe just using SFZ files would be better? I'm more comfortable with that anyway. What's the limit on how many regions you can have? I think different formats have different limits but I wouldn't know.

What module format is recommended, or does that depend on the intended use or something? At first I thought that .xm would be simpler and easy to share and play, while still allowing some power, so I'd start with that and try others along the way, but now I'm thinking that trying a bunch of formats isn't a good idea at such an early stage, so I should get used to one. With this in mind, it's probably better to go with an mptm project and if I want to publish a module file, convert it to .it since I think they have the same structure. And I won't be constraining myself. It might seem a little more daunting but I think I'll be better off.

Sorry for all these questions! I'm just really new at this, and curious. It's very possible there'll be more questions in the future.

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2018, 11:10:35 »
Quote
Different formats seem to have different sample/instrument configurations. For example with .xm modules, if I load a sample, it's assigned to an instrument. But with .it modules, I don't think it works that way because when I load a sample, instruments don't make sound. I suspect the same would be true with Open MPT's format. I know I'm doing something wrong, but I can't really tell what to look for to find the problem.
Instruments are an optional feature in IT while they are required in XM; you can convert all samples to instruments in IT by simply creating an instrument (you will get a message box asking you if all samples should be converted). Once that's done, you can either load your samples directly into a newly created instrument, or you create a new sample slot and answer the message box that asks you if a corresponding instrument should be created with "yes".

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What's the limit on how many regions you can have?
There is no such things as "regions" in tracker instruments. Every key can have its own sample assignment, but there is no multi-layering.

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What module format is recommended, or does that depend on the intended use or something?
If you don't need to be compatible with anything (such as a game audio engine), go for MPTM. It's the most advanced and most predictable format. In particular XM can behave very quirky in various ways.
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2018, 14:55:37 »
Instruments are an optional feature in IT while they are required in XM; you can convert all samples to instruments in IT by simply creating an instrument (you will get a message box asking you if all samples should be converted). Once that's done, you can either load your samples directly into a newly created instrument, or you create a new sample slot and answer the message box that asks you if a corresponding instrument should be created with "yes".
Oh wow, I didn't know instruments were an optional thing. I will have to mess with what you said and see what I figure out.

There is no such things as "regions" in tracker instruments. Every key can have its own sample assignment, but there is no multi-layering.
I thought I saw mention somewhere that up to 16 samples could be assigned, so I was wondering if that meant I should limit myself to 16 regions in an SFZ. I don't plan on going crazy so 16 would probably be enough for my needs, but if I can do more, it's good to know.

If you don't need to be compatible with anything (such as a game audio engine), go for MPTM. It's the most advanced and most predictable format. In particular XM can behave very quirky in various ways.
I do seem to remember mention of xm's qwirkiness before, but I wasn't sure if that was a global thing with trackers and formats, or if XM was just weird. Perusing the manual, it looks like .mptm and .it can be used interchangeably with the former just offering more features, and the latter obviously being useful if I am going to use the module for something, or send it to people who don't have an Open MPT player.

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2018, 15:01:15 »
I thought I saw mention somewhere that up to 16 samples could be assigned, so I was wondering if that meant I should limit myself to 16 regions in an SFZ. I don't plan on going crazy so 16 would probably be enough for my needs, but if I can do more, it's good to know.
Yes, the XM format originally only supported 16 distinct samples per instrument (32 with ModPlug extensions), but these are not the same as regions in SFZ. SFZ Regions are contiguous ranges on the keyboard. In theory you can assign every note of an XM instrument alternatingly to a different sample, as long as you stay below the 16 (or 32) sample limit. For example if you assign every C to sample 1, every C#1 to sample 2, every D to sample 3, etc, you will get 8 * 12 = 96 regions (there are 8 octaves in XM), but only 12 samples used in total.

In IT/MPTM, there is no limit of samples per instrument.

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I do seem to remember mention of xm's qwirkiness before, but I wasn't sure if that was a global thing with trackers and formats, or if XM was just weird. Perusing the manual, it looks like .mptm and .it can be used interchangeably with the former just offering more features, and the latter obviously being useful if I am going to use the module for something, or send it to people who don't have an Open MPT player.
That's pretty much it, yes. XM is weird. ;)
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2018, 14:10:56 »
Okay, the differences between SFZ and it/mptm makes a lot of sense now. That would also explain why the sample map dialog looked the way it did when I messed with it. Thanks for clearing it up!

Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2018, 14:13:32 »
I was going to start something with the goal of actually finishing it, but I decided, before I get carried away, to peruse through the instrument editor portion of the manual to see if I was missing anything I'd find important. I decided I might as well play with the filter, since I like filters :).

If I hold an arrow key while I'm focused on a slider such as filter cutoff for example, the slider moves as it should. But it seems when I release the key, the focus jumps to the envelope. I guess this is because currently the arrow keys are assigned to move envelope points. I'm not complaining though, since I don't think I'll need to mess with the sliders much; I'll just put the opcodes in an sFZ file. I do wonder what's causing this though, since this behavior doesn't seem to happen everywhere.

What's really eluding me at the moment is switching between envelopes such as volume, filter, pan etc. In the manual, it says that there is a toolbar in the envelope editor to do that, but I can't find it. I can see the instrument toolbar as well as other things, but not one relating to envelopes, so I only have volume for now. I don't want to use things like fileg or pitcheg in an sFZ because they would have to be converted from ADSR and I have no clue how arbitrary parameters would sound. Besides, editing the volume envelope with the keyboard is something I find very doable with the accessibility enhancements introduced last year (I am super grateful for that BTW). And I'm hopeful that I can use a similar approach on any envelope. The question is, how to find that toolbar mentioned in the manual, or failing that, a keystroke to change the focused envelope. Any ideas?

BTW I'm using NVDA, I haven't tried anything else yet. Maybe it's just missing the toolbar or something?
Thanks!

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2018, 17:10:45 »
If I hold an arrow key while I'm focused on a slider such as filter cutoff for example, the slider moves as it should. But it seems when I release the key, the focus jumps to the envelope. I guess this is because currently the arrow keys are assigned to move envelope points.
In fact this is only done to give back keyboard focus to the envelope editor where for mouse-centric users it's more useful to have the keyboard focus; I agree this behaviour is far from optimal, but it's required for keyboard shortcuts to work after a clicking on some UI element in this part of the instrument editor. Similar behaviour exists in the sample editor.

What's really eluding me at the moment is switching between envelopes such as volume, filter, pan etc. In the manual, it says that there is a toolbar in the envelope editor to do that, but I can't find it.
I think this is not a regular toolbar, but a custom-drawn one, so it might not be accessible to screen readers. I guess we need to add keyboard shortcuts for toggling between envelopes and other stuff only available from this toolbar, such as enabling/disabling envelopes.
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2018, 23:05:34 »
For curiosity's sake, I'll have to try running OCR and see if I can find the toolbar, though I'm not sure if I'll be able to do much with it if I do find it. Keyboard shortcuts would probably be the best solution as you said, though I'm not sure which would be needed since I'm not completely sure how the editor works beyond the volume envelope portion.

Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2018, 10:11:48 »
I doubt OCR would find anything in the toolbar, since it's all custom-drawn icons. However, it's no problem at all to introduce extra shortcuts for all the buttons in this toolbar, so I will look into this very soon. Thanks as always for pointing out usability issues. :)
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Offline Saga Musix

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2018, 18:38:54 »
All missing envelope shortcuts will be present in the next OpenMPT update. You can also obtain a recent (r10181 or newer) test builds from https://builds.openmpt.org/builds/ if you want to check it out right now.
The following default key combinations have been added:
Switch to Volume Envelope: Shift+M
Switch to Panning Envelope: Shift+P
Switch to Pitch / Filter Envelope: Shift+I
Toggle Volume Envelope: Ctrl+Shift+M
Toggle Panning Envelope: Ctrl+Shift+P
Toggle Pitch Envelope: Ctrl+Shift+I
Toggle Filter Envelope: Ctrl+Shift+F
Toggle Envelope Loop: Shift+L
Toggle Envelope Sustain Loop: Ctrl+Shift+L
Toggle Envelope Carry: Ctrl+Shift+C
« Last Edit: April 29, 2018, 21:29:08 by Saga Musix »
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Offline musicalman

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Re: a few questions about different things
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2018, 07:23:18 »
Thanks so much for your prompt replies and action. The keystrokes seem to work well here!
Now, I think I can use all the stuff I need at the moment. Hopefully music can be built as a result :)