Cutting to the Chase (Reaticulate)

I’ve been asked to explain a bit about the really groovy looking window that appears on the right-hand side of my REAPER orchestral template. What is it, why is it there, how do I get it and so forth?

Take another little pizz of my heart… (ouch, sorry)

Well, one of the old problems for MIDI musicians concerns what is known as “chasing”. You’ve long been able to send samplers messages to change from pizz to marcato to “stick your bows in your ears and fart quizzically”, or whatever else. Traditionally these are included in sound libraries as keyswitches – so you play a note that’s out of range of the instrument and it triggers the change. So far, so funky.

This script doesn’t include “sfartzando quizzicale”.

But if you’ve just been playing back a section with the string sampler set to pizz then move elsewhere to a bit in the music where it’s supposed to be tremolo, it often won’t work correctly – if the sampler didn’t get the memo, the strings will still be plucking about. This can get really plucking annoying.

Hence MIDI “chasing”. When you hit play, the DAW software can look back through every MIDI track for the last change instruction and retrigger it. However, it has no way of knowing whether a note is an actual note or an instruction to change sounds, so you have to convert the keyswitches to another type of MIDI event that it can clearly identify.

There are lots of ways of handling this process, but the solution I use is Jason Tackaberry’s Reaticulate. You can still use the articulation switches as usual, but they will be converted into MIDI cc (continuous controller) messages and displayed in the MIDI Editor window as little labelled needles and in the pretty interface window, updating in real time.

As I said, there are other ways of implementing this*, but personally I find Reaticulate convenient and attractive. Don’t underestimate the latter issue – when you do this kind of work, you’ll be spending many hours peering at a screen, so aesthetics are important. I also appreciate seeing some friendly symbols that look like good old fashioned music, since the rest of the interface is slabby chunks of coloured data, faders, buttons, etc. The sight of a few dotted quavers cheers up my bleary eyes…

The bank files I’ve written for Reaticulate (containing info for Garritan Personal Orchestra 5, Kirk Hunter Concert Brass and Cinewinds Core) are here. Tackaberry’s “factory” banks already contain the necessary info for Cinematic Studio Strings and Spitfire.

(If you’re interested in such things, here are the MIDI note name files for the libraries used in the template.)

* See also Blake Robinson’s BRSO. Blake is the guy who did most of the programming for the Spitfire series. Which are beautiful and one day I might be able to afford them…

PS Tackaberry goes by the nom de youtube of anothercrappypianist. I can identify…

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Posted in g) Classically Inclined, j) Sound & Vision


Sorry again for my absence. That time of year when you take stock (and there’s been some weird stuff to take stock of this past year…)

So what better way to kick off than by starting weird. I’ve extolled the virtues of a DAW called REAPER before (see here), and one of the reasons I like it is that it’s so flexible you can happily fiddle around, confuse yourself and pleasantly avoid work for hours. In particular, it’s very skinnable, templateable and scriptable in no fewer than three languages.

So for any out there who use it, here are some things I’ve been cooking up, when I should have been hard at work on the actual music.

First up, we have a full orchestral MIDI template. Not a Hollywood kitchen sink job, more your sort of turn of the century massive. It defaults to Garritan Personal Orchestra 5, augmented with Cinematic Studio Strings, Kirk Hunter Brass, Cinewinds Core and Pianoteq Stage 6, but don’t worry if you don’t have them. REAPER will just say “can’t find” half a dozen times then let you in anyway – at which point you can substitute in your own sample libraries. It loads fully purged and should just about squeeze into 8GB RAM. It also uses Jason Tackaberry’s plugin Reaticulate. Copious user notes will display on load.

Orchestral manoeuvres in the light.

Download Orchestral Template
Download Reaticulate Bank File

Next, we have a script to split a MIDI track into RH and LH at a user-specified note. It’s obviously useful for piano parts, but you can also use it to separate comping from walking bass, or trumpets from trombones, or violins and violas from basses and cellos. Well, at least roughly.



Download MIDI Splitter

Finally, here’s one for straight audio work. This script will take all selected items and shift them to a duplicate track with the same routing, settings and FX as the original. I was mooching around on the REAPER user forum and got involved with a request that I thought is actually a bloody useful thing to be able to do.



Download Audio Splitter

Right, well that’s the propeller-head stuff out of the way. Next week I’ll get back into the noble art of putting people off their pizzas with funny chords and scales and such…

And a belated happy new year.

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Posted in j) Sound & Vision

Seasons Greetings

Apologies for radio silence recently. I’ve been busy with various projects, few of them specifically music-related. Decided to wrap up the year with this animated Christmas greeting. I’ve been busily corresponding with some people over the past few months and will be sharing some of the discussions over the next few weeks. Hopefully you’ll find them useful.

Created in Muvizu, GIMP, HitFilm Express and REAPER.

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Posted in e) Rants & Ramblings

Willie Thomas and Not-Quite-Pentatonics

Willie Thomas

Hullo jazz fans. Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve been driving myself nuts on a film project.

I’ve found time for a little bit of teaching too, and I’m always on the lookout for new approaches – some just click better with some people than others, so the more you have… I recently came across trumpeter Willie Thomas and his site.

Kind of chimed with me and I think it’s worth your while investigating his method. This is based on what he calls “pentatonic pairs”, and I’ve noticed a few commenters have found the name a little confusing. Do check his site out, but personally I feel you might grasp his system a little easier by thinking of it as something like “universal 5612 scales” or “inverted thirdless pentatonics” (although you might find those names confusing too, just a different kind of confusing).

There’s a lot more to what he teaches, and this initial concept is really just the starting point, but in a nutshell the idea is that you play the 5th, 6th, root and 2nd of any II, V or I chord (regardless of quality). This is of course a major pentatonic but missing its 3rd, and inverted so the 5th and 6th are regarded as being below and often act as pickups. It’s a sort of all-purpose seesaw structure around the root.

Of course, these are regarded as “pegs” to be elaborated on, and Willie will take you through all kinds of ways to put some real bebop goodness on the pegs, but it’s a very useful starting point. It’s also a great quick start to get beginners playing something that sounds and feels good.

On a personal note, it’s also another piece of evidence to support one of my favourite musical arguments – in most of jazz, the “finalising”, “at rest” tone on a tonic is actually the 6th, not the 7th. See You’ve Been Taught the Wrong Chord Tones.

PS Please don’t bite my head off – I know you use the 7th as well, but…

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Posted in a) Soloing Scales & Modes, i) Reviews

Faking It

A classical violinist, mid-Mahler… Note that she isn’t even holding a violin…

I don’t just mean “faking” harmony in the jazz sense, but rather more generally.

Got involved in a little discussion recently about how to play complex cross-rhythms over at Adam Neely’s YT channel. When presented with something like 3s on 5s some people (me included) advocate learning to feel the way the two sound and work together whereas others like to rigorously reconceptualise it by a sort of common factoring process. And if you don’t have time to do either – fake it. Both sides agree on that.

There was a rather scandalous piece that was published in The Strad a while ago about how often (surprisingly often) and why (for good reasons) even the most accomplished professional classical string players fake demanding passages – both notes and rhythms. Well worth a read – it even includes some handy tips, a lot of which can be translated to other instruments.

I’ve written stuff for all kinds of ensembles and I expect them to approximate the score here and there, particularly when rehearsal time is short – in fact, sometimes I quietly advise them to do it. They know and I know… and it’s okay…

It’s a bit like sight-reading – do your best, but whatever you do, keep going and try to lock back in as soon as you can.

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Posted in c) Musicianship, e) Rants & Ramblings

A Soundbuzz

An unfulfilled bee, interviewed yesterday.

“Part of being a performer is that failure becomes a part of your existence. Your day-to-day routine is failure with the remote possibility of success.” Samantha Bee

A recent Forbes magazine quote of the day apparently – and I think it’s an awful sentiment, but it’s worth exploring what I think she’s getting at.

If by failure she means not making it commercially, then I take the point. But one can still succeed without making millions. If she means that we must learn to learn by our mistakes (I wouldn’t call them failures) and always work to improve, then fair enough.

However, the one thing a performer can’t afford to be is a perfectionist to the point that every little slip or deficiency undermines them. When the curtain goes up, it’s showtime and you have your skills, experience and preparation. These can always be improved, and you should have the self-awareness to notice a few things that you need to work on.

But never ever walk away from a gig regarding yourself as a failure. You are as good as you can be at the time, but there’s always room for improvement. You’ll have good gigs that flop, bad gigs that are regarded as a triumph and every permutation in between. Being a performer certainly involves trials and tribulations but it shouldn’t hurt. You should have to work at your art/craft/whatever, not suffer for it.

This isn’t just hug-a-hippie jive here. I’d be the first to tell someone that if they’ve been doing it passionately for a few years and it’s tearing them up inside, there are other things to do. They might have a better chance of success and fulfilment in another walk of life. Or step back, treat it as a bit of a hobby for a while and see what happens down the line.

But I think the rather neurotic, masochistic inference in Bee’s soundbuzz is very destructive, yet weirdly it seems to be couched as a kind of aspirational epithet. So here’s my version, which I’m sure won’t ever be featured by Forbes…

“Part of being a performer is that sometimes you’ll cock things up and sometimes you’ll ace them. Your day-to-day routine is learning honestly from both.” Jason Lyon

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Posted in e) Rants & Ramblings

A Little Ear Music

A couple of weeks ago I sat in on a sort of cocktail request gig and somebody wanted Hotel California “with the guitar bits”. Never actually done that on the piano before, strange to tell, but I had a little think and a sip of my libation while the band were getting ready and then played it.

Someone was asking afterwards how difficult it is to just hear or remember something and be able to play it. As so often, I replied “it depends”.

Here’s a famous scene from the film Amadeus (which takes extreme dramatic licence with history and is of course, extremely unfair to Salieri – grazie, Signor Pushkin). It’s interesting for lots of reasons. The late Sir Neville Marriner insisted that the screenplay should be written to performances of Mozart’s music, refusing any suggestion of rewriting bits of Mozart to fit the edit.

Read more ›

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Posted in c) Musicianship, e) Rants & Ramblings
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