Noooorman, where are you?
Coming Mother. I’ve just got to finish my music piece for CRASH. Remember them? They’re the folks that pay for the lighting and heating.
I hope you’re still calling yourself JON BATES. I don’t know what the guests would do if they found out. Anyway, what have you got this month then, Norman?
Well, I’ve finally got round to clearing ou... sorry, looking through that pile of paper that was clogging up the shower. At least I think it was that...
DESPITE THE chores of cabin cleaning, I’m now able to tackle the evergrowing pile of mail at the Motel.
Robert Thomas owns a non-MIDI Casio SK5 sampling keyboard and wants to know if it is necessary to have a keyboard to use the Cheetah Sampler and Specdrum. Much along the same lines, Stuart Lawson wants to know how to connect up the Cheetah MK5 keyboard and MS6 sound module via the MIDI interface. He also wants to know if the Cheetah interface can handle ‘in-flight’ patch changes and pitch bend information.
Well for starters I too would like to know where the MS6 review is. Myself, Mother (we’ve just had an extension installed for her) and Fran Mable have nagged and threatened Cheetah with all sorts of horrible things and still no MS6, drum machines, or keyboards to review. Writing this having recently visited the British Music Fair, I can report that I had a long in-depth conversation with Cheetah and hopefully the next issue will contain a review. They seem to be having production problems. Back to the main point. If you have a non-MIDI keyboard then you can buy pretty well what you like (hoorah!), as you won’t be able to hook it up to anything anyway (boo)!
If it is just one peripheral you are after then I would go for the Ram/Flare Music Machine as it offers many possibilities. The Cheetah interface and sampler are good, but don’t talk to one another; both the sampler and the Spectrum are non-MIDI. But the Cheetah software itself and interface are not bad. However there are now, thanks to the Ramm User Club, a lot more programs available for the Music Machine and if you have been reading this column over the past few months you will have noticed that more and more programs are made with versions for different interfaces, for example, Quasar Software do loads. If you opt for the Music Machine (with the basic package), you have many facilities at hand. You can use the drums on it to create your own patterns. You can also make up your own programmed bass and tune patterns (called ‘sequencing’). Follow this column for a few months and you will soon get the hang of it. (What d’you mean? I still don’t understand a thing — Ed.)
Although you haven’t got MIDI yet, you have the option there for future expansion should you add or swap your keyboard. You may well do this as the Music Machine has sampling on board. Sampling on a computer does have advantages over a keyboard as you can apply very smart editing facilities to the sounds, and although you can’t play them back instantly you can save them for time immemorial (an extremely long time — Ed) onto cassette or whatever storage you use. (I use cupboards — Ed.)
The only extra you will need to get started is something to amplify your sound with. A hi-fi amp is ideal plus a phono-to-phono lead, of course. Obviously, once you get into MIDI you will need MIDI leads, but that’s all you need to get going. The Cheetah interface will in fact handle ‘in flight’ information. It is the software rather than the interface itself which determines what the system is capable of. Cheetah’s software will record on its sequencer all that you ask for, although things like pitch bend and touch-sensitivity take up huge amounts of memory space. Patch changes in themselves do not use too much memory, but patch information does. However, the latter facility is only available if you use Systems Exclusive (that part of the MIDI code that is configured by each manufacturer). This won’t concern you too much as all you have to do is check that your synth will dump this information without having dump request code posted into its memory. Most low-budget MIDI software does not cater for the user inserting MIDI commands as memory space is at a premium. The Cheetah software overcomes this problem in that it filters out the information that you deem unnecessary for your sequence.
The way to hook them up is not at all mysterious (it’s so straightforward that I can do it whilst cleaning the Motel)! All audio outputs go to an amplifier.
The Cheetah MK5 Keyboard can be hooked into the interface via IN. The THRU goes to the MS6 tone module IN. You will need another MIDI lead from the interface OUT to the tone module IN. This gives you facility for playback, swapping the leads for recording, and playing back. If you want to use multitrack recording with the MS6 however you will need a MIDI merge box, available from Philip Rees Modem Technology at £11.95. Use this to merge the two IN leads to the MS6. Please see accompanying diagram.
ART::: USE DIAGRAM AROUND ABOUT THIS BIT OF TEXT!!! Oh, and close up this gap
You mention using two Spectrums (greedy); one as a MIDI controller and the other as a Spectrum (well, what else! — Ed.) and suggest using tape sync for both Spectrums. Not a good idea. The standard that the Spectrum uses is one of its own and not compatible with any other system in the known universe. Also, unless you use a tape sync to MIDI converter you cannot synchronize MIDI to a tape pulse. The converters are usually quite expensive pieces of hardware costing from £80 upwards. Before you put pen to paper and tell me that the XRI interface has clock pulse outputs, you can’t alter them as far as I am aware and they won’t work with every synth. All this goes to show why MIDI was created in the first place — different manufacturers used different standards.
Whilst on the subject of the Specdrum, Stephen Baishya had an idea for sampling the Specdrum’s sync pulse and then feeding it back from the sequencer of the Music Machine whilst controlling the speed of a MIDI instrument from the same program. This may well work as Captain Goodwin synchronized his by imitating the sync pulse on a CX5 music computer. My only reservation would be that you may need to have some filters and sound EQ facilities on the sync pulse line to get the right level and tone, should it get squashed by the sampler. I’ll give it a whirl when I have two Spectrums lashed together. Stephen also wants to know whether the FB01 programmer reviewed back in June for the XRI interface will convert for the Cheetah interface. Contact the Ramm User Club who are in the process of creating converter programs. Quasar Software are currently developing an FB01 programmer that should run on a Cheetah interface. It will cost £9.99 and as soon as one hits the reception desk it will be subject to all the usual questions that Motel visitors get. I would also welcome any soul’s efforts who have worked out conversion programs for the different MIDI interfaces. All successful programs get a review plus fame, glory, immortality, etc.
Now let’s deal with the Casio CZ and the XRI interface. Are you becoming psychotic because you can’t store your Casio voice data? If so, get in touch with Fred Fee from London. Fred wrote to me sometime ago with a program that will extract and send the voice data to and from the aforementioned synthesizer. You can name each voice bank and save them on a tape. It will access the preset voices, the internal voices or the cartridge voices. It is also designed to work with a Swift disk, but can be adapted to work with any storage medium. Unfortunately it’s too long for inclusion this time. However I would suggest you get in touch with him and I am sure that for a nominal sum to cover his costs and trouble Fred will either send you a copy of his listing or a tape copy. Many thanks to Fred for contribution. May I suggest that if you have a program like this, do send it in — Mother and I read through them all.
Next month the Motel will assess the TX81Z voice programmers (who should have popped into the Motel this month). Unfortunately when I tried to get hold of a module to review a couple of programs, the dealers heard my name and immediately hung up. What did I say wrong?