Mitztech: The Screens of Miditzer

I didn’t do a “Screens of Hauptwerk” because they have a very nice user guide out on the starry web — although it’s not a manual for the beautiful Paramount 310 theater organ specifically. ... And I hasten to assure the Miditzer pilgrim that the official mitz site https://miditzer.org/ and especially the forum https://miditzer.org/forum/ can be very helpful — it’s just that snooty technical types like myself find it all so slow. ... I don’t know what’s wrong with intricate verbose technical documentation, but I’d like more of that as well as the forum — where the estimable Henry does appear regularly and frequently responds to forum questions. ... But after all, a major motivation for this page — aside from showing-off — is so I can remember what I think I know, which with these complicated things isn’t all that easy. The technical term for that kind of memory is documentation....

Contents

Grand Introduction

Later on below I will maunder on about the combo buttons, their joys and simple amusements. But first I’ll tell you everything I know — and so much more! — about the “Miditzer Settings” screen, which is a very nice tabbed affair available like the picture says, by clicking the yellow “M” thing at the top left of the Miditzer main organ display, and then selecting of course “Miditzer Settings”. Which are largely concerned with MIDI, whose codes and mysteries you must master at some minimal level to make Miditzer play beautiful music — although some other crucial matters can be dangerously rearranged....

But First ... The Wires

I connected my lovely Nord C2 two-manual / pedals to a laptop to play Miditzer (and then Hauptwerk) and you can read my endless story elsewhere. ... But I can reveal that in general these days:

  1. KEYBOARD, COMPUTER: The general plot is to connect a cable between a MIDI-emitting music keyboard and your Windows PC (Miditzer doesn’t work with Apple Macs). ... Note that MIDI has nothing to do with the sound of your beautiful Miditzer, which involves an entirely different nest of wiring.

  2. THE CABLE: In the dark ages, it’d be a straight cable with the same MIDI connectors on both ends. ... These days you’re more likely to want a MIDI-USB gadget, and probably a gadget embedded into a cable, with a MIDI plug at one end, USB at the other, to plug into a Windows PC USB port. Which is what I did with my precious Nord, which has only the antediluvian actual MIDI output — a style still typical of professional equipment. ... But many recent music keyboards have built-in USB MIDI, so a USB cable will connect it to the PC. USB cables of course come in different flavors: usually the computer end is standard, but the keyboard is more likely to be the “mini” flavor these days, instead of the old-fashioned square kind — but both are still out there, and at least one other (“micro”?) variant. ... I should note that high-church virtual organistas often favored desktop computers, frequently of the Apple flavor (i.e. non-Miditzer), with MIDI cards, which is sad, as Apple’s desktops no longer support any plug-in cards and all will have to make-do with “Thunderbolt” cables....

  3. THE CONNECTION: After connecting the cable, a keyboard may “appear” in the PC without further strife; or it may require software installation/configuration with a CD or (preferably) a download from the manufacturer’s site.

  4. KEYBOARDS/PEDAL: To emulate a theater organ, two or more keyboards + pedals are appropriate, although you can fake it with a single keyboard. I am blessed with my Nord C2, which integrates its two keyboards and pedals into a single MIDI output. I didn’t know how to do that any other way until I eventually added my dubious third keyboard and now I’m an expert and input screen adjustments make it work good.

  5. USB HUB: Oh wait! Another gadget you’ll probably need sooner or later to connect multiple USB devices to a laptop at least is a USB hub.

And that’s about the limit of my virtual organ hardware connection knowledge. But after you do that, you still have to convince Miditzer to react properly/at all to the MIDI your keyboard(s) send! That’s what this pitiful exegesis is (mostly) about.

The Audio?

After you’ve flawlessly hooked-up / configured your MIDI keyboard(s) to Miditzer, a whole different can of worms is getting the music out of your computer. Often the built-in PC sound will do — i.e. that headphone output on the side of the laptops or the speaker(/line?) output hidden somewhere on the desktops — or more elaborate systems will probably involve additional USB. ... Either way, you’re probably doomed to suffer from Miditzer’s latency....

Make It Play: Plug in, get MIDIox?

I think many Miditzer pilgrims have a PC and a MIDI keyboard, so they get the free Miditzer + whatever cable(s) are likely to connect the two devices, and play, probably through existing PC speakers. This is an excellent plan, and if it doesn’t work you can always make organ sounds with Miditzer without any keyboard by clicking the mouse on the screen keys, or with the PC’s keys. ... That’s exactly the plot I followed with my beautiful Nord C2, and both manuals played right-away! So give it a whack!

When it doesn’t work, the first step is figuring out what MIDI data your gadgets are sending. To do this, you must obtain the free Windows utility program MIDIox. ... If you can’t figure-out MIDIox, the Screens of Miditzer will probably be worse. And with additional harmless & menacing software, you can translate your keyboard’s buttons to Miditzer’s combos!

Carpers will complain that MIDIox is more complicated than Miditzer, and I won’t deny it, but it seemed simpler in my early innocent Miditzer days. Of course I am a geek, but it’s also probably because MIDIox has actual help! ... Anyway, to see anything you must go to the MIDIox menu “Options / MIDI Devices” I think and click on the correct “MIDI inputs”....

So it’s all so simple & straightforward! ... Many will probably find MIDIox and the Screens of Miditzer (and Hauptwerk for that matter) mind-numbingly odious. ... The geeky class used to perennially burst out with “but you’ll learn so much” and paint enticing scenes of lucrative programming careers. But no más: only the asians program anymore, + a few drudges at Apple and Microsoft I suppose and those facebook kind-of places....

The PC Keyboard versus MIDI Translation

Without any software configuration at all, you can operate many Miditzer features from the PC keyboard. ... I, however, used a ridiculously technical and dubious utility[20] to operate Miditzer’s combinations from my Nord’s buttons. Which you lucky people can now do for free with the $0 alternative MIDI translator — but sadly, monstrous technical drudgery is still required. ... Some MIDI keyboard gadgets are configurable to some extent, but almost never enough for the glorious but cranky Miditzer, hence the MIDI translation requirement....

MIDI Yoke?

“MIDI Yoke” is a wonderful free program from the MIDIox fellow which might do the same things as our modern $0 alternative but, as far as I know, it doesn’t work on Windows 7 or Vista. At least the author doesn’t claim it does, although the web is filled with users who vehemently disagree. Apparently including the Reason DAW columnist at Sound on Sound magazine (p 192 11/14) and his source, the fabulously knowledgeable folk over at Ableton. ... To be fair, the pro music crowd all use Macs which of course have such features built-in, and probably regard Windows as so cruft-ridden they just titter at our pitiful different versions. ... And with Miditzer on an older Windows XP system MIDI Yoke may well work good and might do the things for which I spent vast sums on annoying and infuriating software.[20]

$0 MIDI Translation: MIDIox + LoopBe1/LoopMIDI

But Lo! At last the virtual organist’s piteous pleas were heard, and a new, free, MIDI translation champion appears, or at least I got my Nord/Miditzer thing working reliably with the beautiful $0 option, q.v.

Two Miditzers?

Many of us are awash in Windows PCs, and if you have an extra I’d recommend installing Miditzer on it as a “test” machine. Unlike the timeless Hauptwerk, the free Miditzer 216 at least installs in a few minutes, and can be played-enough on the screen/PC keyboard for harmless experimentation. Such an approach makes up for a lot of eccentric documentation like what you’re reading and worse. ... Without my test machine, I would’ve been anxious about individual stop volume adjustment on my “real” Miditzer installation. ... But verifying first, I could make the drums louder without fear....

Decimal versus HEX; 1 versus 0

The admirable MIDIox favors the hexadecimal although at least the monitor screens are right-click configurable, while the Miditzer settings are mostly decimal. More pestilential is the ancient controversy about where numbers begin: the Miditzer settings seem to consistently refer to the lowest MIDI channel as #1, but at least decently confine such usage to the “Chan” columns. Elsewhere in the settings, controllers and values and things seem to start at 0. ... So bon appetit!


----------------------------------------

Input Tab

We start our scenic odyssey through the Miditzer settings screens in the input tab. This is where you tell Miditzer where to get its MIDI from. It lists the MIDI inputs it’s found on your PC at the top left, and the buttons in the middle move them between the “Active” input devices on the right and the “Available” gadgets on the left. (This screen happens to be from my extra-$100 Miditzer 260sp, as will be the case with a random assortment of the following, but those of the regular free Miditzer 216 are similar.)

As shown, you can input from more than one “Active MIDI input device”, which is how we do those multiple keyboards/gadgets, and is where I specified my third keyboard which fortunately was easily-recognizable enough in the “Available MIDI input devices” as “USB Keystation 61es”. “LoopBe Internal MIDI” works with the beloved MIDIox (q.v.) and is what I use to get Miditzer to play and operate the combo buttons with my Nord....

The Bottom Panel: MIDI Channels and Sol, Acc, Ped, and Aux

I managed to miss the bottom of this screen for months! ... MIDI has “channels”, which are used in Miditzer to distinguish between the various keyboards and the pedals. There are 16 MIDI channels, sometimes numbered 1 to 16 (or sometimes, to confuse things, 0 to 15, but probably not in the Miditzer screens). As the legend above the bottom panel says, you can “right-click to select devices and channels”. The “MIDI input device” is where you’re supposed to deal with multiple MIDI keyboards and pedals, and here is where I specified my third keyboard “USB Keystation 61es” for the third added-on “Accomp.” manual.

Something like the name in the “Clavier” column is how these MIDI channels are referred-to in many of the other Miditzer settings screens; or with the more obscure abbreviations sol, acc, ped, and aux. The 3-manual 260SP (whose input tab is shown here) adds “grt” for its third “great” manual. When you right-click on various things in the other settings screens, complete names might be shown in the dropdown list. Miditzer seems to assume the “aux” setting is used for the “disable” setting....

Split Keyboard?

The point is, these “sol” “acc” etc., when they appear in other screens, signify the MIDI channels and devices depicted here! Who knew?! ... And you can change the device & channel, by right-clicking on the corresponding column here in the input screen! And actually one can alter numerous things, which might well be handy with the odd keyboard — you can even transpose things around a bit. ... Oh I see, it’d be what you’d do to split a single keyboard, so with suitable manipulation of Chan/Low/High/Trans, you could play both manuals and pedals, sort-of, on one MIDI gadget! I.e., by specifying the same keyboard for different “claviers”, but with each entry conditioned by a different range. Or something. ... Which I tried in my attic laboratory, where I found out the low-note on an average 61-note keyboard is C2, so I split-up my test keyboard by putting the same “MIDI input device” and “Chan” on all three manuals, and changing the low/high for the pedal to C2/F#3, and both keyboards to G3/G9. Worked great!

2nd Touch

Cheapo MIDI keyboards and even my precious Nord — actually almost all MIDI keyboards — have no 2nd touch, so I have less than no idea how it works, even ’though in my time with Miditzer I’ve been irked at those second-touch stops that won’t play! Inspired by my onrushing Mitztech storm, I finally googled “miditzer 2nd touch configuration” and discovered that setting all the “2nd Touch” values to “Note” (by right-clicking on them, as usual), and setting all the channels to the same channel as the first “Chan” column on the left (as shown above), would indeed enable playing the up-to-now forbidden 2nd touch stops! ... Which, I just noticed when I put this picture here, I haven’t enabled for the “Solo” which doesn’t seem to have any such effects....

Sadly, second touch won’t play when just clicking on the screen keyboard, but we can’t have everything....

Piano Velocity?!

And then I finally noticed the “Use Velocity for Piano” check box, so shockingly inauthentic! ... Except for those piano-based wurlitzers. But please note it’s not there on the simple honest regular miditzer — of course not you dolt (I hurl imprecations at myself) the Model 216 doesn’t have a piano — it’s just on my splendiferous $100 260SP, for the snooty crowd’s subtle piano forte pleasures. ... But there it is, and for all I know that’s how it is on some authentic theater organ somewhere and if not, let’s pretend. ... Anyway it works good; and is really ideal for soap opera-ish organ/piano type things, beloved of my ancient organistic days even with the pitiful departed Hammond Commodore which had an awful “piano” stop travesty I would still mercilessly abuse. ... But now, with the perfected 260SP simulation, I can do Be My Love with tibia/Hammond throbbing accompaniment and achingly-schmaltzy piano solo to perfection....


--------------------

Output Tab

The first thing to get clear — he says with ill-advised smirky omniscience — is Miditzer has no control over its audio output destination. That is, if you connect one of the many available USB audio gadgets to your computer, you cannot tell Miditzer to emit its beautiful music through it; or through an “ASIO” driver. ... With Windows utilities/tricks, audio including Miditzer’s can be sent out through a USB audio gadget — at least, that’s what I do in Windows 7 — but it’s still regular latency-impaired Windows audio.

And indeed, as the column on the upper left of the output tab says, it’s all about the “MIDI output device”. And when I clicked the arrow on the “Select Merged Out device” below it showed various MIDI devices in my system. Now that I have spelunked the distant worlds of the virtual organs, I can report that FluidSynth (which Miditzer uses to make beautiful music) gets its orders via MIDI or something like it, and apparently this “output” screen sends it there by default, as shown in the “MIDI output device” column for all the voices[26].....

Then there’re the “Modulation controller / Patch change” check boxes: the Miditzer we know and love makes sound via Fluidsynth, but in the dark ages (2005?) it used one or, frighteningly, two or more soundblaster cards or something. Which gadgets could do tremolo on some kind of MIDI command. So in those halcyon days, you’d change the “MIDI output device” to a soundblaster card or two, and then etc. ... In our modern era, checking “modulation controller” seems to just turn-off tremolo....

Volume

But Lo! Here’s a thing; I can right-click the “Vol” column and change individual voice volumes! How handy! ... The “Pan” position is adjustable too. ... And apparently kung-foo Miditzer Masters edit the patch numbers and who knows what else....

Mitzhack: Dangerous Software

While foolishly tinkering with the output screen, I decided I wanted to be able to adjust the relative volume of the various ranks so, for instance, the drums — and the all-important toy counter “gong” — were loud compared to all the other voices, and laboriously lowering all the other “VOL” settings one by one just to experiment was so annoying, and the opportunity to create dangerous software so tempting, that I wrote Mitzhack which will undoubtedly destroy your home and environs in a giant fiery ball of flame and gas if you are so foolish as to download it from here, including exciting obsolete Borland Builder 5 C-- source. When run without arguments it says

mitzhack mutilate Miditzer260.xml         Nov 22 2012
mitzhack inifile.ini       where inifile'd be like
  [mitz]
  miditzer=miditzer260SP
  xml=c:\pgmjunk\Miditzer Style 260SP\Miditzer260.xml
  [volume]
  else=6
  ;the default
  traps=16
  ;make gong, drums loud.
etc.    -d debug: *don't* mutilate file but leave evidence.
-r  spew mitz/rank info to screen.

and if that’s not instantly clear, you’re normal and you shouldn’t download it. (Actually it says more these days, describing the [pan] and [soundfont] menaces, but you’ll have to get the thing to see it all.)

In the event, on my dubious equipment setting everything to the lowest “VOL” (“else=1”) except the traps and some bells set to “16” seemed to work OK! Which I didn’t expect; apparently there’s enough gain or something to make-up for the average lower level without noticeable noise increase. ... I may well alter this strategy, changing the “1” to a “4”, say, but that’s the point of mitzhack: I can do that without all that tedious right-clicking. ... And after I did that, I turned-off the piston sound which got quite loud — until I made it softer....

And to round-out my volume ignorance accomplishments, I idiotically ignored the “Master Gain” setting (below) until I noticed it.

-------------

Fluidsynth Settings Tab

Fluidsynth” is the marvelous program Miditzer uses to make sound; they got together in the mists of antiquity somewhere around 2008?; before that you’d’ve had to deal with plug-in sound cards and vastly more technical mumbo-jumbo....

Polyphony

I was wildly palm-glissandoing on the lower manual, and the chord I was holding on the swell was losing notes! ... Bad Miditzer! ... This was on the grand 260SP model which has more voices than the 216, but whose “Polyphony” is still set to 256; so I changed it to 512 which might be overkill — well it wasn’t, since a year or so later I was misplacing notes again after turning on a few more couplers, so I upped it to 768. ... Incidentally, in hex these are magic numbers — 100H, 200H, 300H — which I am attached-to from my real-programmer days, and I don’t want to find-out how Miditzer/Fluidsynth feels about things in the middle. ... I suppose I could go crazy someday and try half-measures like 280H aka 640 decimal. ... So increasing the number probably increases the dreaded latency....

Number of Buffers and Latency

Good grief! Apparently reducing the “Number of buffers” ameliorates the fearsome Miditzer latency! And/or increases occasional burbles. ... I found it in a post in the Mists of Miditzer. ... I set my 260SP to “5” without bad things; “4” made notes burble. Which is probably related to how “hot” your PC is, but practically any recent machine is spiffier than where Miditzer spent its natal years, so give it a try! ... All was good for a few weeks, but very occasionally a treacherous burble would sneak in, when it was weak and tired in the dark evenings, so I’ve set it back to a respectable 6, where it seems to have been OK for months....

And here actual Fluidsynth docs say more-or-less (of the parameters which Miditzer presumably sets from its Fluidsynth screen):

AudioPeriods: integer; the number of the audio buffers used by the driver. This number of buffers, multiplied by the buffer size ... determines the maximum latency of the audio driver.

That is, the “buffer size” setting is apparently just arithmetic and probably irrelevant. ... And these docs might be at fluidsynth.flyx.org, which looks pretty useful, at least for the Fluidsynth mumbo-jumbo connoisseur....

Fluidsynth latency is presumably in addition to whatever Windows imposes, at least without an ASIO driver which Miditzer can’t do. ... I gather Fluidsynth may have moved on in that, and maybe someday Miditzer will too! ... I suppose I could go all Mr. Science and do some kind of actual latency measurements....

Reverberation!

There is something crucially useful here, ’though: the “Reverberation” and “Chorus” settings on the “Fluidsynth” tab. Which you probably want to check to “On”. The Miditzer reverb flavor seems a little cheesy, and for that and other reasons I eventually got an external reverb, but the built-in here is far better than nothing. ... The chorus adds a little phony realism to the sound at low settings...

Master Gain!

And then there’s this obscure little setting back on the left of the screen in the middle. ... I started miditzing around February 2012, and it wasn’t until 7/12/14 that I noticed the “Master Gain” control. ... In the interval I’ve had my troubles with signal-to-noise ratios, installing clouds of HD400s and uninstalling a perfectly harmless EQ, but in all that time somehow I never considered the most likely way to get more signal and less noise, which is, turn up the signal! ... Only when this ravishing insight occurred to me one dark and stormy night did I go look for it — and found it right there on the Fluidsynth tab! ... As my mother used to say, if it was a snake it would’ve bit me....

The default setting is 20, which is presumably almost certain to not cause trouble, but is not necessarily optimal. When the dust cleared — after the usual total system crash that seems to stalk me whenever the machine senses weakness — I had set it to 90 which was an immense improvement — when I floor my add-on volume pedal, it is no longer accompanied by an army of hiss ’n’ hum! ... I don’t really get anything louder this way, that’s not the point; the point is to get the output of Miditzer as high as one can without annoying the audio interface, in my case my Fast Track Pro, so that subsequent system noise will get reduced when mixer knobs and what-not are turned down....

Setting it to 100 made distorted sounds, so be sure to turn down the computer’s speaker control or whatever you have the sound connected-to before experimentation — which, to reiterate, is how it works: turn up Miditzer’s Master Gain setting, and then turn down subsequent audio debris to make the noise softer and undistorted (aka “gain staging”)....

Editing the Wild Sound Font

Specifically, I could edit the “miditzer260.sf2” sound font file (or presumably the other Miditzer “SF2”-format files) and then load it using the Fluidsynth screen, at the bottom of which is the “Loaded Soundfonts” box with some buttons which I’ve been successfully ignoring for years. But apparently more than a single Soundfont can be loaded, and there’s an “offset” — which you are required to specify when you load one and which is indicated in front of the colon in the box, apparently supporting a mechanism where “instruments” on multiple soundfonts can be accessed and the output screen has a “bank” column and who knows? ... Anyway all I wanted to do is tinker with Miles’ existing font, so I use 25. ... And here’re some bullets:

  • I used the lovely free open-source polyphone SF2 editor; there’s a donation button at http://polyphone.fr/. It has an actually useful help, with which I eventually figured-out the right way to make a sample softer.[24]
  • I copied my mutilation target from the comes-with-Mitz260 miditzer260.sf2 (from the Miditzer 260 program directory where it’s installed) to 260Softer.sf2: I wanted to make the “piston” sound softer, so it’d fit better with my beautiful mitz hackery schemes.

  • The Wrong Way: I managed to edit the piston waveforms by exporting them into the free Audacity, and then getting them back somehow into the soundfont. I think I was supposed to import them with the same name, so they’d overwrite the existing samples or something, but I did it with a different name, and then had to rename something and delete something, but somehow it all worked out anyway. Except it was stupid....

  • The right way is to find the piston sounds in the Polyphone “instruments” “percussion” chart, and adjust the “Attenuation” from “blank” to “72”. Which’ll do for now anyway. Whereupon I saved 260Softer.sf2....

  • I then copied my 260Softer.sf2 font to the Miditzer260 program directory.

  • Before mutilating my Mitz installation, I copied the entire directory somewhere. Actually I zipped it, but same idea. Hard drives are spacious these days, and software is hard....

  • Then in the glorious Miditzer “Fluidsynth Settings Tab” under the “Loaded Soundfonts” heading, I ...

    • Clicked-on “25: Miditzer”.

    • Clicked “Unload”.

    • Clicked “Load” and selected my 260Softer.sf2 file, entering “25” for the “Bank offset” entry because that seemed to work.

  • Somewhere in this process, I had to set the “Piston sound note” field to “95”. This information is actually available in the Polyphone “instruments” “percussion” chart “key range”, but I just checked another installation....
  • And actually I might’ve had to exit and restart Miditzer, but there was a good deal of the fog of software around. Anyway wouldn’t hurt.

And that’s what she wrote! Everything works perfectly, and now my piston clonks are soft and discreet and people won’t laugh at me anymore behind my back....

Bruce Miles’ Samples

While groveling around in there, I can report that the estimable Miles’ work is evident and abundant. It was indeed no walk in the park when he created these things: the soundfont details show considerable effort expended to produce the obviously superior results — as opposed to the beloved warts of the authentic sampled-from-real-life Paramount organs....


--------------------

Expression Tab

I had a big to-do about the expression pedal on my beautiful Nord C2; if your MIDI volume is anything like the Nord’s, then it will be adequately authentic, with limited range and perhaps a little bumpy.

However, the MIDI volume pedal, if you have one, will move the screen depiction charmingly, vary the volume to some extent, and probably get recorded if you use those Miditzer facilities — which I don’t much, my playing not being of the type likely to benefit from immortalization, or even hazy recollection.

So here (with the usual right-click) you can set the channel (in the ON column, selecting a name from the input screen designations) and the “CC” number. Which means “Continuous Controller”, as I just found-out by googling “MIDI CC”. ... In this and the following screens, the initial Miditzer installation defaults everything to “aux”, as shown under the “ON” heading, which of course you will recall from your tedious memorization of my input screen essay signifies MIDI channel 16 which seems to signify “not used” (unless you configured some MIDI gadget to actually use channel 16). ... I changed these settings in a harrowing but ultimately successful procedure, in which I grokked I was supposed to change “aux” to a useful MIDI channel as per the input tab setting, like “sol”....

The “Use single swell pedal” box probably should be checked; even if you had two pedals, which many theater organs indeed have, I’m not sure how useful they are since the “unification” would strew the sounds between the volume pedals approximately randomly. ... But of course I wallow in ignorance; and see my wild second thoughts next....

I’m not sure what “Swell Threshold” means exactly, but the effect is to make the lowest volume of the pedal louder, and to avoid “bumpy” spots at the low end, either induced by the MIDI pedal — at least mine — or apparently by Miditzer. The result is a plausible-but-not-large volume range.

I’ve never noticed the “low-pass filter” effect, but it’s supposed to make the volume control sound more “authentic”. And may do so!

I have no idea what “Memory Level” does; I tried poking with an appropriate MIDI code but nothing seems to happen. I’m guessing it’s a combination memory level, perhaps an artifact from the old days when 100-level Miditzers roamed the earth?

My Expression

Since I’ve settled on an analog foot pedal anyway, I realized one glad day I really should uncheck “Use single swell pedal” and then devote two of my Nord controls through the usual endless trickery — well actually both Nord and Miditzer agree it’s a CC “continuous control” so it’s not so endless — anyway, make the Nord controls operate the Mitz volume pedals, and use the Nord’s MIDI pedal for the crescendo. That way I get handy “trimmer” controls for both the Mitz volumes and I can actually use the crescendo pedal and see what amazing things happen.

The Crescendo and Its Secret Mem

Of course my crescendo pedal is just for giggles, and I suppose that’s all it was for in the actual theater organ world of yore, a “bullet-point” feature which was supposed to make the instrument more playable, perhaps, by wandering substitute piano players, but I’m probably wrong, and a more likely story is the presence of this elaborate mechanism suggests a much larger population of wandering piano players then the devout theater organ community might like to contemplate....

Miditzer itself has an elaborate mechanism for configuring the thing, and googling for “miditzer crescendo” might find it. ... According to such random arcane researches I’ve conducted + guessing / tests, clicking that secret “MEM” thing on the top of the Miditzer screen activates an additional combination memory level just like the existing 10 combination memory levels, but these combination pistons will get activated one after another as the crescendo pedal is moved, in the order Solo “P”-“5”, Accompaniment “PP”-“5”, and then the Pedal 1, 2, 3 “toe pistons”. (The 260sp seems to use the order Great, Accompaniment, Pedal, and doesn’t use the Solo pistons, which I concluded by clicking the “MEM” thing and poking combo buttons.) Helpfully, when the crescendo is returned to off, whatever registration you had before remains — so I can just pump it up when my usual tibiaesque murmurings need a little punch!

Anyway one can use the secret MEM button + the normal combination button mechanism to set any level of the crescendo, presuming you know which is which; it comes of course with a default bunch, which you should probably save by clicking the MEM button on and using the Export Memory Level feature. (I acquired all this mitzy erudition so I could remove the snare drum from the 260sp’s pedal #3 loudest crescendo combo. Which I really wouldn’t have to do if I’d just leave the “traps” switch set to “2nd” and not fiddle with the second touch input settings.)

No Crescendo Tab Flipping

Note that moving the crescendo pedal doesn’t flip any stop tabs; you just hear what it’s up to. Each crescendo level turns-on every voice in the associated combination, and the next discards those and turns on the next bunch. Which is really smart of me to notice, because that’s the way the combo buttons always work, at least with a global map. ... However, the crescendo pedal also differs from the normal combo buttons in that the voices are always in addition to whatever registration you’ve manually specified, i.e. for which tabs are flipped on....

To cancel the crescendo MEM level, click any of the S1-S5, A1-A5 levels so it lights-up and the usual pistons work, and the MEM highlight goes dark. You’d only click the MEM button to configure the crescendo levels, and the crescendo control seems to work the same way, MEM on or off....

Export/Import Controls Buttons

These interesting buttons — on the pistons and stops tabs also — conceivably could help configure our beautiful Miditzer. When I “Export All Controls” I get a “.csv” file which I can load into the free LibreOffice’s “calc” program (maybe telling it to use “comma” delimiters). (That’s a 260SP example there ->, hence the “grt” reference.) I haven’t actually tried the import side, but it’s obviously easier to work in a spreadsheet than right-clicking in the screens, and it probably works!

Import/Export Memory Level

Probably even more fun is the Miditzer menu “Export Memory Level” which emits another comma-delimited file representing the current “memory level”. The exported file, intriguingly, shows-up quite nicely in LibreOffice calc as rows with every stop in the machine, each with columns for every combination button, depicting on/off/unaltered. ... Looks like fun!

Of course there is the complementary “Import”, which I’ve actually dared to try! I exported the S1 memory level and imported it back to A5, so I could preserve the default combos provided with Miditzer, in an external file, and in A5, so I’d still have them after I mutilated S1....


--------------------

Pistons Tab

As far as I’m concerned, this is what it’s all about, q.v. ... My feeling is, without combination buttons (aka “pistons”), we are nothing. ... In my case, I had to go through the agony of fiddling with primtive and expensive MIDI translation[20] to get my Nord C2 “pushing” the combination buttons, and you will be blessed indeed if your stuff works any easier (but now you can at least use better/cheaper $0 MIDI translation). ... The thing is, Miditzer is not infinitely configurable; or even highly configurable.

In the Pistons screen, you can make a combination piston “poke” when Miditzer gets a particular MIDI “PC” “Program Change” message, but it must be a PC message, not the CC (“Control Change”) MIDI messages emitted by my preferred Nord buttons, and numerous other gadgets’ buttons.

You can alter the PC number (with the usual right-click on it), if that’ll do any good. And I assume the additional columns “PC +1” etc. are supposed to mean that additional numbers’ll work also, which is nice, but odd, so maybe I’m wrong. As always, googling for “Miditzer piston settings” can probably find vast quantities of information of a higher and lower quality than here. ... Which I finally did, and indeed that’s what it is: the additional columns “allow ... you to make use of a real console with more than 23 pistons” (Jim Henry somewhere) — i.e., fake it! ... Kuel; I mean, it could actually be useful, lets you use a nearby piston etc...

Anyway, I know that, for instance, sending the MIDI “PC 10” message does in fact punch the left accompaniment piston, because I do it frequently to turn on the soft lovely tibia combination I use so often. ... After I changed “aux” to “sol”. And after using MIDIox to find out what exactly the Nord emitted, and MIDI translated so it’d send the desired “PC” code. ... In stark contrast, with the admirable Hauptwerk I just right-click on the desired Paramount 310 combo piston, select “Auto-detect”, touch the Nord button, and — voila! — it works. ... Well, frequently; it’s a little cranky and I had to “set-up” the buttons a little and coax it; but it still “got” the Nord’s CC message and I use it to reliably activate that piston....

Enable Piston Sound: the “Clonk”

Yes children this is where Miditzer makes the lovely clonking noise when you use a piston. In the Miditzer dawn I found it enchanting, but then after changing all the levels with my dubious Mitzhack it got real loud, and isn’t easily adjustable. And when I press a Nord button I’ve mapped to a combo a few times accidentally, I suspect repeating the clonk too fast upsets Miditzer. So I unchecked it. ... But then I made it softer....


--------------------

Stops Tab

Here, I imagine, is where the typical dedicated theater organist meets his technical Armageddon. Like real theater organs, Miditzer has so many stops; and your typical giant console also has a vast array of tabs. Getting them to somehow match-up gives me a headache just thinking about it, Miditzer or whoever....

On the bright side, here Miditzer uses “CC” messages, so I could’ve controlled a subset of about 18 or so of the available tabs with the Nord stop buttons, which happen to use CC messages also. But since the whole thing about the theater organ is to maximize the stop tabs, that’s only a pitiful subset of Miditzer’s vast array. ... Note that each MIDI stop must somehow provide two unique MIDI messages, for on and off....

So I’ve just given-up controlling the tabs from MIDI buttons and concentrated on the combos. ... But it’s a wondrous thing; and you can control it all, if you can configure your console to emit two unique CC messages for each tab, and you have enough tabs. ... And then you can get them engraved with the right legends....

I should note that “Mr. Miditzer” the admirable Henry and other virtual organ pioneers worked in ancient times before the onslaught of today’s relatively-cheap MIDI keyboards & controllers, and apparently[6] assumed one would use some kind of dedicated DIY MIDI hardware box with one’s beautiful home-made/restored organ console, and you would be specifying/programming all the codes yourself anyway somehow....

“Select division to edit stop controls: Pedal stops” — the Toy Counter

Well there is something really important here, which I just was highly-puzzled by as I tried to reprogram my brave new age of MIDIox translation: I couldn’t remember how the toys went! — the silver buttons over the pedals, including the all important T8 (?), which I think is the gong. The bad old software[20] was so bad I couldn’t stand the idea of decoding the hex text I had in there from when I translated these things before!

So they’re hiding in the drop-down list: click the down-pointing arrow near the top of the screen and select Pedal stops. ... This of course is how you’d find (and/or modify) the 5 million other stops as you’re endlessly programming your beloved ancient authentic console....


--------------------

The Combination Buttons

With our glorious scenic tour of the tabs/screens of Miditzer concluded, let us move forward to the Miditzer’s “combo” buttons and their wonders. Of which it must be noted that the Mitz probably has the best combination system of all the virtual organs; even Hauptwerk is still catching up....

The “buttons” are operated of course on the Miditzer by clicking the “P” “MF”, “1”-“5” etc. things below each manual. The 10 buttons beneath the upper “solo” keyboard are labelled slightly differently from the bottom row of buttons (on the free Miditzer 216). Then there are three more buttons over the pedals, “PED 1” through “3”. ... These are just things on a screen you can click, but the idea is to somehow get your real hardware buttons to make them go, or at least that was my idea. Or perhaps use the PC keyboard.

Before you play with these too much, you might want to use the menu to “Save Combo File As” somewhere likely, so you can restore it (“Load Combo File”) after wrecking everything. ... Miditzer automatically saves its own combo file at exit, and automatically reloads it when it starts again (I think), but that probably won’t do you any good if you mess-up. ... Both the “save” and “save as” features, incidentally, save a “.cbo” file with all the combination settings, in a binary (unintelligible) format, as opposed to the Export/Import feature.

The Memory Levels

On the lower right-hand of the screen are the important combination control buttons, including ten memory levels: S1 through S5, and A1 through A5. Clicking one of the “S” or “A” buttons provides a completely different set of 23 combination buttons. The current level is the lit-up one. ... I’ve gotten this arithmetic wrong several times, always on the low side, but I think it’s 23 combination buttons X 10 memory levels, for a whopping total of 230 combos! Is that right? ... Whatever; it’s a lot....

That is, every time S1-A5 is clicked, all the combo buttons are immediately switched to an entirely different set; the stop tabs aren’t changed until you click one of the combo buttons, but the next time you do, it’ll be a combo from the new memory level. In a new installation, I believe all of these levels except S1 are blank, and so switching to anything but S1 and clicking a combo button will clear all the stops. Until you SET a new one; so with a new installation you might leave the S1 combos alone, and play with the other memory levels....

... There is an additional mysterious memory level which works with the Crescendo pedal...

How They Work

Anyway, despite appearances all 23 combination buttons behave exactly the same, and their behavior is controlled by the “RES”, “MAP”, and “SET” buttons, over the already blathered-about “COMBINATION MEMORY” buttons on the lower-right hand corner of the screen.

  • RES: “Restores the last hand registration made before pressing pistons” it says somewhere, and that’s what it seems to do.

  • SET: Whatever stop tabs you have set up, pressing SET, followed by any combination button, will indeed set that combination to the stops you specified. But only stops the combination button’s map (see next) allows. ... Note that after pressing the combination button, the illumination effect on the SET button goes out.

  • MAP: It’s a toggle. Click it and it lights-up, and will stay lit-up until you click it again — which you must remember to do, upon pain of severe confusion. ... When it’s active, click any combo button to see which stops can be controlled by it — all the controllable i.e. “mapped” tabs will flip on/down, with the stops that can’t be controlled by the button flipped-up/off. With a new Miditzer default installation, when you do that after clicking the S1 memory level, the Solo buttons will flip-on all the Solo stops and everything else off, and the Accompaniment buttons vary, either flipping-on accompaniment + pedal stops, or just accompaniment. Of course the three Pedal combos will flip-on only the Pedal stops.

Click any other memory level (i.e. S2-S5, A1-A5), and clicking any combo button will flip-on all the stops, I think. ... I.e., the S2-and-up default mapping is “global” aka “all-stops”. The S1 mapping is traditional Wurlitzer apparently, but the global way is probably more useful. And the complete flexibility doubtless comes in handy in ways quite beyond my ken....

To set the map of a combo button, turn on the stops you want to be in the map, click MAP on/lit-up, then click SET followed by the desired combo button. To turn on all stops for this purpose, just “map” one of the existing global stops as described above. Or drag your mouse over all the rows of stops; it’s fun! ... But always remember to click-off the MAP button so it’s dark. Odd things happen if you don’t....

Other Amusing Buttons ’n’ Things

  • CAN: Clears all stops. ... Except doesn’t clear PEDAL TRAPS to the “2nd” position, q.v.

  • MEM: (NOT to be confused with the memory level configuration “MEM” secret button.) ... To the right of one of the manuals, the MEM button, followed by any combo button, sets the “combination memory level” — that S1-S5, A1-A5 thing. MEM followed by a combo button beneath the lowest manual sets A1-A5; MEM followed by the upper manual combo buttons sets S1-S5. In either case, the idea is MEM, followed by the combo button 5 under the Solo manual, will set the “Solo” 5 button aka “S5”. ... So that’s what the “S”s and “A”s are supposed to mean. ... However, the combo buttons to the left of the numbered buttons are just overlayed in order also.

But I triumphantly translated one of my Nord’s buttons to MEM, and with the combination buttons also MIDIed, I’ve got access to 230 combination buttons with only three key strokes! Not so shoddy, eh? ... Although I can’t say my unique talents have found a use for it yet....

  • TOGGLING? Use the CAN button to clear all the stops + make sure PEDAL TRAPS are set to “2nd (CAN doesn’t), and then MAP, SET, combo button, to set an entirely empty map on the combo button. And always remember to click MAP back off! Subsequently, any stop combinations you set to this empty-mapped combo button will toggle! — go on/off with alternate presses of the combo. Which I find tremendously useful, or at least amusing; I put solo bells and pedal drum toggles on PED1 and PED2....

While investigating these mysteries, I realized the obvious and probably superior alternative to toggling is MAPing and SETing: that is, for instance, cancel everything, flip just the pedal bass and kettle drums on, and then MAP, SET, desired combo button, toggle MAP back off, and SET the same combo to bass and kettle drums. ... Then I can serenely add the silly drum thumping to Indian Love Call at the appropriate moment. ... To turn it off, I could use a second combination also MAPed to the bass and kettle drums, but SET to those tabs off. ... But if the stops have already been set-up by using a combo — which is commonly the case, certainly for me — I can just poke that combo again! ... Either approach is probably superior, if less entertaining, than toggling: as all us computer hacks know, toggles are treacherous, which in the Miditzer context means it’s all too easy to accidentally press a toggle combo twice, and then find out only at the next measure — unless you waste time and attention by looking at the screen. An explicit on/off approach is usually more reliable. ... But with my amateur tendencies, the toggling is definitely more fun and even convenient.

  • EXPORT/IMPORT: In connection with this endless combo fiddling, I can’t recommend the menu Memory Level Export/Import enough. It is often preferable to the menu Save/Save As/Load Combo File because it saves only a single combo memory level; so when you import the level again, you limit the range of random atrocities you might commit. ... Miditzer’s ten combo memory levels of 23 or thirty-three combinations or so is abundant, but it becomes unwieldy if one has to save/and restore everything at once. For concerts — which the trembling world need never fear from me — you could keep a complicated song set-up in a memory level file and just load it when appropriate. Or, after working on and saving several such levels, you might recall them to various arbitrary memory levels and then “Save Combo File As” the entire thing to a file named “TuesdayConcert.cbo” or something, for recall on the appointed day....

--------------------

The PC Keyboard

I found the computer keyboard less useful than I thought I might, but of course I had my Nord and its buttons beckoning me to the light. ... I stole this picture from miditzer although I’m not sure exactly where, but as shown, the Miditzer 216 combo buttons are mapped to various PC keys, starting with F1 for the solo combo “p”. The PED 1, 2, 3 are on the Tab row; T1 etc. are the “toy” buttons and make amusing noises. Some of the “ASD” keys play accidentals on the solo manual, while the “ZXC” row plays some white keys.

... & Senseless Elaboration

You could get one of those mini USB keyboards and perhaps a USB extension cable if necessary, and use it for the various combinations. ... Or — I really have no idea how or if it works, since I’ve gone so far beyond all that[20] — but you could go super-hobbyist and use the Arduino Leonardo, which apparently can be programmed to be a PC USB keyboard, and hook-up your own personal combination buttons!

--------------------

The Latency Wars

And here for your viewing edification and amusement are pictures via my real engineer oscilloscope of actual latencies in the two famous virtual organs. The top red line is the MIDI signal from the keyboard. The yellow trace is of course the beautiful music. ... So the time between keypress and sound for Miditzer is around 112 milliseconds, versus around 55 for the champ. This with a fairly “hot” 2011 Windows 7/64-bit machine, not particularly optimized — well, except the Miditzer trace is with 6 Fluidsynth buffers (2 less than the default). I suppose I should get out the equipment and check that, a task made more challenging by the attic Miditzer 260SP’s crashing tendencies, but eventually we reasoned together and I can report that with the standard eight buffers it’s 135 milliseconds. 24 buffers produces 330ms, so it’s something like 15ms/buffer. These values vary with time and tide, but are never anything like the ridiculous small numbers the DAW people quote for this or that interface in unspecified contexts. ... I believe all those milliseconds are used to fabricate the sound of our beautiful organs, i.e. the PC’s CPU toiling away producing all that polyphony is time-consuming....

I used the attic laboratories’ obsolete E-MU 0404 audio/MIDI interface — or maybe it was the (slightly faster?) Akai EIE, a cheap and despised but nevertheless good-sounding and looking device. ... Whatever; I have no intention of testing anything with the Nord Imperium which has too many wires as it is. Both are Windows 7 systems and if anything the attic PC is “hotter” than the Imperium laptop. And I must admit I expected more difference. 100 milliseconds is a tenth of a second: Hauptwerk is less, Miditzer more — about twice as much as Hwerk — and apparently that’s noticeable or at least I noticed it, although at least for me and my dubious keyboard skills it sort-of melted-away after a few weeks....

Latency Configuration

I configured Hauptwerk to produce its superior results @ “General Settings / Audio Outputs”, probably to my antique obsolete “ASIO: ASIO E-EMU 0404 | USB” audio output device. After a few attempts I’ve given-up and don’t know what Hauptwerk does when installed under various conditions — it takes so long to test — but it probably selects without configuration a nice low-latency interface if possible, although when that wasn’t the case at least once it thoughtfully selected “Hauptwerk VST Link” which would produce utter silence for the aspiring virtual organist. But it is easy enough — well at least as much as anything is in the wondrously maddening intricately-complex virtual organ world — for the anxious amateur to accidentally select one of the “Direct” options, which as far as I know means “bad latency” in Microsoftese....

On the other hand, Miditzer cannot be so configured, for good or ill; there is no way to tell it to output to an ASIO or any particular audio interface. Apparently the estimable Mr. Henry is hot on the trail of Fluidsynth configuration over there, and perhaps someday; but not now. ... I can direct Windows version 7 and probably other versions to output all audio to the EMU 0404 including Miditzer’s, and I have done so because it’s better-sounding audio. But that doesn’t improve the latency.


— the cranky programmer
Monday 7/31/17 12:07 pm