Monday, May 31, 2010

LTPTP XXXIV: Software Sort-Out

The M-Audio KeyRig's own software has never worked properly.  I don't know how many times I've
un/installed it.  The biggest bug - probably quite easily solved if I got in touch with them - is that it takes me to a pages with an error message when I try to register it.  Maybe it won't run properly until it's registered, but at the moment it only loads organ sounds.  It generally feels and looks forbidding and unfriendly.  I've spent a bit of time with it, but today it felt like it wasn't repaying the effort.

So I loaded the Ableton Live  (version 6.0 something) software that came with it.  When you register that, it gives you the chance to upgrade it to version 8.0 something, so I did that.  600-odd MB, so it took a while to download.  I took a long, long time to install, too.  It sits alongside the smaller version, not over the top, so it's using a lot of space; (I suspect it's using a lot of memory resources when it's running, too).

Clearly, there's a great deal going on there that I don't understand yet.  But it guides you quite painlessly into loading the instruments and it recognised the keyboard straightaway.  Naturally I played around with the different instruments a bit, but wanted a straightforward piano.  And there it is.  Lovely.  There's 30% reverb so with the headphones on you can kid yourself that you're actually playing in a rather large 1930s front room, maybe there's an aspidistra on the piano...  And the velocity sensitivity really is, well, sensitive, so it feels like you're playing a piano, (except of course that the keys are a bit lighter).  For the first time I could hear properly what I was doing right and wrong.  It felt and sounded really nice.  The piano's the daddy-o of the keyboards for good reason - I'll maybe get to play a Hammond one day, but it's the old Joanna for now.

The Piano Suite Premier software uses what in EFL we'd call PPP: presentation, practice, production...  One is presented with  a new thing - at this stage, usually a new set of notes and keys, - there's some controlled practice, and then presentation in the form of several wee tunes of about eight bars each.  You can play them in such a way as to have the notes on the staff light up a satisfying green if you hit the right one, and if you get through the eight bars without a blunder it tells you "100% Excellent!"  Which is nice.  But your score relies on hitting the right notes in the right order, paying no heed of time or velocity.  And the piano, by comparison with  the Ableton software, sounds very flat and difficult to hear properly.  That's why I'm so pleased the Ableton is good because my own methodology is to screengrab the music, put it here, and then work through it away from the PSP.

I've been doing that on the organ sounds in KeyRig, but it was much better today with something sounding like a real piano.  I'm concentrating on perfection with Hava Nagila.  Is that the best way, I wonder, to get it perfect before moving on?