I'm having trouble with trying to figure out how the progression tools work in QWS. I can't figure out how to make pitch-bending work, how to side-chain, and other things. Would somebody be willing to help me figure this out?
I use progressions all the time so I can help you. Do you want me to give you a general overview of how it works or do you want to give me an example of what you're trying to do and I can explain it from that viewpoint?
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So like, I don't understand the controller numbers, and I don't know how pitchbend works, as an example. A simple overview would be nice.
Okay. First I will try to explain some basics. Then I will explain how to use the progression tool. This is going to be long, but I hope it helps.
First, I'll talk about channels. In midi files, you have 16 channels to work with. Each channel can be set up with different instruments, controllers etc. They are completely independent of each other. On most synthesizers, channel 10 is reserved for drums. On other synthesizers you can put drums on any channel.
In midi files, you also have tracks. Each track is assigned to a certain channel. I could, for instance, have 50 tracks in my midi file. However since we only have 16 channels, then all 50 tracks have to share those channels. So maybe 4 tracks are on channel 1, 3 tracks are on channel 2 etc.
It's very important to remember that if multiple tracks are on the same channel, then they will share the same settings. So if tracks 1-4 are on channel 1, and I change the volume on track 1, tracks 2-4 will also change because they are also on channel 1.
Now we get to controllers. Controllers are basically different effects that can be applied to the notes on a channel. Every controller has what we call a number and a value. Simply put, the number of a controller tells us what that controller will do. For example, adding vibrato is controller 1, changing the pan position is controller 10, changing volume is controller 7 etc. The value of a controller tells us what we're changing something to. For example, controller number 7 is volume, but we need to give this controller a value to tell what volume we want to use. All controllers can have values from 0 to 127, with a value of 0 being minimum and a value of 127 being maximum.
All of these things were standardized in the early 90s. So all synthesizers which abide by basic midi standards should behave the same way with basic controllers. It can get murky when dealing with vst instruments because many of them don't have controllers set up, but many synthesizers do follow the standards. If you have a keyboard with its own sounds, chances are they will follow standards. In a pinch, you can use the Microsoft Wavetable synth, and that follows the basic standards too.
Here are a few common controllers that you might use. I'm only giving you the basics here; not all synthesizers support the less common ones so I'll leave those out.
Controler 1: modulation. This basically adds vibrato to notes, though it can do other things depending on what synthesizer you're using. At a value of 0 there is no vibrato/modulation, at 127 it is full, and you can go in between to go somewhere in the middle.
Controller 7: volume. This changes the volume. at 0 it is silent, at 127 it is full.
Controller 10: pan. This adjusts the left-right position. 0 is fully left, 127 is fully right, 64 is center, and you can go in between.
Controller 11: Expression. This is similar to volume. 0 is silent, 127 is loudest. The reason you have two controllers (controller 7 and controller 11) which basically do the same thing, is because it's easier to fine tune things. You can use controller 11 to do swells, fade-outs, side chaining, whatever you need, and still use controller 7 to adjust the volume if you need to without affecting anything else.
There are other common controllers which you should probably know about, such as Controllers 0 and 32 to adjust bank, controller 91 to adjust reverb and controller 93 to adjust chorus, but you don't use those every day. Besides, in QWS you can change those things as needed with the change properties dialog.
Now for pitch bends. As you probably know a pitch bend lets you bend/glide the pitch between notes. Pitch bends will affect an entire channel, just like everything else. So if you have tracks 1-4 on channel 1, and you put pitch bends on channel 1, then tracks 2-4 will also be pitch bent. This is unfortunate; if you're doing a guitar part and you want one note of the guitar to be bent while the other stays still, you'll have to use two channels, with one channel playing the note to be held still, and the other playing the note with the pitch bend. It's kinda inconvenient.
But what is a pitch bend exactly? It's not a controller or anything like that, it's its own midi event. Its value goes from -8192 to 8191. So you have a wide range to work with. -8192 is pitch bent fully down, 8191 is pitch bent fully up, and 0 is no pitch bend.
In most cases, a synthesizer will pitch bend a whole step in either direction i.e. if you pitch bend fully up, the note will be a whole step higher than normal. This range can be changed with some advanced controller work but I won't go into that here.
Now let's talk about progressions, and what they're useful for. If you put down a single controller such as expression, pan, vibrato etc. you will be setting a constant level i.e. if you set expression to 75, the volume will drop to a fairly low level and stay there. Same with pitch bend. If you set pitch bend to 1500, the pitch will be out of tune and will stay out of tune. But let's say you wanted to fade the volume out, or bend the pitch gradually. That's when you'd use progressions. The progression tool simply copies events, changing the value slightly on each one, to simulate a fade of some kind.
Inside the progression dialog, you have quite a number of things to look at:
First in the type selection, select the controller you want to modify. Refer to the above list if you don't know which one to pick. Later, you can experiment with note, tempo and other things, but for now let's keep it simple and use a basic controller. Next you'll find the channel selection. Most of the time you'll leave this alone, because it will be set to the channel you're currently on.
The next two parameters are start time and end time. These need to be entered in a beat.tick format. If you read the manual, you'll know that a beat has 192 ticks. So, if you wanted to have a progression start at beat 1, and end halfway through beat 2, you would enter 1.000 in the start time, and 2.096 in the end time fields.
Next you'll find the start value and end value fields. Simply enter the value you want the controller to start at, and the value you want it to end at. For this example, let's say I enter 127 in the start value, and 50 in the end value. So, my progression will start at position 1.000, at a value of 127, and end at position 2.096 at a value of 50. Remember, for controllers, the range for values is 0 to 127, and for pitch bends the range is from -8192 to 8191. If you specify invalid numbers, QWS will yell at you when you hit OK.
But don't hit OK yet, the last thing we need to adjust is the snap value. This adjusts how often qWS will put a controller down. The default of 0.024 means that it will put a controller in the midi every 24 ticks. This is fine for slow and medium progressions, but on faster ones which are more drastic, 0.024 is too high because you'll hear the controllers step through the progression instead of being a smooth fade. To create a smoother fade, try smaller snap values like 0.012, 0.008, 0.004 etc. Just remember, the smaller you set this, the closer together the controllers will be, and the more events will get generated. This will make the midi bigger and harder to look at if you need to do some fine editing later.
That's everything, so hit OK. If the dialog closes, then the progression was successful.
Admittedly, the progression tool is awkward to work with. You may not get the affect you want first time, or even the second, third or fourth time. However it's a skill that can be improved with practice. I'm used to it now, as I've used it thousands of times. I can often get the sound I want on my second or third try now, sometimes even the first. So keep at it, and you will soon get better at it!
Please post back if you have further questions.
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Thanks! I'm still not sure if I understand how pitchbending works, but I'll give it a try. Can you give meamore specific example of how controller 11 would work, for example, like, sidechaining or something like that?
QWS is a midi sequencer, meaning that you could produce music with it. I use VST's, so I have to plug them in through Reaper, a sound editor and digital audio workstation, and Loop Midi, which sets up the ports for me to work with.