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MIDI signal flow; was it always like this?

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Was surprised to hear an external synth playing notes from a muted track. Input echo was enabled, and a keyboard controller (independent of the synth) was sending notes matching that track's input and output channel. The notes previously recorded on the track were properly muted, but the notes received live were not muted. With the track muted, the MIDI meter does not move even when incoming notes are echoed.

This is different from the way the audio signal works; incoming audio on an echoed track is immediately silenced when the track is muted.

It's also different from the way an instrument track works. MIDI being echoed is immediately silenced when the track is muted. However, when the instrument track is split, it is revealed that both the MIDI track and the synth track are being muted & unmuted together when the instrument track is muted/unmuted. With the track split, operating the MIDI part's mute operates the synth track mute as well. However, operating the synth track mute can be done independently. Then ( after the scenario described below) it is revealed that when the paired MIDI track is muted and the synth track is unmuted, the synth plays incoming (echoed) notes! The MIDI track meter does not move, while the synth track meter does move.

A further oddity is that the behavior of the paired MIDI/synth track changes after an unrelated audio track has its echo button turned on. Before doing that, the unmuted synth does not play the notes from its muted echo-enabled MIDI track pair. Afterwards it does. I can't guess why this would be intended.

Generally, that behavior of mute on a MIDI track wouldn't seem logical to me and I don't remember it being that way. But it seems to work that way on both the most recent Sonar and the most recent CW. The changing behavior of the paired MIDI-synth tracks also doesn't seem logical.

Did something change? Did everyone else already know about this?

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Yes, everything you describe has pretty much always worked that way. The only thing I was't sure about was the MIDI meter not registering live-echoed input. That certainly isn't expected, but I verified it goes back at least to X2, the oldest version I still have installed. Don't think I've ever noticed this - probably because I don't pay much attention to MIDI meters in general except when troubleshooting.

I could go either way on whether muting should affect live MIDI input. It might be the more intuitive behavior, but it's been the way it is now for so long that I'm sure there are some long-time users that have subconsciously come to depend on it working that way. 

But regardless of the source, if a track is outputting anything, the meter should show it.

Edited by David Baay

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Thanks, Dave, for verifying this back to X2. I'm a long-time user and I have subconsciously come to expect it to work the other way. Just obviously never depended on it.😀

I've heard there might be some 8.5 users here. Any takers?

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11 hours ago, bvideo said:

A further oddity is that the behavior of the paired MIDI/synth track changes after an unrelated audio track has its echo button turned on. Before doing that, the unmuted synth does not play the notes from its muted echo-enabled MIDI track pair. Afterwards it does. I can't guess why this would be intended.

I think I must have overlooked or misread this the first time. You're talking about existing MIDI on the muted track, right? If so, that sounds distinctly weird, and I'm pretty confident I won't be able to reproduce it. Can you detail a little more what synths and MIDI/Audio I/O routing are involved? If anything, I'm thinking it might have to do with recent changes to MIDI 'Prepare Using' buffer. Are you running the new default 20ms buffer size  now?

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5 hours ago, bvideo said:

Thanks, Dave, for verifying this back to X2. I'm a long-time user and I have subconsciously come to expect it to work the other way. Just obviously never depended on it.😀

I've heard there might be some 8.5 users here. Any takers?

I don't use them, but I have Sonar 3 and Sonar 8.5 installed on my Win 10 PC. I have to shovel more snow, but if no one else tests those in the meantime, I am interested.  I don't remember which version does what in which way(s).  I just let my ||:  eyes-brain-ears-brain-hands :|| bio-feedback mechanism do its thing as best it can.

Earlier today (based on your observations) I also tested for the effects of record-armed mode, counting down period, and midi recording  for the PRV keyboard and note display (as well as for the echo/thru to ext gear path when the track is muted and the midi input track level leds).

With the Sonar 3 and Sonar 8.5 tests, that should represent a good sample of versions.  If not, I think I still have more versions on my XP PC.

Uh Oh.  Its snowing as hard as it did yesterday and overnight into today.   😞

(An hour or so later)

Initial Results re: SONAR 3: track echo/thru (midi input echo on & auto thru modes) work as expected:

(1) usb keyboard -> external sound module [track mute is irrelevant for this test; not testing recorded track data, just midi input echo/auto thru]. (2) when recorded, notes get placed into PRV in real time; PRV keyboard doesn't show usb keyboard key presses as I believe that feature came later, IIRC. (3) midi data does not seem to trigger track leds in any condition (and I didn't see an option to make this happen). (4) midi-track-i/o-channeling functions as expected; usb keyboard on midi channel 2 (a) is echoed to external gear midi channel 2 (b) except when forced to a specific midi channel by the track i/o routing and (c) in both cases, the data gets recorded as midi track 2 data.

Tentative Conclusion: I expect if I were to test other post SONAR 3 versions, the track echo/thru would function the same way when routed to external gear--except for any new options or features that might have been added.

Footnote: It took longer than I expected to remember where things were in the pre-X SONARs. 

image.png.6fe107b45eb71ba3b7a465c2bef3f2e3.png

 

Edited by User 905133
to add results of initial testing

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Dave,

The weird thing that happened with the split instrument track was done without any prerecorded notes.

I made a test project with a pure MIDI track,  a split instrument track, and a pure audio track, with no data on any of them. My aim was only to test the behavior of mute in connection with echo input for those three cases.

After playing with the pure MIDI track, and seeing what I reported in the OP, I played with the split instrument track next. It seemed to behave the way I would expect. I echo-enabled the MIDI track and muted it, and unmuted the synth track, then played notes matching the MIDI track. There was no sound. Then I played with the audio track muting and echo-enabling it & maybe un-echoed (exact step here, I don't remember). It behaved as I would expect: no input echo sounded when muted. Then when I went back to the split instrument track & played notes, the synth track sounded the notes. I had not touched widgets on the split instrument track, it just started behaving differently. I realize this is not a very precise set of steps to reproduce, & I may not get a chance to nail it down until tomorrow evening.

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9 hours ago, bvideo said:

I played with the split instrument track next. It seemed to behave the way I would expect. I echo-enabled the MIDI track and muted it, and unmuted the synth track, then played notes matching the MIDI track. There was no sound.

I suspect that something wasn't set right when you first tried live input with the separate MIDI track muted. For me it's very consistent that the muted MIDI track continues to echo live input, and sound is heard whether driving an unmuted soft synth or an input echoed audio track hosting  a hardware synth.

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I went step by step as described below. The pattern has a very strict sequence. Also, my scenario did not work the same way using the TTS-1 as compared with the M1 and Rapture Session VSTi's.  I started this with Sonar Platinum. No data was ever recorded or entered onto any track.

  1. Start with new blank project.
  2. Create a MIDI track (track 1).
  3. Set Input from keyboard and output to a synth module or external whatever (both channel 1)
  4. Enable input echo and make sure your keyboard triggers the synth (just make sure your MIDI is going through Sonar, not direct).
  5. Hit Mute and verify the oddity that notes from the keyboard still play on the external synth, but the meter doesn't move.
  6. Create an instrument track (I used the M1 VSTi & Rapture session will also reproduce this, but not TTS-1)
  7. Choose input from your keyboard, channel 1. Don't play anything now.
  8. Create an audio track, with input from some legitimate audio channel. (Won't actually send any audio though)
  9. Save this test project & exit Sonar
  10. Start Sonar and load the project (I started from this point when I repeated my scenarios)
  11. (optionally, you can "replace synth" in the instrument track menu to try this on different VSTi's)
  12. Split the instrument track
  13. Repeat the MIDI track test on track 1, i.e.:
  14. Enable track 1 input echo and make sure your keyboard triggers the external synth
  15. Hit Mute and verify the oddity that keyboard notes still play
  16. You can disable track 1 input echo now
  17. Test the split instrument track pair (tracks 2 & 3):
  18. Enable input echo on the MIDI track (2)
  19. Demonstrate echo from keyboard to VSTi works
  20. Observe meter operates on both MIDI & synth tracks (2 & 3)
  21. Mute the MIDI of the pair. Observe the synth track mutes too.
  22. Play notes and observe no echo & no meter movement.
  23. Unmute the synth track -- still no echo & no meter movement.
  24. Enable input echo on the audio track (track 4).
  25. Now play notes on the instrument track pair just as you did before.
  26. Now synth meter moves (track 3) but not MIDI meter (track 2), and sound plays!

I had a little trouble reproducing this at first. Yesterday I did this with the M1 VSTi, but I wanted to use something included with Bandlab Cakewalk, so I tried it with TTS-1 and it did not reproduce step 26 23. But it did reproduce with Rapture Session & Lounge Lizard. (probably steps 13-15 aren't needed).

It happens with Sonar and Cakewalk. At steps 22 and 23, this is how I would expect mute and input echo to interact properly. Steps 5 and 26, not.

Starting from step 10, it is possible to rerun the experiment with different VSTi's. I suspect step 24 sets something that cannot be unset, so starting over from step 10 is necessary to reproduce.

 

Edited by bvideo
step 23, not step 26 was not reproduced by TTS-1

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9 hours ago, bvideo said:
  1. Start with new blank project.
  2. Create a MIDI track (track 1).
  3. Set Input from keyboard and output to a synth module or external whatever (both channel 1)
  4. Enable input echo and make sure your keyboard triggers the synth (just make sure your MIDI is going through Sonar, not direct).
  5. Hit Mute and verify . . . that notes from the keyboard still play on the external synth . . . .
  6. Create an instrument track . . . .

Regarding step 6 above: Which insert soft synth method did you use?  I have discovered that sometimes the methods used make a difference. Not sure if it does here, but I was just wondering about this. Thanks.

 

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Thank you for your interest, User 905133. I used the track right-click menu "insert instrument". Later, I used "Replace Synth" from both the synth rack menu and the track right-click menu. And I found that the choice of soft synth did make a difference. I tried 4 different ones. TTS-1 did not show the change of behavior caused by step 24. Three other VSTi synths did, including Korg M1, Rapture Session, and Lounge Lizard. I know M1 is not with Cakewalk. I don't know about the other two, they came with Sonar, probably.

Edited by bvideo

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BTW, I am not sure I would call it an oddity (step 5) because that seems to be the way Sonar has been done at least since Sonar 3. Back in the day before I used soft synths, when creating multitrack recordings the way input echo/thru functioned seemed intuitive (at least to me).  Lay down a line (separate track from other lines), mute playback of a recorded line, test other lines live, unmute to listen to interaction of previously recorded line and live overlays, etc. At that point there were options to undo previously recorded lines, make a new track for an overlay, etc.

Perhaps with the addition over the years of different record modes, take lanes, the extensive use of soft synths, etc. my simplistic method makes the input echo/thru behavior seem less intuitive. Technological complexity can do that. 

Perhaps you want to request an option, something like "[  ] On track mute, always suppress input echo to external gear." Or perhaps the Mute-Solo-Record button array could have its own border to convey they relate to tracks and there could be some Input Echo/Thru buttons within a different border.

If I understand why you are calling the behavior an "oddity" perhaps options like these (if possible) might help you and others.  Just a thought.

Just in case its not clear, I don't think one work flow is "better" than any other; ideally, we should all have what works best for us.  One of the things I have appreciated about SONAR/Cakewalk is its flexibility.  So if there is the possibility of adding optional work flow preferences, I think that's consistent with the history of the software.

image.png.1bb3c68929ae58b6c179659315db5de2.png

54 minutes ago, bvideo said:

Thank you for your interest, User 905133. Yes, I found that the choice of soft synth did make a difference. I tried 4 different ones. TTS-1 did not show the change of behavior caused by step 24. Three other VSTi synths did, including Korg M1, Rapture Session, and Lounge Lizard. I know M1 is not with Cakewalk. I don't know about the other two, they came with Sonar, probably.

Clarification: Which insert soft synth method did you use?  I have discovered that sometimes the methods [of inserting soft synths] used make a difference.

Sorry I didn't emphasize that in the original post.  What I mean was: How did you insert the soft synths you tested?  For example, (a) from the Insert Menu, (b) by right clicking in the track area, (c) by dragging an instrument from the Browser, (d) from the Synth Rack, etc.   I don't think your results would be different based on which method you used to insert each soft synth (it shouldn't), but I was wondering which method you used

Footnote: I try different things out when other people mention them because it helps me to make better use of the software. For example, while exploring your observations, I got an idea (and tested it) on how to use a particular soft synth/sampler I have that can have up to 19 output buses from a single instance of the VSTi. If I can make it work the way I want, that might mean I can make a smooth workflow transition--from developing tunes using my old school hardware to porting the tunes to the VSTi (same manufacturer and basic synth engine as the hardware) and possibly only needing a laptop to play out (a long time goal of mine).  So, thanks for raising this issue!!   

image.png.2c0eb9c4ec60bc1d9b9c537dd9fbcc82.png     image.png.a57eeaf089c41c037e71dc70785f07aa.png   image.png.486ea4fcb7447a6354cdc7ccd3604556.png                image.png.2f6263677a84705d6ce77abad8625e60.png  image.png.fb308fab2b047adcf5cbd5badba4cbcd.pngimage.png.0caac1f86e8f5ce1d5593ff17b546a9f.png

Edited by User 905133
fix typo

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Sorry, User 905133, I did not answer your question at first. I edited my answer a few minutes later.

I used the right-click menu on the track for step 6. I have not tried a different step 6. However, I have replaced the synth in step 11 two different ways.

I get what you're saying about trying different lines while muting the already-recorded part. I  would never have thought of doing it that way because of my preconceived idea of what mute should do. And I probably would have wanted to record my trials with further abilities to alternately listen to takes etc. Before the advent of take lanes/tracks, I would have set up a clone track with no data on it for each new take. I don't really remember back that far any more 😀.

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I can repro that behavior (using Lounge Lizard Full) with the exception that in my environment, the synth track mute does not follow the MIDI track mute in a split instrument. 

A few relvant behaviors I noted:

- When input echo is enabled on the "unrelated" audio track, the MIDI activity indicator in the Lounge Lizard flashes, but only the first time.

- If the Lounge Lizard MIDI track mute is cycled off and on, enabling input echo on the audio track no longer has an effect (the Lounge Lizard activity indicator does not flash, and live MIDI input remains muted).

- Cycling the audio engine always causes the Loung eLizard activity indicator to flash, and restores input echo through the muted MIDI track.

There has always been some 'behind the scenes' linkage of MIDI and Synth tracks that's  possible because of the internal control of both MIDI transmisison and synth audio ouput that does not affect hardware synths. An example of this is that muting the MIDI track while holding a note will stop the sound from Lounge Lizard though no MIDI activity is registered  i.e. the output of the synth is being stopped by some means other than sending a Note Off or All Notes Off or other MIDI message. 

Bottom line: Your scenario demonstrates an inconsistency that should be resolved one way or the other: Either a MIDI track mute should always stop live input echo to both soft and hardware MIDI ports or it should never affect either of them. Personally, I agree that the it would be more intuitive if live input were muted along with existing MIDI in all cases.

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Dave,

Some of those MIDI activity flashes seem weird! Too bad MidiOx wouldn't work there.

There is an explanation of instrument track muting in the Sonar help file. There's a reference to "smart mute".

"Smart mute" describes a setting that can be accessed in the Synth Settings menu. Maybe you and I have different settings there. My "Enable Smart Mute" is checked. For quick reference:

--------- from Help: -----------

Smart Mute for Split Instrument Tracks

When a virtual instrument MIDI track is soloed or muted, SONAR automatically manages muting or soloing the related set of audio/MIDI tracks in order to properly playback the soloed/muted tracks.

In order to facilitate audio recording on Split Instrument Tracks, Smart Mute is no longer the default behavior for Split Instrument Tracks. By default, you can now individually mute individual split MIDI/audio tracks for soft synths.

If you want to enable Smart Mute for Split Instrument Tracks, open the Synth Rack view, click the Synth Settings menu and select Enable Smart Mute on the drop-down menu.

Bill B.

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I had originally mentioned smart mute in connection with my comment about 'behind the scenes' linkage, but deleted it because I didn't think it was likely you had it enabled since it's disabled by default, and you indicated it was possible to unmute the Synth track and independently mute the MIDI track.

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Apparently smart mute makes the synth track follow mute operations on the MIDI track, but not vice versa. Not clearly described in the manual.

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