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    This article is intended for computer musicians and composers who are getting started with making microtonal and xenharmonic music using MIDI controlled virtual instruments that feature full-controller microtuning, and seeks to define what it means to be able to fully microtune an instrument to any conceivable intonation system.

    Microtuning Virtual Instruments - Part 2 | MIDI Pitch Microtuning

    With the profusion of alternative electronic musical instrument controllers we have available today, I've been compelled to consider other, and perhaps more all encompassing terms, for what many microtonal composers, theorists and musicians have long called full-keyboard microtuning. Possibilities could be something like 'full-controller microtuning', or even more to the point, MIDI Pitch Microtuning.

    For purposes of discussion, this article will use MIDI Pitch Microtuning, or MPM, to indicate what is one of the most important features required for any virtual instrument that is intended for serious microtonal and xenharmonic music composition.

    But what exactly is MIDI Pitch Microtuning?

    Well, it's very simple, and there is a strict definition for this feature...

    MIDI Pitch Microtuning enables musicians and composers to arbitrarily re-tune, or microtune, each and every MIDI Note to any desired frequencies, thereby changing the underlying intonation system of the musical instrument.

    Any full implementation of MPM does this by default, and with extreme high precision, is able to remap every MIDI Note to entirely new pitches – and importantly – it remaps the pitches without the need to offset or transpose the oscillators of the instrument to achieve these target pitches.

    It's important to recognize that any virtual instrument that does not meet this simple criteria of being able to arbitrarily re-tune every MIDI Note – without the need to offset oscillator pitches – does not feature, by definition, MIDI Pitch Microtuning.

    In upcoming articles, there will be discussion about various popular microtuning formats, such as TUN, Scala SCL/KBM and MTS. There will also be information on how to create these microtuning files for your virtual instrument and how to use the keyboard mapping features of Scala.

    Stay microtuned,

    j:l

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    This article discusses some of the popular microtuning file formats and is intended for computer musicians and composers who are using MIDI controlled virtual instruments to compose microtonal and xenharmonic music.


    Microtuning Virtual Instruments - Part 3 | Formats and Features

    Recently a close colleague was researching the available options for buying a portable keyboard with the requirements that it should include both a built-in synthesizer and feature full-controller, MIDI pitch microtuning. After some investigation, we discovered that there are actually no consumer keyboards currently being manufactured that meet this criteria. That's right – as far as we could discern – there are precisely zero portable hardware keyboards being made at this moment, anywhere on the planet, that feature full MIDI pitch microtuning, and this leads to an important realization: there are currently three options for musicians and composers wishing to explore the exciting possibilities of using alternative intonation systems in their music:

    1. Get into carpentry and learn how to build custom microtonal acoustic instruments, or otherwise purchase them from other builders. With the latter, for instance, there are a number of options for buying extremely high quality microtonal guitars, and or fret-boards that can be fitted to existing guitars that feature bolt-on necks, such as those manufactured by luthier and guitarist Ron Sword. Building your own instruments though can be a lot of fun, and one can be guaranteed to learn a lot about the physics of sound in the process. I would highly recommend exploring this possibility if you have access to the tools and skills.

    2. Buy some of the older used hardware keyboards, such as ones previously manufactured by Yamaha, which, in their golden years, actually featured full-controller MIDI pitch microtuning. It's perhaps the most surprising of all that Yamaha – who were previously one of the more innovative leaders in portable microtonal keyboard design and manufacturing – now offers no instruments that feature it and seem to basically only support the status quo of twelve-tone-equal-temperament hegemony. When choosing this option for microtuning, one will need a bit of luck in finding and maintaining these antique instruments, which in many cases may have been manufactured decades ago. Buying old used hardware gear that supports full-controller microtuning is something that should be approached with the greatest caution and is something that this article cannot recommend for those who are getting started with microtonal music composition.

    3. Use computers and virtual instruments. It pretty much goes without saying, that as far as technological innovation is concerned, this is where the action is for xenharmonic and microtonal music creation, and there are a number of developers offering full-controller microtuning features in their software. All that is required is having a fairly current computer and a decent external MIDI controller.


    The primary concern of this article is with microtuning virtual instruments that feature (what are sometimes called) microtuning tables, which essentially are lists of pitch values that the synthesizer reads in order to re-map the default pitches of MIDI Notes to other intonation systems. But it is important to not skip over the fact that there are other options available. Here is a quick overview of some of these possibilities:

    1. On the Mac platform there is LMSO from developer X. J. Scott, which is used by literally thousands of musicians, composers and educators around the world, and is capable of performing dynamic microtuning using a highly specialized pitch-bend method. LMSO can also create microtuning table files for just about any microtonal synthesizer – hardware or software – that's ever been made, and is even capable of tuning instruments which typically do not support microtuning at all.

    2. Fractal Tune Smithy, from developer Robert Walker, is a program that can microtune instruments with the pitch-bend relay method and also includes many algorithmic music features.

    3. Scala, from developer Manuel Op deCoul, as well as being the primary means to create microtuning format files on the Windows PC, also includes features for microtuning instruments with the pitch-bend relay method.

    4. Native Instruments virtual instruments, in some cases, support microtuning features, but there is a complete lack of uniformity across their product line, with each instrument requiring its own proprietary format. For instance, as with their Kontakt sampler it is the KSP scripting language, which has the severe drawback of that some commercial sample libraries have the scripts locked where the user cannot change the intonation. Another shortcoming of KSP is that some commercial libraries also use the scripting language for changing sample articulations and in some cases may actually use specialized scripts that make changes to the intonation, such as in some of the available Gamelan libraries. Where KSP is used in these special libraries to change the underlying intonation, it may not be possible to fully re-tune them to other intonation systems without there being some conflict between using proprietary and custom microtuning scripts at the same time. It is beyond the scope of this article to detail the strange mixture of other proprietary microtuning formats that are found in the NI line, but suffice it to say that there is nothing easy about working with microtuning using their products, where every virtual instrument they offer uses its own unique method, if indeed a particular instrument features microtuning at all.

    As above, our primary concern is with virtual instruments that feature microtuning tables, which, as it stands today, is one of the most popular, flexible and reliable ways to make microtonal and xenharmonic music with computers. With this method of microtuning, there are currently available three microtuning formats, all of which can be created using Scala (and or LMSO on the Mac): TUN, SCL/KBM and MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard). The below table details the features of these popular microtuning formats.


    Features TUN SCL/KBM MTS Comments
    Supports Full MIDI Pitch Microtuning Yes Yes Yes The Scala format requires both SCL and KBM files
    for full MIDI Pitch Microtuning.
    Number of Files Required for Full MIDI Pitch Microtuning 1 2 1
    Real-Time Microtuning Support No No Yes Only synths that support MTS can be microtuned in real-time.
    Human Readable Yes Yes No TUN, SCL/KBM can be viewed with a text editor.

    TUN
    Pros:
    • Virtual instruments can be fully microtuned using a single TUN file.
    • Human readable with a text editor.
    Cons:
    • No dynamic, real-time microtuning.
    • To change to another intonation system, a new TUN file must be manually loaded by the user for every instrument.
    Some Virtual Instruments and Developers Supporting TUN: Linplug, Big Tick, Camel Audio, AnaMark, VAZ Synths.


    Scala SCL/KBM
    Pros:
    • Virtual instruments can be fully microtuned using both the SCL and KBM files.
    • Human readable with a text editor.
    • The MIDI Note on which the 1/1 of the microtuning – and – the MIDI Note on which the Reference Frequency will be placed can be specified and freely changed using the KBM (Keyboard Mapping File).
    Cons:
    • No dynamic, real-time microtuning.
    • To change to another intonation system, a new SCL and KBM file must be manually loaded by the user for every instrument.
    • Both the SCL and KBM files are required to do full-controller MIDI Pitch Microtuning.
    Some Virtual Instruments and Developers Supporting SCL/KBM: Modartt Pianoteq.

    [Note: There are other developers that have - in error - implemented only the SCL portion of the Scala format in their products, such as Cakewalk and Image Line. It's important to recognize that virtual instruments which only use SCL, without the KBM part of the format, actually do not feature Full-Controller MIDI Pitch Microtuning. This will be discussed in more detail in upcoming articles in this series.]


    MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard)
    Pros:
    • Virtual instruments can be fully microtuned using single MTS files.
    • Has been a part of the MIDI Specification since the 1990s.
    • Single, as well as entire ensembles of virtual instruments, can be fully and dynamically microtuned in real-time, without the need to manually load new microtuning files by hand in the manner required with TUN and SCL/KBM.
    Cons:
    • The format is MIDI data, and therefore is not human-readable.
    Some Virtual Instruments and Developers Supporting MTS: Xen-Arts Xenharmonic FMTS VSTi.


    j:l

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    Back in 2005 I wrote a short TUN tutorial that was published on the Scala home page, which was originally written for the manual of the LinPlug CronoX VSTi. Since that time, Manuel Op de Coul (the developer of Scala) has added many new and helpful features that make it easier than ever to create the microtuning format files for retuning electronic hardware and software musical instruments.

    This new article greatly expands upon the information in the original TUN tutorial and presents a sequence of exercises for the creation of the TUN microtuning format files used for exploring alternative intonation systems in many popular microtunable virtual instruments, and covers how the frequencies of microtonal tunings are mapped to specific MIDI Note Numbers, as well as demonstrating many important new features and functions of the Scala application.  

    Microtuning Virtual Instruments - Part 4 | Creating TUN Files

    The TUN microtuning format was invented by Mark Henning who is also the developer of the AnaMark VSTi synthesizer, which was first published with TUN support on February 19, 2003, making it one of the earliest VSTi supporting full-controller microtuning tables. The TUN format is an elegant solution for retuning MIDI controlled virtual instruments to alternative intonation systems, because both the MIDI Note Number on which the 1/1 starting note of the microtuning will be placed - and - the MIDI Note Number on which the Reference Frequency will be placed, can be freely specified, and is embedded within a single text file that is read by the instrument.


    When creating a tuning table microtuning - of any kind - for a virtual instrument, there are three essential parameters that will be configured:

    1.    The Microtuning itself, which, considered alone, typically has no specific pitches assigned to it.

    2.    The MIDI Note Number on which the 1/1 Starting Note of the microtuning will be placed.

    3.    The MIDI Note Number on which the Reference Frequency will be placed. This is the parameter which directly determines the way specific pitches are mapped to a musician's MIDI controller.

    These three parameters can be easily specified using the popular Scala application which can be used for the creation of most of the microtuning format files used in virtual instruments.

    Scala
    As an obvious first step in following this tutorial, musicians will need to have Scala installed on their computer. Go to the Scala Downloads page, download and install the application. Just in case there are some who may be new to Scala, here is some background information derived from the '05 tutorial:

    "Scala is a freeware utility developed by Manuel Op de Coul in the Netherlands, which can be used for the creation and analysis of historical, ethnic and contemporary microtunings. A powerful capability of Scala is that it enables the user to create the proprietary tuning data required for microtuning a wide range
    of hardware and software synthesizers and samplers."

    OK - Let's get started...

    When you first run Scala, you will see the below UI.


    Scala is a rather deep application with many features beyond merely creating microtuning format files for retuning virtual instruments. In this, and the other Scala tutorials that will follow, most all of the features that we will focus on will be found under the File and View menus, and by using the functions that are found in the dialog that is presented when clicking the Opts button on the tool bar, all of which are shown above within a red rectangle.

    The functions under the File menu are used for creating, saving and exporting new microtunings. There is a feature found in the View menu for viewing the way the frequencies of microtunings are mapped to our controller's MIDI Note Numbers. The Opts button opens a User Options dialog within which we will specify the keyboard mapping parameters for our microtunings.

    As has been repeatedly stressed throughout this series of articles, a crucial part of setting up a full-controller microtuning is being able to freely and arbitrarily configure MIDI Note Numbers to have specific pitches across the entire range of the instrument by defining the Microtuning (the intonation system itself), the MIDI Note Number on which the 1/1 Starting Note will be placed, and finally, the MIDI Note Number on which the Reference Frequency of the microtuning will be placed, which is actually what determines how and where the specific pitches will fall on a musician's keyboard.

    The reasons why musicians and composers will need to be able to specify these parameters in their microtuning tables are many, but here are a few of them:
    • To bring ensembles of instruments into tune with each other so that they all will be able to play in a common intonation.
    • For ethnomusicological studies, musicians may want to tune their instruments to recordings or acoustic instrument intonations that do not use Western music 'concert' pitches.
    • To change the sonic character of the music by specifying atypical reference frequencies that may have nothing in common with the twelve-tone-equal-temperament.
    All this may sound a bit complicated at first, but don't worry, because now we will systematically go through three different microtuning scenarios which will endeavor to completely demystify the process of setting up a full-controller microtuning for your TUN-enabled virtual instrument of choice. Go through these exercises if you are new to working with microtonal tunings, and upon completion, you will gain a deeper understanding of how tunings are mapped to instruments and how to work with Scala to get results required of your music.

    Scenario 1
    Microtuning: Eight Tone Equal Temperament
    MIDI Note Number and Reference Frequency: 69.A @ 440 Hz
    MIDI Note Number for 1/1 Starting Note: 60.C

    As above, our goal in this particular exercise will be to create a TUN file for 8-TET, with the 1/1 on 60.C and our Reference Frequency on 69.A @ 440 Hz.

    1. Specifying the Microtuning
    Click on the File menu and choose New / Equal Temperament, or use keyboard command Shift+Alt+E (learn keyboard commands to work faster).


    This will open the New Equal Temperament dialog.


    In the New Equal Temperament dialog type 8 into the Division field, then click the OK button.

    Next, click the Show button (shown in red rectangle below) on the tool bar to view the microtuning. 


    As you can see, at this point the microtuning is shown in cents and has no mapped pitches associated with it. If you are unfamiliar with the measurement of musical intervals in terms of cents, read this article for clarification: Cent (music).


    2. Specifying the Reference Frequency for the microtuning and the MIDI Note Number on which it will be placed.

    and

    3. Specifying the MIDI Note Number on which the 1/1 Starting Note of a microtuning will be placed.

    Now click the Opts button on the toolbar, which opens the User Options dialog; containing some of the most important features in Scala for specifying the way the specific pitches of microtunings will be mapped to our MIDI controllers.


    In the leftmost column there are navigation buttons for selecting various User Options. Click the button labeled MIDI to access the functions for specifying the Keyboard Mapping Parameters. Now perform the following steps:

    1.  In the Reference Frequency field, type 440. This will set our Reference Frequency to 440 Hz.

    2.  In the Reference Note field, either type, or use the up and down selectors, to enter MIDI Note Number 69. What this does is specify that our Reference Frequency will be placed on MIDI Note Number 69.A and will have a pitch of 440 Hz.

    3.  And finally, in the Note for 1/1 field, either type, or use the up and down selectors, to enter MIDI Note Number 60. What this does is specify that our microtuning will start on MIDI Note Number 60.C.

    4.  In the Synthesizer Tuning Options (SEND) section, set the Tuning Model to: 112: TUN standard .tun format for many softsynths, via text file.

    At this point we have completed the process of specifying the way our microtuning will be mapped to the MIDI controller as well as that we will create a TUN format file for our instrument. Next, click Apply, and then OK to close the User Options dialog.

    It's crucial to recognize that becoming familiar with this User Options / MIDI / Keyboard Mapping Parameters dialog is one of the most important steps in mastering how to configure full-controller microtunings with Scala, and the functions that are found here are relatively new additions which were not available when I wrote the original TUN tutorial in '05. This dialog has greatly streamlined the process for setting up keyboard mappings by consolidating these features into an easy-to-use GUI-based group.

    [Note: Being that 8-TET has equal steps of 150 cents, where the 1/1 is placed will not have an impact on the mapping in the way that it will with microtunings that have non-equal step sizes and more interval classes. We'll examine these matters more as we progress through the other scenarios.]


    4. Viewing the results of the Keyboard Mapping
    Another powerful Scala feature is the ability to view the results of the settings we made in the User Options / MIDI / Keyboard Mapping Parameters dialog.


    From the View menu, choose Keyboard Mapping (keyboard command Shift+Ctrl+K) to see the keyboard mapping parameters that will be applied to our TUN files.


    We can also examine the entire Keyboard Mapping by using the View menu and choosing Tuning Dump Numbers (keyboard command Shift+Ctrl+V).


    As you can see, this shows all of the MIDI Note Numbers from 0-127, the Cents Values and the associated Specific Pitches (Hz) that are mapped to each note. Since the creation of microtuning files for virtual instruments gives musicians and composers a repeatable, and therefore verifiable result, it is possible to use this mapping information to insure that an instrument is indeed playing the correct frequencies when a new intonation system is loaded.

    Compare this frequency data to the 12-TET pitches that were discussed in the first article in this series - MIDI Notes, Pitches and Notation Standards - to see how we have now configured a completely new intonation system for our instruments.


    5. Exporting the TUN File
    Now that we have completely configured our microtuning and its keyboard mapping parameters, it's time to export our TUN file.


    1. Under the File menu, choose Export Synth Tuning (keyboard command Shift+Ctrl+T).

    2. Using the Save File dialog, navigate to a directory on your computer where you want to save your TUN files.

    3. Name the TUN file. In this case, name it "8-TET-Ref-69A-440.tun".

    4. Click OK and now we've completed the process of creating a TUN file for 8-TET with a reference frequency of 69.A @ 440 Hz. Now the TUN file can be loaded into the instrument.

    As mentioned above, creating microtuning table files gives us a repeatable and verifiable result. Try setting your synth to a sine-waveform and place a software tuner after the instrument such as GTune, and using the frequency information from Step 4 above, start playing on middle 60.C and check the results of the tuning. It's very informative to see and hear how different this is from 12-TET. Check the first couple of octaves, and you should see that your instrument is producing the below frequencies beginning with 201.7409 Hz and terminating on 806.9636 Hz:

        60.C  3: 5550      201.7409 Hz  !  0.0 cents      C.0
        61.C# 3: 5700      220.0000 Hz  !  150.0 cents  
        62.D  3: 5850      239.9117 Hz  !  300.0 cents    Eb.0
        63.Eb 3: 6000      261.6256 Hz  !  450.0 cents  
        64.E  3: 6150      285.3047 Hz  !  600.0 cents    F#.0
        65.F  3: 6300      311.1270 Hz  !  750.0 cents  
        66.F# 3: 6450      339.2864 Hz  !  900.0 cents    A.0
        67.G  3: 6600      369.9944 Hz  !  1050.0 cents 
        68.G# 3: 6750      403.4818 Hz  !  1200.0 cents   C.1
        69.A  3: 6900      440.0000 Hz  !  1350.0 cents 
        70.Bb 3: 7050      479.8234 Hz  !  1500.0 cents   Eb.1
        71.B  3: 7200      523.2511 Hz  !  1650.0 cents 
        72.C  4: 7350      570.6094 Hz  !  1800.0 cents   F#.1
        73.C# 4: 7500      622.2540 Hz  !  1950.0 cents 
        74.D  4: 7650      678.5728 Hz  !  2100.0 cents   A.1
        75.Eb 4: 7800      739.9888 Hz  !  2250.0 cents 
        76.E  4: 7950      806.9636 Hz  !  2400.0 cents   C.2

    If your instrument is accurately reproducing these frequencies, then you have configured your microtuning correctly for this particular scenario.

    [Note: The other scenarios that were originally intended to be a part of this article will be published at a later date.]

    j:l

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    Dubbhism, Split Notes and Xen-Arts
    proudly presents
    release announcement on dubbhism:


    Other news...
    This week there will be a maintenance update to the Xenharmonic FMTS VSTi. For those who have been using version 1.0, you may be interested in the the many exciting enhancements in the upcoming 1.1 release. Check out the notes from Tony Dubshot on the Subversio page for details of what will come.

    While you are over at the Dubbhism web, don't forget to also check out the new xenharmonic tracks on Tony Dubshot's latest solo release, The Circuit Bender ~ Timpani.

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     Xenharmonic FMTS VSTi
    An FM Synthesis VSTi for the Creation of Microtonal and Xenharmonic Music
    Has been updated to Version 1.1
    Enhancements and bug fixes:
    • Added exponential response to the Filter 1 Cutoff Frequency control slider.
    • Added 60 total automation targets for host DAW automation. Automation targets are included for: ADSR, FM-RM Oscilllator Algorithm, Effects Section, Filter Section, Global and Local Microtuning, Operator Waveforms and Oscillator Section.
    • Added Phase Center slider for the Phase/Pulse Width Oscillator LFO.
    • Added more presets.
    • Added more microtunings.
    • Added more partials files.
    • Update to manual.
    • Improvement to FM-RM oscillator quality, especially in the bass range.
    • Changed name of Detune effect to Ensemble.
    • Enhancement to UI graphics to make visually crisper.
    • New Plugin ID. Due to the number of internal enhancements, patches created with v.1.0 are not compatible with 1.1
    • Fixed Operator Keyboard Tracking Slider bug.
    • Fixed Frequency Limit bug that could cause clipping under certain circumstances.

    Enjoy!

    IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT XEN-ARTS SOFTWARE
    Please note that Xen-Arts software never has been, and never will be, infected with computer viruses - this we promise. If your virus software ever indicates that our microtonal music software has a virus, this is what is known as a False Positive. Contacting the developer of your virus software to make them aware of the false positive is the best solution.

    For visitors who may be new to Xen-FMTS, below are the features of the VSTi that were published back in January 2011.


    Xenharmonic FMTS is a 4 Operator FM Synthesis VSTi with a specialized set of features for musicians interested in exploring the expressive possibilities of microtonal and xenharmonic music making.

    Microtuning Features

    • Internally loads and externally receives both MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard) Bulk Dump and Single Note Microtuning Files.
    • Operator ratios can easily be set to values that are coincident with the microtuning being used, thereby producing tuning related FM sidebands in the timbre of the instrument.
    • Isoharmonic spacing of the operator ratios.
    • Precise values may be set for microtonal pitch-bends.
    • Arbitrary microtonal period shifting makes it possible to pitch transpose in both octave and non-octave increments.
    FM-RM Oscillator
    • 4 Operator FM Synthesis with Ring-Modulation.
    • 57 Operator Algorithms.
    • 11 different Operator Waveforms.
    Phase & Pulse-Width Oscillator
    • 22 Waveforms.
    • Phase & Pulse-Width LFO Modulation.
    Envelope Generators
    • 6 independent Envelope Generators dedicated to modulating Operators A-D, Filters and VCA.
    • Velocity sensitive.
    • Keyboard tracking.
    Filters
    • 2 State Variable Filters with 12 and 24 dB response.
    • Cutoff frequencies modulated by Velocity, Envelope Generator, LFO and Keyboard Tracking.
    • Low Frequency Oscillators can be set to modulate the cutoff frequencies of the filters at audio rates, thereby producing sidebands in the signal.
    Effects
    • Saturator for subtle to extreme distortion.
    • 6 dB LPF Warm Filter.
    • 4-Voice Stereo Ensemble Detuner.

    This VSTi is a gift to the xenharmonic and microtonal community, as well as to musicians and composers who are interested in exploring the exciting possibilities of microtuning in their music. It is being offered as freeware.

    j:l

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    A video that should be of particular interest to musicians interesting in musical instrument intonation - aka - microtuning...



    Melodyne Editor 2.0 is simply one of the greatest technological and musical advances of recent times with regard to changing the underlying intonation systems in audio files. To be completely amazed, watch the video on True Scale & Tuning on the Celemony site.

    Melodyne Editor 2.0

    The possibilities for xenharmonic and microtonal music are truly staggering to consider.

    I'm personally very curious as to how well Melodyne Editor can handle changing the intonation in musical scenarios that might include non-harmonic timbres and ensemble textures that prominently feature them.

    j:l

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    New VSTi Announcement

    IVOR
    The Microtonal Virtual Analog Synthesizer
    by Xen-Arts

    IVOR is a two-oscillator subtractive synthesizer that features full-controller MIDI Pitch Microtuning using MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard), where any MIDI Note Number can be freely microtuned to any desired pitch across the MIDI range, thereby enabling musicians and composers to explore the vast expressive possibilities of composing music with alternative intonation systems.

    IVOR is a microtonal sound-designer's virtual analog synthesizer with a carefully designed ergonomic workflow for quickly creating powerful sounding and musical useful timbres.

    IVOR excels at making categories of timbres that include bass, distortion, keys, pads, broken, weird, leads and other analog synthesis types of sounds.

    IVOR is an educational tool for learning about subtractive sound synthesis and musical instrument intonation (aka microtuning and xenharmonics).

    IVOR embodies a design philosophy of simplicity for microtonal music sound-design…
    • A ‘knob-less’ design featuring slider controls only, which enables intuitive direct control with a computer mouse.
    •  A dedicated control signal system mapped to the most important synthesis functions.
    • Settings are made by typing values into fields, dropdown lists, left-and-right arrows, switches and sliders.
    • Enables musicians to specify precise microtonal pitch-bend settings.
    • Features arbitrary microtonal oscillator transposition settings.
    • Velocity modulation of harmonics enables dynamically playing harmonics of the fundamental pitch.

    Features...
    Oscillator Section
    • Two Oscillators with 22 Waveforms
    • Microtonal, Harmonic Series and Subharmonic Series Oscillator Transposition
    • LFO (with Rate Sequencer) and Envelope Generator for Phase, Pulse-Width and Pitch Modulation
    • LFO and Envelope Generator features both Unidirectional and Bidirectional Modulation
    • Analog Pitch Drift Emulator with both Unidirectional and Bidirectional Modulation
    • Velocity-to-Harmonics Modulation enables oscillators to dynamically sound harmonics of the fundamental pitch
    • Ring Modulation with 23 RM Types
    • Oscillator and Ring Modulator Mixer
    Filter Section
    • Pre-Filter Saturation Stage with 20 Saturation Types
    • Two Independent Filters with Six Filter Types: LP4, LP2, HPF, BPF, BRF, APF
    • One and Two Stage Filter Cascade
    • LFO (with Rate Sequencer) and Envelope Generator for Filter Cutoff Frequency Modulation
    • LFO and Envelope Generator enables both Unidirectional and Bidirectional Filter Modulation
    VCA Section
    • Dedicated Envelope Generator
    • Switchable Velocity Sensitivity and Fixed Volume Control
    Performance Control
    • MIDI Pitch Microtuning with MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard)
    • MTS Support for both Single Note and Bulk Dump
    • Loads MTS Microtuning Format Files Internally and Receives MTS Externally
    • Local (Per-Patch) and Global Microtuning (Static Microtuning for All Patches)
    • Microtunings can be loaded from any directory on hard drives or storage devices connected to the computer
    • Ten Note Polyphonic
    • Monophonic Legato Mode
    • Polyphonic Portamento with Three Glide Modes
    • Microtonal Pitch Bend
    • Vibrato
    • Effects include Warm Filter and Stereo Ensemble 
    IVOR is a freeware 32-bit VSTi for Windows XP or higher and includes a detailed instruction manual, 98 factory patches and 54 microtonal tunings.


    Download:


    Download  |  Ivor - Piano's Ghost:

    [43 mg]

    [11 mg]

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    Noisia - Diplodocus (Kill The Noise Remix)

    Note the microtonal string lead during the breakdown in the middle of the piece.

    Fun track!

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  • 07/11/12--15:53: Video Art with Xen-FMTS
  • Here is an interesting video of exceptionally high quality, in which video artist and composer, Jeffrey Plaide, uses the Xenharmonic FMTS VSTi in the creation of the accompanying soundtrack.



    See more of this fascinating artist's work on their Harmonic Distortions YouTube channel, and this feature on the Triangulation Blog; a blog thematically focused on abstract, experimental and new media art.


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  • 07/15/12--11:49: Other Time (2011) | Reloaded
  • It had been requested that some of the music previously available on Xen-Arts before the change of file-sharing services be re-uploaded, and in particular the Other Time EP. In preparation for doing this, it seemed a good opportunity to re-engineer the record as well. 

    For those visitors who got to hear the original, this re-mastered version should promise a more detailed listening experience, and for those who are hearing it for the first time, it is hoped that you will enjoy the music as well.

    Of potential interest to computer musicians and composers are some of the tools used for making this record:

    Host: Reaper
    Linplug: Albino, Alpha, MorphoX
    Camel Audio: Alchemy
    VAZ Synths: VAZ Modular 3
    Big Tick: Rhino
    Variety Of Sound: Density mkIII, ThrillseekerLA
    Xen-Arts: Xenharmonic FMTS
    One Small Clue: Poise
    Scala: Microtunings for all instruments.
    SynthEdit: Various proprietary, non-published, microtonal synthesis, samplers and effects plugins. 


    Here is the link to the original album release announcement:




    Download the album in the below formats:

    FLAC (115 MB)

    MP3 (39 MB)

    ALAC (120 MB)





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    Just in case Xen-Arts visitors missed it...

    Back in June there was a new full length album release on Split Notes by microtonal music Netlabel owner, Sean Archibald, entitled Sean but not Heard.

    Check out the ten tracks on this great Xen-Bass record here:

    http://split-notes.com/011/

    I was lucky to get to hear this record as it evolved and the end result is amazing; a most highly recommended suite of xenharmonic tunes. Download or stream this music to appreciate the vast expressive possibilities of working with alternative intonation systems, from one of the most creative artists working in the field.



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    The biggest payoff for spending innumerable hours producing freeware microtonal VSTi, is eventually getting to hear the music made with them.

    Check out the xenharmonic tracks, some of which apparently feature the new Ivor VSTi, from the extraordinarily talented voyager25 on their SoundCloud channel:

    http://soundcloud.com/voyager47



    Nice work!

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    New sighting on the xenharmonic radar today...

    Brendan Byrnes - Micropangaea (2012)

    This is an amazing sounding record just out on the Spectropol Records label, from an extraordinarily talented composer that I was previously unaware of, and the web-design on the album release page is a true work of art.

    Visit the composer's home page for more information:

    Brendan Byrnes



    Stellar work!

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    2012 has produced an incredible crop of amazing sounding records, and the harvest continues with the new release from one of my personal favorite producers, the dubmaster, Tony Dubshot.

    Great xen-bass tunes with excellent engineering, Doepfer modular, analog tape delays and dubscape sound-designs all around.





    Check it out!

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    Over the past couple of decades or so, there have been a number of noteworthy creative audio artists from the Italian electro-acoustic/soundscape/ambient scene, who have produced a large body of some of the most high-quality music in these genres. Outstanding among them are:

    After about a decade of recording and releasing dozens of exquisite albums, it appears the Oöphoi project has either ended or slowed, but there are an enormous number of great records to hear from this prolific artist. Down through the years I’ve bought a large portion of his output – even the re-issues – and this is music that has weathered the seasons and been able to endure repeated listening; having that elusive, difficult to describe, and no doubt largely subjective quality, that can be extremely challenging to achieve as an artist.

    Artists that I first became aware of through the Hic Sunt Leones label, who have also produced consistently beautiful music, and continue, even with their most recent work, to refine their craft and raise the creative bar for what may be done in this style.

    A long running multimedia project that encompassed electronic music, video art, photography and graphic design. Just recently it came to light that the TU M’ project was ended by the artists in January 2012, but fortunately, they have left a large archive of their audio and visual works available on their website. Some of the music – and their process – brings to mind the style of William Basinski, of The Disintegration Loops fame, although the artists bring their own distinctive expression to the form, which was embodied in their wonderful record, Monochromes Vol. 1 (2009). Visual Works

    A highly prolific and unbroken twenty years of recording and releasing exquisitely beautiful records – including collaborations with other incredible artists such as just-intonation composer Robert Rich, Dirk Serries and Mathias Grassow – distinguishes the artist Stefano Musso, and his Alio Die project, as a creator of one of the most compelling – and uniformly high quality – bodies of work in the genre.

    The music and style of these artists is generally characterized by the masterful use of acoustic and electronic musical instrument timbres, field and found recordings, and digital signal processing, which may often prominently feature phrase and textural repetition through the use – and juxtaposition of – delay lines (aka looping) of varying time periods.

    What is of potential interest about all of these amazing artists for listeners, musicians and composers who are curious about exploring the vast expressive frontiers of microtonal and xenharmonic music, is that their music often features microtonal inflected melodies and electro-acoustic textures that are far from the pitch grid of the twelve-tone-equal-temperament, although it is never explicitly stated by the artists that they systematically use specific alternative intonations (perhaps for the better even if they do). A good showcase for this kind of sound-world is evident in the latest Alio Die record, Deconsecrated and Pure; a masterwork of exquisite audio art…



    Beautiful minimalism all around. Check it out.

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  • 12/16/12--10:52: Sonic Imprints

  • There is a sort of perceptual gestalt – an imprint or impression – that happens while listening to music, as the memory registers the various pitch heights of an given intonation system. It happens as the pitch material is presented sequentially – as in melody – and in harmony as well…

    But there is a third type of event that perhaps gets discussed less: the overlapping of natural (or otherwise electronically extended) decay stages of musical instrument timbres, as well as from their propagation in reverberant spaces as the music progresses through time. This is – for instance – at the core of a portion of Kraig Grady’s microtonal and just intonation sound: amazing sounding, shimmering, acoustic affects as the decays of the instruments overlap; often showcasing exquisite sonic interactions between the underlying intonation system being used and the timbre of the instruments.

    But it’s also the number one dead giveaway that music is in 12 equal, as in Steve Roach’s new album (available for streaming in its entirety):

    Steve Roach - Soul Tones (2012)

    The composite that is created in the listener’s memory from the sum of musical pitch events happening over time, gives one that impression about the intonational quality. Music in 12 has a certain unique kind of gong-like nonharmonic resonant quality in this regard; a distinct sonic signature that is unmistakable. Nothing wrong with it really, and indeed this is a wonderfully beautiful sounding record, but notice, if you listen, to this quality in the overlapping of the sounds. The imprint on the memory, and the impression of the intonation, is unquestionably that of 12 equal.

    This is among the reasons why it can be so rewarding to compose with alternative intonations as a matter of routine musical practice; one has access to – and experience with using – myriad other kinds of sonic signatures, qualities and imprints on the listener’s memory; whole new orders of acoustic – and psychoacoustic – phenomenon and expressive musical color become a part of the composer’s vocabulary.

    12 equal is beautiful really, but as we can well appreciate, it’s merely one member of huge a continuum of possibilities.

    j:l

    Disclaimer: I’m actually a fairly huge fan of Steve Roach, 12-ED2 or not. :)

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    ZynAddSubFX | Windows VSTi | Microtuning Features Updated

    For Windows and Linux based computer musicians who may be new to exploring alternative intonation systems (aka microtuning, xenharmonics) and composing microtonal music with virtual instruments, an important development along the way has been, and what we may now consider to be one of the great cult classic VSTi, ZynAddSubFX, first introduced in 2002 by visionary developer Paul Nasca (also the developer of the amazing Paulstretch); a fully microtonal and multitimbral virtual instrument plugin, which, in its current iteration is comprised of three unique and powerful synthesis engines, and especially noteworthy among them, the PadSynth, being capable of making some truly exquisite and expressive timbres for microtonal and xenharmonic music composition. At some point in recent years, Paul Nasca appears to have stepped away from the ZynAddSubFX project, and current development of this open-source microtonal synthesizer has been assumed by other programmers.

    As anyone who has tried to use the Windows version of ZynAddSubFX in their microtonal music will be aware, there have always been problems with the microtuning functions. Going back to my own earliest work with this instrument – if memory serves – sometime around 2005, it has never been able to correctly save and restore the microtuning settings from within a host DAW. The only way to save and restore the Scale settings in the earliest versions of the plugin was by saving a scale settings file, then reloading that manually when opening a project. In later iterations of ZynAddSubFX, microtuning settings had to be made manually each time a DAW project was loaded with an instance of the plugin, due to its inability to accurately save and restore the scales settings.

    I’m extremely pleased to announce, that as of today, all this has changed, and these problems have been fixed by one of the current programmers, VDX (aka jackoo on KVR Audio), who was kind enough to update the microtuning code for ZynAddSubFX. Now the plugin will faithfully save and restore the microtunings within the host applications, which has been tested primarily in Cubase and Reaper.

    Read about and download the release here:
    Latest ZynAddSubFX VST version
    ZynAddSubFX VST v2.4.1.496beta
    It has long been my feeling that ZynAddSubFX has the most elegant – and logical – implementation of using the Scala SCL and KBM format I’ve seen on any microtonal VSTi that uses it, so it is a truly momentous event for microtuning enthusiasts to have this working properly in this particular instrument.


    Let’s go through quick a overview of the ZynAddSubFX Scales Settings dialog, for those who may not be aware of its powerful features for microtonal music composition.

     1. When first loading an instance of ZynAddSubFX into one's DAW, this is the first dialog one sees:


    2. Near the top right corner, click the button labeled Scales to open the Scales dialog. Once opened, this is the initial state of the dialog:


    3. Check the Enable Microtonal check box at the top left of the dialog to activate the Scales and microtuning features. As one can see, it opens to a default of 12 tone equal temperament:


    4. To load your own microtunings, click the Import SCL File button on the bottom right of the Scales dialog. Navigate to a location on your hard drive where Scala SCL files are saved and load one from that directory.

    If you happen to not have any SCL files on your computer, and haven't yet learned how to create them with Scala, go to the below page and download the Scale Archive; a zip archive of Scala SCL files comprised of literally thousands of historical and contemporary microtunings; enough intonation systems for innumerable future world cultures to make microtonal and xenharmonic music from now, until the sun goes supernova:

    Scale Archive

    For this illustration, I'm loading a 19 tone equal temperament SCL file I made for testing this beta:


    5. Now that we have a SCL microtuning file loaded into ZynAddSubFX other than 12 tone equal temperament, let's consider some of the powerful features of its Scales settings dialog. 

    How To Set The 1/1 Starting Note Of The Loaded SCL File
    6. At the top of the Scales dialog there is a field labeled "A" Freq, and a selector labled "A" Note. These settings enable arbitrary mapping for the 1/1 of the loaded SCL file.

    A couple of typical concert pitch settings that musicians will make with microtuning enabled VSTi, are to set the 1/1 starting pitch to either:
    • MIDI Note 60.C, at a frequency of 261.626 Hz.
    • MIDI Note 69.A,  at a frequency of 440 Hz. 
    ZynAddSubFX defaults to the latter, MIDI Note 69.A, at a frequency of 440 Hz, which means that the starting note of the loaded microtuning, in this case, 19 tone equal temperament, has its starting pitch mapped to MIDI Note 69, which is tuned to 440 Hertz, or 440 CPS (Cycles Per Second, if you prefer). But what if we want the former to be our 1/1, MIDI Note 60.C, at a frequency of 261.626 Hz?

    Here's how to get there...

    Position your cursor at the beginning of the text in the "A" Freq field and then perform keyboard command Shift+End on your keyboard. This will easily and quickly select the text in the field. Now type 261.626 over 440.000 and change the "A" Note selector to MIDI Note 60


    With these settings, you have now moved the 1/1 starting pitch from the ZynAddSubFX default, 69.A at 440 Hz, to a new starting pitch of 60.C at 261.626 Hz. This powerful feature is how musicians and composers can easily set the 1/1 starting note the loaded SCL microtuning file to any desired MIDI Note and specific pitch.


    How To Set The 1/1 Pitch To A Non-Standard Frequency
    Here is a great article on historical concert pitch:

    Concert pitch

    As a demonstration of the flexibility of the ZynAddSubFX Scales dialog features, suppose for instance, that for the performance of Baroque music, it is required to tune to A.69 to a frequency of 415 Hz; merely type 415 into  the "A" Freq field, and then set the "A" Note selector to 69. With these settings, you have now set the 1/1 of the microtuning to a specific pitch of MIDI Note 69 at 415 Hertz (or CPS). 

    As one can readily see and hear, even with just these two settings: the "A" Freq field, and the "A" Note selector, it is very easy to change the 1/1 of any loaded microtuning to any desired pitch imaginable; either historic or otherwise, and indeed, changing the base frequencies of the music to something other than typical concert pitches of 69.A 440 Hz and 60.C 261.626 Hz is a great way to totally change the sonic character of the music in general, although it is an advanced and somewhat specialist topic.

    7. The Shift selector enables modal rotation - or interval matrix rotation - of the loaded microtuning. This is very useful, because musicians can load one microtuning, and shift to any of the other modes of that scale with ease, which is important for microtunings having two or more interval sizes.

    8.  By clicking the Import KBM File button on the bottom right of the Scales dialog, it is also possible to load a linear keyboard mapping file (KBM) with simple instructions such as that MIDI Note C.60 will be at a frequency of 261.626 Hz. And when such a file is loaded, it actually changes the values in the "A" Freq. field, and the "A" Note selector at the top of the Scales dialog. This and the other KBM files I checked seemed to work. The KBM files are a complex topic about this microtuning format, and it's largely undocumented how every facet of this works.

    But the most important thing of all is that now ZynAddSubFX will save and restore the Scale settings within the host DAW, which essentially means that this classic synthesizer is ready for serious microtonal and xenharmonic music composition tasks. It's thrilling to see this working now and many thanks to VDX for making this possible.

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  • 01/25/13--16:42: Sleepwalking
  • A highly microtonal inflected classic...

    Santo & Johnny - Sleep Walk 1959

    The definitive original.

    The Ventures - Sleepwalk

    One of my personal favorite renditions; perfection.
    Amazing bass, snare and guitar sound.

    Santo & Johnny

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    New VSTi Announcement
    XenFont
    A HYBRID SOUNDFONT & SUBTRACTIVE SYNTHESIS VSTI
    FOR THE CREATION OF MICROTONAL AND XENHARMONIC MUSIC
    By Xen-Arts 

    XenFont is a two oscillator, hybrid SF2 SoundFont & Subtractive Synthesis VSTi that features full-controller MIDI Pitch Microtuning using the MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard) format, where any MIDI Note Number can be freely microtuned to any desired pitch across the MIDI range, enabling computer musicians and composers to explore the vast expressive possibilities of composing music with alternative intonation systems.

    XenFont is a microtonal sound-designer's SF2 sample-based synthesizer, with a carefully designed ergonomic workflow for quickly creating powerful sounding and musical useful timbres. The instrument enables users to load their own SF2 SoundFont files and thereby any special timbres required of the music at hand, from classical acoustic instruments, to synthesized ones. Routing the SF2 SoundFont Oscillators through the internal synthesis functions of the VSTi, provides a way to radically transform the original sounds and create new synthesized timbres.


     XenFont is also an educational tool for learning about computer music sound-design, sampling and subtractive sound synthesis, as well as musical instrument intonation (aka microtuning and xenharmonics).

    XenFont embodies a design philosophy of simplicity for microtonal music sound-design…
    • Enables computer musicians and composers to freely load their own SF2 SoundFonts into a fully microtonal, hybrid sampling & subtractive synthesis based VSTi.
    • A ‘knob-less’ design featuring slider controls only, which enables intuitive direct control with a computer mouse.
    • A dedicated control signal system mapped to the most important synthesis functions.
    • Settings are made by typing values into fields, dropdown lists, left-and-right arrows, switches and sliders.
    • Enables musicians to specify precise microtonal pitch-bend settings.
    • Features arbitrary microtonal oscillator transposition settings.
    • Velocity modulation of harmonics enables dynamically playing harmonics of the fundamental pitch.
    • Envelope generators with per-stage ADSR keyboard tracking.
     
    Detailed Features...
    Oscillator Section
    • Two Soundfont Oscillators that enable users to load their own SF2 files.
    • Microtonal, Harmonic Series and Subharmonic Series Oscillator Transposition.
    • Pitch Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking and Polarity Switching.
    • Host Synchronized LFO (with Rate Sequencer) for Cross-Fade Modulation between Oscillators.
    • Analog Pitch Drift Emulator with both Unipolar and Bipolar Modulation
    • Velocity-to-Harmonics Modulation enables oscillators to dynamically sound harmonics of the fundamental pitch
    • Ring Modulation
    • Oscillator and Ring Modulator Mixer with Six Cross-Fade Modes.
    Filter Section
    • Pre-Filter Saturation Stage with 20 Saturation Types.
    • Two Independent Filters with Six Filter Types: LP4, LP2, HPF, BPF, BRF, APF.
    • One and Two Stage Filter Cascade.
    • Host Synchronized LFO (with Rate Sequencer) and Envelope Generator for Filter Cutoff Frequency Modulation.
    • Filter Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking and Polarity Switching.
    • LFO and Envelope Generator enables both Unipolar and Bipolar Filter Modulation.
    VCA Section
    • Dedicated Envelope Generator.
    • VCA Envelope Generator with Per-Stage ADSR Keyboard Tracking.
    • Switchable Velocity Sensitivity and Fixed Volume Control.
    Performance Control
    • MIDI Pitch Microtuning with MTS (MIDI Tuning Standard).
    • MTS Support for both Single Note and Bulk Dump.
    • Loads MTS Microtuning Format Files Internally and Receives MTS Externally.
    • Local (Per-Patch) and Global Microtuning (Static Microtuning for All Patches).
    • Microtunings can be loaded from any directory on hard drives or storage devices connected to the computer.
    • Ten Note Polyphonic.
    • Monophonic Legato Mode.
    • Polyphonic Portamento with Three Glide Modes.
    • Microtonal Pitch Bend.
    • Vibrato.
    • Effects include Chorus, Flanger, Phasers, Warm Filter and Stereo Ensemble.

    XenFont is a freeware 32-bit VSTi for Windows XP or higher and includes
    a detailed instruction manual, 75 factory patches and 54 microtonal tunings. 

    Download:
    [33 MB]

    Some Background Information
    Sometime after the release of the Xen-Arts IVOR VSTi, it was requested to consider producing a microtonal SF2 SoundFont instrument. At first it was my impression that the SF2 format was generally dead; superseded by the newer SFZ format used in many current popular VSTi.

    This turned out to be not entirely accurate, and it appears rather that the SF2 format is alive and well, and is used in quite a number of popular music software applications; in particular on the Mac OS, where there is a full featured microtonal SoundFont instrument available. But on the Windows side of the OS universe, there have been far less options for serious microtonal and xenharmonic composition using SF2 SoundFonts.

    With the ability to freely load any ‘historical’ SoundFont files one may have in their sample archive, or tapping into the vast numbers of free ones available around the web, this VSTi provides a way to dust off those old SF2 and give them a new sonic life, in a no-compromise, fully microtonal, hybrid sampler-synthesizer instrument.

    IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT XEN-ARTS SOFTWARE
    Please note that Xen-Arts software never has been, and never will be, infected with computer viruses; this we promise. If your virus software ever indicates that our microtonal music software has a virus, this is what is known as a False Positive. Contacting the developer of your virus software to make them aware of the false positive is the best solution.

    SF2 SoundFont Resources
    While there are vast numbers of freeware SF2, and in many cases, tragically orphaned ones, available around the web, below are a few links to get started with:

    Personal Copy SoundFonts
    A website containing numerous relatively high-quality GM SF2

     Creator of the GM SF2 used in the XenFont default factory patches:
    GeneralUser GS SoftSynth v1.44.sf2

    Old Soundcard Emulation
     Contains a number of old soundcard SF2.

    Soundfonts for chipmusic, chiptune and retro games.


    If there are other useful SF2 SoundFonts and sites that visitors would like make us aware of, please feel free to post your links in the comments of this announcement.

    We hope that you will enjoy this fun new microtonal instrument. Let us know what you think.


    VST Planet has been kind enough to create the below video demo of some of the single SF2 patches 1-32.


    From page 5 of the XenFont manual:

    1. Patches 1-32 use only SF2 Oscillator A, and have all of the synthesis functions of the instrument disabled. These simple patches are a great way to explore microtunings using only a single SF2 source without any of the synthesis and signal processing features being activated. They can also be used as basic initialization patches and starting points for creating one’s own custom timbres.

    2. Patches 33 and above use both SF2 Oscillators A & B in conjunction with the synthesis functions; many of which showcase the various unique features of the instrument, such as the Per-Stage ASDR Keyboard Tracking, Velocity-to-Harmonics Modulation, Microtonal Oscillator Transposition, LFO Controlled Oscillator Cross-Fading and Rate Sequencing. These patches also provide great starting points for one’s own custom, although more complex, sound-designs.

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    Xenharmonic composer and Split Notes label owner, Sean Archibald, has released a fantastic sounding new record on Faturenet Recordings, entitled, day​:​dot EP.

    Excellent compositions, sound-designs and engineering all around, and in particular I've been very impressed by the track created in collaboration with BristletoneSolid Smoke.

    For visitors and musicians interested in the technical details, the music is composed within the Ableton Live DAW, the bass and lead on track 2, Asha, features the Xen-Arts Ivor VSTi, and track 3, Longer Than String, features several instances of Ivor, one of Xenharmonic-FMTS, and also prominently features the u-he ACE VSTi, while the timbres on Solid Smoke showcase the popular NI Massive VSTi.

    Check out these great tracks from one of the most talented audio artists working in the field of xenharmonic and microtonal music composition.




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