SoftStep Composer

The SoftStep Composer utility is basically a play list editor for converting a list of Snapshots into a standard MIDI file. You access it with the Composer button on the Tool Bar.

The composer can be expanded to show the playlist, or collapsed to show only the transport controls. When collapsed (the default), clicking on the Composer button in the Tool Bar will start it playing, so it becomes a Player button for your whole composition, not just the currently displayed Snapshot.

If the Composer button appears not to be working, it is because the Composer button is set to Off when you set Snapshots to respond to MIDI Program Change instead of the Composer play list. To turn the Composer Button back on, select Options from the main menu, and remove the check from the checkbox that says: ProgChg -> Snapshots.

It is very simple to create a MIDI file from the default AutoSnap snapshot. If you want to do this now, jump to the Transport Controls, below. But the real fun begins when you have multiple Snapshots, and you arrange them into a playing sequence and then record the whole sequence.

The Snapshot source box:

The box on the left, labeled "Snapshot," is your Snapshot list, exactly as it appears in the Snapshot drop down menu on the Tool Bar. The idea is to create a list of these snapshots for SoftStep to automatically sequence through when you click on the Transport Run button

The play list box:

The larger box to the right is the play list. This contains a list of Snapshots that will be played when the Run button is clicked. They may be in any order, and repeated as often as you like. The play list can be as large as you like - up to 999 steps.

The first column in the play list box, labeled "Step" is just the sequential step number. Each item you add to the list gets the next number. This column is always in sequential order.

Between the column labeled "Step" and the one labeled "Msrs" is a one character column starting (in the example image) with "B." This column is for the beginning and end markers. B for beginning, E for End, and X if both are on the same step.

The next column, labeled "Msrs," is the number of measures (whole notes, 4/4 time) that will play before sequencing to the next Snapshot in the play list. To the right of this is the selected Snapshot - number and label - as it appears in the Snapshot box, and in your original drop-down Snapshot menu on the Tool Bar.

Creating the play list:

To copy a Snapshot from the Snapshot source box to the play list box, first select the Snapshot you want to copy by clicking on it. The highlight bar will move to your selection. Click on the Add button, the first in the column of buttons to the right of the play list box. This will add the Snapshot to the end of the play list. Or you can just double click on the Snapshot source list, on the Snapshot you want to add, and it will be the same as selecting it, then clicking the Add button.

You can also insert a selection into the play list. First highlight the Snapshot you want to insert into the play list, then highlight the play list step number where you want the insert to go. Then click on the Insert button, just under the Add button. The play list will expand and the selection is inserted.

To delete a play list item, highlight it and click on the Delete button.

Editing the play list:

You can move play list items up and down in the list by highlighting them and clicking on the Up and Down buttons.

Change the Begin and End markers by highlighting the position you want and clicking on the Begin or End button.

Set the number of measures to play (Msrs column) by highlighting the step and then enterning the number in the text box just under the big blue Measures readout. Click the button to the right of the text box to enter the number into the play list.

Making a MIDI File:

The Transport Controls make it easy to create a MIDI file of an entire play list of Snapshots, or of just a single snapshot. A MIDI file created with the transport controls will always be exactly in tempo even on overloaded or slow computers that might vary tempo slightly when playing in real time as other tasks (such as moving the display window) are also running.

The images above show the Transport Controls with the play list box closed. Click on the book icon to open and close the play list. Nothing changes whether the play list is open or closed, just the view. Closing it just saves on screen space.

To create a MIDI File, set the Begin and End markers to the play list steps you want to include in the file. If you have only the default AutoSnap snapshot, this is already set in the play list, with an X in the Begin/End column of the play list, which means recording will start and end on the same step.

The default number of measures that will be recorded per step is 8, but you can change that to whatever you like by entering the value into the text box below the big blue readout box, and then clicking on the blank button to its right to enter the value into the currently selected play list item (the value shows up, ready to start counting down, in the blue readout box).

You may audition what you will be recording by clicking on the Play button; the Pause button will stop the playlist sequencer but it does not stop the SoftStep modules from playing. (See the section on Control Flags, below, for information on how to set up modules to recognize the transport controls.) The Stop button also stops the play list from sequencing - the difference from Pause is that it also sets SoftStep to restart from the beginning when Play is next clicked. When playing, the blue readout box shows which measure of the step is being played; and the Msrs: readout above it shows: total measures, current measure, current step.

When you are ready to record, click on the Stop button, then click on the Record button, just under the LED graphic. The dark red dot will turn bright red, but nothing else will happen. Now, click on the Play button, and recording will commence. While you are actually recording the MIDI file, the red LED above the Record button will turn on. After the last measure is recorded the transport automatically sets the Stop button, and the recording LED goes back off.

At this stage, the MIDI File has been recorded to a temporary file. You can save the file in any directory by clicking on the Save button, just to the right of the Record button. This action simply copies the temporary file into the location of your choice.

Auditioning the MIDI File:

After you have recorded a MIDI file, you can audition it with the MIDI file player or MIDI sequencer of your choice. The topmost of the three long buttons just above the Exit button will launch your default MIDI Player. On most Windows systems, this will be the Microsoft Media Player, but whatever you have set to be the default player (the one that plays when you click on a MIDI file name), is the one that is launched. While the MIDI file player is running, SoftStep will disappear. It's still there, lurking in the background, waiting for you to finish auditioning the MIDI file, but you won't be able to see it. Once you exit the MIDI file player, SoftStep pops back up as it was before.

The other two audition buttons will be blank until you use them the first time. These are for specifying whatever other MIDI file player or sequencer software you want to run. If the button is blank, when you click on it you will get a dialog box for you to locate the MIDI file program you want to use. This will be remembered, but you can change it anytime by right-clicking on the button.

Some older programs that were written for Windows 3.1 are unable to read Windows 95 file names if the directory path has spaces in it. If your audition program has trouble loading the MIDI file, try clicking on the "?" checkbox just under the audition buttons.

SoftStep is Copyright © 1999-2004 by John Dunn and Algorithmic Arts. All Rights Reserved.