When checking out a new MIDI sequencer, I like to import a simple, familiar MIDI file. Most modern sequencers are similar, but figuring out where all the features are hiding takes time. The Qtractor seq (like most) may be scary at first, so having something pleasant/familiar to toy with helps me get oriented. It also means I don’t having to figure out the editing features right away to make a couple of notes to listen to over and over!
I also like to check out the complete path from MIDI to getting audio into a file to see how painful that’s going to be. Since I wanted to listen to what I was doing, I decided to load a software synth to avoid any possible hassles with external interface/hardware.
The ZynAddSubFX software synth gets mentioned a lot, so I installed and started it to see how complicated it was. Luckily, it offers a choice between Noob and Advanced modes … luckily because Zyn goes waaaay deep. In Noob mode you see a simple interface. Unlike some softsynths there’s also a list of patches for familiar-sounding instruments, not just “acid space” sounds.
I started Qtractor (which in turn started QJackCtl, cutting out the audio I was listening to) and clicked the little red Connections icon. This gives direct access to the Patchbay, which offers sections for Audio and MIDI.
In the MIDI section the readable clients list includes Qtractor and the writable clients list included ZynASF. Selecting one port of each, and clicking the connect button created a ‘virtual patchcord’ line. I selected one track of my midi file to ‘S’olo, and then listened to what Zyn was sending to the audio outs.
The final step of getting audio into a file first involved creating a new Qt audio track because the audio playback from the synth needs to be recorded. On the new audio track I enabled the ‘R’ecord button to its left, then up on the menubar I clicked the Red record button next to the blue ‘Play’ button. I moved the playback cursor to the beginning of the solo track and pressed play.
As before, I could hear the Zyn, and the audio track started filling in with a red bar all right. But there was nothing ‘inside’ it … no waveform. Hmmm. Oh wait, maybe that’s because I haven’t patched any audio source into the Qtractor input.
Going back to the Connections box and clicking to the Audio section, I noticed that Zyn audio output was wired to the System input … but not to the Qt input. Yep, I had to create a second ‘wire’ from Zyn to Qt and click the connect button. This time when I started play, the red bar contained an audio waveform. Bingo!
When the track finished playing, I started looking for a way to save the audio track. But then I noticed that a file with an .ogg extension was already sitting in the folder I’d saved the .qtr session into. Midi to audio file … I was all done!