Obsidian - microtonal scale import

edited June 3 in Feature Requests

Now that there are a handful of Auv3's that can handle microtonal scales*, I'm becoming confident that I might soon be moving to iOS as a workplace for doing microtonal composition. Of course, Obsidian is number one on my wishlist of synths to receive such treatment.

Thought it might be a good time to post an official feature request :)

I would truly love to see Obsidian eventually get scala/tun import functionality. I realize that it's a fairly fringe request and most people are content with 12tet, but I imagine it couldn't hurt to have the functionality hanging out in a logical-yet-out-of-the-way location (maybe the "all oscs" hamburger menu?) for the harmonically adventurous types.

*sunrizer, synthmaster one, quanta, synth one, D1, geoshred, iceworks synths, zeeon (eventually) and hopefully drambo, possibly others that I can't think of at the moment..

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Comments

  • Have you met Tom?

  • Informally, yes. I think we crossed paths on an earlier thread. Seems we're both looking forward to the possibility of microtonality in NS2.

    He suggested that the piano roll and keyboard would need to be addressed whereas I really don't think any of that needs to be messed with. Simply adding the ability to import scala and/or tun files will be perfectly adequate for the needs of most microtonalists out there.

    (don't get me wrong, it would be very cool to see a microtonal piano roll - just seems excessive for a function that the majority of people won't use)

  • Count me in on this. Tun. file import would be the best way for me.
    I do not care about the piano roll, just would like to import tunings into Obsidian (per preset) and could always load a tuning in any preset. Microtonal tunings can be getting complicated to represent and play also if you like to use kind of hexagonal, pyramid or whatever obscure things as midi input (see Wilsonic here....maybe the best app ever to really understand that a normal keyboard sometimes isn´t the right thing to really use these microtunings the right way).
    The AudioKit One app and Wilsonic are good examples that iOS could be much better here.
    Sunrizer offers (crippled) tuning support and some others. But a hybrid synth on iOS with microtuning is hard missing here.

  • @palm

    What @Cinebient said essentially. But I disagree strongly with Cine in terms of not caring about the piano-roll, simply because we'll then be in the same situation that we are now in regards to both audio tracks as well as a sustain pedal input- ie NS2 will attract a good crowd from say the Xenharmonic Alliance, who will then complain that NS2 isn't up to scratch because it doesn't have the piano-roll customisation that Cuckos Reaper has (THE definitive microtonal/xenharmonic music-making DAW for desktop)

    It will come I'm certain, but not until Matt sorts out the more pressing requests of AUv3 compatibility, some IAA and Audiobus hiccups as well as the all important audio tracks and TS. So for a timescale, I think at least for another year or even two before we get a whiff of this happening.

    What will have to be discussed next is just how it will be implemented within the piano-roll page, but I'm certain it's no biggie.

    In the meantime and like Cinebient rightly says, Sunrizer works okay as an AUv3 despite some sample rate hiccups which lie with Beepstreet- email Giku! He's very responsive/friendly! And very soon Synth One will also be made an AUv3. I think if we make the case for NS2 to recognise that these plugins are using imported scales as opposed to Obsidian having to import tun and scala (it would be even better if Obsidian one day incorporated a really good scale editor, and/or to talk with something like ScaleGen or Wilsonic), and then lay this out appropriately in the piano-roll, it may come quicker as a feature. But I'm only hypothesising- because ultimately Blip has control over the product pathway.

  • BTW, have you seen Henry Lowengrad's new xenharmonic offering? It's really quite something. And there is also one of my xenharmonic favourites too, Shoom.

  • edited February 9

    I just prefer "simple" tuning within the instruments itself and i also use several different tunings sometimes which is not possible to proper enter in any way i could imagine in a global piano roll anyway. Also all instruments have to support microtuning anyway in one or the other way since tuning per midi messages is totally crap and useless (for me) mostly.
    Actually i see just 2 ways (again for my personal usage) and that it .scl plus .kmb files or better .tun files.
    For global i would be quite happy already if NS2 just could include something like custom tuning within the 12 note scale and include also hermode tunings f.e.
    However, it is anyway a small niche inside a niche. So it might never come and i could understand why.
    Of course if i could just enter a custom frequency per midi note number (so that also a C3 could have a lower frequency as a C2) you can do all tunings possible.
    I love the concept of other things like Kaleidoscope (short said something like 512 tunable resonators) f.e. which might have the most advanced tuning system ever, where you can even use waveforms as tuning source or tuning per bpm and some other more unusual things because it does not stop here. These things might be impossible to present in a piano roll (maybe?) or even in any GUI which would not look like a alien technic from the year 4000.
    But yeah, microtuning in any way offers really so much more. Even subtle things can add really to a certain mood impossible to create within the ET.

  • I just thought about if a modmapper could not do similar things if you use them for the OSC frequency.
    But of course maybe a hell to set up. But once you save and can recall it.

  • @tom_tm said:
    BTW, have you seen Henry Lowengrad's new xenharmonic offering? It's really quite something. And there is also one of my xenharmonic favourites too, Shoom.

    yeah, it's really nice!

  • @tom_tm said:
    But I'm only hypothesising- because ultimately Blip has control over the product pathway.

    Exactly.
    And while I agree it would be extremely useful to have a customizable piano roll, I'm not holding my breath. I'm simply hoping for an uncomplicated way to retune Obsidian to harmonic tunings. I'm playing in via standard midi keyboard, so for my purposes the piano roll is fine as it is. I can see how a customizable one would certainly draw more xenharmonic users in, though. Would certainly help solve some of the problems of visualizing scales.

    I haven't used Reaper's piano roll but I've heard it's good.
    Just wondering, how do you set it up? Say you have a JI scale made of 77 pitches - would you have to label each interval manually, or does it auto-label with the correct ratios from the tuning table?

  • @Cinebient said:

    I love the concept of other things like Kaleidoscope (short said something like 512 tunable resonators) f.e. which might have the most advanced tuning system ever, where you can even use waveforms as tuning source or tuning per bpm and some other more unusual things because it does not stop here.

    what's this now?? :o

  • @palm said:

    @Cinebient said:

    I love the concept of other things like Kaleidoscope (short said something like 512 tunable resonators) f.e. which might have the most advanced tuning system ever, where you can even use waveforms as tuning source or tuning per bpm and some other more unusual things because it does not stop here.

    what's this now?? :o

    Lol, i still do not understand half of it and it is mainly just to tune the resonances and not the input sound source itself. Hard to explain. It is a niche inside a niche inside a niche maybe but one of my favorite plug-ins. It is more an effect but also can be a kind of synth.
    Maybe a bit too off topic so i stop it here. It just showed me that there is so much to explore about tuning in general. My life is way to short........

  • @palm said:
    Just wondering, how do you set it up? Say you have a JI scale made of 77 pitches - would you have to label each interval manually, or does it auto-label with the correct ratios from the tuning table?

    Sorry, I can't help you there, because I don't use Reaper. However if you join the FB Xenharmonic Alliance, they're mainly Reaper users, and they're all very friendly/willing to help out.

  • I never used Reaper but for $60 it is almost at iOS prices. Maybe worth to try.

  • I had a look but see no examples which really explains how microtunings are working with the pianoroll. I still wonder what benefits it has since i already just think in midi numbers when i use tunings which are far away from the western scale.
    Some of the links in the thread even do not exist anymore....

  • @tom_tm said:
    This thread is quite useful:

    https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=172759

    Sorry, I can't help you there, because I don't use Reaper. However if you join the FB Xenharmonic Alliance, they're mainly Reaper users, and they're all very friendly/willing to help out.

    I didn't find any examples of the piano roll in the thread.. I quit facebook a while back, so that's not an option for me.

    I found a few images of the Reaper roll in a google image search, but not a lot of info regarding its application. perusing the manual, it seems that you need to create a text file to enter note names manually. this seems awfully tedious to me.

    Tbh, I feel like as you're the one who's pushing for this, you should make a compelling case. If you want it to be like Reaper's then you should probably at the very least try Reaper's piano roll yourself (there's a free trial) so that you can explain what it is you're hoping to see implemented.
    How might this hypothetical roll deal with non-octave tunings containing 128 pitches for example?

  • @palm said:
    I didn't find any examples of the piano roll in the thread.. I quit facebook a while back, so that's not an option for me.

    Well that's a great shame because all those you need to talk with on this subject are all there.

    This is quite an interesting thread on the Audulus forum (If you own a copy of Audulus?):

    https://forum.audulus.com/t/alternate-tuning-techniques/1651/2

  • @palm said:
    Tbh, I feel like as you're the one who's pushing for this, you should make a compelling case. If you want it to be like Reaper's then you should probably at the very least try Reaper's piano roll yourself (there's a free trial) so that you can explain what it is you're hoping to see implemented.

    Why? I really dislike Reaper! I'm an iOS musician, and a Logic user. Not a Reaper user. I'm not the developer of NS either. The last thing on earth I want is for NS2 to end up looking like Reaper, which in my mind is a complete mess. Put simply NS2 should hopefully one day accept both TUN and SCL files, and depending which instance of Obsidian based on track by track is set up for said scale, the piano roll should reflect whatever scale has been imported (also meaning that multiple scales could be used within a single project). No fucking around with setting custom piano roll setups. It should be as simple as possible, so you end up making music rather than pissing one's life away figuring how it is all supposed to work.

    Many xenharmonic apps in iOS already work like this. Synth One. Sunrizer. Wilsonic, Shoom etc. However no DAW caters for this at present. Apart from perhaps JimAudio's Groove Rider GR-16 which supports microtuning- but you only get a set amount of scales to choose from. I've yet to discover how to import any others.

    Is that compelling enough?

  • @tom_tm said:

    @palm said:
    I didn't find any examples of the piano roll in the thread.. I quit facebook a while back, so that's not an option for me.

    Well that's a great shame because all those you need to talk with on this subject are all there.

    This is quite an interesting thread on the Audulus forum (If you own a copy of Audulus?):

    https://forum.audulus.com/t/alternate-tuning-techniques/1651/2

    thanks! yes, I've been following that thread. very interesting.

  • @tom_tm said:
    Why? I really dislike Reaper! I'm an iOS musician, and a Logic user. Not a Reaper user. I'm not the developer of NS either. The last thing on earth I want is for NS2 to end up looking like Reaper, which in my mind is a complete mess. Put simply NS2 should hopefully one day accept both TUN and SCL files, and depending which instance of Obsidian based on track by track is set up for said scale, the piano roll should reflect whatever scale has been imported (also meaning that multiple scales could be used within a single project). No fucking around with setting custom piano roll setups. It should be as simple as possible, so you end up making music rather than pissing one's life away figuring how it is all supposed to work.

    Many xenharmonic apps in iOS already work like this. Synth One. Sunrizer. Wilsonic, Shoom etc. However no DAW caters for this at present. Apart from perhaps JimAudio's Groove Rider GR-16 which supports microtuning- but you only get a set amount of scales to choose from. I've yet to discover how to import any others.

    Is that compelling enough?

    I'm truly not trying to be contentious. I'm simply trying to understand where you're coming from here.. In your post above, you make the claim that the piano roll needs to meet some xenharmonic facebook group's approval:

    But I disagree strongly with Cine in terms of not caring about the piano-roll, simply because we'll then be in the same situation that we are now in regards to both audio tracks as well as a sustain pedal input- ie NS2 will attract a good crowd from say the Xenharmonic Alliance, who will then complain that NS2 isn't up to scratch because it doesn't have the piano-roll customisation that Cuckos Reaper has (THE definitive microtonal/xenharmonic music-making DAW for desktop)

    I don't understand the reasoning tbh.

    The main thing that isn't clear is what exactly you mean by "the piano roll should reflect whatever scale has been imported"

    could you please give a concrete example? would it be color coded as in Partch's system? You make it sound simple, but how does a non-octave scale look on a piano roll? and scales with no enharmonics, or only enharmonics? will the frequencies be mapped automatically and keys labeled with cents or ratios in place of C-2 - G8? how would this work exactly?

  • @palm I don't want to go too much into detail at this stage regarding NS and microtonal support (It's an enormous area, and I have work elsewhere to do). But, and it's a shame you don't have FB, because all this would make so much sense, using colours of the rainbow to present notes on a keyboard would also be my preferred direction however this completely ignores those who have colour blindness- which is often mentioned on the FB group. So if NS were to use colours, then potential users could be put off. That's what I meant.

    As for "The main thing that isn't clear is what exactly you mean by "the piano roll should reflect whatever scale has been imported""

    That's easy. The standard western 12tet scale is represented as a chromatic keyboard in conventional terms. This is what you need in a piano roll because if you need to change C3# to C3, you know exactly where on the keyboard that note is. With xenharmonic, things all go a bit weird where instead of 5 black notes, you may have 6 or more within an octave. As you can see it now gets complicated. So whatever is being imported must at least attempt to mirror from a file, this in a graphic representation of the keyboard. Ultimately this would be a far better system to use than rainbow colours, because then it is more democratic. But it's harder to implement. So a balance would have to be struck somewhere.

    Because you can't get access to the FB page, don't worry because there was a Wiki, which was although at the time about to close down, fans of the xenharmonic alliance have set it up again.. and it can be found here:

    https://en.xen.wiki/

  • @tom_tm said:

    That's easy. The standard western 12tet scale is represented as a chromatic keyboard in conventional terms. This is what you need in a piano roll because if you need to change C3# to C3, you know exactly where on the keyboard that note is. With xenharmonic, things all go a bit weird where instead of 5 black notes, you may have 6 or more within an octave. As you can see it now gets complicated. So whatever is being imported must at least attempt to mirror from a file, this in a graphic representation of the keyboard.

    I'm not sure what a black note is. if you're talking about the sharps and flats on a piano keyboard, well then I'm not sure how adding more black notes will help understand something like a bolen pierce tuning or partch's tonality diamonds (how exactly to graphically map 13 limit just intonation system using only sharps and flats?). I'm not at all attempting to disparage your idea here, I'm all for the idea. I don't think adding "black notes" simplifies anything. And further, I doubt that there is any simple way for a piano roll to automatically map data from a Tun file to some sensible system of notation, given the multitudes of scale types and tuning systems, some rational, some irrational.

    Because you can't get access to the FB page, don't worry because there was a Wiki, which was although at the time about to close down, fans of the xenharmonic alliance have set it up again.. and it can be found here:
    https://en.xen.wiki/

    yes, I'm familiar. To be clear, I was a frequenter of the FB page before I quit facebook altogether - A lot of good minds and great info there.

    I've been making music in just intonation for the last decade, and if one thing has become apparent over the years, it's that there is little consensus on how to implement tuning systems. The beauty of experimenting with tonality is the realization of how open it really is; How the tuning system governs the music (however subtle or drastic). So capturing this openness in a piano roll would be no easy thing. The only way I can see to solve it would be to have labels rather than piano keys, where one could input scale data (ratios, cents, etc), and perhaps an octave marker for scales that use them.

    My aim here was to submit a humble (and simple) request to add Tun/Scala import functionality. The number of microtonal music makers out there is tiny, so let's try to be realistic here. The sad truth is that the market for microtonal apps is nearly nonexistent. Thankfully there are a some iOS developers (like Marcus Hobbs of Wilsonic, audiokit, etc) that are doing wonderful work in spite of this reality.

    If NS2 gets microtonal support, I'll be over the moon. If at some point Matt decides he'd like to add the custom piano roll, that would be fantastic news. I'm going to stay optimistic, and keep my expectations to a minimum.

  • edited February 24

    @Blip Interactive not sure if this could be applicable to obsidian, but I think they're onto something here with this TuneUp thing as a way to keep all compatible instruments locked in to the same tuning.

  • Heh! I just read this whole brain twisting commie bastard zenharmonic weirdo thread to see if the above information about Synth One had been posted. Wish ida just skipped to the end! La dee da scale jerking four dimensional tone boffin’s the lot of ya!

    Just gimme a good ol’ minor pentatonic. Maybe minor blues to impress the ladies. I’ll wipe the floor with the lot of ya’. :#

  • @number37 said:
    Heh! I just read this whole brain twisting commie bastard zenharmonic weirdo thread to see if the above information about Synth One had been posted. Wish ida just skipped to the end! La dee da scale jerking four dimensional tone boffin’s the lot of ya!

    Yeah, that's deserved. I'll gladly accept the title "commie bastard weirdo, four dimensional tone boffin" (minus the "zenharmonic" part - I'm not a fan). but yeah.. Apologies. A simple feature request gone a little bit off the rails.
    Let's please keep it friendly though. I mean I gather you're joking, but as a general rule: If it doesn't interest you, move along. We're all nerds here. You clearly aren't completely anti-theory as you know what a minor pentatonic scale is.. but to attempt to shame people who happen to be nerdier about their interests in scale theory* than you are is slightly unbecoming. I am curious why a diatonic scale works. why different pentatonic scales sound different around the world, and how to work out those tunings, as the tuning dictates the music. If that doesn't interest you, fine.

    Just gimme a good ol’ minor pentatonic. Maybe minor blues to impress the ladies. I’ll wipe the floor with the lot of ya’. :#

    hehe that's cute since that's probably the oldest microtonal scale known to man. One of my favorite scales of all time as well (especially when you throw in the septimal minor third & minor seventh.. now that's the shit!) :) Even early blues musicians often used the septimal seventh as it sounds more "blue".

    cheers

  • edited February 24

    Totally joking. There was not one serious word in that post. It’s an impressive discussion. I actually did read it with interest.

    If you need me I’ll be off playing my ukulele for a bit...

  • edited February 24

    very interesting discussion for me, thanks guys :-) i'm too lazy to try various suggested workarounds using third party apps, but for sure after some form of microtunning will be added to NS, i will give it a try.. sounds like interesting stuff..

  • @palm said:

    hehe that's cute since that's probably the oldest microtonal scale known to man. One of my favorite scales of all time as well (especially when you throw in the septimal minor third & minor seventh.. now that's the shit!) :) Even early blues musicians often used the septimal seventh as it sounds more "blue".

    cheers

    I much prefer the septical 7th. I find the more “brown” sound fits my style better.

  • @number37 said:
    Totally joking. There was not one serious word in that post. It’s an impressive discussion. I actually did read it with interest.

    If you need me I’ll be off playing my ukulele for a bit...

    phew. ok, that's a relief.

    I much prefer the septical 7th. I find the more “brown” sound fits my style better.

    even more relieving... Go for the brown note!

  • edited February 24

    @dendy said:
    very interesting discussion for me, thanks guys :-) i'm too lazy to try various suggested workarounds using third party apps, but for sure after some form of microtunning will be added to NS, i will give it a try.. sounds like interesting stuff..

    yeah, I hear you! That's why I was so excited by this TuneUp thing.

    The biggest hurdle to actually composing microtonal music is keeping different instruments in tune. So if one switch would tune several synths.. this would be powerful.

    The reason A440 based Equal Temperament was standardised (well into the 20th century - I believe it wasn't until the 1940's) - it was a way to deal with the problem of regional tunings - not only that some instruments have a sweet spot at A415 rendering them incompatible with a piano in the next town over that uses A430 or what-have-you - but also that the very temperaments they were using were different. Unequal temperaments were prefered over equal temperament, because each key has its unique tonality and resolution (as some keys are literally more in tune than others, as opposed to the greyscale evenness of ET).
    These arbitrary tuning standards really only came about due to the mass production of pianos and other keyed/fretted instruments. What people forget is that the only intervals that are truly in tune in equal temperament are the octaves. Everything else is fudged a bit so that all twelve keys sound "close enough" even though the intervals are all technically out of tune. Play around modally in a Just Intonated 12 tone scale for a while and then come back to equal temperament, and you'll be shocked at how out of tune it sounds.

    Early MIDI instruments showed some promise for implementing a sort of tuning "switch" that would solve the problem that Equal Temperament tried to so heavy handedly, but despite many early MIDI instruments being microtunable, nobody could settle on a tuning standard (hopefully midi 2.0 and such tools as TuneUp will help change this) and it had been a good fifty years since people had to think about tuning as part of making music, that they'd completely lost interest / forgotten that that there was any system but ET (it used to be common for musicians and composers to come up with their own tuning systems to set them apart from the rest, or at least figure out what the trendy new tunings were and use those)

    Anyhow, sorry to ramble on. Point is, I too look forward to a good solution to this so that I can get to making some heavy tracks using the power of small ratio tuning systems. (talk about power chords! :o )

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