[linux-audio-dev] CSound usability (was: Common synthesizer interface...)

Toby tobia.conforto at linux.it
Tue May 3 18:31:56 UTC 2005

Hi all

I'm still studying the solutions you people kindly gave me in my other
thread, but I thought I'd post this slightly OT spinoff in the meantime!


Dave Phillips wrote:
> > From the original post:
> > 
> > The problem is that I don't know of any software synthesizer that is:
> > 2. easy to use by non-experts 
> >    (this is a direct stab at CSound, or better at its lack of a
> >    decent GUI, of a standard instrument exchange file format and of
> >    a decent, centalized library of presets)
> Csound has no integral GUI, sorry. It does have a set of FLTK-based
> GUI widgets which lets you create your own GUI.
> The Csound orc file has been and still is the way Csounders exchange
> instruments. There are in fact a number of instrument libraries out
> there. I think the original poster might not be quite up to date on
> Csound.

I might very well fail be up to date on CSound, in fact I'm still
trying to find my way through it and all the various interfaces/
utilities/extensions/what-not people have come up with.

But from my (limited) experience I see that not only does writing a
CSound instrument require knowledge of the CSound language and of its
architecture (that's obvious), but that *incorporating* an existing
CSound instrument into a new composition requires almost the same
skills.  And those are computer programmer-level skills, not average
music writer-level ones.

I'm not running down CSound, I'm just backing my claim that it's not
easy to use by non-experts.  At all.

Let's make a comparison, although a simple, maybe unworthy one: Reason™.
Novice users don't *need* to know how the Malström* works to be able to
1. load a patch 2. give it MIDI input and 3. start playing.  They only
need that kind of skill if they want to make their own patches or modify
existing ones.  (*: a small piece of soft-synth found in Reason™)

Granted, the power of any synth lies in customization, but IMHO part of
its *usability* lies in being able to play it *without* knowing how to
program it.  That's what presets are for anyways!

I'm under the impression that CSound fails right there.

An ORC file you say?  Most of the instruments I've seen need both and
ORC and a SCO file to be of any use (problem #1.)  Moreover, since you
need to come up with a single ORC and a single SCO to make CSound render
your composition, you have to merge the various ORC/SCO file-pairs of
the instruments you want to use, along with the additional SCO file
containing the actual notes (problem #2) and AFAIK you need vast
knowledge of the ORC and SCO syntax to be able to do it (problem #3.)

I could go on, but I think you see my point.  (Unless I'm seriously
misunderstanding how CSound works nowadays, in which case I'll apologize
to everybody and go read some CSound mailing list archives!)


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