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

steven yi steven at eveo.com
Tue May 3 23:42:54 UTC 2005

Hi Toby and All,

>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 would say that most computer music people who use sequencers do not write their own instruments either, rather opting for instruments built by someone else and using presets and modification of parameters via GUI.  The same is possible in Csound to reuse someone else's instruments and only explore the instrument's qualities via configuration with text.  With blue, you can create a GUI for instruments using it's builtin UI Builder (http://csounds.com/stevenyi/blue/blueDocs/html/blueSynthBuilder.html).  Also, you can trade instruments--UI, instrument code, and presets--via the builtin BlueShare community interface.  (i.e. explore the instruments on the server, download directly to your instrument library and start working).  So, with the BlueSynthBuilder instruments and the PianoRoll, you can really get to working with Csound with a minimal amount of Csound knowledge.

>Let's make a comparison, although a simple, maybe unworthy one: Reasonâ„¢.
>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 Reasonâ„¢)
>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.

I wouldn't quite agree. As mentioned above, one can reuse others' instruments with Csound and do the same thing as you mention, not concerning themselves with programming the instrument but exploring the parameters of the instrumet.  With Csound alone it would be text as the interface versus Maelstrom's GUI interface, with blue there would be not much difference except blue's UI is not realtime.

>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.)

blue has many features for orchestra management as well as SCO handling and generation via it's SoundObjects that generally alleviates issues as mentioned above with orc/sco file management.

>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!)

Well, I wouldn't say you've misunderstood Csound entirely, but just wanted to offer another view of Csound via my program blue in this message that may make Csound appear a bit differently than as you imagine.  


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