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Category: Hauptwerk

  1. Hauptwerk v4: registration

    Posted on

    Hauptwerk v4 contains many significant enhancements in the area of registration. The user is less restricted by what is available from the native organ, and can rely on Hauptwerk's own registration tools being available at all times. This was already true in the case of registration sequencing. Although found on only a small minority of real-world pipe organs, Hauptwerk made this invaluable facility universally available, even when playing historic organs.  Now the same idea has been extended to include general combinations and couplers too.  Regardless of what the organ sample set provides, the user will always have 20 "master" general combinations available and a comprehensive set of "master" couplers. Taking the familiar St Anne's organ as an example, this increases the total number of general combinations from 2 to 22, and provides some completely new coupling possibilities, such as octave and sub-octave coupling on the Great manual. Of course, some might object that these extra controls are not authentic, but no-one is forced to use them.

    Another totally new development is "scoped" combinations.  I haven't had occasion to try these yet, but I can see how they could be very useful in some situations. The basic idea is that you can set up combinations which only affect certain stops or controls, leaving the remainder unchanged. For example, in the case of a theatre organ with multiple tremulants, this would provide a means to switch all the tremulants on or off without altering any of the speaking stops. Or, with a classical organ, you could trigger various patterns of coupling without affecting the speaking stops.

    Useful though these new additions are, the registration sequencer (or stepper) remains the part of Hauptwerk I value the most. (What would a psychologist make of that? Do I need to be more spontaneous?) But here, if I'm totally honest, I felt slightly irritated by the way the user interface had developed. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was surprised that what must surely be Hauptwerk's single most-used command ("advance to next frame") didn't appear on the default piston toolbar, nor on the top level of the registration menu. Instead there seemed to be more emphasis on selecting frames by number, and the new 999 frame stepper was stated to be fully random access. Now that, to me, seems to be slightly missing the point. Surely the whole point of a sequencer is that it is not random access, but sequential access? Another minor grievance was that under v4 the user is limited to 2 MIDI inputs per menu command, so it was no longer possible to have an "advance to next frame" piston on each manual as well as on the pedalboard.

    When I turned to the forum, someone had already raised the question of the frame advance pistons, and because this applied to one command in particular, Martin had offered to provide the solution of 2 instances of that command, giving a total of 4 pistons. I took the opportunity to suggest replacing "Set" and "Cancel" on the default piston toolbar with decrement and increment stepper frame. Martin agreed to consider it, but he had his own reasons for preferring to keep things as they are.  (In any case, the user is free to change the default pistons to suit their own preferences, so it's not a major issue).

    Still feeling a tad disappointed, and with the bit firmly between my teeth, I decided to submit an enhancement request for what, in an ideal world, would be my perfect registration sequencer/stepper.  I felt it was important to recognise the essential fact that a registration sequence relates to a piece of music, and the best way was to separate the sequencer frames from the other types of combination, and allow them to be saved and loaded independently, and identified by the name of the music they refer to.  The other part of my request was that registration sequences should behave more like text files, ie they should be of variable length, growing and shrinking as necessary to suit their contents, and they should be fully editable, that is, allowing insertion and deletion, and cut/copy/paste of single or multiple entries. Quite a tall order, I admit, but you know what they say - if you don't ask, you don't get!

    When Martin responded, I was pleased to learn that improved editing facilities were already on his "to do" list. He also pointed out that quite a lot of what I was asking for could already be achieved using Hauptwerk's existing facilities (even before v4). Hauptwerk allows you to create unlimited numbers of combination sets and to give them any name you wish, so there was no reason (apart from being slightly wasteful with file storage space) why I couldn't have a separate one for each piece of music. I must admit I felt slightly foolish not to have spotted this possibility myself, but considering each combination set gives you a generous quantity of stepper frames, I had always assumed it was the intention that you would store sequences for multiple pieces of music in the same file.

    I switched to the new approach straight away, and I've found it works really well. Now, for example, instead of needing to remember that my combinations for Piece Heroique begin at stepper frame #200 (under my old system) I just click on Load recent combination file, then click on Piece Heroique, and everything's ready to roll from the first frame. It's made using Hauptwerk even more enjoyable, and I'm certainly a fully satisfied customer again. I still don't feel any need to select stepper frames by numbers, I mostly use just two MIDI pistons to navigate - one to advance to the next frame, and one to return to the starting frame. On the other hand, I do find those big illuminated pistons at the bottom of the screen provide a very useful and visible indicator of where I am in the sequence. It's all worked out rather well!



  2. Hauptwerk v4: first impressions

    Posted on

    After using Hauptwerk v4 for a few days now, I can report that my first impressions are overwhelmingly favourable, but I've barely scratched the surface yet as the changes are quite radical and far-reaching, and it will take some time to get to grips with all of them. I was pleased to see the free St Anne's organ getting a revamp. After being re-recorded, the tone is noticeably brighter and cleaner, and the pedal department seemed to me to be particularly improved. There is nothing "second-rate" about this quintessentially English organ now, and I've greatly enjoyed rediscovering it. This could even be bad news for third party suppliers of sample sets, as I imagine new Hauptwerk users may now be content with their free organ for longer, before they get the itch to try something a little different.

    Another very significant improvement is the "MIDI learn" facilty which makes configuring MIDI console equipment considerably simpler. Basically, you right-click on the virtual organ control, then you operate the physical control, and the software "learns" that the two are to be associated. Most of the time, it's no longer necessary for the end user to even think about channel numbers, or be aware of which MIDI message is being sent. Very useful for setting up the pistons of our two and three-manual stacks, but the same technique also works for swell pedals and even for the keyboards themselves, and (slightly less directly) for assigning Hauptwerk menu commands to physical controls. It was here that I suffered my first (very slight) disappointment.  Under version 3, I had two thumb pistons and one toe piston set up to advance the registration sequencer (as it used to be called), but version 4 only seems to allow two controls maximum per command. A shame. but it's not the end of the world, obviously!

    It is in the area of registration that the most sweeping changes seem to have been made. Not only do things look different , even the vocabulary has changed. The word "sequencer" has vanished from view, and now we have new words like "stepper", "trigger", "scope" and "cue" to contend with.  I really need to go away and read the instructions (always a good thing to do as a last resort!) before passing comment, but my first impression was that the new arrangement rather played down the concept of sequencing, presenting things more as a vast array of general combinations, and the command I would expect to use far more than any other: go to next frame  (or trigger general +1  in version4speak) does not appear as one of the large piston toolbar at the bottom of the screen, nor on the top level of the "registration" menu. What I can say in its favour is that the combination sequences I'd saved in version 3 were successfully brought across (realigned in increments of 100 instead of the old system of 64's) and even without reading the instructions, I had no problem accessing them and using them with my pistons.

    There are other new features which I haven't even tried yet, such as the ability to record and play MIDI files. I'm looking forward to exploring these, but they will have to wait for another day.