Comparing Piano Roll / Step Editors

In https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19371/whats-the-best-piano-roll-on-an-ios-app there are many opinions of what App is good in this regard.

As i am in the process of learning and comparing Apps, i will just write down my experiences and thoughts in this topic :wink:

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Comments

  • 32 Comments sorted by Date Votes
  • tjatja
    edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    At first, what means "good" and what parts of the implementation are important?

    My list of important things, maybe others will be adding more:

    1. Intuitiveness: How intuitive is the editor
    2. Effortlessness: How effortless can steps be added, deleted, moved, copied - single and as a selection
    3. Scales: Are Scales possible
    4. Loop-Handling: How easy can whole patterns / sections / loops be reached, overviewed, compared, copied
    5. Song-Handling: Is there some way to create songs from created loops
    6. Automation: What Automation can be handled and how good
    7. MIDI: What ways exist to import and export MIDI

    -

    What else?

  • It will take some time to check my Apps in regard to those points, please bear with me :wink:

    Also, i may very well get something completely wrong, doing things wrong and YOU know how to do this in a better way - please write then :blush:

    And, i may see things different after checking some of my Apps and clarify or change my text later.

    And of course, feel free to add your own opinions about any App :smiley:

    I even would do videos, but cannot find an App that seems to do that without a PC ....

  • tjatja
    edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    KORG Gadget

    Intuitiveness

    I cannot complain, most things fall into place.
    I just didn´t get it how to copy selected steps, but one hint was enough.

    4 from 5 stars

    Effortlessness

    Creating, deleting or moving single steps is easy and fast, as is creating longer notes or changing their length.

    You can enable or disable Quantize.

    For selecting several steps, you need to clock on "Select" first, which prevents drawing new steps, for which you need to click on "Draw" again.
    This is quite unneeded and adds some effort, when you need to switch often. Auxy shows that this would not be needed.

    Also, when drawing steps, you cannot hear the note / the pitch!

    And, even if you click on the notes on the left side, you cannot hear nothing. Only when you move single or multiple steps, you can hear your change. Sad thing,

    Would be 4 stars, but the Select and Draw buttons and the missing tone on setting a step or touching the sidebar is realy bad, IMHO.

    3 from 5 stars.

    Scales

    Notes and the current scale is shown on the left side.
    But, as writen above you cannot use it as micro-keyboard to check which sounds will be played.

    There are "Scale on", "Scale off" and "In Use" variants, quite good.

    But, nothing to hear when you touch the notes ...

    4 from 5 stars.

    Loop-Handling

    The current bar of steps can be copied to the next bar, up to 16 bars per scene and per track (instrument).

    There is not much to be wished for.

    4 from 5 stars.

    Song-Handling

    There is just a sequence of pattern on bars for each track and in multiple scenes. So, you need to manually create, copy and modify every single bar. This is just a bare-bone solution in my eyes.

    2 from 5 stars.

    Automation

    Now, there are lists of possible things to automate.

    I cannot currently compare to others, so let´s say:

    4 from 5 stars

    MIDI

    You can import and export MIDI files, but only over Dropbox (or iTunes), which is very, very bad and a sad thing.

    Also, Gadget has MIDI In, but no MIDI Out, also bad.

    3 from 5 stars

  • This is a good overview. Looking forward to reading the rest

  • @8BitSamurai said:
    This is a good overview. Looking forward to reading the rest

    You want more about Gadget? Or more Apps?
    I am going to continue with Cubasis ...

  • tjatja
    edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    Cubasis

    Intuitiveness

    For me, this was a bit more difficult than Gadget.
    At first, i could not even find the step editor - because i maximized the view of the piano roll - and then, you cannot see or have access to the edit commands at all!

    Also the Grid Quantize just is not intuitive for me, as was the copy function, see below.

    3 from 5 stars

    Effortlessness

    As with Gadget, creating, deleting or moving single steps is easy and fast, as is creating longer notes or changing their length.

    You also can enable or disable Quantize, either for the current selection or for new steps.

    You can easily select a single note and move it to any direction or change it's length (to the right side only) - this does not even require to enter the "Select" mode. Great!

    For selecting several steps, you need to click on "Select" first, which prevents drawing new steps, for which you need to click on "Draw" again.

    In the Select mode, you can doubleclick to select any and all steps in the current track.

    You can restrict the movement to either only horizontaly or vertically - for exact handling. Great.

    There is also a "Length" button, but in my tests it was neither required for single nor multiple nodes.

    And finally, you can change the Velocity, which greys out the steps - i like Gadget more in this regard.

    You can also lock movement and zoom, which Gadget does not have, IIRC.

    Contrary to Gadget, you can play the notes on the left side on the mini keyboard (that only shows the C-notes, sadly) and also the note(s) will be played when you draw or move it - there is a switch to prevent this behavior. Great.

    Sadly, i cannot find a way to copy whole bars ...
    But there is some other help: You can set some line in the section where the bar numbers are shown and when you select notes and copy them, they will be added relative to the place where this line currently is.

    Would be 5 stars, but toggling Select and Draw is still needed and you cannot copy bars.

    4 from 5 stars.

    Scales

    Only the "C" are shown, but at least you can white and black keys.

    And you can play them, fine.

    But I could not find a way to use Scales.
    Wrong?

    1 from 5 stars.

    Loop-Handling

    No loop handling.

    Just a long timeline and not scenes.

    But i now see, that my categories are badly selected ...

    1 from 5 stars.

    Song-Handling

    There is just a timeline with steps, seperated into bars.

    1 from 5 stars.

    Automation

    Now, there are lists of possible things to automate.

    I cannot currently compare to Gadget or others, so let´s say:

    4 from 5 stars

    MIDI

    You can import and export MIDI files.

    But sadly, Export not for single tracks or separating all tracks and also not only between locators, as is possible for WAV, M4A and FLAC files. Sad thing

    There is MIDI In and MIDI Out.

    4 from 5 stars

    Verdict

    Editing is in summary better as in Gadget, but creating and handling loops for creating songs is even less possible.

    So, the step editor in Cubasis may well serve as way to modify and fix things that you recorded or played, but i think it is less a tool to create new songs.

  • My categories are kind of Off ... Effortlessness contains to much and others too few things.
    Maybe i will change this later.

    Right now, i am playing around with Auria Pro ... will take some time.

  • I can tell you right now that modstep will fail a few of your categories. It isnt intuitive at all. Atleast not till you unlearn habits you have from other daws. And you shouldn't really use it standalone. It's modstep+Aum that a lot of us that are hardcore users prefer using to just the single app. I mainly use modstep only as a midi sequencer. Another reason is that Aux parameters cannot be automated in modstep alone. But when hosted in Aum you can send midi to pretty much any parameter since AUM has midi learn for everything including Au instrument and effect parameters.

    Another great thing about modstep is after you have made your entire song you can export the entire song as midi data and import it into Auria pro or any other daw. I prefer Auria pro since it can automate Au unlike cubasis.

    Every track will be maintained. After that it's just a matter of loading the correct Au or iaa apps and continuing more complex editing there.

  • tjatja
    edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    Auria Pro

    Intuitiveness

    For me, Auria Pro is less intuitive as Cubasis.

    But it contains many more options and as i have few knowledge about "audio things" this may have added to my confusion. All in all, i need to give it a lower rating, see details below.

    2 from 5 stars

    Effortlessness

    Now, this App has nearly all. It seems.

    First, it has two general modes: The "normal" mode and the "draw" mode.

    In both modes, the App sometimes selects another step, not the one you intended to set - very strange. This may also lead to situations where you cannot set a step at all - until moving a bit.

    You just cannot easily select steps!

    When you set one step, and want to add another directly below, it deletes the first and sets the second - this continues, so that you end with just one step set!

    This does not happen, when you do up instead of down.

    In the "draw" mode, things are quite well, IMHO:

    You can easily create, delete or move single steps or selections (beside the problems i wrote above).

    And the good is, you can select multiple steps with two different methods:

    One, with drawing a rectangle, works even without clicking on some "Select" button first, which is great!
    The other, is some multi-step-select, which requires clicking on "Multi Selection" and then you can just add any step to a selection, either single steps or one selection with the rectangle.

    Quantization is also possible, down to 1/32 and even with a dot, 1/64 length.
    Using "t" is also possible, shorting the length to 2/3

    Auria Pro has not the doubleclick feature from Cubasis to select all steps, but you can click on a note in the sidebar and any notes of that pitch will be selected, which can be combined with "Multi Selection" as well.

    You cannot restrict the movement to horizonal or vertikal movement, but i do not realy need this feature from Cubasis.

    You can change the Velocity, this time changing color from blue to red, but still i like Gadget more in this regard.

    There is a "Length" setting, but i did not get it. It just did not seem to change anything between -100 and 100.

    On the left side, you can see notes, like Cubasis just the C-notes ...

    And you also can hear the tone, but no switch to change the behavior.

    Again, i cannot find a way to copy whole bars ...

    But Auria Pro hast the same help for copy-and-paste as Cubasis: You can set some line in the section where the bar numbers are shown and when you select notes and copy them, they will be added relative to the place where this line currently is.

    Would be 5 stars, but the strange problems with not able to set certain steps, the uncertainity of the correct step and the missing way to copy whole bars, reduces this to the same rating as Cubasis:

    4 from 5 stars.

    Scales

    Only the "C" are shown, but at least you can white and black keys.

    And you can play them, fine.

    But I could not find a way to use Scales.

    1 from 5 stars.

    Loop-Handling

    No loop handling.

    Just a long timeline and not scenes.

    1 from 5 stars.

    Song-Handling

    There is just a timeline with steps, seperated into bars.

    But Auria Pro has two quite nice features:

    You can directly jump to another track, over a menu. Quite handy.

    And you can select some Reference Track, which can then be seen in addition to you current track. Also a good idea and helps in song creation.

    3 from 5 stars.

    Automation

    Now, there are lists of possible things to automate.

    I cannot currently compare to others, so let´s say:

    4 from 5 stars

    MIDI

    You can import and export MIDI files.

    But sadly, Export not for single tracks or separating all tracks and also not only between locators, as is possible for WAV, M4A and FLAC files. Sad thing

    There is MIDI In and MIDI Out.

    4 from 5 stars

    Verdict

    I would say that Auria Pro is the best step editor so far - but i just don´t understand the problems with setting certain steps and their automatic deletion.
    Very strange.

    Maybe someone has an explanation?
    Is it a bug?

  • @gonekrazy3000 said:
    I can tell you right now that modstep will fail a few of your categories. It isnt intuitive at all. Atleast not till you unlearn habits you have from other daws. And you shouldn't really use it standalone. It's modstep+Aum that a lot of us that are hardcore users prefer using to just the single app. I mainly use modstep only as a midi sequencer. Another reason is that Aux parameters cannot be automated in modstep alone. But when hosted in Aum you can send midi to pretty much any parameter since AUM has midi learn for everything including Au instrument and effect parameters.

    Very interesting!
    Could you possible post some example of your setup?
    modstep will be the next App, I try to use and understand :smile:

    Another great thing about modstep is after you have made your entire song you can export the entire song as midi data and import it into Auria pro or any other daw. I prefer Auria pro since it can automate Au unlike cubasis.

    Sad thing, I did not check and compare Automation so far.
    Is this difference between Cubasis and Auria Pro only in regard to AU Apps?
    Or also for IAA?

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Thanks for this thread. Looking forward to more posts!

  • edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    why do you rate looping that high? linear type daws such as Cubasis,Auria and the likes will always fail in this category?

  • Interested to see your analysis of NanoStudio.

  • @dermichl said:
    why do you rate looping that high? linear type daws such as Cubasis,Auria and the likes will always fail in this category?

    Is that bad?
    Maybe just natural.

    I try to compare step editors for piano rolls.

    And one application of this is, to create new songs!

    And you can more easy create new songs, when you can handle loops, phrases, numbers of repeats and a song structure.

  • @JohnnyGoodyear said:
    Interested to see your analysis of NanoStudio.

    I don't have NanoStudio, as I heard a new version may be round the corner, so I waiting :-)

  • Currently still fighting with modstep :neutral:

  • Looping sections in Cubasis is easy. Just long-tap a any region to set the loop-markers to that region.
    You can also easily copy bars in the arrangement window and merge/glue the copied regions into one if needed.

    I personally prefer a linear daw in favour of a 'scene based' thing especially when audio-recording is involved :)
    What ever 'tool' we choose to use there will always be some compromises, there's no getting around that.

    All the mentioned tools are all great for making music, It's just a matter of fully mastering them!
    This thread could easily turn into 'app bashing' because everyone has their own favourites.

    Piano-Rolls are generally much a 'personal preference' what works for one person might be total crap for another!

  • @tja said:
    Currently still fighting with modstep :neutral:

    I told you lol. It doesn't make it any less powerful though. You might want to see some of my YouTube videos and the official tutorials by Jakob. You can see them in the modstep YouTube playlists, my videos are under the user playlist.

  • @tja said:

    @dermichl said:
    why do you rate looping that high? linear type daws such as Cubasis,Auria and the likes will always fail in this category?

    Is that bad?
    Maybe just natural.

    I try to compare step editors for piano rolls.

    And one application of this is, to create new songs!

    And you can more easy create new songs, when you can handle loops, phrases, numbers of repeats and a song structure.

    it's not bad but pointless - or would you compare a sports car against a station wagon?
    in terms of visualising a song structure a linear type daw like Cubasis wins hands down against a looper type Gadget!

  • edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    @tja Modstep takes a while to get into. and its not strong by itself. but the combination of AUM+ Ab3 midi filters + modstep is pretty powerful. A good example is in the thread i just posted:- https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19464/modstep-tutorial-multiout-ruismaker-drumrack-built-with-aum-ab3-and-midiflow-scales-presets-inside
    you cannot do this in Modstep alone. nor in most DAWS by themselves.

  • tjatja
    edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    @Samu said:
    Looping sections in Cubasis is easy. Just long-tap a any region to set the loop-markers to that region.
    You can also easily copy bars in the arrangement window and merge/glue the copied regions into one if needed.

    I personally prefer a linear daw in favour of a 'scene based' thing especially when audio-recording is involved :)
    What ever 'tool' we choose to use there will always be some compromises, there's no getting around that.

    All the mentioned tools are all great for making music, It's just a matter of fully mastering them!
    This thread could easily turn into 'app bashing' because everyone has their own favourites.

    Piano-Rolls are generally much a 'personal preference' what works for one person might be total crap for another!

    Just short:

    This is not what i understand as "looping" support ;-)

    Loops to create parts of a song, not just some area of the song that you can hear or handle as loop.

    And nobody seems to bash here ;-)

  • @dermichl said:
    it's not bad but pointless - or would you compare a sports car against a station wagon?
    in terms of visualising a song structure a linear type daw like Cubasis wins hands down against a looper type Gadget!

    That may be pointless for you, not for all ;-)
    And if it's pointlesse for you, why do you write?
    Just ignore ...

    Please let´s not destroy the topic with pointless discussions, ok? Would be nice.

    Also as far as i currently know, Auxy wins against any and all in this area. Or maybe Infinite Looper.
    But for this, i am comparing here ;-)

    So we will later see ... just wait

  • @gonekrazy3000 said:
    @tja Modstep takes a while to get into. and its not strong by itself. but the combination of AUM+ Ab3 midi filters + modstep is pretty powerful. A good example is in the thread i just posted:- https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19464/modstep-tutorial-multiout-ruismaker-drumrack-built-with-aum-ab3-and-midiflow-scales-presets-inside
    you cannot do this in Modstep alone. nor in most DAWS by themselves.

    In this topic, i am just comparing the step editors for the piano roll, so what an App can do or cannot do, is out of interest.

    But i am interested to learn the possibilities of modstop + AUM + AB3 + xyz!

    Thanks for the link!

  • @tja said:

    @gonekrazy3000 said:
    @tja Modstep takes a while to get into. and its not strong by itself. but the combination of AUM+ Ab3 midi filters + modstep is pretty powerful. A good example is in the thread i just posted:- https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19464/modstep-tutorial-multiout-ruismaker-drumrack-built-with-aum-ab3-and-midiflow-scales-presets-inside
    you cannot do this in Modstep alone. nor in most DAWS by themselves.

    In this topic, i am just comparing the step editors for the piano roll, so what an App can do or cannot do, is out of interest.

    But i am interested to learn the possibilities of modstop + AUM + AB3 + xyz!

    Thanks for the link!

    The beauty of modstep is it's step sequencer and piano roll are linked. You can program a sequence in the step sequencer and edit it further in the piano roll. The reverse is also true. So it's not really just a piano roll. Like I said. You need to unlearn what you expect from normal daws.

  • Yep, seems to - this program take the longest time so far :dizzy:

  • edited June 2017 Vote Up0

    @tja said:
    Yep, seems to - this program take the longest time so far :dizzy:

    you will find some tips in my other tutorials. https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19400/modstep-mini-tutorial-transpose#latest
    The transpose and edit buttons are specially important for piano roll editing. But the clock dividers help too as shown here:-
    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19418/modstep-tutorial-midi-chopping-with-modstep-and-ab3-starring-ripplemaker#latest

  • @tja said:

    @gonekrazy3000 said:
    @tja Modstep takes a while to get into. and its not strong by itself. but the combination of AUM+ Ab3 midi filters + modstep is pretty powerful. A good example is in the thread i just posted:- https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/19464/modstep-tutorial-multiout-ruismaker-drumrack-built-with-aum-ab3-and-midiflow-scales-presets-inside
    you cannot do this in Modstep alone. nor in most DAWS by themselves.

    In this topic, i am just comparing the step editors for the piano roll, so what an App can do or cannot do, is out of interest.

    But i am interested to learn the possibilities of modstop + AUM + AB3 + xyz!

    Thanks for the link!

    so then why do you rate loop handling capabilities when it's only about piano rolls and step sequencers?

  • Now, for me, it's the loop-handling capability of the pianos rolls / step editors - it´s part of them.

    If you feel that this is a separate topic, i am sorry!

    Well, i could expand the title to include "loop handling" as well.
    But i think that this should be clear from my very first posting - i mean, there are other topics too that i mention and that are not part of the title:

    1. Intuitiveness: How intuitive is the editor
    2. Effortlessness: How effortless can steps be added, deleted, moved, copied - single and as a selection
    3. Scales: Are Scales possible
    4. Loop-Handling: How easy can whole patterns / sections / loops be reached, overviewed, compared, copied
    5. Song-Handling: Is there some way to create songs from created loops
    6. Automation: What Automation can be handled and how good
    7. MIDI: What ways exist to import and export MIDI
    

    But i already learned, that "Effortlessness" needs to be expanded - i will later do so!

  • @tja don't always agree, but appreciate your effort and the exercise has made me think/revisit a few things and for that I'm grateful.

  • @JohnnyGoodyear said:
    @tja don't always agree, but appreciate your effort and the exercise has made me think/revisit a few things and for that I'm grateful.

    It's a pleasure ;-)

    I am visiting all my Apps anyway, so thought one or the other may read my (personal) findings.

    And of course, I am here to learn from all of you :-)

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