Force instrument for left hand

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Postby bjp » 09-19-18 7:38 pm

When I'm learning a song with Synthesia, I would like any key I press on the keyboard to play as a piano instrument. Instead, most of the left-hand notes, when practicing the melody, get played as synthetic strings. I like all the background/accompaniment instruments to be different (especially all the stuff in Don't Stop Believing -- nice), but I want any key I press myself to sound like a piano. Is there a way to do this? I've already set "Instrument Change Messages" to "Filtered-out". I'm using a Roland RD-700 as both my input and output device.
Posts: 11

Postby Nicholas » 09-20-18 10:58 am

Hmm. Are all of the tracks set to left/right hand also set to piano? Synthesia should be mapping your input back to a channel that is set to one of the parts that you've elected to play yourself.

(Worse, filtering out instrument change messages should avoid the problem altogether. Are you using the 10.5 beta? There was a fix in there because not all instrument changes messages were being filtered out. The reset sent between screens was still setting them all back to piano.)

This may actually be a keyboard setting. Do you have any "split" stuff you can adjust where the left half of the keyboard plays in a different instrument? (Does this go away if you enable Settings --> [your keyboard from the Music Output list] --> Prevent 'local' Notes?)
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Postby bjp » 09-20-18 6:22 pm

Hmm. Are all of the tracks set to left/right hand also set to piano?

I'm not sure what you're asking here, but I'm going to guess the answer is no. Here are some specifics:

  • Frere Jacques: Has strings+piano on right hand, piano only on left hand. Not what I would have done, but seems reasonable (strings are an accompaniment to just the right hand)
  • Fur Elise (easy): Same as Frere Jacques
  • Ode to Joy (easy): Same as Frere Jacques
  • Angels We Have Heard On High: Piano on both hands, plus there is strings accompaniment on only a few right hand notes. This is clearly good as the strings are a background accompaniment not linked to every note played by one of the hands.
  • Amazing Grace: Again, strings+piano on right hand, piano only on left hand. This makes things sound super weird when, e.g., there is a melody progression from left hand to right hand like there is a little before 3/4 of the way through the song. If the strings are an accompaniment, they shouldn't just stop during a melody progression because the progression switched hands part way through.
  • Fur Elise: Strings only on left hand, piano only on right hand. This violates my "every time I press a key, I should hear piano" idea.

All of these observations were made during the same session where I didn't touch any settings on my keyboard.

It seems like maybe all of these except Fur Elise are just due to accompaniment being put (or not put) in places I disagree with, so maybe never mind for most of those. But, Fur Elise doesn't play piano notes when I press the left hand keys, and I suggest that that is definitely not what I want.
Posts: 11

Postby bjp » 09-21-18 7:01 pm

Also, Take Me To Church from the song store plays the left hand as strings. This is despite checking the instruments and verifying that Synthesia says Piano for both hands.
Posts: 11

Postby Nicholas » 10-04-18 12:19 am

That has got to be some setting on your digital piano. All of those songs are supposed to be piano+piano.

If you follow steps #1 and #2 from this guide, are you able to force the hands that are playing incorrectly to a different instrument?
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Postby bjp » 10-10-18 8:48 pm

Well, I'm super bummed. When I switch output to use my software MIDI, I get piano notes when I preview the left hand for Don't Stop Believing. When I switch output to use my real keyboard, I get synth strings when I preview the left hand from Don't Stop Believing. I bought the Synthesia-recommended USB-MIDI adapter from Amazon as I was previously using a cheap one, but no change. I have a Roland RD-700 which hardly seems like a fringe or low-quality keyboard. I performed a factory reset on all settings twice. Why in the world would it be rendering with the wrong instruments?
Posts: 11

Postby Nicholas » 10-11-18 5:39 am

bjp wrote:I have a Roland RD-700 which hardly seems like a fringe or low-quality keyboard...

This seems a little contrary to what you might expect but, the higher-end keyboards usually cause more trouble because of all the extra sophistication and features they often bring.

Looking through the manual (PDF link), there is something on page 98 about switching into General MIDI mode. (They even warn there that "... data created exclusively for the Sound Canvas Series may not play back properly on the RD-700.")

Another strange limitation mentioned on the same page is that you can't just tell the keyboard to enter GM mode for whatever reason. You need an external message to do it. I suppose the good news is that Synthesia can generate that message, although it's disabled by default. Here's how to enable it:

  1. Hold your Shift key while launching the app (to open the configuration window).
  2. Find the "Midi.Reset.GmReset" entry in the drop-down box.
  3. Add a check to the Value box.
That should be it. Once you close the configuration window and start Synthesia normally, do the instrument on your RD-700 behave better?
Posts: 11870

Postby bjp » 10-11-18 7:50 pm

You are a wizard and Roland is totally lame for ignoring standards.

Yes, that fixed the problem. In the future, is there a better way for me to have discovered this answer than bothering you?
Posts: 11

Postby Nicholas » 10-12-18 8:17 am

It's certainly an interesting question. I'm not sure there is a good answer. It seems unreasonable to say "just familiarize yourself with the details in all 150 pages of your keyboard's manual in event that something in there comes up". Especially because "one of the hands is incorrectly playing as a different instrument" doesn't immediately (or even gradually :lol: ) translate into "oh, I remember that page near the end of the manual that discussed GM mode".

I wouldn't be so quick to throw Roland under the bus. They even mention on that same page that the GS standard (an extension to GM) was originally proposed by Roland. (Yamaha similarly proposed the XG extension to GM.) It's Roland's own GM sound module (from the 1990's) that is used on both Windows and Mac for their built-in MIDI synths. This is more an example of modern, high-end keyboard hardware being so sophisticated that the older standards have become too limiting. To stick with them by default would be to offer an inferior product that is unable to compete. It's nice that they offer the ability to switch back to the "older" (or more generously "standard") stuff at all.

Although, I would have preferred to see an option in the menu right on the keyboard. Requiring an external message is kind of a cheesy way to do it. For example, Yamaha's usual approach is to have a "GM Mode" option in their keyboard menus that can switch between Off, GM, GM2, and XG.
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