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Help - need solution for guitar/amp/tracks control


I'm a guitarist and a newbie to the world of melding computers with my guitar rig (other than for backing up my patches) but now have a real need which I believe can be handled by software but don't know where to begin. Given the obvious expertise in this forum, I'm hoping for some guidance...thanks in advance.
Here are my requirements:
- I play often with CD based backing tracks and I'm getting tired of having to manually insert CD's and cue tracks, so firstly I'd like to be able to rip (into a high quality sound format) to a PC (I'm assuming a MAC).
- Then be able to cue/play the tracks via whatever software and have the track play through PA or home stereo
- Also have the same software send midi messages to my amp(s), effects processor, etc to select the appropriate patches on my gear for that backing track
- Ability to control track playback volume for levelling.
- If I really dream, I'd like the same software to have the capability for me to "mark" the backing tracks at certain time points and then send out midi messages at those points to trigger different patches e.g. clean to lead, different effect, solo patch, etc without me having to trigger via my floor controller (I know, I'm getting real lazy now!).
- Maybe even go in reverse sequence i.e. manual floor controller signals software to cue/play backing track and start midi sequence for selecting patches
- Optionally, I'd like to record and mix what I'm playing (backing track plus guitar).
- For reference, I'm currently I'm using a midi floor controller/Boss GT-3, into an Axess midi amp switcher, Mesa Triaxis & Marshal JMP-1, both midi patch controlled, into a TC Electronics G-Force effects processor, then into a Mesa power amp
I realize that may be a bit much to ask for all in one, but any recommendations on where to start would be much appreciated.
September 11, 2005 @05:41pm

Hi - I can tell you some of the answers to your questions, I think:
First, you're going to need a program that handles audio recording and MIDI. There are many such programs out there, and they are available in formats for Mac and Windows. Examples of names are Cakewalk, ProTools, Logic Audio, Digital Performer, Sonar, etc. Note that not all of these programs are cross-platform (i.e. both Mac and Windows). For instance, I use an older version of Logic Audio on my Windows computer, but that program was just bought out by Apple, which is now only supporting it on the Mac platform. :( There are also programs that are tailored to guitarists, but the one I am looking at in the Sweetwater catalog (Guitar Tracks Pro) doesn't have MIDI capabilities. There are also cheaper programs you can download online (some are free!). Your needs sound relatively simple, so you should probably start out with a basic program.
Anyway, basically, these programs create a MIDI sequence, which is a bunch of MIDI commands synchronized to a clock. This MIDI sequence can also be sync'ed to audio, which is recorded inside the same program. Most of these programs are capable of recording multitrack audio (i.e. more than two tracks), so again, they will have more than enough power for what it sounds like you want to do. MIDI commands can be note on/note off commands, like when you're playing in keyboard parts on a sequence, or can be other data, such as program/patch changes or volume changes. You can "record" in any type of MIDI command in real time, while listening to the audio track, just by making the program change on a unit that is connected via MIDI.
Here is how I would go about doing what it sounds like you want to do: first, I would record the audio into the program. You can do this by hooking up your CD player to the inputs of your audio interface (if you have one), but the best way is to copy the audio file directly off the CD, and make it into a .WAV file on your computer, and then insert it into the program. I've never done that, but I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard (you may need another program to rip the audio off the CD, like Sound Forge, etc.)
With the audio cued up in your sequencer program, you then need to make a two-way connection from your gear (effects boxes, etc.) to a MIDI interface that's hooked up to your computer (again, your needs are modest, and there are a lot of inexpensive ones on the market). Note that if the sequencer has a click track function (pretty much all of them do), you would probably want to turn it off, since it would be hard to sync it to your audio track.
Now you can click the record button and "record" your program changes into your sequence. If your MIDI gear is connected correctly, the program changes will be sent out to the appropriate gear at the right time when you play back your sequence, and this would be sync'ed to your audio, since you recorded it alongside the audio track(s). You can use this just at the beginning of a song, in order to make sure that you have the right patch going in to the song, but also you can record in your patch changes throughout the song, so that if you were playing a difficult part and didn't want to deal with changing your patch, it could be done automatically. If you do this live, you need to test your gear at the venue to make sure all connections are correct, etc. Note that you can get MIDI interfaces that can connect to multiple units (amp, effects, etc.) and route signals where you want. You can also use your multitracking audio sequencing software to record your guitar tracks into the sequence, and overdub, etc. (requires audio interface - again, there are a lot of inexpensive ones out there, especially if you only need 2 channels of audio). Look at any catalogue to find options.
Anyway, sorry to be so long-winded, but what you want to do is definitely do-able.
Peace, reflex
P.S. - you could also hook up a MIDI foot pedal to trigger different songs, sections, etc., although the method for doing this would vary depending on what program you're using. Finally, in order to use this kind of setup live (which is totally possible, esp. w/ a laptop), you need to hook up the outputs on your audio interface to a PA or other amplification system (you would need full-range speakers, since a guitar amp would not reproduce the CD tracks very well). I know this is a lot of extra gear, but some of it you may already have. :)
July 22, 2006 @01:49am

Excellent...thanks! This finally connects together a few loose thoughts I had on how to do this - appreciate you taking the time.
July 23, 2006 @11:50am