« on: August 05, 2011, 05:29:02 pm »
Hello, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the next few planned releases of ZenEdit and to solicit ideas from the community.
I should warn you up front that this posting will have a lot of MIDI speak. If your eyes glaze over during discussions of MIDI status messages, or if you could care less what the difference between a bit and byte is, then feel free to skip over these parts.
There are currently 3 planned releases (milestones)., and barring any problems or hold ups, they are to be:
2.0 (product overhaul, many new features)
2.1 (focus on 3.0 Zendrum support)
2.2 (focus on melodic features.)
2.0 is expected to be released as an automatic update within the next month or two. It's outward appearance has not changed much however under the hood it's been revamped to better expose more Z4 features.
The main new feature that people seem eager to get their hands on is support for changing note duration (for melodic playing). Note duration is defined as the amount of time that is allowed to elapse between the MIDI Note ON and Note OFF messages that are transmitted when you strike a trigger. The Zendrum factory setting is 10 milliseconds, which is to say any melodic note you play is equivalent to holding down a key for 100th of a second -- that's not very long, and certainly not suitable for any serious musical performance.
With 2.0, you'll be able to tell ZenEdit, "for these triggers I'll be playing half notes at 120 bpm". ZenEdit will then do the math for you and set the note durations accordingly. You can also mix and match durations within the same setup, it's not a one-size-fits-all thing.
Other new 2.0 features include the ability to change the MIDI Status Message types for any triggers or controls. Triggers are no longer limited to only sending Note ON/OFF, they can now do things like transmit Change Control or Channel Pressure messages. Likewise your other controls aren't stuck being Change Controllers, but can now do things like Pitch Bend.
2.0 also has improved controls for calibrating individual triggers, an integrated Help system, the ability to rearrange User Setups and a slew of other improvements.
The next major version of ZenEdit will be focusing on adding support for older 3.x boards. These Zendrums don't have nearly the same amount of features as the more modern Z4s, however there are still a large number of people that have not yet upgraded and ZenEdit can certainly add support for them, however limited it may be. When you're ready to upgrade to a Z4 board, ZenEdit will also be able to convert your old 3.x sysex files so that you can keep your old settings.
The next version of ZenEdit is currently planned to focus on features to better support melodic playing.
Exactly what all this will entail is still up in the air and I'm hoping to get some more input from those of you in the trenches (or orchestra pits as it were).
I myself have a couple ideas which I will try to lay out here.
The ZenEdit "note picker" (when in melodic mode) currently allows you to enter in notes by name. It also has a virtual 88-key keyboard that you can use for selecting notes. These are a good start however it occurred to me that it might be too flexible. Rarely do you want the ability to select arbitrary notes but rather you probably are only interested in notes from a certain key or scale.
So one idea is to add some features to the note picker to aid in selecting notes. The toolbar at the top could have controls to select the scale type and the root tonic (and possibly the octave). The keyboard would then highlight only those keys that appear on that particular scale. The note list below could also be made to filter on that information. So this way for instance, if you know the song you are setting up will be in C-Major, you can tell ZenEdit that and it will help you locate the notes that will probably be most relevant to what you are working on.
Now, obviously for advanced musicians, having this feature probably isn't a big deal. But, acknowledging that most Zendrummers are also drummers who may not have a lot of music theory under their belt, then this might be an exciting feature. I'll lump myself in that latter category in fact. While I consider myself to be a semi-professional musician, nearly 100% of my time has been spent beating out rhythms and not hammering out melodies. I know just enough music theory to understand how things work and are put together (and just enough to be dangerous) but I'm certainly no whiz. I can definitely see the benefit of playing arpeggios and bass lines on the Zendrum though, and am exploring this area and at the same time trying to blaze a path for others who've dared not travel yet.
In working through this idea of showing scales on the note picker, I started to think about ways to take this even further. If someone is mapping intervals from a given scale onto their Zendrum, then isn't it safe to say that this is something they may do quite regularly? Wouldn't it be likely that for one User Setup they are playing a phrase in say D-Minor while on another they are C-Major? How could I make it easier to transpose these triggers per song/setup?
One possible solution is to introduce a new concept of key mapping. ZenEdit already uses a mapping scheme for drums. For instance you might have one trigger mapped to kick and another to snare. What if for melodic triggers you had the capability to map to specific scale intervals? For instance the 4 large triggers along the bottom of the ZX, what if those could be mapped to the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th intervals, irrespective of key -- and then much like you can change drum kits on a module and that kick is still mapped to a kick, if you were to change scales, those triggers mapped to those intervals just automatically change as well.
So the somewhat fleshed out idea is this:
1) For any given setup, you can assign up to 5 scales (just to keep things reasonable).
2) In the main UI, you'd enter into a special 'melodic editing mode' which would replace the editing panes at the bottom with a graphical layout of the 5 scales and their 8 notes for each.
3) A color coding scheme would show any triggers that are currently mapped to any notes on these scales. Possibly it would draw lines between the triggers and notes too.
4) The user would somehow be able to map certain triggers to intervals on these scales, by dragging and dropping for instance.
5) For each of these 5 virtual scales, the user could change the type, base tonic and octave. Doing so would cause any mapped triggers to automatically update.
By using such a scheme it seems it would make it easier for the melodic drummer to be able to layout notes on the Zendrum and to be able to change keys without having to individually edit each trigger. At least, that's the basic idea behind this mapping of scale intervals.
Anyhow, those are the ideas for the near future releases of ZenEdit. If you have any ideas or comments of your own, I'd love to hear them!