Learning on the Hammer 88 and Ableton Live Lite 10
After a couple of years away from using the Hammer 88, I'm having to learn pretty much from scratch on Ableton... and never understood that much in the first place.
All I really want to do is record my piano playing to computer, at the same time as recording a video of my hands playing the song. I can't just record the song to video and upload to Youtube because our home has 3 dogs, and all the associated noises and distractions most homes have.
The plan is to record MIDI via Ableton, then export it as music to a WAV file. WAV, because it's uncompressed and can play without the inconsistencies in mp3. While editing the original video, I'll overlay the WAV, sync it to the original audio, then delete the original audio track. The finished product gives me a nice "studio" rendition the music, without all the household noises. (I've done this in the past, with a Yamaha keyboard providing both MIDI, and actual Audio.)
My problem is that Ableton Live Lite 10 is over my head, and overpowered for me. It has a steep learning curve. On the other hand, it came free with the Hammer 88, and can definitely do the job. There's just so many little bits to figure out. It took a lot of time way back when, learning all the little details of setting it up, getting actual audio to come out of the computer; making the MIDI input work, learning to record... a whole bunch of time spent just setting things up. My desktop computer is a good one, but trying to use Ableton, edit video, play games, and "do it all on one computer", was struggling to keep compatibility with everything. And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Microsoft updated my computer, it force-switched my audio device to either produce NO audio at all, or it changed the output to a second monitor that wasn't even powered on!!
In most cases, my games had great audio, Youtube and other audio sources had NO audio, and Ableton/Hammer88 did not work AT ALL. I'd try to change things back, and the settings kept reverting back to the NON-working mode.
Then it would take weeks getting all the audio on the computer to work together again, and usually Ableton was the hardest one to fix. I only know a couple of curse-words, but I was using them both on Microsoft non-stop.
After months of anger management issues, Monique bought me a small laptop, dedicated to ONLY running Ableton. That solved all the audio driver issues. I don't remember all the steps it took, nor the audio drivers and add-ons that were tried. Eventually it all worked again. I saved the settings as an auto-booting default every time the computer powered up. One thing that really helped was getting an external audio driver, the M-Audio Air/Hub. It was a reasonable price, and fixed most of problems.
Finding a nice "Piano" setting that I like has been difficult. Some are great, some not, but they all struggle to reach the volume I need to hear. I'm losing my hearing, so the volume needs to be loud. But when it's loud enough for me to hear, the audio "redzones". Tonight I discovered a solution. Might not be the correct solution, but it works, and I'm satisfied.
First, choose a piano that's naturally loud - the MiniGrand x64, with setting 16: Always Loud.
It's kind of tinny, but with all the volume settings maxed, I can hear it just fine. And yes, Ableton Master Output volume does peak over 0 decibels. Doesn't bother me. Because tonight I realized I'm not recording actual finished audio output. I'm recording midi instructions for Ableton to store. A simple, basic realization, but to me it was an exhilarating breakthrough.
When the midi is finished and saved,change the piano to one that plays 'more normally'. Something softer, with lower volume, and the output volume can be reduced until none of the loudest parts redline.
For this, I currently like MiniGrand x64, but using setting 01: Real Piano.
Now the audio can be exported as music (a .WAV file in my case), and won't have clipping. I might be mistaken, but it seems like this particular piano package came with the Hammer/Ableton. The pictures below show both the main screen and the MiniGrand x64 toolbox screen, with the MiniGrand x64 being found under "Plug-Ins". There are some other pianos under Plug-Ins, and some more under "Instruments". Some probably came with Ableton, others were free ones found by Googling. Even more got deleted, because many of the free ones weren't very good.
One final tip, for screen-grabbing on my HP laptop... Hold Windows key+Shift+S to copy an image into memory. Open a graphic program like IfranView, and paste the image onto the page (or hit Ctrl+V). The resulting image can be saved to your hard drive. From there, I copy the files onto a USB drive then transfer them to my main computer. Since the laptop is ONLY for Ableton, this is a simple low-resource way to get screenshots from one computer to the other.
(I could have used Drop Box, Google Drive, email, or other online tricks, the the laptop struggles to keep up with Ableton already. Trying to run more software just bogs it down.)
This is a pretty boring post, but it's exciting news to me. It has the added advantage of acting as a guide for myself in the future. Just in case I forget. :^)