Questions about rackspaces and variations

Questions about rackspaces and variations

Tech note #1

The goal of this article is to simply explain rackspaces and variations for users who are already familiar with the basics of Gig Performer.

What exactly is a rackspace?

A rackspace is the container for a collection of interconnected plugins representing how audio or MIDI flow from your audio and/or MIDI inputs to various plugins and ultimately out through an audio interface. The front panels of a rackspace are where you can optionally insert widgets (knobs, buttons, sliders, etc) to control parameters of the plugins in that rackspace. The basic state of the plugin is tied to a rackspace.

But….by itself, a rackspace can’t actually do anything. In fact it doesn’t even exist by itself. There will always be at least one variation attached to each rackspace.

So what is a variation?

When you create a new rackspace a variation always is created and associated with that rackspace. There must always be at least one variation associated with (think of it as owned by) a rackspace, i.e, you cannot remove the last variation! We call that variation the default variation.

Is a variation the same as a preset?

You can think of a variation as a preset but we use the term “variation” because, well, things (plugin parameters, for example) can vary although if you don’t have any widgets on the panel, they won’t!

So how do you use a rackspace?

To use a rackspace, you select one of the variations associated with that rackspace.  That is why program changes are associated with variations and not with rackspaces.

What do program change messages do?

When you use program change numbers to switch sounds (e.g., from piano to organ or to a layer of piano/strings or to split your keyboard into multiple areas each controlling different sounds) you are selecting some variation and the rackspace that is associated with that variation is activated (if it’s not already the active rackspace)

What makes one variation different from another?

Ah – this is where the fun starts. The answer is widgets! So let’s backtrack for a moment and consider one of your plugins, any one of them, it doesn’t really matter. You can double-click on any plugin block to open its editor window and then you can adjust individual parameters of that plugin to your taste. When you save the gig file, part of what is stored is the state of each plugin in each rackspace. That means that if you adjusted a filter cutoff value or an echo delay, when you save the gig file and reopen it, the plugin will open with exactly the same values for that filter cutoff or echo delay, etc.

But suppose you want to adjust one or more of those parameters while you are performing in a show. This is where widgets come in. Widgets have three purposes:

  1. They can control a plugin parameter
  2. They act as intermediaries to your MIDI controllers to insulate plugin control from hardcoded MIDI messages
  3. They can remember values

That last is what distinguishes individual variations. The same widget can have different values depending on which variation is selected in a particular rackspace. Unless you enable “Ignore variations” for a widget, every time you switch variations, that widget will be reset to the last value that was used by that widget in that variation.

Plugin state

Note that variations have nothing to do with the state of a plugin itself. The state of the plugin, generally meaning the value of every single parameter, is stored with the rackspace, not with individual variations. But after the state of a plugin has been restored (i.e, when the rackspace or gig file has finished loading), widgets in your individual variations for that rackspace will immediately override the specific parameters with which those widget are associated (mapped). Parameters that are not associated with widgets will not be changed after the plugin state is restored.

To put it succinctly, parameters of plugins can be overridden and be different in different variations simply by mapping widgets to the parameters you want to, well, vary.

If you have any questions or want to see interesting tips about rackspaces and variations, please visit this community thread.

Related topics:
Rackspaces and Variations (User Manual)
How to automate switching rackspace variations and song parts using the MIDI File Player
How to change sounds and control plugins from your MIDI controller
How to change the underlying MIDI input device for all MIDI In blocks in all rackspaces
Rackspaces vs Program Changes

Scaling Curves

Scaling curves allow you to control the shape of the output of a widget or convert an incoming note velocity to a new velocity. Various predefined curves are available and they can be tweaked as necessary. You can also just draw your own curve as well to achieve the effect you require.


MIDI File Player Plugin

You can load up to 128 MIDI song files in a single plugin instance. Switch from one song to another, mute tracks and/or change their channel numbers. Tempo can be controlled by individual songs or you can use the global tempo and tap tempo to control the BPM interactively.


Favorites and Presets

Create a sound by placing and interconnecting your desired plugins, such as a synth, some effects and perhaps a mixer. Select them all and then save the selection as a named favorite. The favorite will subsequently show up in all plugin insert menus, making it easy for you to recreate that configuration whenever you need it again. This feature is also very powerful for creating your needed sounds on your studio computer and then transferring them to your touring laptop.


Probabilistic Sound Designer

Parameters you select in an open plugin are captured into the Probabilistic Sound Designer dialog window. When you click Randomize, you're only adjusting those selected parameters. Each entry in the PSD dialog has a curve but unlike widgets where the curve controls scaling, in the PSD the curves are used to define the probability of particular values being selected. Make sure the filter cutoff never gets too slow so as to block all sound. Perhaps adjust the max range of the VCA attack parameter so that the sound doesn't have too much delay. Constrain the octave ranges of the oscillators, perhaps ensuring that 1/3rd of the time we select 8' and 2/3rds of the time we select 4'. The possibilities are endless.


More Widgets

Numerous new widgets are included in Gig Performer - a new sustain pedal, plastic knobs, drum pads and more colored sliders. Shapes can be colored with different borders and fill colors and morphed from rectangular to circular. Your creativity is now the limit to creating fabulous front panels in Gig Performer.


MIDI Message Helper

Select MIDI devices by name. Choose the MIDI message type and adjust the appropriate parameters for the specific type



Layout management

Gig Performer supports arbitrary resizing. Layout your widgets the way you want - resize the main window and the widgets will grow or shrink as necessary to maintain the same interrelationships. No matter what size screen you have, your front panels will still be neat and usable.


Undo Support

If you move your widgets around and/or resize them, or even delete them by mistake, the Undo facility will correct your mistake. Minor moves to a widget by mistake will no longer spoil your design


Plugin Channel Count

Some plugins support a large number of outputs and they depend on the traditional channel strip to control how many ports should be available.   When you only need a stereo pair, it is convenient not to have a large horizontal block. In Gig Performer, the number of available ports  is controlled by the channel count override, which can be applied to individual plugins and will be remembered when the gigfile is reloaded or if the plugin is saved as a favorite.


Input muting and output fading

Rather than a single audio length tail, Gig Performer 4 gives you the ability to control input muting and output fading separately. Input muting controls how much time it takes for audio input to be silenced when you leave the rackspace. Output fading controls how much time will be taken for audio to fade out when you leave the rackspace.


Faster Plugin Finder

Instead of searching through menus of perhaps hundreds of plugins (you know who you are!), the Quick Plugin Finder makes it easy to find the plugin you need by simply typing partial strings. For example, as shown here, to find the Modartt Pianoteq 7 plugins, it's enough to type pia mod 7 (in any order, by the way)  to restrict the list of available plugins to those matching your query. The Quick Plugin Finder also knows about manufacturers, presets and favorites.



Touch Friendly Input

Any entry field can be changed by either dragging your mouse (or finger) up or down, or by using the large popup touchpad where you can just tap on the squares to enter a value. The large popup keypad also does validation so you can't enter an invalid value. You can also just tap the BPM field to pop up a larger view where you can quickly change tempo, tranpose, trigger Tap Tempo and enable Ableton Link, the last allowing you to synchronize Gig Performer with any other application that also supports Ableton Link.


New Tuner Display

The tuner view makes it easy for guitarists to quickly check and adjust their tuning. You can toggle into the tuner view from any other view and toggle right back as soon as you're done. All output will be silenced automatically while you're in tuning mode. You can adjust the concert reference pitch from its default of 440 Hz to suit your own needs. The tuner view fills the entire screen so you can easily see it from a distance.