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Colours In The Arranger (and on the Deluge in General)

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I'm starting this as a general discussion of how colours are used on the Deluge, but particularly how they are used on the new arranger. I wanted to start a discussion that isn't necessarily tied to one particular feature request. Sorry - it's rather long but I wanted to get this down and never really feel all the angles get covered in short facebook comments.

There seem to be a number of people (myself included) who find the colouring by section type on the new arranger somewhat confusing as it can be very hard to tell what instrument each lane refers to. There needs to be a solution to this, though it's not immediately obvious what this might be and what works for one person's workflow may not work for others.

In a nutshell I think the problem boils down to this - any musical scoring UI (which is what the Deluges arranger is) has two basic components - a timeline and a bunch of instruments. This is the case whether you are composing in a DAW or looking at a traditional orchestral score. You need two dimensions to visualise this, like an x,y graph. All DAWS I've ever come across do this by tracks labelled by instrument vertically and some kind of timeline at the top running horizontally. Orchestral scores work roughly in the same way with.

On the Deluge we currently only have one 'dimension' of labelling, that of colour. This means you are stuck between a rock and a hard place as you can only label by timeline (section type in the Deluge's case) or part colour.

If you arrange by section type you end up with something similar to the image below for a typical verse / chorus / verse / chorus / break type arrangement.

This has the following advantages..

  • It's extremely clear to see where the different sections are in the arrangement
  • It's arguably clearer when placing tracks into the arrangement as these tend to be different per section

...and the following disadvantages

  • It's impossible to tell what instrument each lane refers to
  • It's inconsistent because parts appear differently in the arranger than they do in section view

We do have certain tools for 'auditioning' each lane but you are always working partly in the dark and, unless you have a very good memory, are constantly clicking the 'audition' butting to remind yourself which lane refers to which instrument. It's particularly problematic on instruments that you can't hear when auditioning which include those allocated to MIDI CCs only, kits that only consist of GATE outputs, or external hardware like drum machines that might not respond to a C3 note.

The other option would be to organise the arranger by part colour, ie the colour the user has allocated to a particular part in section view. In that case the arranger would end up looking something like the image below for the same arrangement (assuming the user has coloured their parts by instrument type which I'm presuming most people do)

This has the following advantages..

  • It's extremely clear to see which lane refers to which instrument
  • It's consistent - parts look the same in the arranger as they do in section view

...and the following disadvantages

  • It's extremely hard (if not impossible) to tell which section is which
  • It's arguably less clear when placing parts into the arrangement as you can't differentiate them by section

So - neither scenario really 'wins'. Both are problematic and the 'best' solution really depends on user preference and workflow.

Continued in next post...

Noise, Noodles and Doodles: http://bit.ly/mrjonesthebutcher

Comments

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    muleskinnermuleskinner Bath, UK
    edited June 11

    Possible Arranger Solution #1
    Ron has suggested one 'fix' for this which is to allow the user to set colours for instruments. These colours would be displayed on the mute buttons and would remain consistent between arranger, section and track view. There is a feature request for this here and the result (in arranger view) would end up looking something like the image below for the arrangement in the previous examples (please correct me if I'm wrong, Ron)!

    I like this and think it would make things much clearer. What I don't like about it is that it introduces another level of colour coding to be set by the user (we'd now have part colours, instrument colours and section colours) which, to me, seems to be straying into Maschine-levels of 'bolt-on' functionality. This doesn't means it's a bad idea though (far from it), which brings me too..

    Instrument Colour vs Part Colour
    Currently on the Deluge we set colours by 'section' or by 'part'. A 'part' is a sequence played by a particular instrument - in the current Deluge hierarchy it can only belong to one instrument and one section.

    I think it makes more sense to colour by instrument type than by part. Generally I end up colouring all my parts by instrument type anyway and I actually find it slightly annoying/inconsistent that if I duplicate a track belonging to a particular instrument then adjust it so it's playing in a different range the colour assigned to it changes. And it can change radically - appearing to 'belong' to a different instrument if you're using a colour per instrument type scheme. I often find myself having to recolour parts just because I've changed the melody a bit.

    Maybe that would be too major a change, but for me setting a colour for each instrument that was applied to each part as they appeared in section view and (however it's done) in arranger view would make infinitely more sense than colouring per part and would make it much easier to design a consistent colour 'scheme' for the Deluge as a whole. You could still set different colours for lanes in kits, and have colours change up and down octave ranges when in track view (so I don't think you'd really lose any functionality), but when viewing the track as an overview in section view or the arranger the instrument colour would be applied.

    Possible Arranger Solution #2
    Another way to make the arranger clearer would be to have a key combo that switched between the first two views I described above. If the user could toggle between colouring by section and colouring by instrument type they could easily choose the method that was most appropriate to what they were doing at the time. I can't really see any disadvantages to doing this.

    Long Term Solution
    Really though what I think we need is some kind of timeline in the arranger view. Potentially this could render the above discussion (and the existing section view) redundant.

    If the top lane in the arranger was allocated to a timeline, and the rest of the lanes were coloured by instrument, you would end up with something like the following image.

    The top lane describes song regions that are set by the user the same way you'd enter notes on the grid. The user can colour them to their liking. This lane remains fixed and other lanes scroll 'beneath' it when scrolling so it's always in view.

    To my mind this would give us a 'best of both worlds' approach with the following advantages...

    • It's clear to see where the different sections are in the arrangement
    • It's extremely clear to see which lane refers to which instrument
    • It's consistent - parts look the same in the arranger as they would do in section view
    • No limit to the amount of song sections
    • Probably consistent with the way most people are used to working (e.g. DAW region markers)
    • Can also be utilised for loop/cycle functionality (see below)

    I can't really think of any disadvantages other than it takes up a lane in the arranger and it's probably a lot of work.

    The above timeline could also be used for loop/cycle functionality - something that's a very well-supported feature request for the Deluge at the moment.

    If you could shift-click (or something) these timeline regions to cycle them for composing/jamming, then click another one to switch 'on the beat' (much like switching between sections in section view now) you'd have, IMO, the perfect setup for composing and live performance.

    If anyone made it to the end of that - thanks for reading!

    Post edited by muleskinner on

    Noise, Noodles and Doodles: http://bit.ly/mrjonesthebutcher

  • 0

    Great idea. The solution really brings the best of both worlds

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    p_watsp_wats Toronto

    Thanks for breaking this down. It's definitely a difficult problem to just solve with a suggestion, so a discussion is great.

    White instances: If it were to switch to track colours in arranger view how would you visibly account for white instances on a track? One-offs could stay white, but what about ones that you've 'locked in' by hitting the 'song' button after they are created? Since locking them in results in a new track in song view is it safe to assume they would stay on the same line in arranger, but end up with a different colour from the rest of the line, as they are different tracks in song view?

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    muleskinnermuleskinner Bath, UK

    Thanks for taking the time to read!

    @p_wats said:
    White instances: If it were to switch to track colours in arranger view how would you visibly account for white instances on a track? One-offs could stay white, but what about ones that you've 'locked in' by hitting the 'song' button after they are created? Since locking them in results in a new track in song view is it safe to assume they would stay on the same line in arranger, but end up with a different colour from the rest of the line, as they are different tracks in song view?

    It would appear consistent with how it was presented in section view. For me, consistency is king.

    At the moment the actual colour is kind of arbitrary for melodic parts as it depends on the pitch of the melody. For kits it depends on the colours you've assigned to the lanes in that kit (I think).

    As I've said above, I'd change this so parts are always coloured by 'instrument' but at the moment the Deluge has no concept of an 'instrument colour', only a 'part colour'.

    They'd stay on the same lane in arranger (as they do now) as that is the instrument they're assigned to.

    Noise, Noodles and Doodles: http://bit.ly/mrjonesthebutcher

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    p_watsp_wats Toronto

    Yeah, I think the idea of how track colours are assigned/chosen would likely have to be tied to changes to larger colour behaviour.

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    rohanrohan Staff

    Thanks Muleskinner and everyone else who's contributed to the suggestions in this thread!

    It sure is tricky picking colour logic that makes the best sense in every case.

    I did want to point out, because it seems that this may not have been obvious to everyone (it's easily missed): although the "head" pad (the left-most one) of each track-instance shows the song section colour, the other "tail" pads actually do show the coloured notes within that track - just a little greyed out, and mixed in with a tiny bit of the section colour. So you can actually have all your tracks on a certain instrument be, say, green, and have all the track-instances show that colour - you just have to be looking at their "tails".

    But, who knows - we always take user suggestions onboard, so I'll keep an eye on this discussion and alternative ideas that pop up :)

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    p_watsp_wats Toronto

    Thanks for chiming in, Rohan. I wasn't aware of the tails being a variation of the track colour, so I'll have to play around with that.

    The colour logic is definitely something to tread lightly with, for sure.

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    muleskinnermuleskinner Bath, UK
    edited June 18

    Hi Rohan,

    Thanks for your input here, I know how busy you must be on 2.0!

    I was aware of the 'tail' on the arranger view and I guess my mockups are a bit misleading because they don't represent that. In practice though I find that the tail colour always goes pretty 'mushy' on the arranger page and consequently it's not very useful in determining which lane belongs to which instrument. I don't know if that's because it's (possibly) merging the colours somehow when you're zoomed out (I usually seem to be working at more of a macro level in the arranger), because there tends to be a lot of white in there, or because they are reduced in brightness.

    If we had a single colour per instrument, rather than the multi-coloured tracks, it could potentially be a lot easier to read the tail colour on the arranger page and this could make it much clearer which lane belongs to which instrument.

    I just realised yesterday that the above is far from an original idea on my part and there is already a well-supported feature request for it here.

    Post edited by muleskinner on

    Noise, Noodles and Doodles: http://bit.ly/mrjonesthebutcher

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