Using The DimensionPro Synthesizer

One of the synthesizers available with Sonar X2 Essentials, is DimensionPro. Where Sonar is hard to use, you can also get DimensionPro by itself.

It is not overly expensive, and has a lot of value for the cost. Better yet, you don't have to have a super-fast machine with lots of RAM (memory) to use it. And you can use it on both Windows, and Mac OS X.

I successfully use it on a 2-gigahertz speed single-processor machine, which is way too slow to run Ableton Live. If you're looking for simplicity, it has a stand-alone version that you can use without a VST host (but in that mode, chords and melody have to share the same voice). It works very well, with full functionality with a VST host such as Cantabile.

At a minimum, to use it with the KeyMusician Keyboard, you will have to first install an ASIO device driver for your sound-card (see Installing ASIO4ALL). Also, you will either have to connect a hardware MIDI interface (see Connecting A Hardware MIDI Interface), or install a software MIDI interface (see Installing LoopBe1). A VST Host (such as Cantabile) is also recommended (allowing you to have a different instrument for the chords than the melody), but you can also use DimensionPro as a stand-alone application.

It by-default responds to the MIDI volume control, so you don't have to go to the extra effort required to make this work on Ableton Live.

I particularly like its “Layered” voices, and have included demo-pieces in this article using two of them.

I was playing DimensionPro using a MIDI keyboard, and discovered an unexpected advantage of the KeyMusician Keyboard.

When I played the DimensionPro Layered “Piano & Strings” voice, using a MIDI keyboard, the lush strings sound in the background tends to get 'muddled' because of having to use the sustain-pedal to reach the keys I needed.

With the KeyMusician Keyboard, on the other hand, I could reach (simultaneously) all of the notes I needed to leave down (playing), and thus didn't need to resort to using the sustain-pedal (which muddles the sounds together). So I always had a clean piano sound with clean, lush strings in the background.

You click in the programs text-box (just below the “Edit” menu) to get the Program Browser menu shown on the left.

Here is a screen-shot of DimensionPro, where I selected its “Layers” voice, called “Piano & Strings”:


Notice in the drop-menu of voices above, the entry just above the selected voice has “mw” in the name of the voice. Also, notice that a lot of the voices have “mw” in the name.

The voices with “mw” in them, use the Modulation Wheel (modulation control) to adjust the loudness of the background sound, and are good choices for playing using a MIDI keyboard, where you use the sustain-pedal to skip around. With the modulation control (one of the assignable controls) set at zero, the background sound is very subdued. As you increase it, the background sound gets louder.

With the background sound louder, using the sustain-pedal 'blurs' the melody notes together.

With the KeyMusician Keyboard, there is less need to use the sustain-pedal, so you can use the lush sounds, and they don't get 'muddled' by the sustain-pedal.

In the voices shown above, I also really like the “Rhodes 2V xf & Strings” voice (7 below the selected entry). Again, this one might end up with a muddled sound using a MIDI keyboard, but works well on the KeyMusician Keyboard.

Beware that the modulation control also affects these other sounds. With the modulation control set at zero, the background sound is as loud as it gets. With higher modulation control settings, the background sound's volume is less.

So here is the first demo-piece, which I improvised using the “Piano & Strings 1” voice (selected in the screen-shot above) of DimensionPro:

DimensionPro Demo – Piano & Strings

The next piece is a real change-of-pace, in that it is my improvisation of a heavy-metal piece, using the Layered “Metal Dream” voice of DimensionPro. Well, it's heavy-metal if it's possible for a new-age musician (me) to improvise a heavy-metal piece. You judge for yourself.

Here is a screen-shot where the “Metal Dreams” sound is selected:


This sound is interesting to me, where it has available (on keys that can be reached, and played simultaneously), percussion sounds, as well as the distortion guitar sound, which I play, inserting manual vibrato (like the Strato-Caster vibrato lever) using successive presses of the Enter-key. This was recorded all in a single 'take'.

My spouse came home, and was astounded to hear me playing heavy-metal – on the KeyMusician Keyboard no less!

See what you think:

DimensionPro Demo – Metal Dream

One trick I came up with playing this piece, is using slash-chords (chords with an extra note in the bass) to play percussion along with the chord. The chords used in this piece (in the key of C) were:

F-major-7th/F

G-7th/G

A-minor-7th/A

I would repeatedly press the play-key of the numeric keypad to get the repeated percussion sounds.

Here's a trick for using DimensionPro. Some voices, particularly those with “solo” in the name, only allow one instrument sound at a time. But you can modify such voices to play multiple parts by double-clicking on the “Polyphony” parameter, as shown in the screen-shot below:


I like this synthesizer, and recommend it. But a few cautionary words are in order.

First, it does not work on (is not supported on) Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and above. So it looks like it's strictly for 32-bit Mac OS X systems.

Second, though it worked for me on a 2 gigahertz single-processor machine, a 1.6 gigahertz dual-processor Windows machine was not fast enough to run it. There were drop-outs in the ASIO audio output – even with buffer sizes of 2048.

Third (and this is probably a minor thing for most people), though the Garritan Pocket Orchestra sounds are generally excellent, its Oboe sound seemed (to me) to be similar to a harmonica sound.

Fourth, you will need a MIDI interface (such as LoopBe1), and an ASIO device driver (such as ASIO4ALL) to play it on Windows. So check out the Improving Your Windows System member-pages to learn how to install these additional required components.

If you want to check out this excellent synthesizer, click on the following link:

https://www.cakewalk.com/Products/Dimension-Pro

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