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DAW and Control Surface Possibilities for Visually Impaired / Blind Persons
Old 12th October 2013
  #1
DAW and Control Surface Possibilities for Visually Impaired / Blind Persons

Dear friends,

I have a request to those of you who know something about using a DAW and control surface if you are visually impaired or blind. I have done lots of searches, but the information is scattered and some of it is not up to date.

Basically a very good friend of mine in Northern Ireland is an excellent musician and would like to get back into recording. He had a recording studio in the pre-digital age. Since he is completely blind, he relies on voice-reading software called JAWS. I told him a control surface might help, since he could control things by touch and feel rather than just through the computer. He can't use a mouse, but he could use scripts and key-commands to control the DAW.

He uses a PC, not a Mac. However, if there is something great out there for Logic, then I suppose he could set up the studio with a Mac.

Could anyone recommend the best DAW to use? Is there a DAW that is compatible with JAWS (the screen reading software)? And which control surface would be most helpful for a blind person? Budget is not the primary issue -- ease of usability is.

I have come across some information on Reaper -- is that the best way to go, and if so, how does it need to be set up and which control surface would be best?

I thank you very much for your advice in advance! If we could help get him set up, it would be fantastic.

All the best,
Brendan
Old 15th October 2013
  #2
Thus far, it seems to me that ProTools 10 on a Mac running Lion, using the VoiceOver feature, might be the best way to go.

Any advice?
Old 15th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 

What about a dedicated mixer/recorder with one button per function? Or an analog mixer and a multitrack recorder (like hd24 or joeco or radar maybe).

I don't see how text-to-voice would help much in a daw situation. I think an analog mixer/recorder combo would be much easier to manage. Minimal visual feedback and tactile control seems like a win. My $0.02
Old 22nd December 2013
  #4
That might be an option. Does anyone else have any ideas or experience with this? Thanks!
Old 22nd December 2013
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Snail, you're a good friend! I hope you can get this thing going for your mate. Here's my thoughts:

I use Cubase, but I imagine most of the DAW's have a similar way to handle this. In Cubase, you can program most if not all of the basic DAW controls/features to respond to input from a variety of control sources at once.

So, as you suggested, you could link each desired DAW function to a key-command that is driven by the speech-to-text engine and/or the computers keyboard. This is theoretical thinking on my part as I've not tried this with speech-to-text, but I have tried control of Cubase with multiple control surfaces, including wi-fi tablet surfaces, without issue. I imagine the one of the problems you might run into would be high latency times on the speech-to-text control, especially considering the user has to speak the command before the T2S engine gets ahold of it.

I think your other suggestion of a control surface is also a great option. Firstly, a control surface can be (in Cubase) used in conjunction with key-command control giving your friend multiple methods of input. For instance, I sometimes use a cheap midi keyboard/controller as a DAW control surface. I can link each key, button, knob, and fader on the midi controller to a function in cubase. In your case, you could do the same and then create braille or other textured type labels for each assigned button/key/fader.

I would suggest your friend get their hands on a few control surfaces at the local music shop and see which he/or she likes better. The rest is just telling the DAW to remember which button does what.

Now, the really difficult part in my mind is creating some sort of physical feedback to let the user know that he/she is doing everything correctly. I'm envisioning a solution that utilizes OSC commands sent from the DAW, to an arduino board or Raspberry Pi, and then on to a series of LED's or small lightbulbs that give off enough heat to be sensed in the fingertips. Then assign each bulb to a feedback parameter. For instance, one bulb lights only while the track is armed and recording. I know this is ambitious but I believe it's possible. I use something similar with my tablet control surfaces; I've programmed the DAW to send OSC commands back to the tablet surface lighting up virtual LED's so that I don't need to be in front of my PC monitor while recording/mixing. Why not real bulbs instead?

I'm happy to try and help. Best of luck!
Old 24th December 2013
  #6
Here for the gear
 

Hi,
I have a friend that is blind and a musician too.
For recording or mixing purposes he is happy with his HD24 and mixing console combo, but is also always receptive about new/different tools.

So not long ago I suggested him to try Samplitude a DAW developed with the help of the Frankfurter Stiftung für Blinde und Sehbehinderte (Frankfurter foundation for the blind and visually impaired).

I'm happy to report that he finds the software useful and is considering buying it.
He has already done few mixes of previous recordings with it and when I asked told me to write here that he thinks Samplitude is definitely accessible to him.
Odds are the program is useable with JAWS too but he is using a different screen reader, NVDA (Open Source).

Little off topic, MIDI-wise there's also QWS (Quick Windows Sequencer).

All the best,
Luca
Old 6th January 2014
  #7
Gear Nut
 

I can only speak on my own experience as a blind working musician. There is just not that many options open to us blind users that are going to allow for total independence in the studio, and do it with out a lot of headaches. Now, I've not tried Samplitude that's a given, and Someone mention Reaper. Well I downloaded it just the other day, and while some are reporting some success with it, I could never get it to talk for me. Even the designers say that they did not design it with accessibility in mind, while parts of the program do seem to be accessible.
I've heard in the past there was some good results with folks using the HD24, but can you even still get them? Those I knew using them were using a Mac compatible piece of software that gave them access to the HD24 screen. I doubt you can even find it any more. Unfortunately as far as a Mac goes, there's not a lot of good news there. At one time Protools had gotten pretty accessible, but that accessibility has all but dried up in the past recent versions of PT. And forget Logic. There's a petition out there going around calling for Apple to do something about the accessibility in Logic, but if they will is anyone's guess.

Of course your friend is on a PC, so let's look at that. For the best results on a PC for the most compatibility, widest range of accessibility and the least headaches, especially since he's already using JAWS.

For me, it's about making music since that's what I do for a living. I don't have the time or desire to install a bunch of different software, try it, and work for days or weeks trying to get it to talk to me. Those days are long in the past. Believe me, I've done it, got the t-shirt.

I'll post a list in summary at the end along with some links, but Cakewalk's Sonar is going to be his best bet. He should also look in to getting Cake Talking, which is a set of scripts written for JAWS and works with Sonar. There's a free alternative out there Called JSonar, but it has some limitations and also compatibility issues. The down side to Cake Talking and JSonar is that they only work with Sonar 8.5, and not the new series of X products. However the creator of Cake Talking is currently working on a version, due to be release sometime this summer (2014,) that will indeed support Sonar X3. Personally, I would recommend your friend, if money is not the issue, to purchase Cake Talking over the free JSonar scripts. There's also a piece of companion software for JAWS called Hot Spot Clicker that, along with scripts designed for it, is going to allow him access to many more plug-ins than what Cake Talking supports. Control surfaces are the way to go and I have two of them. He could go with a Mackie Universal Control, or the cheaper Behringer BCF2000, which are both in their own right great pieces. There's a free software package available called Surface Reader that will give him speech output from either one of the control surfaces in the form of announcing the number and state of the mute and solo buttons, announcing the track fader currently being used, announce the transport keys, whether a track is armed, etc. I also use a Novation Nocturn that is a great little tool for working with plug-ins and cuts down the need of using the mouse or keyboard in those plug-ins. Unfortunately there's not a screen reading alternative for the Novation Auto-Map stuff yet, but the developer of Surface Reader is talking about creating something. However, I use it on a near daily bases and have had great luck with it.

Here's some links:
Dancing Dots, http://www.dancingdots.com/prodesc/C...ngForSONAR.htm is the official distributor for Cake Talking. They've also worked out an agreement with Cakewalk, and as far as I know, is the only source you can still purchase Sonar 8.5. He can always upgrade later to the X series once Cake Talking support is available. (I have known a couple of guys to find a used copy around some where, but Cakewalk does not offer support for software unless bought from a dealer and does not allow transfer of registration.)

JSonar is available at http://www.jsonar.org and while free there are some issues there. However, again it is free.

Hot Spot Clicker: http://hotspotclicker.org/
HotSpotClicker is a free set of jaws scripts which you can use in conjunction with any application to provide increased accessibility and convenience. You can define locations on the screen where mouse clicks need to be performed, or where there is information you want spoken, and, if you like, associate that location with a hot key. When you press the hot key, the click is performed, or the information is spoken. (There are sets for use with Sonar on this site. There's also links to other sites with other sets as well.)

SurfaceReader from Raised Bar: http://www.raisedbar.co.uk/surfacere...facereader.htm
SurfaceReader offers a method to make most MIDI-based control surfaces provide speech output when used in conjunction with any of the most popular screen readers (Jaws, Window-Eyes, Dolphin Supernova, System Access and NVDA). The Reader can be run in the background whilst a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application is run in the foreground

The BCF2000 By Feel: http://chipandtracy.com/pg/s/94
If he goes with the BCF2000, here's a document on my site that walks a blind person through using a BCF2000. Describes the lay out of the unit as well as how to set the unit up for use with Sonar, and describes each one of the controls and it's function.

Hope you find this helpful.
Old 6th January 2014
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AccidentalVO View Post
Snail, you're a good friend! I hope you can get this thing going for your mate. Here's my thoughts:

I use Cubase, but I imagine most of the DAW's have a similar way to handle this. In Cubase, you can program most if not all of the basic DAW controls/features to respond to input from a variety of control sources at once.

So, as you suggested, you could link each desired DAW function to a key-command that is driven by the speech-to-text engine and/or the computers keyboard. This is theoretical thinking on my part as I've not tried this with speech-to-text, but I have tried control of Cubase with multiple control surfaces, including wi-fi tablet surfaces, without issue. I imagine the one of the problems you might run into would be high latency times on the speech-to-text control, especially considering the user has to speak the command before the T2S engine gets ahold of it.

I think your other suggestion of a control surface is also a great option. Firstly, a control surface can be (in Cubase) used in conjunction with key-command control giving your friend multiple methods of input. For instance, I sometimes use a cheap midi keyboard/controller as a DAW control surface. I can link each key, button, knob, and fader on the midi controller to a function in cubase. In your case, you could do the same and then create braille or other textured type labels for each assigned button/key/fader.

I would suggest your friend get their hands on a few control surfaces at the local music shop and see which he/or she likes better. The rest is just telling the DAW to remember which button does what.

Now, the really difficult part in my mind is creating some sort of physical feedback to let the user know that he/she is doing everything correctly. I'm envisioning a solution that utilizes OSC commands sent from the DAW, to an arduino board or Raspberry Pi, and then on to a series of LED's or small lightbulbs that give off enough heat to be sensed in the fingertips. Then assign each bulb to a feedback parameter. For instance, one bulb lights only while the track is armed and recording. I know this is ambitious but I believe it's possible. I use something similar with my tablet control surfaces; I've programmed the DAW to send OSC commands back to the tablet surface lighting up virtual LED's so that I don't need to be in front of my PC monitor while recording/mixing. Why not real bulbs instead?

I'm happy to try and help. Best of luck!

Cubase, is not accessible with a screen reader at all. unfortunately. Wish it were. I really like a lot of the things you can do with it.
Old 6th January 2014
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcb4t2 View Post
What about a dedicated mixer/recorder with one button per function? Or an analog mixer and a multitrack recorder (like hd24 or joeco or radar maybe).

I don't see how text-to-voice would help much in a daw situation. I think an analog mixer/recorder combo would be much easier to manage. Minimal visual feedback and tactile control seems like a win. My $0.02


A combo of a hardware mixer, say a USB or Fireware unit, and a DAW is a really cool concept. I've been giving this a lot of thought. While my Nocturn allows me access to EQ plug-ins, and a screen reader can be configured to spek meter levels, or use a braille display for mettering, I looked at several mixer options. I've just not pulled the triger on it my self because I use a lot of MIDI modules, still have a couple of ADAT modules etc. If I were tracking a lot of live stuff I'd probably already have bit the bullet on one.
Old 6th January 2014
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
Multicore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipster View Post
I can only speak on my own experience as a blind working musician. There is just not that many options open to us blind users that are going to allow for total independence in the studio, and do it with out a lot of headaches. Now, I've not tried Samplitude that's a given, and Someone mention Reaper. Well I downloaded it just the other day, and while some are reporting some success with it, I could never get it to talk for me. Even the designers say that they did not design it with accessibility in mind, while parts of the program do seem to be accessible.
I've heard in the past there was some good results with folks using the HD24, but can you even still get them? Those I knew using them were using a Mac compatible piece of software that gave them access to the HD24 screen. I doubt you can even find it any more. Unfortunately as far as a Mac goes, there's not a lot of good news there. At one time Protools had gotten pretty accessible, but that accessibility has all but dried up in the past recent versions of PT. And forget Logic. There's a petition out there going around calling for Apple to do something about the accessibility in Logic, but if they will is anyone's guess.

Of course your friend is on a PC, so let's look at that. For the best results on a PC for the most compatibility, widest range of accessibility and the least headaches, especially since he's already using JAWS.

For me, it's about making music since that's what I do for a living. I don't have the time or desire to install a bunch of different software, try it, and work for days or weeks trying to get it to talk to me. Those days are long in the past. Believe me, I've done it, got the t-shirt.

I'll post a list in summary at the end along with some links, but Cakewalk's Sonar is going to be his best bet. He should also look in to getting Cake Talking, which is a set of scripts written for JAWS and works with Sonar. There's a free alternative out there Called JSonar, but it has some limitations and also compatibility issues. The down side to Cake Talking and JSonar is that they only work with Sonar 8.5, and not the new series of X products. However the creator of Cake Talking is currently working on a version, due to be release sometime this summer (2014,) that will indeed support Sonar X3. Personally, I would recommend your friend, if money is not the issue, to purchase Cake Talking over the free JSonar scripts. There's also a piece of companion software for JAWS called Hot Spot Clicker that, along with scripts designed for it, is going to allow him access to many more plug-ins than what Cake Talking supports. Control surfaces are the way to go and I have two of them. He could go with a Mackie Universal Control, or the cheaper Behringer BCF2000, which are both in their own right great pieces. There's a free software package available called Surface Reader that will give him speech output from either one of the control surfaces in the form of announcing the number and state of the mute and solo buttons, announcing the track fader currently being used, announce the transport keys, whether a track is armed, etc. I also use a Novation Nocturn that is a great little tool for working with plug-ins and cuts down the need of using the mouse or keyboard in those plug-ins. Unfortunately there's not a screen reading alternative for the Novation Auto-Map stuff yet, but the developer of Surface Reader is talking about creating something. However, I use it on a near daily bases and have had great luck with it.

Here's some links:
Dancing Dots, CakeTalking for SONAR is the official distributor for Cake Talking. They've also worked out an agreement with Cakewalk, and as far as I know, is the only source you can still purchase Sonar 8.5. He can always upgrade later to the X series once Cake Talking support is available. (I have known a couple of guys to find a used copy around some where, but Cakewalk does not offer support for software unless bought from a dealer and does not allow transfer of registration.)

JSonar is available at JSonar Project | articles, FAQ, guides, tips and tricks and while free there are some issues there. However, again it is free.

Hot Spot Clicker: Welcome To HotSpotClicker.org
HotSpotClicker is a free set of jaws scripts which you can use in conjunction with any application to provide increased accessibility and convenience. You can define locations on the screen where mouse clicks need to be performed, or where there is information you want spoken, and, if you like, associate that location with a hot key. When you press the hot key, the click is performed, or the information is spoken. (There are sets for use with Sonar on this site. There's also links to other sites with other sets as well.)

SurfaceReader from Raised Bar: Raised Bar - SurfaceReader
SurfaceReader offers a method to make most MIDI-based control surfaces provide speech output when used in conjunction with any of the most popular screen readers (Jaws, Window-Eyes, Dolphin Supernova, System Access and NVDA). The Reader can be run in the background whilst a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application is run in the foreground

The BCF2000 By Feel: BCF2000 by Feel – Chip & Tracy's Place
If he goes with the BCF2000, here's a document on my site that walks a blind person through using a BCF2000. Describes the lay out of the unit as well as how to set the unit up for use with Sonar, and describes each one of the controls and it's function.

Hope you find this helpful.

This! Great informative post! You mentioned everything and more that I would have suggested. As a sighted person that is assisting in getting a more efficient work station setup for a friend I have learned about JAWS, Caketalking, Sonar's limitations especially navigating menus with plugin parameters and such. The hot key commands allow for access to the some parameters but perhaps not all. The person I am helping was previously using only midi with sonars virtual midi module. Everything was midi performance into sonar, and sonar playing the sounds. This wasn't ideal because she wanted to use her favorite keyboards, flute, ukulele, guitar, acoustic piano, voice, etc. in addition to the virtual instruments. Nothing had ever been connected to the audio in of the interface.

Using a small Mackie Analog mixer we connected a dynamic mic, condenser mic, all analog keyboard outs to the mixer, did initial gain staging, and the faders are easy to navigate for sending any of those sources to the audio ins of the interface. She can easily do it herself.

Also we installed 2 Garritan sound libraries PO4, and J&BB on the PC. The sample libraries, analog gear, microphones etc, can all be used in each project which templates were created for building.

The pain I see with the DAW setup as it is (and maybe I just haven't figured it out fully) is getting into the Garritan menu for selecting instruments, etc and also getting to parameters within say a reverb plugin (deeper than a preset) to adjust the controls such as delay time, room size, pre delay, etc etc.

The hot key commands allow one to get to some of these parameters for creating your own preset.

She has absolutely no problem inserting tracks, fx, or any of the record play functions, in fact she's probably more efficient at Sonar than I am.

I use the BCF2000 here, but do you know what the current supported operating system is? I know it works fine with XP. But after that I am not sure. I have been researching this a bunch, and looking at various work surfaces, but as you well know, there is just not that many things available that work with screen reading programs etc..

Your post was a wealth of information thank you very much for taking the time to put it out here!

For those of you that are wondering about screen reading software, this short video of Rachel shows her working on a song using it and the soft synth sound module before hooking up audio or the Garritan libraries. She has since been working on a lot of new things.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G7I0c2jVWOE

The second clip from soundcloud is her cover of Frank Zappas "Inca Roads" done like the day after we got the mixer hooked up and only a dynamic mic. She did the entire track alone. First time tracking voice, guitar, analog keys. Again, this was her first experiment with audio and the track is all audio tracks no midi tracks, no quantize etc... It's all played as a live performance of each instrument. Drums, bass, pianos, vibes, flutes, etc all on keys, the guitar is real guitar played by her, as are all vocals. Being as the gain staging was dialed in all she had to do was insert, arm, and record. The interface has only one pair of RCA ins for audio. The guitar was an amp she mic'd after I put tape in a square shape on the grill cloth in the area that the mic should be placed and she just feels that spot and points the mic and she's good to go. I did the same with the LDC marking the front for easy recognition and self positioning.

https://m.soundcloud.com/rachelflowers-1/inca-roads


We also set up a headphone monitoring mixer, so she can easy go from speakers to headphones for recording voice and instruments where you want the monitors off.

All this is in one location within reach of her gear for a nice workflow, and more refinements are in the works in the form of layout.

But I'm learning, there really should be more things available!!
Old 7th January 2014
  #11
Gear Nut
 

That was damn nice of you to help her get it all set up that way. Gain is an issue I have problems with as well, but my wife, (bless her heart,) which is just not tech savy at all, manages to help me when I'm having a particular tough time. I've been considering getting a Braille display to hook up and assign to my meters, so I can track gains that way. I also use a screen reader called Window-Eyes and have good success with it as well.

I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate 64 and have had no issues with the BCF2000 at all. In fact there is Windows 7 native support now for the BCF2000. I had read about Windows 7 support for the BCF2000, so when I upgraded from XP to Win7 I didn't even load the BEhringer drivers, to test its functionality, and it has performed flawlessly.

I have given a lot of thought of going with an external board, in fact the A&H ZED-R16 looks like a dream for my purposes. There is deffinately an attractivness to be able to twisting knobs instead of having to try to get all of it ITB to work with a screen reader. However, as I mention I'm using a Novation Nocturn for my plug-ins and EQ and it works well.

Back to the BCF2000 ... if you read the tutorial on my site it explains how to set the VCF2000 to work with the Sonitus_fx plug-ins that come with Sonar.

The JAWS plug-in, Hot Spot Clicker I mentioned also has free scripts to work with Autotune 5, BFD1, Boost11, Cakewalk TTS-1, Dimension LE, Dimension Pro, DropZone, DR-008, The external Insert plug-in for Sonar 7 Lexicon Pantheon, Linear EQ, Linear Multiband Compressor, Omnisphere PerfectSpace, Rapture, Rapture LE, Roland GrooveSynth, RXP Pentagon One SessionDrummer2, sfz, Sonitus_fx Compressor, Sonitus_fx Delay, Sonitus_fx Equalizer, Sonitus_fx Gate, Sonitus_fx Modulator, Sonitus_fx Multiband, Sonitus_fx Phase, Sonitus_fx Reverb, Sonitus_fx Surround, Sonitus_fx Wahwah, Trilogy, VSampler3 And V-Vocal, as well as new scripts for the Channel Tools, TL64_TubeLeveler And TS64_TransientShaper.
Old 8th January 2014
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Multicore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipster View Post
That was damn nice of you to help her get it all set up that way. Gain is an issue I have problems with as well, but my wife, (bless her heart,) which is just not tech savy at all, manages to help me when I'm having a particular tough time. I've been considering getting a Braille display to hook up and assign to my meters, so I can track gains that way. I also use a screen reader called Window-Eyes and have good success with it as well.

I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate 64 and have had no issues with the BCF2000 at all. In fact there is Windows 7 native support now for the BCF2000. I had read about Windows 7 support for the BCF2000, so when I upgraded from XP to Win7 I didn't even load the BEhringer drivers, to test its functionality, and it has performed flawlessly.

I have given a lot of thought of going with an external board, in fact the A&H ZED-R16 looks like a dream for my purposes. There is deffinately an attractivness to be able to twisting knobs instead of having to try to get all of it ITB to work with a screen reader. However, as I mention I'm using a Novation Nocturn for my plug-ins and EQ and it works well.

Back to the BCF2000 ... if you read the tutorial on my site it explains how to set the VCF2000 to work with the Sonitus_fx plug-ins that come with Sonar.

The JAWS plug-in, Hot Spot Clicker I mentioned also has free scripts to work with Autotune 5, BFD1, Boost11, Cakewalk TTS-1, Dimension LE, Dimension Pro, DropZone, DR-008, The external Insert plug-in for Sonar 7 Lexicon Pantheon, Linear EQ, Linear Multiband Compressor, Omnisphere PerfectSpace, Rapture, Rapture LE, Roland GrooveSynth, RXP Pentagon One SessionDrummer2, sfz, Sonitus_fx Compressor, Sonitus_fx Delay, Sonitus_fx Equalizer, Sonitus_fx Gate, Sonitus_fx Modulator, Sonitus_fx Multiband, Sonitus_fx Phase, Sonitus_fx Reverb, Sonitus_fx Surround, Sonitus_fx Wahwah, Trilogy, VSampler3 And V-Vocal, as well as new scripts for the Channel Tools, TL64_TubeLeveler And TS64_TransientShaper.
Hey thanks Chipster! I did my best and so far it's been pretty good. The more info the better and I learned a lot from your post already!

That's great about the BCF2000 I will definitely get one and try to get it running on the system. Your website is great I am going to check out everything you mentioned, as I was not aware of some of those tools, and all of the scripts for the JAWS plugin Hot Spot Clicker, that is awesome!

That ZED-R16 looks very nice indeed. I've used some of the Alesis Multimix USB and firewire interface mixers in the past, but the Allen and Heath looks to be a fine unit. I prefer hands on knobs and faders myself. At home I use an analog board, that my interface outputs are bussed to. Although I do some ITB, I just like being able to use faders. I mainly use my BCF to do volume and pan automation with my midi gear etc. A bunch of hardware synths I have, and whatever virtual instrument I may use.

I will check into the Window Eyes screen reader too, it's great you are having good success with it. I have a feeling what I have set up now may change sooner than I think. This has been a great learning experience for me. The Nocturne is another great idea! I will definitely be studying your website.

Thanks so much!
Old 8th January 2014
  #13
Gear Nut
 

It turns out that this thread is pretty timely. Last night while recording my interface, an old Tascam FW1804, Started loosing connection. It would be there one minute, loose connection, and then reconnect. Needless to say this wasn't good. I've not dug in to it yet to find out if it's my firewire card, the pc bus, or the Tascam it self. However, I may be looking at alternatives here in the near future. It may be time that I look at something like a Mackie or A&H board. This thread has got me to thinking that a mixture would be nice in my situation. An external board would definitely give me more knobs and tackle control at least going in. I'm wondering though. Is there a board out there that would let me record, but use the EQ, FXs, and such while doing my mixing? I'm thinking right off the top of my head that it is only going to let me use it on the front end. Any thoughts?
Old 9th January 2014
  #14
Hey guys, this is really amazing. I am speechless. I am really moved by your posts and all the information you have put out there.

Especially you, Chipster -- you have opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities and I hope this thread also becomes a source of information for anyone else who is in a similar situation. I have searched around quite a lot online and wasn't able to find everything put together the way you did it. Thanks a lot -- really!

It just so happens that I have an Allen & Heath Zed R-16, and it was when my friend was over at my studio and I was showing it to him that he started thinking about getting back into recording. He asked me to look into options, since although he owned a studio, that was before the digital age and he has no familiarity with DAWs. That being said, he is very good with technical things (he's a wizard with the iPhone, always showing me new stuff) so I think he will catch on very fast.

(By the way, the man in question is Richard Moore from Derry, Northern Ireland. He happens to be the man the Dalai Lama calls his "personal hero" because he was shot and blinded at age 10 by a British soldier, but never had anger towards the man, and 33 years later found and befriended him. He's a pretty amazing guy, and I just thought some of you might like to know that you're helping out a real gem of a person. Just so happens he's a brilliant musician, too!)

I think that the Cakewalk Sonar option with Cake Talking sounds like a great solution. If Richard goes for it, he will actually build a small studio again, so cost is not really an obstacle. I also have a Mackie Universal Control and I'm really glad to hear that there is software that reads out the settings, etc.

Chipster, in terms of the Zed R16, I think it is a really nice tool. The EQ is very useable and can be used when tracking or when mixing. The fact that you can send 16 tracks out of your DAW onto separate channels of the Zed, use the faders and EQ (plus any outboard you want, either through the inserts or through the four AUX sends) and then record that back into the DAW either as stereo or as 16 individual tracks (or both) is really pretty cool. I happen to like it because it's so much more hands-on and feels so much better than doing all that in the DAW. Also has a good master / monitor section. Personally, I do not care for the preamps on the Zed, so I never use those, but I am sure you already have your own pre's that you like. Apart from that, it's quite great. It can even send MIDI controls to the DAW (faders, knobs and transport), as I'm sure you know, although it isn't a fully functional control surface.

If you're in the US, Chipster, I would be happy to send you the Zed to try out. Since I recently got the Mackie Universal Control and some other outboard EQ, I have been using that in combination with my Audient id22 interface more recently (it's much smaller on my desk), so the Zed is temporarily sitting in a corner.

Thanks again guys!
Old 9th January 2014
  #15
Gear Nut
 

He sounds like a person I'd like to meet. I was shot at the age of 10 as well, and it is also what caused my blindness. What a coincidence. I hope he finds everything he needs to get back it to recording. I'd be more than happy to give any technical assistance that I possible could if he decides to do it. I actually live in Alabaster Alabama, just slightly south of Birmingham, (15miles south of I459 - the southern belt around Birmingham). I see you're in Atlanta. Our oldest daughter actually lives in Social Circle Georgia, just a few miles East of Atlanta. I'd love to check out the R16, sounds like just what I need to tell you the truth. The one thing I miss about analog equipment and dislike about recording totally ITB is the tactile stuff. I just think it would be easier all around to be able to mix OTB. Especially EQ. Even with my Nocturn and BCF2000 I am only able to EQ one channel at a time, and switching channels is more involved than just moving to the next row of knobs if you know what I mean. It can get a little distracting. I'd love to work out some kind of arrangement so I could check it out for sure. Even if just popping by as I go through to visit my daughter or something. Like I was saying, I don't know what exactly is going on with my interface, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to make a choice soon. BTW: if you are in Atlanta, you don't happen to know a horn player from Carrolton named Ray Tanner do you?
Old 9th January 2014
  #16
Hmm, I do have a friend who works in Carrolton who might know him, but I don't know him personally.

I sent you a PM Chipster. We should meet up and you can get your hands on the Zed to see if it suits your needs. Or I can give it to your daughter and she can get it to you.

I do find EQ'ing to be much easier on a board. It's just so much faster to turn knobs and see how things work together, rather than working on one channel strip at a time. Things happen much more dynamically that way and I find that I make very different decisions from when I am working ITB. I also find that for my brain, turning knobs is very different from changing a parameter in a plugin in my DAW.

I appreciate your offer to help my friend. Maybe you can meet him when he's next in the area. He was over here from Ireland in 2012 and 2013, so I'm hoping to get him back in 2014 too!
Old 9th January 2014
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Aisle 6's Avatar
I am currently consulting on a similar solution for a blind musician in my country. He originally was considering a control surfacefor running his DAW, however, given that the controllers are multi purpose, this is a little complex and problematic. You really do require the visual cues to let you know what mode the controllers are in.

We are about to start testing the Allen & Heath GS24R/M as it is analog with a fixed frame making it easy to get to know very quickly and can do a number of basic controlling of a DAW. Transport, fader and the rotary controllers can be mapped to often used functions.

We are currently awaiting a demo unit to begin trials.
Old 9th January 2014
  #18
Aisle,

Let us know how you and your client fare with the A&H desk. That is basically the big brother to the ZED R16, and from what I can tell, the only main difference is more channels and motorized faders (plus those two tubes). I wish these units had a little bit more control surface functionality. If they had all or event most of the functionality of a Mackie Control Universal, on top of everything they already have -- that would really be useful and great.
Old 10th January 2014
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aisle 6 View Post
I am currently consulting on a similar solution for a blind musician in my country. He originally was considering a control surfacefor running his DAW, however, given that the controllers are multi purpose, this is a little complex and problematic. You really do require the visual cues to let you know what mode the controllers are in.

We are about to start testing the Allen & Heath GS24R/M as it is analog with a fixed frame making it easy to get to know very quickly and can do a number of basic controlling of a DAW. Transport, fader and the rotary controllers can be mapped to often used functions.

We are currently awaiting a demo unit to begin trials.
I just don't happen to agree with you that you really do require the visual cues to let you know what mode the controllers are in. With the softwware I mentiond, SurfaceReader, any time you change control modes it is spoken to you. If you forget what mode you're in you simplely ask the software to report it to you. How is that problimatic?

If he wants the board for other reasons that's fine, but to say he can't use it for the reasons you say sounds more like your miss givings and not the reality of the situation.
Old 10th January 2014
  #20
Gear Nut
 

I just took a look at the Allen & Heath GS2-R24M 24-Channel Recording Console (Motorized) at FrontEndAudio.com and what a monster. Also what a price! And you have to purchase the interface seppate. Another $700 for the firewire/adat. Damn!!! If your friend has the money to buy that I'm happy for him, and he should get it. Think I'll have to settle for something a bit cheaper though my self.... Oh well.
Old 10th January 2014
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
Multicore's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipster View Post
I just don't happen to agree with you that you really do require the visual cues to let you know what mode the controllers are in. With the softwware I mentiond, SurfaceReader, any time you change control modes it is spoken to you. If you forget what mode you're in you simplely ask the software to report it to you. How is that problimatic?

If he wants the board for other reasons that's fine, but to say he can't use it for the reasons you say sounds more like your miss givings and not the reality of the situation.

Yes with screen reading already my friend is blazingly fast at operating Sonar itself despite the having to step thru menu reads. And I am excited to get this surface reader happening. BTW Chipster, I got another BCF, and I am going to get that set up. I thought I could ask you, if her interface only has a single midi port i/o (one in port, and one out port) will there be any conflict that you may have encountered with the USB? I know on my MOTU Midi Express XT, I seem to have lost one of the 8 ports to the BCF. All she really needs to do is get a midi controller keyboard into the interface for controlling Garritan, etc. At this point there has never been anything connected to the out port (hardware synths etc) for playback. It's all been virtual.


I'm getting way ahead of myself, but was wondering when you say "ask the software to report it to you" what exactly is required to ask the software, would simply moving a controller read back it's function?


Thanks! Now I'll be very curious about the ZED!
Old 11th January 2014
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Multicore View Post
Yes with screen reading already my friend is blazingly fast at operating Sonar itself despite the having to step thru menu reads. And I am excited to get this surface reader happening. BTW Chipster, I got another BCF, and I am going to get that set up. I thought I could ask you, if her interface only has a single midi port i/o (one in port, and one out port) will there be any conflict that you may have encountered with the USB? I know on my MOTU Midi Express XT, I seem to have lost one of the 8 ports to the BCF. All she really needs to do is get a midi controller keyboard into the interface for controlling Garritan, etc. At this point there has never been anything connected to the out port (hardware synths etc) for playback. It's all been virtual.


I'm getting way ahead of myself, but was wondering when you say "ask the software to report it to you" what exactly is required to ask the software, would simply moving a controller read back it's function?


Thanks! Now I'll be very curious about the ZED!
Don't need an external MIDI interface with the BCF2000, just an empty USB port. Also, I'll post instructions, but you'll need the virtual MIDI port creater loopMIDI. Place the BCF2000 in MCSO mode with three ports.

SurfaceReader has three modes, "Live" "ID" and "ScreenReader" Live mode lets any touch of one of the BCF2000 buttons, knobs or faders pass through to the software. ID mode let's you have Sonar and SurfaceRead running, but will not pass the controlers through, think of it as a learn mode.

Yes, in live mode any time you touch a fader, knob or button it's function is spoken to you in realtime. However, say you move away for a bit and forget where you are, in respect to the mode of the BCF, simply placing it in ID mode and you can toggle the modes to find where you are.
Old 20th January 2014
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Aisle 6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipster View Post
I just don't happen to agree with you that you really do require the visual cues to let you know what mode the controllers are in. With the softwware I mentiond, SurfaceReader, any time you change control modes it is spoken to you. If you forget what mode you're in you simplely ask the software to report it to you. How is that problimatic?

If he wants the board for other reasons that's fine, but to say he can't use it for the reasons you say sounds more like your miss givings and not the reality of the situation.
That is great information Chipster. My blind client was under the impression that any of the reader programs did not fit in with DAWs very well. I will ask if he has heard of SurfaceReader.

One benefit I do see from an analog console is that the input gain has a linear distortion. As you turn it up you can physically hear the harmonics getting richer until distortion begins giving you a very distinct aural indicator in the absence of a visual meter. Whereas a digital input will only give you a clan or distorted aural cue. With nothing else really relating it to the input level.

What is your position on this Chipster? I am very keen to get my client the best possible outcome for himself.
Old 31st January 2014
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aisle 6 View Post
That is great information Chipster. My blind client was under the impression that any of the reader programs did not fit in with DAWs very well. I will ask if he has heard of SurfaceReader.

One benefit I do see from an analog console is that the input gain has a linear distortion. As you turn it up you can physically hear the harmonics getting richer until distortion begins giving you a very distinct aural indicator in the absence of a visual meter. Whereas a digital input will only give you a clan or distorted aural cue. With nothing else really relating it to the input level.

What is your position on this Chipster? I am very keen to get my client the best possible outcome for himself.
Now linear distortion is something I agree with, and is part of the reason I've been looking at a analog desk here lately, another reason is EQ. However, there are also refreshable Braille displays that can be assigned to monitor meter levels, as well as other visual clues that are not readily available via speech output. Please don't take me wrong. I'm not trying to sell the ITB process or discourage the manner in which you guys are approaching the situation for your client. It hasn't always been this way, but there's enough technology out there now that being blind doesn't mean you don't have choices. For once ITB or OTB or a mixture of the two is now more of a question of choice of workflow over accessibility. That isn't to say that there still isn't issues with accessibility in either ITB or OTB. The simple fact is that there's no 100% out-of-the-box accessible recording avenue for the blind and whether ITB, OTB, digital, analog, a mix of all of it will take some work-around's and creative approaches, and is different for each individual. Is ITB for your client? I can't answer that really. Heck I'm struggling with that question my self lately as I enter a reorganization/retooling of my own recording chain. Although whether to go with an out-board desk like the ZED R-16 or Venice F16,(the GS24R/M you mentioned is way out of my budget for what I do,) or to wait for Behringer to release the new control surface they've announced has given me a headache over the past two weeks. But hey, for the first time I can remember I have those type choices, and I've been recording since the early to mid 90's.
Old 31st January 2014
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Hi Aisle 6
After my last post I started giving some detailed thought on your situation and asked my self, "If I were helping a blind person set up for recording, what approach would I take? What I came up with is the following. I'm trying to keep it short and concise due to the character restriction here on the forums, so if I've not addressed something or can answer any questions feel free to contact me.

First would be an evaluation of their background and skill set. How long have they been blind? What kind of experience do they have in computers, music, recording technology? This won't matter so much with the front end of purchasing the equipment, but is going to play a large factor in set up and training the client after the purchase. I'm assuming this has already been done by someone. Either your self or the Australian version of Vocational Rehabilitation. What kind of budget do we have to work with? The education and skill set can be overcome with training, assuming the individual has a talent to begin with. The implementation is another matter and is directly effected by available money. If money is not a concern, which by my experience there's always a cut off point with these type organizations if he is indeed going through the government, or not the biggest at any rate then I think to get him started I'd go with the following.

The GS-R24M with the firewire option you mention in your first post is a fabulous board if the money is there. (Damn, wish I could afford one,) Gives you two boards in one as it were. A true analog desk and a MIDI controller with motorized faders.

A good PC with plenty of ram and running either JAWS or Window-Eyes as the screen reader and Sonar as his DAW. This will give him full control over the product once it is recorded.

I'd also consider a refreshible Braille display for reading meters and events output from the DAW, which you wouldn't want spoken while recording or mixing.

I'd also throw in a Novation Nocturn for easy control over VST effects and such. While the GS-R24M has an outstanding MIDI section, and it looks like you can indeed send effects from your DAW to the AUXs on the board, the Nocturn gives him a down and dirty type control a hand reach away for dialing in his effect types and settings. It does a pretty good job of auto-mapping and I've found it more valuable than its small $99U.S. price point.

Here's where it gets a bit tricky. Which version of Sonar? Well currently neither JAWS and the free scripts JSonar or the commercial Cake Talking support any version of Sonar past 8.5. However the Cake Talking developer is working on scripts for Sonar X3 and promises them by this summer(2014). Personally I use the screen reader Window-Eyes currently when working with X3 and it does pretty well, but when the Cake Talking version for X3 comes out I'm almost sure I will get it and start using JAWS. I currently use JAWS when working in Sonar8.5. Again if money is not the deciding factor I'd have to say that going with Window-Eyes, which already works to a great extent with Sonar X3, would most likely be my choice. Why when I just said I'll probably switch to JAWS? Because You can contract the folks at GW Micro - Welcome to GW Micro - to write a custom app for him. This would insure the most compatibility and accessibility for sure. They would first do an assessment with your client and his goals and write the app around his particular skills and needs. The perfect solution. It isn't cheap though. At $125.00 an hour for assessment, and another $125.00 per hour writing the code It can get a bit pricey. I think I read some where that the average custom app runs in the range of $1200.00 to $2000.00.

Lastly I'd get with Tim Burgess at Raised Bar, Raised Bar Home - the guy who wrote SurfaceReader and see about him expanding/adapting SurfaceReader to work with the GS-R24M. Tim is a great guy as well as being smart as hell and I'm sure he could do it. He's also in England not far from Allen & Heath's office in fact, and could probably get Allen & Heath to provide him a loaner to do the work on.

(Oh hell, I just describe my dream setup...)

I hope this helps and if I can offer any other assistance don't hesitate to contact me.
Old 21st May 2019
  #26
Here for the gear
 

Have any of you stepped back a decade or so to look at the Yamaha 4 channel mini disk? There are a few around. While it has a little screen, I think the basic tracking functions are all knobs and buttons, and the mixer with tone is built in. I think a blind person could do 4 tracks easy enough, and mix by feel with the onboard mixer. Could then export the tracks to a sighted friend for additional tracks, or could mix to stereo and have two more tracks...then mix to stereo and have two more tracks. etc. It was old school but it did have knobs and high/low buttons that would tell a person by feel if things were on or off. I owned the version with two xlr, two line channels. worked well. I'm thinking with a little mixer with 4 subs, you could assign one sub to each channel. Leave them at zero, and just hit record on whatever channel you wanted to use.
Dave Fowler.
Old 22nd May 2019
  #27
Thanks for reviving this thread @ dry camlaptop as it allows me to say that my friend has been up and running with his home studio for the past few years thanks in large part to the advice offered on this thread.

I believe he is using CakeWalk and JAWS. In any case I know he is using a DAW and his tracks are sounding great.

A four track would make a great portable option.
Old 22nd May 2019
  #28
Gear Maniac
Hello friends.

Taking part to this old thread...
@ drycamplaptop ,
I don't think serious musicians would want to restrict theirselves to a four track and a sighted friend, would you?

I'm visually impaired (a little bit sight left though but no colors, using braille and VoiceOver among other things), I do professional music production all the time here in Finland, maybe 50-60 full length rock / metal albums produced, recorded and mixed so far...Everybody loves the sound so I think I'm doing something right .

I use Cubase with a zooming utility called ZoomText... Cubase (like somebody said already) is not accessible with a screen reader, then again Reaper is and has even scripts written for the accessibility to work on if not all, at least most functions and features.
AFAIK Sonar script is dead and not updated anymore... Seems to me most blind users have moved to Reaper...

When choosing a control surface, keep it simple to keep things simple ...No screen, not too many functions. I use Asparion D4000 faders and Transport, works great, doesn't cost half as much as AVIDs and such. Then it's a good idea to select hardware that has knobs you can adjust by touch (without eyes I mean)... Retro is good @ this, 2 176s and 2a3 here...Older Neve Porticos had good buttons but they changed them to worse ones (from this perspective) when they started the "updated line" 10 years ago or so...I still have old 5012s and 5033s strictly because of this reason.


Please don't underestimate us blind as professionals just because some things aren't as easy for us as they might be for you...We often have better ears than many who still work as professionals .

All the best.

-- Mikko

See me in action and hear my sound with my own band Misterer here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtuWqttF1Lw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeluxpGJWio
Old 23rd May 2019
  #29
Thank you, Mikko. That is very helpful information since this thread is already 6 years old and it’s good to know most people have moved to Reaper. So wonderful that you are doing such great and prolific work!

I have a Mackie Control Universal Control surface with motorized faders and I wonder if it would be a good fit and useful. While it has a small screen I don’t think it’s that dependent on it.
Old 23rd May 2019
  #30
Gear Head
 

Another question: What would you suggest for notation software? I am legally blind, not total, and can still read a computer screen if my nose is a couple inches away (using a 27" monitor). I need to invert the screen colors, as too much white will fatigue what sight I have left very quickly. I have been stuck on Finale 2005b as that was the last version that would work with inverted screen colors. All versions since then don't work: it is rather difficult to identify black music staves on a black screen background. Any suggestions?

I normally compose in Finale and then import into my equally ancient copy of Sonar 8.5.3. I am guessing that at some point when I upgrade computers I will migrate to Cubase. I do extensive work in Midi, and orchestral composition and Reaper doesn't really fit with what I am seeking to do.
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