Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 41 / OCTOBER 1983 / PAGE 152

Synthy 64

Richard Mansfield, Senior Editor

Music can be a complicated affair – you've got pitch, rhythm, tone, and duration/loudness factors to cope with for each musical moment. When you're digitalizing music (playing it from a computer), you've added to the complexity because you've got to program lots of numbers. The 64 has many built-in facilities for programming expressive, subtle music, but there's a price: the programmer must specify a good deal about each note.

Synthy 64 is an excellent solution to this dilemma. It allows you full access to the 64's extraordinary sound capabilities, but it greatly simplifies the programming for you. You can avoid massive amounts of mysterious POKEs or DATA statements. Just as BASIC makes programming easier because you work with English words, Synthy 64 makes music programming much more understandable. You work with the notes as they would apply to a piano, rather than with frequency numbers. You indicate a C in the third octave as C3, not as 1097.

This example, however, only touches on the efficiency with which you can enter complex music via Synthy 64. Because it is a language, like BASIC, you can make Synthy 64 perform complicated tasks with relative ease. In fact, you program it very much the way you program BASIC: line numbers, LIST, RUN, SAVE, INPUT, error messages, and other BASIC-like commands all work the way you're familiar with. And all the music-specific commands are straight­forward and easy to use. Voices, portamento, filtering, tempo, and envelope are simple to program, and even conveniences such as REPEAT a phrase and synchronizing are provided for in the Synthy 64 language.

To give you an idea, here's one of the early examples from the software's documentation:

10 T120
20 C5/4 D E F G A6 B C
30 END

This will play a scale from the fifth octave C (C5) using quarter notes (/4). The octaves start with A, so you must put the /6 in, but only when changing to a new octave. Line 10 tells the computer how many quarter notes to play per minute. If you don't set a tempo, the default is 100.

All of Synthy 64 is similarly well thought out and easy to learn and use. Even esoterica such as ring modulation and special bandwidth filtering become both comprehensible and usable. A 41-page booklet and three sample compositions round out the package. If you've been frustrated because you know your 64 has a lot of music inside it, but you've been unable to get at it – this might well be the tool you've been waiting for.

Synthy 64

Abacus Software
P.O. Box 7211
Grand Rapids, Ml 49510
$35 (tape), $38 (disk)