Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 9 / FEBRUARY 1981 / PAGE 80


Atari Music Composer

Jerry White

Atari owners with an ear for music will love the Atari Music Composer. It is as much fun as it is educational. There's something fascinating about hearing music and seeing it displayed in music form at the same time. After a little experimentation, you will find the creative possibilities endless.

At first you may be awed by the twenty page manual. Relax! To get started, you need only read thru pages 3 thru 13. Part 1 is a general description that explains all your options and commands in detail. There is a great deal of data on these six pages. Don't try to memorize it, just read thru it. Part 2 is a sample session where you actually create the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It is very well written and easy to follow the step by step instructions. Once you finish this part, go back and reread part 1. Now it will be easier to digest since you are reading it for the second time and have used many of the commands. By now about an hour has passed and you are ready to enter a song from your human memory or copy one from sheet music. Go to pages 19 & 20 in your manual. Here you will find a Quick Guide of all the commands. Use it as reference.

Allow me to give you some hints that will be quite helpful. Remember that a phrase is a section of music. There are four voices as in the Atari Basic Sound command. However, in the Music Composer, they are numbered 1 thru 4 instead of 0 thru 3. These voices are preset so that each has a Play command. Voice 1 is set to Play Phrase 1, Voice 2 is set to Play Phrase 2, and so on. Let's assume you have just created a one voice song consisting of two phrases. Assume you have Arranged Voice 1 to Display, Play Phrase 1, and Play Phrase 2. Now you want to Save your song on tape or diskette. Don't save it yet. Since Voice 2 was preset to Play Phrase 2, you will have Voice 1 playing one section of your song while Voice 2 is playing the other section. That will probably sound terrible since you did not create these two phrases as harmony. The thing to do is to change each of the preset Voice 2, 3, and 4 commands to Play Phrase 9. Since you have no phrase 9, those Voices will remain silent.

Sooner or later you will add harmony voices. When you do, all voices will have to be syncronized. You may want Voice 1 to Play Phrase 1 while Voice 2 plays phrase 3 and Voice 3 plays phrase 5 and Voice 4 plays phrase 7. That may sound difficult to you but your Atari computer will understand it. A problem may arise when you try to coordinate the four voices. For this reason, you should use the Check Measures option. This will tell the computer to check the length of each measure as it is entered. You will be notified if a measure is too long or too short. Since the measures are counted and numbered, it shouldn't be difficult to track down a problem as long as your measures are correct length.

When you save your music files on tape or diskette, I suggest you use the extension .MUS for music files and .HAR for music files including harmony. This will make it easy to tell music files from programs.

For those who do some programming, Part 3 of the manual explains the music file structure and supplies three Basic program listings. Alas, here the manual is flawed. The first program is the only one documented. It dumps music files onto the screen. It works if you leave out line 80. I believe that was meant to be a REM statement. As written, the other two programs were meant to be used only as guidelines to the experienced programmer.

To those of you who decide to key in the harmony program, you will need a disk system and over 32K. It will run on a 32K system if you change line 5 to NN = 180. NN is used to dimension many arrays. It is the number of notes the program can handle. You will have to make NN only as large as the music file it must read. Therefore it can run on less than 32K if it is to create harmony to a short song.

Enjoy the Atari Music Composer. Good luck and good music.