Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 2 / SPECIAL ISSUE #4


START's Digital Guitar Simulator

by David Balmer, Jr.

It's summer and it's time to have a little fun. With Guitar Solo you can be the muscian you always knew you were--and you don't need to invest in any musical instruments to do it. Compose tunes, record the bits and play them back for your friends. It may not be a Fender Rhodes, but it's hot, it's digital and it's on your START disk now!

Strum your blues away with GUITAR.ARC on your START disk.

Guitar Solo is a mouse-driven, graphics-oriented simulation of a digital guitar. In one sense this is strange, because a digital guitar tries to imitate an electric guitar, which in turn tries to modify an acoustic guitar, which in turn tries to imitate a lute, etc. Most of these developments, however, were improvements. The digital guitar was meant to extend the sound capabilities of a guitar by adding MIDI, preset tones and rythmns. The only major drawback to present systems is that after all those improvements, you can't play more than one note at a time. Also, they don't play at all like an electric guitar.

Guitar Solo attempts to improve a bit on the standard "digitar" by adding real guitar playability, although it still shares the digital handicap of only playing one note at a time.

To play Guitar Solo, un-ARC the file GUITAR.ARC following the instructions found elsewhere in this issue. To run Guitar Solo, the files NOTEFREQ.DAT and either GUITAR.P12 or GUITAR.P13 (depending on whether you're using a color or mono monitor) must be in the same directory as GUITAR.PRG. Double-click on GUITAR.PRG while in either medium or high resolution.


After Guitar Solo has loaded its data, you'll see the graphics shown in the accompanying illustration. On screen is a stubby electric guitar, with "hit boxes" on the top left, the logo at the bottom left and icons at the top right. To play the guitar, use your mouse to find one of the strings in the guitar "neck" (in the middle). Clicking the left mouse button will play the note that you're on; clicking the right button will play an "open" string (the lowest note on that string).

To familiarize yourself with these features, just hold down some buttons and move your mouse around to get an idea of how you can produce music. (Remember that lower notes are toward the left and higher notes are toward the right.) The top string is the highest pitch and the bottom is the lowest. The perspective of the guitar is from that of the player (imagine playing it and flipping it up to a top view.) To tune the guitar, click on the up or down arrows on the left side of dhe guitar neck until you see the note you want.

After you become acquainted with the strings, look at the icons. First is an exit icon, which will return you to the Desktop. Next is an icon that resembles a musical note. Clicking here will display corresponding "notes" to the spaces on the strings (CDEFGAB, etc.). A second click on this icon will turn off the notes display.

The next icon is the question mark. Clicking here will place you in help mode. In this mode you can click on certain objects/menus for a brief description. For a little fun, click on the guitar name and the Guitar Solo of the strings in the guitar "neck" (in the logo. Click on the question mark icon a second time to exit the help mode.


Guitar Solo's main
playing screen. From
here you can play our
ST "digitar."

Clicking on the last icon will give you Guitar Solo's author name and copyright information.

The top left corner of the screen contains controls for volume, sustain (which fades notes) and the flanger (which makes an echo when combined with sustain)--just click on the triangular areas in the boxes to adjust the settings. Also, you can turn the sustain and flanger on or off by clicking on the small boxes in the middle. Play with these settings and see how they affect the sound of the guitar.

Immediately to the right is the Settings menu. Each of these menu items is a toggle: you can turn these on and off by clicking on them. Experiment with these a little before moving on.

To the right of the Settings menu is the Recorder menu. You can record and playback songs like a tape recorder and even save them to disk. To load the sample song file, click on Load and select DEMO.SNG. When the file selector vanishes, click on Play. The tuner button at the bottom of the Recorder menu will automatically set the guitar to the default tuning.


Guitar Solo is easy to use and fun to play. If you are interested in seeing how the program works, examine the ASCII files GUITAR.LST and BREAKDWN.TXT. To load Guitar Solo into your GFA BASIC interpreter, run GFA, click on Merge and then select GUITAR.LST.

Guitar Solo may not turn you into Ry Cooder or Mark Knopfler, but I'll bet you'll have a lot of fun with it!

David Balmer, Jr.'s first experience with computers was when he was six, and he's been programming ever since. He graduated from high school in 1987, but has been working professionally since 1984.