Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 8 / MARCH 1990

The ST/MIDI Connection


Ah, winter! These long nights are perfect for some serious jamming or sound crafting. Just set that mug of hot chocolate down - not too near the console thank you - and take the wraps off some new tools...

New Releases
A somewhat ominous trend with newer synthesizers is minimal front panel controls particularly on rackmount versions. Gone are the glorious knob-twisting and switch-flipping days of yesteryear. More and more of these beauties seem designed in expectation of third-party software being developed to support them. Fortunately that's a safe bet as there are usually at least four patch editor/librarian programs per synth, each with its own interpretation of the ideal user interface.

Another trend is that the newer software is making much more sophisticated use of graphics and icon-based operations. This is particularly  evident in a set of new patch editors released by Interval Music: Protezoa, for the Emu Proteus, and an editor/librarian for the Kawai K4. These share a number of good design features such as mixer emulation (complete with faders, pans, mutes. etc.), an on-screen velocity-sensitive keyboard to audition sounds, an intelligent automatic patch generation and a deskaccessory patch file loader. An external edit mode lets you vary patch parameters from your master keyboard using any MIDI continuous controller, (foot controller, mod wheel, etc.), instead of being locked behind the computer keyboard.

A similar joy comes from the "land down under" with  EZE, a sample editor for the Ensoniq EPS from Gelva Software of Sydney, Australia. This program is a visual delight. It's unusual in that all operations occur within the EPS, the program just gives a better view and management of the proceedings. This makes for extremely quick editing as there is no need for tedious sample-data transfer between instrument and computer.

MIDI Drummer II is out from MusicSoft. This completely rewritten version (originally reviewed in the June 1989 issue of START) has expanded the number of' assignable drum voices from 16 to 32 and now allows for MIDI input of drum hits (note and velocity). Pattern-editing tools now include humanizing (adding small random timing variations) and echoing.

Hybrid Arts offers the next generation of their pro level MIDI Track sequencer family: Edit Track II and SMPTE Track II. The two are basically identical except that SMPTE Track II includes the external SMPTE synch box and software to support it. The earlier Synch Track, which supported FSK and other non-SMPTE synch modes, appears to have been dropped from the rinks. Some of the many new features include cycle (drum machine style) recording an on screen assignable fader control to vary volume or other controllers in real-time, chase controllers and the ability to send the metronome signal over MIDI and loop between markers during playback.

In addition to these upgrades, Hybrid Arts's long-awaited GenEdit master pitch editor/librarian program is now available The program lets you access any number of individual pieces of MIDI equipment through software templates (simulations of the instrument's hardware controls) and configurations (sysex communication protocols). You can modify these to suit your needs or create new ones from scratch. A "studio snapshot" lets you save and restore all MIDI data and settings for all equipment in your setup at a single shot. It's fully compatible with patch, configuration and macro files from the earlier GenPatch librarian program.

Of course no month passes without something new from the operating rooms of Dr. T's. The big news this month is Tiger Cub, the first step in a new sequencing direction. Tiger Cub starts with a 12-track sequencer (step/realtime input), adds graphic note and controller editing á la TIGER, throws in a new Quick Score feature for rapid interactive notation (yes, Virginia, multiple staves and slanted beaming) and wraps it up in a fully icon-driven package running smoothly under GEM and supporting up to seven additional MPE modules. Oh, and it supports the internal ST voices in addition to MIDI and sells for under $100. This is the kind of program we could only have dreamed about just a few years ago and is now offered as an entry-level sequencer.

Also from Dr. T's comes Hitman (previously known as CLiX). This program is an expansion in another direction: film scoring. It builds from a SMPTE event editor, setting times for a cue list and includes a sound-effects manager and tempo map/calculator. Hitman runs as a standalone program (it can use MIDI files) or with the KCS as an MPE module.

Record/playback screen from Tiger Cub, the new entry-level,
12-track sequencer from Dr. T. It combines sequencing, editing
and scoring into a single package for stand-alone use or you
can load up to seven additional MPE modules for musical
data-sharing functions.

Dr. T and company have finally opened a telecommunications outpost. Located within the Professional Support section of the MUB BBS (see below), this forum offers a direct line to Dr. T's technical support group, software upgrades and a collection of text help files, demos and user uploads. Upgrades are handled through a special Installer program (download this first). If you find a new version of a program you have purchased, download it and use the Installer to upgrade your master disk (you cannot upgrade without a master disk). This is a quick and relatively inexpensive means to stay current. Upgrades currently on the BBS are for Tunesmith, Proteus patch editor vl.05, TIGER (8/28/89), Phantom v 1.14, numerous new X-OR profiles and T-BASIC programs. Demos are available for X-OR, KCS Level 2, Copyist, Tunesmith, TIGER and Proteus patch editor.

Thanks to the Dr. T on-line forum, I stumbled upon the MUB BBS, otherwise known as Macintosh Users at Berklee BBS. Despite the name, anyone who has an interest in music/MIDI will find a warm reception and lots of information. The BBS is run by students at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Specific sections are in the E-mail and file libraries for Atari ST/ Mega users, along with a large collection of MIDI files that can be used across different computers. There is even an on-line mail-order firm for music equipment. A one-time membership charge of $15 is asked to defray expenses of running the BBS. You can reach it at (617) 739-2366 24 hours a day at 300/1200/ 2400 baud, with no surcharges for higher baud rates or connect time.

Ramblings from the Roundtable
In other telecom news, let me remind you the ST/MIDI Connection is online through the MIDI roundtable on GEnie (Category 29 under the MIDI BBS). We have had a lot of message traffic and look forward to expanding the audience. Drop a note to tell us what you're doing with your ST and music, ask (or answer!) some questions and tell us what products or applications you'd like to see covered in START.

There are quite a few good programs, help files, synth patch collections and sample files within the MIDI roundtable library. Those who have not succumbed to the telecom bug yet, what are you waiting for? You'll more than make up the cost of a modem with the utilities, patch and sample files found on-line. Many companies have posted demo versions of their products so you can try them with your own equipment and find the one that best meets your needs. Listed below are some of the newer postings of special interest.

ARPEG.ARC (#806): several great types of real-time arpeggios through a shareware desk accessory.

K5_PATCH.ARC (#870): shareware patch librarian for the Kawai K5/K5m.

FOUROP.ARC (#821): full-featured shareware patch editor/librarian for the Yamaha TX81Z/DX11. It's as good or better than many commercial offerings and stores patch files in MIDIEX format, which makes it compatible with the 28 banks of TX8IZ MIDIEX patches archived in file TX81ZMDX.ARC (#829). That's almost 900 patches for the cost of a download.

TIGERDEMO.ARC (#858): demo of the new TIGER graphical editor from Dr. T's. Works with KCS and standard MIDI format sequence files.

MIDIMAX.ARC (#822): demo of the MIDIMAX real-time MIDI data processor from Codehead.

D50DEMO.ARC (#865): two sampler patch files with a sysex autoloader program for the Roland D50 highlighting the D-SPECTRUM patch collection offered by Patch/Works. A neat way to market synth patches.

XPATDX4.ARC (#807): This is my patch file format conversion program for the Yamaha DX7/TX7. It automatically recognizes every patch file format I have ever run across on a BBS (ST, Mac, C64, IBM or 8-bit Atari) and converts it into any one of five formats commonly used with the ST.

A Musical Headstart
While learning to read music, nine times out of 10 it's the rhythm. not the pitch, that causes the most problems. A good aid is to see the notation and hear it played at the same time - a simple and useful exercise with many sequencers. Dietrich Gewissler has taken this concept one step further with his Headstart rhythm database. This is a huge compendium of one-measure rhythm patterns, logically organized according to the number of notes played per measure (one through 16) and timings. Beyond educational, these are a good rhythm source for building drum machine patterns.

Headstart is offered in standard MIDI file and Pro 24 III formats (as well as for other computers), making it accessible to virtually every Atari sequencer on the market. It is particularly good with sequencers! scoring programs that show notation along with playback, such as Cubase, Notator, EZ-Score Plus and Tiger Cub. More than half of the 2000-plus patterns are in standard 4/4 meter with both duplet and triplet timing; others are in 5/4, 9/8 and other meters. Headstart comes with detailed instructions, a printed score for the patterns and suggestions on best patterns to use with drum machines for building specific styles (e.g., disco, hard rock, reggae. polka, etc.).

Staccato Notes
Wrapping up this month with a few odds and ends, we have received several calls wondering what has happened to the Sonus Corporation. Don Taylor, former president of Sonus, has closed that company and started up a new one named SoftPac. SoftPac will distribute and provide technical support for former Sonus products, as well as introduce upgrades and new products.

In my review of the Midisoft Studio: Advanced Edition sequencer (START. October 1989), 1 mentioned standard MIDI files would be supported in a future version. The future is now, with current version 3.03.

Those interested in doing musical desktop publishing can now get extremely professional results using the combination of The Copyist DTP, Touch-Up and either PageStream version 1.8 (not earlier versions) or Calamus. Scores created in The Copyist can be saved as TIFF files, then converted with Touch-Up into standard .IMG files which either publishing program can import. While The Copyist can save scores into EPS files, these are too big for PageStream to handle at present and Calamus cannot import EPS files at all. The files can, however, be printed directly through UltraScript using Imagen's Crescendo font (similar to the Adobe Sonata font) with stunning results.

The long-rumored/hyped Hotz MIDI controller box from Atari will go commercial sometime in early 1990. The initial version is targeted for professional musicians, will include STACEY along with the main controller and two wing units, and runs about $10,000.

Music/MIDI EditorJim Pierson-Perry is a chemical engineer who lives In Elkton, Maryland.


MIDIMAX, $49.95. Codehead Software, P.O. Box 74090, Los Angeles, CA 90004, 213) 38&5735.

Copyist DTP, $399; Hitman, $99; Tiger Cub, $99. Dr. T's Music Software, 220 Boylston Street, Suite 306, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167, (617) 244-6954.

K4 Editor/Librarian, $139; Protezoa, $139 Interval Music Systems 1 2077 Wilshire Blvd, #515. Los Angeles, CA 90025, 213) 478-3956.

Headstart version 1.1, $29.95; Optional score printout, $7.50. Dietrich Gewissler, Box 341, RD 3, Howell, NJ 07731, (2011 364-8719.

Edit Track II, Call for Price; GenEDIT, Call For Price; SMPTE Track II, Call for Price. Hybrid Arts, Inc., 8522 National Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232, (213) 841-0340.

Calamus, $299.95. ISD Marketing, Inc., 2651 John Street, Unit #3, Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 2W5, (416)479-1880.

Crescendo Font, Call for Price. Imagen Corporation, P.O. Box 58101, Dept USST, Santa Clara, CA 95052-8101 (800)635-3997 or (408) 986-9400.

EZE, $249. Gelva Sof'ware, P.O. Box 631, Double 8ay, NSW, 2028, Sydney, Australia. Midisoft Studio: Advanced Edition version 3.03, $149. Midisoft Corp., P.O. Box 1000, Bellevue, WA 98009, 206) 827-0750.

Touch-Up version 1.5, $179.95. Migraph, Inc., 200 S. 333rd (220), Federal Way, WA 98003, (206) 838-4677.

MIDI Drummer II, Call for Price. MusicSolt, 30 North Raymond, Suite 505, Pasadena, CA91 103, (818) 449-8838.

PageStream version 1.8, $199.95. SoftLogik, 1131F South Towne Square, ST. Louis, MO 63123, (314) 894-8608.