Barrington, Il 60010
Reviewed by Nat Friedland
At $49, the Colortone Keyboard by Waveform Corp. is not a tool for professional
musicians. But nevertheless it is an intriguing Atari music device that
puts a surprising amount of musical power and feedback literally at your
The Colortone is a recent conversion from a fairly successful Commodore 64 product. As a matter of fact, Antic received its copy just one day after programmer Russ Karras delivered the conversion software to Waveform. Actually our keyboard's converter hookup is a prototype that dangles exposed on a spliced cable.
Distribution for this product is just getting set up, but one source you should be able to obtain it from is the Protecto mail-order house whose address is shown above. (We recommend that you verify availability by phone before mailing Protecto a check.)
The Colortone is a membrane keyboard, after the fashion of the old Atari 400. It's laid over a sturdy plastic base, but looks a lot like those cardboard piano keyboards that kids in group piano classes used for practicing their fingering.
Once you select your choices from the function keys at the top of the board, you will probably wind up playing mostly on the Color Harp strip above the regular piano-key diagram. The Color Harp gives you only the notes in the scale you have chosen, so you can fool around without the risk of hitting a drastically wrong note.
The Colortone software does a lot of interesting things. You get a choice of seven well done pop/rock two-voice accompaniments or a simple metronome beat. Some of the most common and effective rock patterns are utilized, boogie, ballad, etc.
You have eight instrumental voices to choose from and a variety of musical scales. You can also adjust the speed, pause, and listen to playback of your solo with or without saving it to disk.
As you are playing, the software writes out the musical notation of your solo, showing it above the bass accompaniment notes. At the same time, it also tracks your fingering with red lights over a piano key display.
It is easy to sound pretty good as you play along with the accompaniment by tapping or even rubbing your fingers over the color harp. You can never be drastically out of tune although you are able to experiment with interestingly dissonant effects if you wish.
A lot of your noodling will sound like the background music from your favorite videogames.
Where Colortone Keyboard eventually shows its limitations is its lack of precision at reflecting musical ideas you are consciously trying to play. It's often nearly impossible to find a specific note you're looking for in the color harp section. And the membrane sensors on the piano diagram don't respond fast enough to pick up speedy passages.
Eventually it seems that no matter what you try to do, you find yourself repeating a consistent pattern of chromatic eighth-note scales as the accompaniments pump steadily along.