Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 7, NO. 8 / DECEMBER 1988

Runner-up Prize Best Article

Atari String Quartet

The 8-bit plays viola

by Joe Davis

I was a professional violinist for about 10 years at various Nevada casino showrooms. In Reno and Lake Tahoe, I backed up headliners such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Danny Thomas.

When I got married, I told my wife that I would like to have my own string quartet some day. Well, Lisa, the oldest of my three children, didn't take to the classics, though the other two did to some degree. I still wanted to be able to play some quartets at home, but alas, we were short one viola player.
      Joe Davis and two of his kids get ready to make music along with their upgraded Atari.
      A corner of the 800XL can be seen beneath the synthesizer keyboard.

That's where my computer and electronic music gadgets come in. I have an Atari 800XL computer with a 256K memory upgrade , Atari 1050 and Indus GT disk drives, and a Panasonic printer. I also own a Korg Poly 800 synthesizer and the Hybrid Arts MIDImate III MIDI interface. My latest toy is a Roland MT-32 Modular synthesizer, which is like having eight independent synthesizers hooked up to the Korg.

This system provides an assortment of instruments and even a kind of mini-recording home studio. Now I can have violins on one track, bass on a second track, brass on a third and so on down the line until I use up all available tracks.


So we have our string quartet. First I play my son's violin part so he can practice it until he gets it right. Next I select the Cello patch--I believe there's a choice of three different types of cellos--and play my daughter part, again letting her practice until she gets it right. Then I play our missing link, the viola part, and whammo--our string quartet! When we perform "live," I play first violin.

Obviously, it's not like the real thing. I don't look at my keyboard as a substitute, but as a working tool. I also do some composing on these little boxes.

Although the Atari 1040STs and Megas are the current musicians' dream machines, I can still do some very powerful things with my 256K Atari 800XL. I only wish some companies would upgrade their software to acknowledge the extra memory. Also, does anyone out there know of a good program that lets you write and print music manuscripts on an 800XL?

I'm now employed as a systems operator on an IBM/38 at San Bernadino Community Hospital in Southern California. But when I am off work I return to my MIDI, synthesizers and my Atari String Quartet.

Back to the keyboards. Let's see, how did that go again? Oh yes . . . Ready, Stacy and Joey!