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Author Topic: The Musical ST (Summer 1987, article)  (Read 5379 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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The Musical ST (Summer 1987, article)
« on: November 30, 2016, 08:46:54 AM »


Consumer MIDI software tools and toys


Okay--so you know the difference between a sequencer and a patch editor, and your ST is ready and waiting. Now you're ready to become the new Vangelis. But before you plunk down your money, breeze through this article, and let Jim Pierson-Perry show you what what's hot and what's not in the world of consumer ST music software.

Welcome to the Atari ST MIDI software explosion! With its 16-bit architecture and built-in MIDI ports, and a price roughly equivalent to a similarly configured Commodore 128, it's no wonder industry experts view the ST as the new "musicians" computer." There are now MIDI programs available for a variety of uses ranging from a player-piano simulation (based on real piano rolls) to a professional 60-track sequencer system.

If you're new to the electronic music world, it can be a bewildering experience to fight through the jungle of new terminology just to find out what these new programs are supposed to do--let alone try to use them. In this article we will first look at the main classes of MIDI-based software and describe the functions and features you should look for. Then we'll examine commercial ST MIDI software products and see how they compare for features and performance.

Although we'll be looking at software for home and hobbyist use, many of the products are equally suited for the professional musician. (Editor's note: A separate article on professional MIDI software will appear in an upcoming issue of START.) To use most of these products, you need only your ST and a MIDI-compatible synthesizer such as the popular Casio CZ-101, Yamaha DX-7 or Ensoniq ESQ-1. Of course, the more MIDI equipment you have (like samplers, drum boxes, and expanders) the more involved your music can be--and the more you'll appreciate having the ST to hold it all together!


MIDI software comes in six types: music players, sequencers, scoring programs, patch editors, librarians, and utilities. Within each type are varying levels of features, and there is a fair degree of overlap between the types.

As I write this, there are no stand-alone consumer-level music scoring or utility programs for the ST (although by the time you receive this issue of START, some commercial packages should be in release). The programs covered here fit into the player, sequencer, and librarian, classes. An overview of the patch editors available for the ST will appear in an upcoming issue of START. In this article I have a mini-review of each program and then highlight some of their specific features in the summary charts.

The computer music/synthesizer field has its own arcane jargon, which may be daunting to the uninitiated. (For a good introduction to some of these terms, read "The Ins, Outs and Thrus of MIDI" by Tom Jeffries in START #4.) For the software in this review, it's important that you understand the terms real-time, step-timeand patches. Music software with real-time functions records and/or plays your music at its normal tempo. In this sense, it serves as a tape recorder. With steptime, on the other hand, you can enter or play one step (note, beat, etc.) at a time. Many musicians use step-time to enter notes from sheet music or to get through complicated passages that would be difficult to play in real time. A patch is the collection of settings or parameters needed to create a particular sound on a synthesizer.