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Author Topic: "MIDI Software for the Mac" (article, September 1993)  (Read 1647 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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"MIDI Software for the Mac" (article, September 1993)
« on: April 07, 2017, 01:47:31 PM »
MIDI Software for the Mac

MIDI Software for the Mac
                                 Maintained by:
                                 Last updated on : 9/5/1993
This document (perhaps most useful for those about to fritter
away their hard-earned paychecks for MIDI software on the
Macintosh :^), provides a short description of some of the
more common commercial MIDI software available for the Mac.
The short write-ups are based on user's comments, the
product's propaganda literature, and other reviews.
If the reader is not familiar with MIDI, and is confounded by
questions such as, "What's a sequencer?", "What's a patch
editor?", or even "What is MIDI?!", there are a number of
other files available on the 'net which might prove helpful:
1. "MIDI on the Macintosh." 3-part article in TidBITS. Back
issues available via anonymous FTP from:
  <>   /info-mac/per/tb/...
    TidBITS#176/10-May-93: Introduction to MIDI
    TidBITS#177/17-May-93: MIDI software for the Mac
    TidBITS#178/31-May-93: Hardware: Interface, Macs, Synths.
2. "Inexpensive MIDI Resources for the Macintosh." FAQ file
for shareware and public domain MIDI programs for the MAC
maintained by Russ Evans, anonymous FTP from:
<>   in   mac.ftp/sound/midi/
3. FAQ file for on Usenet,
discusses various MIDI and synthesizer issues. Maintained by
Craig Latta, anonymous FTP from:
<>   in  pub/usenet/
4. A bibliography on synthesizers, midi, computer and
electronic music collected from various sources by Piet van
Oostrum can be obtained by ftp from:
  <>   in    MIDI/DOC/bibliography.
5. MIDI and General MIDI Specifications, anonymous FTP from:
  <>   in   /misc/netjam/doc/midi/...
Commercial MIDI software for the Mac is organized in this
document under three extended categories:
 1. Sequencers and Notation Editors
 2. Music Training, Algorithmic Composition and Accompaniment
 3. MIDI Control
1. Sequencers and Notation Editors
Usually, the list price is a fair reflection of the
software's capabilities. The high-end packages are intended
for the professional musician, while the mid- and low-range
programs are aimed at the semi-pro or casual musician /
composer. Each package claims its forte to be either
sequencing [ s ] or notation [N], though sometimes both parts
are present in some mix: [SN]  [sN], [Sn], or [sn]
Ballade  [ s ]
    Good value 16 track sequencer with a snazzy MIDI mixing
    window. Built-in support for some sound modules such as
    Sound Canvas (Roland) and Tone Generator (Yamaha). (Is
    also being bundles with some SC-xx models).
    List $ 99. Dynaware USA Inc. (800) 445-3962
Beyond  [ s ] :
    * * * * Discontinued * * * *
    (Now available in a new package - see Metro.)
Composer's Mosaic  [N] :
    Music-notation and publishing program with powerful tools
    for editing and manipulating scores. Quirky interface.
    A user comments that "It's the Microsloth Word of the
    music bizz: slow, cumbersome interface, and a processor
    hog to boot." Another maintains it is easy to learn
    (compared to Finale?). Will run on Mac Plus and up.
    $595 list. Mark of the Unicorn, (617) 576-2760.
ConcertWarePro  [sN]:
    Good mid-level 32-stave notation and publishing program
    with a no-frills sequencer. Improved sequence-to-notation
    capabilities and stave scrolling during playback.
    editing application. Will run on Mac Plus and up.
    Version 6.0. $189 list.($50 update from ConcertWare+MIDI)
    Great Wave Software, (408) 438-1990
Cubase  [ s ] :
    Sequencer with decent interface and a few unique editing
    features e.g. edit sequence while they are playing
    [this feature now available in other high-end programs].
    Will run on Mac II and up. Copy protected (ADB dongle).
    $495 list. Steinberg/Jones, (818) 993-4091.
CubaseScore  [N] :
    Notation editor.   ???  .Steinberg/Jones, (818) 993-4091.
Deluxe Music Construction Set  [N] :
    * * * * Discontinued ?? * * * *
    Music-notation program with limited features. Will run on
    Mac Plus and up. Copy protected. $130 list . Electronic
    Arts, (800) 245-4525.
Encore  [N] :
    Music-notation program with decent interface and good
    printing options for Postscript / QuickDraw printers.
    Will run on Mac Plus and up. $595 list. Passport Designs,
    (415) 726-0280.
EZ Vision  [ s ] :
    Decent sequencer for beginners. Interface provides a
    tape-deck analogy for recording/playback. Has an adequate
    subset of the features found in Vision, its senior and
    more powerful sibling. Will run on Mac Plus and up. $149
    list.[New price $99 ?] Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333.
   .[ To be discontinued now that MusicShop's here??]
Finale  [SN] :
    Powerful notation and sequencing program that does just
    about everything. Primarily a notation editor, the
    sequencer is less powerful than other top-of-the-line
    sequencers.  Intimidating interface, manual. New version
    (3.0) has improved playback and instrument menus, and a
    General MIDI library. Some reports of Mac locking up
    during MIDI playback.  Will run (actually, crawl) on Mac
    Plus (68030 based Macs recommended). Version 3.0.
    $749 list. Coda Music Software, (800) 843-2066.
General MIDI Sequencer  [ s ]
    Low cost, yet powerful 100 tracks sequencer with features
    (track editing capabilities) of some of the more
    expensive packages. Has "GenMap" to automatically map
    patches of synths/sound modules to the General MIDI
    instrument set. With a street price of < $50, it is bound
    to give quite a few sequencers a run for their money.
    Version 1.0. $ 80 list. Altech Systems.
Lime  [N] :
    Powerful notation program. Limited MIDI support, quirky
    interface, responsive tech support. $295 list. CERL.
Master Tracks Pro  [ s ] :
    Feature laden sequencer with a decent interface (junior
    version called Trax). Slightly easier-to-use package than
    Vision. Will run on Mac Plus and up. (Copy protected?)
    $495 list. Passport Designs, (415) 726-0280.
Metro  [ s ]:
    Can edit almost unlimited number of tracks in real time.
    Reincarnation of the sequencer Beyond with an integration
    to DECK (an inexpensive digital audio recording system
    from OSC.) Supports OMS and over 500 MIDI channels.
    $225 list. OSC. (800) 343-3325
MIDIplay  :
    HyperCard based MIDI player.  Will run on Mac Plus and
    up. $60 list. Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333
MiniTrax  [ s ] :
    No-frills public domain sequencer showcasing MIDIBasic.
    Will run on Mac Plus and up. Free. Altech Systems,
Music Prose  [SN] :
    Easy-to-use program with good import capabilities. Will
    run on Mac Plus and up (68030 based Macs recommended).
    $249 list. Coda Music Software, (800) 843-2066.
Music Publisher  [N] :
    * * * * Discontinued * * * *
MusicShop  [Sn]
    Upgrade package from EZVision. Features the usual tape-
    deck style sequencer (from the xxVision family) and a 32
    stave notation editor. $ 149 list (upgrade from EZVision
    $49). Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333.
Music Writer 1/2/3  [N]
    Family of quirky notation programs offering 3/6/40
    musical staves.  Will run on Mac Plus and up.
    $119/295/595 list. Pygraphics, (800) 222-7536.
Notator Logic [Sn]:
     [Edited from a post by]
    Cubase-like sequencer, usable notation (compares more to
    Cubase Score than to Cubase), sophisticated studio-
    environment MIDI-control model with icon window for
    routing, virtual controls of any MIDI event, special
    processor functions such as arpeggiators, splitters, etc.
    Ostensibly supports audio tracks via an Audiomedia board
    (probably compares to Studio Vision, or Cubase Audio,
    plus a notation package). Good Documentation. Some
    annoying non-Mac-like user interface. Version 1.6, Copy
    protection (ADB dongle). List $799 ? (Introductory price
    $399). E-Magic. adds:
"...Notator has "Hyper Editor" which can be used for drum
sequencing. The hyper editor can display/edit many types of
events vs time in sort of a histogram plot. A hyper
definition consists of a set of many of these histograms
stacked like an EKG trace..."
NoteWriter  [N]
    Notation program by Passport Designs, (415) 726-0280.
Performer  [Sn] :
    Feature laden sequencer capable of loops within
    loops. Users report versions 4.0.x buggy, but  4.2 quite
    stable. Notation editor is slow, and lacks power - good
    only for proof sheets. Integrates with Mosaic.
    Is allegedly supposed to work seamlessly with Unysin (it
    does not yet) and FreeMIDI (which is still vaporware).
    Will run on Mac Plus and up. Copy protected. $495 list.
    Mark of the Unicorn, (617) 576-2760.
    Internet: adds:
"...The most recent update as of 7/93 is v4.2  In-depth
editing and human feel features.  Custom graphical slider
interfaces. Supports multiple MIDI cable interfaces (MTP
I/II). Digital Performer combines digital audio and MIDI." provides a comparision between Performer and Vision, which is appended to the review of Vision.
Professional Composer [N]
    * * * * Discontinued * * * *
    (MOTU's new notation package is Composer's Mosaic.)
Songworks [sn]:
    A "Jack-of-all-trades" program which combines
    notation, sequencing, composition, and "one-finger"
    accompaniment. $125 list. ARS Nova, (800) 445-4866.
Trax  [ s ] :
    Easy to use sequencer for beginners with tape-deck type
    interface. Shares a few features (and the interface) with
    Master Tracks Pro, its senior and more powerful sibling.
    Will run on Mac Plus and up. $99 list. Passport Designs,
    (415) 726-0280.
Upbeat  :
    Versatile drum machine for arranging percussion. Will run
    on Mac Plus and up. $129 list. Dr. T's Music Software,
    (671) 455-1454
Vision  [ s ] :
    Full-featured sequencer with lots of extras (junior
    version called EZVision; Studio Vision, the high end
    package, combines digital audio and MIDI). Will run on
    Mac Plus and up, although it needs a color monitor to
    take full advantage of MIDI editing features.  Good
    integration with Galaxy, Max, and OMS. Copy protected.
    $495 list. Opcode Systems. (415) 856-3333. comments on how Performer and
    Vision are fairly similar, yet quite different:
"...The point is not the feature differences themselves, but
the fact that the differing features and constructs lead to
radically different music structures and working paradigms.
If one just considers feature lists, the packages appear
superficially similar: multitrack MIDI sequencing with some
constructs for sequence chunking and song construction.
Performer has a more powerful interface for presenting and
allowing detailed alteration of MIDI data, and a two-level
song construction mechanism. Vision is weaker at data
presentation and editing, stronger at subsequence control and
manipulation, navigation is much easier and cleaner, and song
construction is done at the track event level, which leads to
all sorts of fascinating things you can do that Performer
comes nothing close to...."
"    The important point is that the differences lead to
radically different working methods. For example, to do
looping in Performer, you edit a track and put in some loops.
Vision's looping constructs initially seem a lot weaker, but
in fact once you get into the correct mindset Vision is a lot
more powerful at this kind of thing (although not quite as
straightforward): you loop by building tracks containing
subsequence control commands. There is a lot more
localization: entire song structures can be embedded in
single tracks, and nesting is a lot more natural...."
"    Performer's chunking is easy to use and presented well.
Vision's is non-graphical (which is a drawback; hopefully
Opcode will do a good job when track overview comes along),
but then again Vision allows you to kick off a number of
subsequences at different tempos, then transpose half of them
according to a sequence of keys, stop some of them at a
definite point, and so on. It's much more modular and
"    Vision is slightly better for controller editing,
Performer is better for most of the other kinds of data. The
sliders and mixer emulation [in Performer] are superficially
nice but don't integrate well and have been buggy ever since
their introduction in Performer 3.0...."
"    Performer has NO system integration. All instrument
assignment and slider assignments are per sequence file. You
can't move slider panels from file to file because the
instrument assignments break. You can't change instruments on
existing sliders (it doesn't work properly). Sliders don't
chase events properly, and sometimes send to the wrong MIDI
device, and so on and so on. (I notice that in Vision, slider
events chase properly even from nested subsequences. I'm
impressed.) ..."
    [Another similarity between Performer and Vision: they
    both have the same insidious copy protection scheme].
2. Music Training, Algorithmic Composition, and Accompaniment
Band in a Box Professional :
    Provides accompaniment and rhythm for different styles of
    music. $88 list. PG Music.
Cypher :
    Unique algorithmic composition and accompaniment program.
    Can work with MIDI data in real time. $ 39 list.
    Available on CD as a companion to the book "Interactive
    Music System" by Robert Rowe, MIT Press, Boston.
Harmony Grid :
    Non-traditional learning and composition program.
    Interesting use of grid to show patterns between scales,
    and chords. $99 list. VPL Research, (415) 361-1710.
Instant Pleasure Music :
    Program to make-believe that you can play like a pro.
    Plays the corrects notes of a loaded song no matter
    which synth key you hit (what?!!). Instant virtual
    gratification. $149 list. Instant Pleasure (614) 297-7600
Interactor :
    In terms of basic MIDI processing, much the same as Max.
     ???? ???? (Details please!)
Jam Factory :
    Algorithmic accompaniment (rhythm) with manipulation of
    MIDI data in real time. $119 list. Dr. T's Music
    Software, (671) 455-1454.
Listen :
    Educational tool for ear training and music theory. $99
    list. Imaja, (510) 526- 4621.
M :
    Unique pattern-based algorithmic composition program that
    works with MIDI data in real time. $119 list.
    Dr. T's Music Software, (671) 455-1454.
MiBAC Jazz :
    Algorithmic composition and accompaniment for jazz
    numbers. By John Ellinger, Music Department, Carleton
    ( $ 125 list. MiBAC Music
    Software, (507) 645-5851.
MIDI School
    Software tool to learn the basics about MIDI and
    electronic music. Includes a basic 8-track sequencer.
    $ 75 (???) list. EduACTIVE, (???) ???-????
Miracle Piano Teaching System  :
    Popular "teach-yourself-music" package containing
    software, a MIDI interface, and a 49-key MIDI keyboard.
    $499 list. Software Toolworks.
Music Mouse :
    Entertaining whimsical program which tracks mouse
    movements for playback. $49 list. Dr. T's Music Software,
    (671) 455-1454.
Practica Musica :
    Educational tool with an interactive game approach to ear
    training and music theory. $125 list. ARS Nova,
    (800) 445-4866.
Songworks :
    A marginal accompaniment and composition tool. (See also
    write up in Sec. 1). $ 125 list. ARS Nova,
    (800) 445-4866.
3. MIDI Control
Free MIDI System :
    Similar in function to the MIDI Manager and OMS (see
    below), Free MIDI System is seen by many as a True-Typish
    move to get developers to agree on a standard set of
    "system hooks" for MIDI on the Mac. Free to all
    interested MIDI/Music developers. Mark of the Unicorn,
    (617) 576-2760. (Continues to be vaporware: 9/93).
GS Controller :
    Patch editor. (See also Super MIDI Player.)
    $68 list. Dynaware USA Inc. (800) 445-3962
Galaxy :
    Patch-librarian with good integration between Vision,
    Max, and OMS. $249 list. Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333.
HyperMIDI :
    MIDI construction toolkit in HyperCard. Previously a
    shareware by Nigel Redmond, it has has recently gone
    commercial. $125 list. ELE.
    For those who enjoy both programming and music, the
    following words of wisdom gleaned from TV-reruns is
    offered: "Get smart; Max smart!" Max is an excellent
    object-oriented MIDI control and interface programming
    toolkit for creating MIDI systems, user interfaces, real-
    time processors and sequencers, algorithmic composition
    components, performance surfaces, and anything else you
    can possibly think of. Control primitives (or "objects")
    can be laid out and connected together and edited in a
    MacDraw-like environment, and then used to process MIDI
    data. Quite simply, it can be considered an instrument
    for building new MIDI virtual-instruments.  Copy
    protected. $329 list. Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333.
    Overall, the software is stable, has a good interface,
    and is easy to use. Adding new external objects to Max is
    as easy (or difficult, depending on your point of view)
    as compiling a code resource and dropping it in a folder.
    Not that it is likely you'll need to do that - Max has
    more than 160 predefined objects. (The package also has
    two 800 K disks containing Max tools developed by users.)
    On-line help is good. The 600 + page ring-binder
    manual has 40 tutorials and comprehensive object-library
    specifications - though a table listing all the objects
    and their functions would be a nice addition to an
    otherwise well-presented manual. One major complaint I
    have is Max's (or rather, Opcode's) *annoying* copy-
    protected installation procedure. (I just have an
    aversion towards any copy protection scheme,)
MIDI Manager :
    Apple's MIDI Manager offers a high level interface to the
    Mac OS to correctly support the timing accuracy required
    by MIDI hardware and software under MultiFinder. It is
    for doing Inter-Application Communication and for
    allowing multiple applications to address the serial
    port. MIDI Manager does not come with the System - it is
    available to developers or as licensed software with MIDI
    application packages. $35 list. APDA. adds:
"   MIDI Manager is not as easy [to develop with]....  It's
actually not bad, but if you program with Think C (which most
Mac programmers seem to do), you immediately encounter a
syntax error in the supplied header file and an object file
that won't link unless you run a somewhat obscure Think C
conversion program on it.   None of this is mentioned in the
MIDI Manager documentation...."  ["oConv" utility for Think C
5; Think C 6 takes care of this automatically.]
    OMS is similar to MIDI Manager in that it extends the Mac
    OS for MIDI applications. It has some features not found
    in MIDI Manager such as SMPTE synchronization (SMPTE
    synchronization is the job of MIDI Time Code; it does not
    require OMS or MIDI Manager). OMS is *essential* to all
    PowerBooks (except the PB100 and the Duos) for achieving
    *full MIDI functionality* (see ref. #1 above).  OMS
    allows an application to address a large number of
    discrete MIDI cables through one serial port, and also
    allows publish and subscribe, which might be considered
    non-real-time IAC (Inter-Application Communication)
    between applications, like a sequencer and a patch
    Version 1.x was called "Opcode MIDI System."
    Versions 2.0 (due out summer 1993?) will be called "Open
    MIDI System" to reflect the fact that future versions of
    OMS will incorporate source code from other developers
    (see Free MIDI System.) OMS 2.0 will add IAC, and include
    serial port independence allowing the use of serial
    cards. Free to all interested MIDI/Music developers.
    Opcode Systems, (415) 856-3333.
Super Librarian :
    Patch-librarian with awkward un-Mac-like interface. Does
    not run on Quadras. $99 list. Pixel Publishing, Canada,
    (416) 785-3036.
Super MIDI Player :
    Functionally, a GS Controller with a MIDI Player.
    $88 list. Dynaware USA Inc. (800) 445-3962
Symbolic Composer :
    Symbolic Composer collects together in one environment
    all the standard tools for designing and originating
    music. Implements the 6th Generation Common Music
    Language for the Macintosh and Atari (consists of 150
    general purpose high-level commands that cover morphing,
    chord generation, user definable styles and libraries.
    $ ??? list. Capedia, ( [UK] 0727-869791)
Unisyn :
    Patch-librarian with shaky integration to other MOTU
    products. In isolation, it is competent though some
    editors reported to be buggy.  $??? list. MOTU.
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This document was last updated on : 9/5/1993