Amiga Music/MIDI: Some Current Options

More indispensable information from the resident Master of Amiga Music and MIDI, Fred Ericksen

By Fred Ericksen, Music and MIDI Editor,

Hi everyone, and welcome to The Amiga Monitor issue #3! It's been one short month since my last MIDI article, and for those of you who may have missed the last one, I was giving short descriptions of some of the MIDI programs I use. I started last month with sequencing programs Bars & Pipes, SuperJam, Texture, Music-X, Master Tracks Pro, Deluxe Music Construction Set, and inadvertently jumped to a notation program, Dr. T's "The Copyist DTP" (Desk Top Publishing). Having recently purchased a copy of the Copyist DTP, I find myself writing more about it than the other programs I've been using for years. So.... here goes!

Dr. T's was one of the first programs I used with my Amiga, and 'tho I've heard from many people who have tried it and did not like it, I find it's a very powerful program even by today's standards. The last version that was available to the Amiga, Dr. T's KCS (Keyboard Controlled Sequencer), came bundled with a graphical editor called Tiger, a notation program called Quickscore, a graphical mixing program called Automix, and an Algorithmic composing program called Level II. Although the Amiga provides a multitasking environment, most programs are not able to share information without first saving a file to disk, then loading it to the second or third program running. Not true with Dr. T's. Dr. T's utilizes a feature it calls MPE (Multi Program Environment). This way you can load the above programs, record some tracks, and instantly switch windows to edit the tracks without saving/loading to disk. A very nice feature that seems to have been implemented in just about every pro- style sequencing program available on any platform is the Auto Mix feature. You can record multiple tracks, then open the AutoMix window, select "Output to KCS" and record volume, Pan, or _any_ MIDI control change information you'd like directly to a KCS track. The Quickscore feature does leave one wanting more, although it does exactly what it says. Record some tracks, switch to the Quickscore window, and look at what you've recorded in standard notation. You can't edit from the Quickscore window, but combined with some global settings like Quantize, Transpose, Key Signature etc. you get fairly good output that can be printed. This is where The Copyist DTP comes in. This is the premier notation program for the Amiga at this time. Like all Dr. T's stuff, it's a little quirky at first, but I've found it to be a great program, especially when writing music from scratch. The Copyist has very few limitations like so many other notation packages available. Most notation programs set up in either 12 staff or 18 staff per page, with 2 - 6 bars per staff per page. I find this _very_ limiting. If you are writing a complete score, this makes sense, but if you are writing for a single instrument per page, I like to be able to have each line configureable. If one measure has all sixteenth notes, and the next a whole note or rest, the Copyist lets you set the bar divider anywhere. This way the 16th notes can have a bigger area, and not look so crowded. The Copyist has many other features, and you can bet I'll be talking more about using this as well as the other programs in future articles here in The Amiga Monitor. One program I also use quite often is MidiQuest. Again this is a program from a few years ago, and it's been ported to the Mac and pee-cee machines. The Amiga version is no longer being updated (the current ver is 4.0 I think), but it is the best synth editor I've seen available for the Amiga. Unfortunately, the Amiga version won't do samplers, but it has a lot of available drivers for most major brand synths made. I use it mostly with my Roland CM64 as an editor/librarian. I also use the librarian for my Korg Poly 800, Ensoniq KS32, Roland A-50 controller, and a few of my effects units. As far as samplers and editor/librarians go, I've heard the Sample Wrench is a good program, but I am unsure if it is still available to the Amiga platform. Perhaps some readers can let me know if it is, and I'll pass the information on in a future article. There are a few shareware programs I find _very_ useful also, so I'll share a few thoughts on them. Having a few older synths can have its disadvantages, and some good points. I have a 12-bit sampler by Roland called an S-10 . It does some good samples for 12 bit, but the real problem lies in its disk drive. It will only let you load 4 samples at a time, and its disk drive is a 2.5 Quick Disk! These disks hold only one sample equal to about 2 to 4 seconds per side depending on the sample rate. When one side loads, you have to flip the disk over to load the other side. Very archaic indeed! so, If I want to load 4 samples, I need 2 disks inserted and loaded a total of 4 times. Also, the Quick disk is _very_ expensive. About $35.00 per box of 10. They have no sliding window, only an opening that allows no protection to the exposed part of the disk. I would think they would be much cheaper than manufacturing a 3.5 HD disk; go figure. Anyway, I found a shareware program to solve my problems! The program is called Sample Dump by Dieter Burns. The archive that would be in an online database is called MKS- 100.lzh. This program allows me to hook up to the Amiga and load/dump direct to hard disk! Now I don't have to pay $2.50 per sample to store my sounds, no digging around for the right disk, no flipping disks over and hitting the load button one more time :). There are a _lot_ of cool shareware programs out there for many purposes. THANK YOU AMIGA COMMUNITY!

I've received a few letters from some readers, and I'd like to invite anyone reading to go ahead and write, if only to say hello. One reader, Dhomas, has some news I'd like to share. Dhomas is currently writing an Amiga Editor/Librarian himself, and is currently using it in his studio. I am getting a copy to look it over, and perhaps I'll write a bit on it next month, so stay tuned for a *NEW* Amiga thing! Here's a description of the program he sent:

Hi there Fred!

Read your Amiga Monitor article (Sep96) and wanted to let you know about our software: MIDI SYStem EXplorer. It is currently on Aminet


If you haven't seen it yet have a look. Or if you don't have access to Aminet, email me and I'll send it to you. Here's some info:

young monkey studios
ANNOUNCEMENT: It has arrived... the long awaited MIDI SYStem EXplorer (MSE). Due to an overwhelming amount of mail pushing for an earlier release of MSE, we have decided to make a pre-release version available. If you have not already done so, download mus/midi/MSE.lha from your favorite Aminet site.

ABOUT MSE---------Many, so called, UNIVERSAL PATCH EDITORS have come and gone for the Amiga. One of our biggest complaints, and the reason why we are making MSE, is that these editors are not anywhere near UNIVERSAL. The approach others have taken is in requiring 'modules' to be purchased for each MIDI device to be controlled. This is fine as long as you can get a module for EVERY device you have. But we all know that, especially on the Amiga, this has not ever happened. Then of course, when the company goes out of business or discontinues the program, no further modules are ever made. So, along come a few other public domain and shareware authors to try and fill in the hole. These programmers either chose to code individual editors or make an another attempt at a UNIVERSAL EDITOR of their own. These UNIVERSAL EDITORS require you to be able to program in C or Assembler in order to make your own editors. If you wanted to do that why would you bother with their patch editor at all? Well, MIDI SYStem EXplorer has arrived... we do not claim that MSE is a UNIVERSAL PATCH EDITOR... we are not sure such a thing is even possible, but MSE does strive to solve a lot of these problems:
1) Development of other programs stopped because nobody was buying it, and no editor exists for my new one of a kind MIDI ZEN- ZAMBULATOR. MSE is being developed for our own studio use, first! Even if nobody else wants to use it, we will continue to develop it. Its development will continue regardless of whether anyone buys it or not. We have been using our Amigas for over 10 years, and we do not see that stopping for a long time. Even if we did stop developing MSE, you would very likely still be able to create new modules, because MSE already supports most MIDI formats.
2) You are a musician, you do not know how to program in C, or Assembler or any other language. And if you did you would rather be composing than programming modules! MSE supports modules created by the MSE-Compiler. It converts text definition files into modules that MSE can use. The compiler uses an easy-to-learn language specifically written to be as easy to understand as possible. In many cases, you can simply modify an existing definition file to work with another device. If you can use a text editor and you understand X/Y coordinates you will likely learn MSE's definition language fast. See the definitions directory for samples of definition files. Once you get a hang of things, making modules is FAST. And once you have the editor done, you will be amazed at how much time is saved and how much more creative the process of sound generation becomes! Definition files and modules will be freely available. So, if you are not interested in making your own modules you can still use modules made by us and others.
3) Other editors do not work while my sequencer or other program is running. MSE will run in conjunction with programs that use the public domain MIDI.library or BlueRibbon.library. MSE is also expected to support the Amiga CAMD.library once programming documentation is obtained (soon). Imagine being able to edit patch data while having that MIDI information recorded directly into a sequencer. It is possible and opens up great creative possibilities.
4) Other software is too expensive! We think so too. WHAT WILL MSE DO?-----------------MSE has been designed to control all types of MIDI data through a programmable graphic user interface or by external software control. MSE can be used as a simple MIDI Controller or a complex patch editing system. Some possible applications:

With the definition language you can design the entire user interface to meet your needs. Screen mode/size (Amiga/CyberGFX/etc.), window size and position, fonts, borders, colors, gadget placement, etc. can all be customized. As well, you can define the character set, MIDI port (Triple Play Plus is supported) and much more.
Features: WHAT WON'T MSE DO?

Waveform editing (samplers) is not supported. Another program WaveFormer (under development) is being designed for this.- Probably some other things too, but that first one was the most commonly asked about. THE FUTURE----------This is a pre-release version and many features have been disabled until they are working properly and other features have yet to be added. One of the most exciting features still to be added is ARexx support. This will give ARexx programs complete control of MSE, allowing you to program volume fades, alter patch data, generate random patches or anything else you can imagine. ARexx support has been planned from the beginning and is already 80% implemented but has been disabled until the module data format becomes more stable. There will be lots of other things added in, making MSE even more useful. As always, we are happy to listen to any suggestions you might have.

REQUIREMENTS: RECOMMENDATIONS: For more information send mail to:
Snail Mail
young monkey studios
797 Mitchell Street
Fredericton, NB