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Getting To Grips With Breakthru - The Brand New Sequencer From Gajits - Demo Version Free With This Month's Music Technology!
BreakThru comes from the same stable as Sequencer One and its upgrade, Sequencer One Plus, but takes Gajits' philosophy of power at the right price further than ever before. All you need is an Atari ST running at any screen resolution and 1 Mbyte or more of memory.
To begin work with this demo version of BreakThru, double-click on BREAKTHR.PRG and let it load. A few help screens will appear first, and it's worth taking the time to read them as they explain a number of important points. Once these screens have cleared, you'll be left with the Track Screen in front of you and you can start getting down to business.
BreakThru is a 64-track linear-based sequencer which means that it works in a similar way to a tape recorder. Tracks function independently of each other but you can freely move or copy recorded bars between them. Each track has space for a name along with a Channel (MIDI or Audio), Volume, Pan, Bank and Program Number. This means that you can set up the level and stereo position for each sound you use, and even select the sound itself from your synth. The right hand side of the Track Screen gives you 64 cues where you can enter the starting bar number for each part of a song and then click on the Cue button to set the song position locators to the correct place.
Most of the transport controls are similar to those of a tape recorder with the Record, Play, Fast-Forward and Rewind buttons in the centre; Right and Left locators (for working on a particular section of a song) to the right and Song Position Locators to the left, alongside the controls for tempo and time signature. The Level meters display the amount of musical data on each individual MIDI channel, with the four to the right being used for the sample playback facility offered by BreakThru.
The prepared demo uses sampled sounds. Using the Load Song option in the File menu, load WELCOME.BTD from the Songs folder (you'll see the on-screen cursor change to a clock while this is happening). Pressing function key F4 on the ST takes you to the Sample Palette screen where you have to set the Sample Palette options before loading the samples themselves. If you have a STM, STF or STFM machine, use the Monitor option; STE owners can use their machine's stereo option and connect up to a hi-fi or monitoring system. If you own any of the Microdeal or AVR sampling cartridges, select these as required. Click on Pitch Shift, 1 Channel and then the Load Sample box to load up the samples. Finally, click on the Play button to listen to the demo - remembering to adjust the volume level on the monitor if necessary. Press the right mouse button to stop at any time.
If you go back to the Track Screen (via the F3 function key), you'll see the track and cue lists in use. Feel free to have a look around at the various screens provided.
The second part of the demo involves the use of another Breakthru facility - the Juke Box - accessed via F10. This allows you to put together an 'album' of songs and control the time interval between them. To try it out, click on Load Album and load DEMONSTR.ALB from the Songs folder. The three demo songs on the disk will then be loaded into memory and you can set the Song Delay to the required length and playback via a MIDI sound module.
Various examples are included on the disk, including MAPLERAG.BTD. Load this from the Track Screen and check through the important notes that appear on screen. The Program Changes are preset for a Roland CM-64, but you can alter the PRG numbers for each instrument to suit your particular MIDI set-up. Also note the way that the Cue Sheet is used - practically as a notepad for information. Play through the song and listen to how it sounds.
To enter Step Edit mode, hit function key F5 on the ST. Just beneath the grid, to the left, you'll see the Track Selector with a couple of arrows which are used to select the track you wish to view. Upwards from Track 1 takes you to the Tempo Map (also accessible via F9), which for MAPLERAG is fixed at 112 BPM and so is shown as a straight line (if you want to see the Tempo track in use, load in the other example, TOCCATA.BTD). Move to track 2, labeled 'Silly Voices' and you'll be presented with what appear to be a bunch of flags! Each 'flag' represents a note with the flagpole showing where the note starts and the length of the pole indicating the velocity. The length of the flag itself corresponds to the length of the note - as would be expected.
Next to the Track Selector is the same information as for the Track Screen, followed by note lengths for entering notes on the grid, Velocity and Gate Time. The latter sets the length of a note as a percentage of the full note value. Double-clicking on this with the left mouse button causes the numbers to reverse in colour and you can move the cursor up and down the screen to set the value. Alternatively, single-click with the mouse to increment (left button) or decrement (right button) the value. These methods can be used with all on-screen numerical values.
To the left of the grid is the toolbox. Zoom magnifies the grid while Info displays all the various aspects of a MIDI event. Del(ete) erases an event, Area allows you to grab a number of events, scrolling past the edge of the screen if needs be, while Keyb(oard) is used for step entry of notes. Edit allows you to change any attribute of a MIDI event. Select this and then move the mouse over a note, keeping the left button held down: four diamonds and a box will appear. Release the mouse button to select this note for editing.
Grabbing and moving any of the diamonds affects the pitch, starting point, length or velocity of a note, while the box takes you to a menu for further editing. Click the mouse in the empty space to de-select the note.
Still using MAPLERAG.BTD, press the ST's F8 function key and examine the Song Arranger screen that appears. Each box represents a bar, a black box showing that MIDI information exists within that bar. Track names and numbers are to the left, cue names above and bar numbers below. You can grab a number of bars within a track with the mouse and 'Copy' these to memory (via the Block menu option) and then 'Paste' them in at some other point. If you choose the 'Select All' option in the Block menu, bars for all tracks are selected.
Two of BreakThru's editors are not implemented in this demo version of the program - namely the Score and Drum. However, you can get a fair idea of how each of these works by examining their respective screens. Pressing F6 takes you into Score Edit which should display a melody spread over a grand staff with the information at the bottom of the screen being the same as that for the Step Editor.
Pressing F7 calls up the Drum Editor which uses a fairly conventional grid system across which are placed diamonds, representing notes - the darker their colour, the higher the velocity value. It's all quite straightforward and many people find it by far the most convenient method of programming rhythm tracks.
Easily overlooked in the MIDI menu, you'll also find an extra utility under the heading 'Sysex'. This is actually a System Exclusive librarian facility which allows you to store sounds from many of your synths. Connect the MIDI Out from a synth to the MIDI In of the ST, click on Fetch and start the data transfer from the synth. The Sysex Data Stored counter should clock round. You can save to disk with this version of BreakThru, but you cannot load back in.
Take the time to have a good look around the various screens and facilities included in Breakthru. You'll soon realise that this is indeed a professional sequencing package with many interesting and helpful features that really do make life easy for the working musician and producer.
Tutorial by Vic Lennard
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