JMS continue their commitment to pro software with two new packages - a Six-Trak Editor and Sequence Chain programs.
JMS Sequence Chain
Six-Trak Sound Editor programs.
Micro compatible: CBM64
Price: £45 and £49.95
The release early this year of Jellinghaus Music Systems' 12-Channel Studio software for the CBM64 JMS interface, and MIDI synths finally put musical applications software for this machine on a professional footing, permitting as it did sophisticated polyphonic sequence control of up to 16 different instruments spread across 12 separate channels of information.
Rosetti, UK distributors of JMS Software, have now underlined their commitment to the concept with the release of a further two packages. The first, Sequence Chain (rrp £45), is an 'add-on' program that augments the 12-Channel Studio (see Dec 84 ish - Ed.). The second is an entirely new product, the JMS Six-Trak Sound Editor, retailing at £49.95. Between them they give almost total performance system control.
Sequence Chain fills a gap in the operation of the 12-Channel Studio. Until now, sequences created on it could only be chained together in complex polyphonic sequences via the standard (ie not user-friendly) CBM DOS routines. Sequence Chain not only brings the arrangement of sequences within a more easily-understandable set of commands, but also allows tempo-changes, transposition, key-velocity scaling - and the loading back of a complete song (including all repetitions, patch, tempo and time signature changes) into any one of the 12-Channel's tracks, which can then be saved to disk or tape in the usual way. Some very complex compositions are now possible with this system.
Booting up the disk presents you first with two initialising pages, asking you if synchronisation is via drumbox or computer, and whether you are using the footswitch option on the JMS interface, then - the main menu page (Fig 1). Incidentally, although the manual does its best to disguise the fact, you should now remove the Song Chain system disk from your drive, and replace it with a data disk holding the sequences you wish to arrange.
Most of the options, accessed from the CBM64's function keys, are self-explanatory, and the error-trapped on-screen prompts make up for the manual's occasional lack of clarity (why call the disk listing here Catalog, and Directory on the 12-Channel, though?).
Edit (F3) takes you to the meat of the program. To arrange a song, simply enter under the relevant on-screen headings the sequence name, any transposition and volume information (which affect the whole sequence, in relation to the others in the song), tempo, and the number of times the sequence should repeat. (If set to 0, it will repeat infinitely until stopped by F7 or stepped past by F5.) Under Program Name it is also possible to enter patch changes, providing the system is set up for MIDI Channel 1. Moving around the screen is via the usual cursor controls.
A useful additional function is found under Scratch (F5). As well as deleting a whole song (by name), it will also delete any file whose first characters are the same as the song, providing that song name contained an asterisk; a housekeeping feature sorely missed from the 12-Channel.
When you've completed a song, load the main program, and the relevant data disk, for playback. The final page lets you step forward or backward through the song, return to the song editor or, in Expand mode (distinct from the sequence edit functions, which must be accessed from the 12-Channel, F6), reload the song back into the 12-Channel program and add additional tracks. That's it!
An invaluable addition to the 12-Channel's compositional power. A pity it wasn't included in the original package.
Anyone who's grappled with the incremental-knob method of synth programming that's so in vogue these days will know how hard it is to keep track of what's happening to a sound overall, while you're fiddling about with just one part of it.
The excellent Six-Trak poly from Sequential Circuits uses just this method to access the 37 parameters that compose every sound it makes - and consequently, exploiting the machine's potential to the full has, till now, required a thorough understanding of the principles of synthesis - and a lot of patience!
JMS's Sound Editor goes a long way to remedying this problem - and offers some interesting bonuses as well.
The title page is followed swiftly by the main menu (Control) page. Selecting 1 takes you through to the editor, whilst pressing 'Z' returns you to the Control Page again. Selecting 2 prepares the connected Six-Trak for data exchange (and should be enabled again if the Six-Trak is turned off for any reason).
The Control Page allows the loading and saving of individual sounds, complete sets of sounds (99 at a time), and of sequences (both A and B are loaded/saved simultaneously) to and from computer/disk drive, and between computer and Six-Trak, as is clearly indicated on the display.
A couple of quibbles, though: Every transfer from disk to Six-Trak and vice-versa requires two separate operations (Six-Trak/Computer, Computer/Disk drive, and back again). This could have been avoided. It's also a little disconcerting that the Control Page gives no indication of System status except when loading or saving Bank data to and from the Six-Trak. (The transfer is indicated by an on-screen message and a digital counter, matching a similar count of 1-99 on the Six-Trak's LED.) The brief on-screen message that appears at the start of the other commands is not enough: it's remarkably easy to lose track of what you've transferred, and where. Since loading an empty Bank from computer to Six-Trak totally erases its memory, this is not a mistake you'd want to make. A final point: There is no exit from a command you've accidentally entered - except to execute it. Since the difference between two commands on the control page is simply shifting or not shifting a number entry, this is again a regrettable omission.
But these are minor points, and the enhanced speed of disk dump and retrieval of individual sounds or banks of sounds (which you can identify by name, and read off the Data disk Directory (D)), together with the ability to dump sequences, more than outweigh them.
Yet these are adjuncts to the program's main purpose, the Six-Trak Editor. As you can see from the display (Fig 2), every aspect of the sound is simultaneously available. The three waveshape tables for Oscillator, Filter and Amp are accessed from the number keys, 'P' and '@' on the 64's keyboard; and the remainder of the parameters from the associated computer keyboard control (ie, A = Osc Freq). Single keystrokes advance the parameter value one notch at a time, holding it down runs through the possible range. Shifting the key reverses the effect. The count stops having reached the maximum or minimum value - and all parameters can be heard altering the sound as their value changes. (Toggled parameters, ie Unison on/off, are selected by a single keystroke.) Simple, and gratifying.
%image6% All editing takes place in location '99'. Totally original sounds can be created there, transferred to another location, or saved to disk, and existing sounds can be called in, examined and modified. (A modified sound copied to a separate location will leave the original intact, enabling subtle variations on a basic strings patch to be copied into adjacent locations, for example.) It is hard to convey the sense of release such a straightforward and logical system confers upon the chore of patch programming. Despite my minor criticism of the program's protocols, there is no doubt that the JMS Sound Editor must be considered an essential purchase for all computer-equipped Six-Trak owners, and the ability to store sequences a useful bonus. I can only hope that this first venture into software for the Six-Trak might be followed by others (stack storage, keyboard splits?). I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Further information from Rosetti. (Contact Details).
Review by Tony Reed
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