Dr.T’s Software Page
More useful hints and tips for Dr.T’s music programs, written and compiled exclusively for SOS by Dr.T themselves.
This is a new experiment in communication... a direct link, via Sound On Sound, between Dr.T's Music Software Inc. on the left side of the big pond, and all of you computer musicians on the right. On a regular basis we will be sending over a page of hints, tips, and brouhaha to those of you in the mother country. So listen up, here is the latest news.
This month we thought we would try and concentrate on some of the new areas that computer software is addressing, and also look at the problems of the first-time buyer in deciphering the MIDI software jungle.
Second-time purchasers or existing owners of computers and sequencers may be forgiven for thinking that they now have the ultimate in computer-aided technology. However, the truth is that we have only just scratched the surface in the way that computers can be used to manipulate information musically.
Dr.T have products available for both these computers, so what's the difference? Both our KCS and MRS sequencers are identical on each computer but this is where things begin to differ. Ataris come with a built-in MIDI interface whereas Amigas need a MIDI interface, typically £25-£40. Ataris can only run one application at a time while Amigas can multi-task. This means they can run several music programs together made by different manufacturers. The Atari is more limited in its graphic display, particularly in support of colour graphics, but both computers support TV modulators. The Atari loads disks slightly faster, while the Amiga has a superb internal sound environment called the IFF File Format. This allows the Amiga to act as a full-blown drum machine or 8-bit sampler, free of charge. The current version of KCS and MRS support this. In comparison, the Atari internal sound chip is extremely basic. The Atari is slightly cheaper and well established in the music industry. The Amiga has only just had music software put on it for the first time. The choice is yours.
If you are buying software for the first time, here are some hints and tips that may be of help. You might not need to spend lots of money to obtain the functions you require. Many software houses now make 'junior' versions of their top line packages. These are often as powerful as most people need to start off a professional MIDI system, and some offer the ability to upgrade to the bigger package at a later date should you feel a need for the extra facilities. The size of the memory of your computer will also dictate the size of the sequencer you can run. Check with the manufacturer or distributor before you purchase.
Since computers like the Amiga support a very high quality internal sound environment (IFF File), they can be used as a drum machine or sampler. This might save you money. Don't be seduced by the number of tracks a package offers. This is not always an accurate representation of the facilities in a sequencer. Some programs work on a pattern basis instead.
If you want to run your sequencer to tape, make sure it supports at the very least MIDI Clock or, better still, MIDI Song Position Pointers from a SMPTE unit. Ideally, you should always consider purchasing a package which supports standard MIDI files. This allows you to have your music saved in a common format which you can use to load into other packages, such as scorewriters and variations programs.
There are lots of good products on the market. Modesty permits us to say that we make them and so do other software manufacturers. Try and get a good demo of most of the packages before you make up your mind. They all have their strengths: some are very powerful, some user-friendly, some creative, some offer tape recorder simulation, others drum machine style input. Newer packages, such as Dr.T's Keys, allow input by notation, can also sequence, edit and auto compose. Depending on your priorities, different products appeal to different people. Best of luck, and stay cool.
• The configuration required to run the Copyist program on an Atari 1040 is Program Directory: A: Work Directory: A:. This is not documented in the manual (whoops!).
• Shift + exclamation mark (!) on the Track mode play screen copies all unmuted tracks to a sequence instantly rather than having to exit the page to the edit screen to perform the same function. This is a real time-saving function.
• Did you know that the Copyist program translates Steinberg Pro24 sequencer files directly into music notation and includes full support of drum symbols, the ability to join two parts together on one staff properly, and the support of the Atari laserprinter.
• Working with KCS Level II and the MPE environment, if you turn the resolution up to at least 96 clocks per quarter note or more, depending on taste, and play with a natural feel without the metronome, you can use the pattern matching techniques editor to quantise all subsequent recorded tracks to the same feel as the first track. This is 'true' feel rather than a computer simulated one. This technique can also be used to match bass lines to hi-hat patterns by using Rhythm match and Duration match. Small values of 5s to 10s work best, larger values can sound chaotic.
One of the most exciting areas of computer music is the ability of software to emulate, mimic, improve upon (?), or totally pull apart music that you have written. Often referred to as variation generators or algorithmic composers, what do they do?
This is of particular interest to second generation users who are both reasonably familiar with their computers and sequencers and who want to explore further. It all started with the dreaded 'auto accompaniment' on cheaper organs. Someone got to thinking we can make this more powerful, more interesting, more creative, on a computer.
The concept at Dr.T went something like this: two heads are often better at writing music than one. The interaction between them or members of a group was often what transpired as 'greatness', 'individuality', 'class' (well most of the time). It was this interaction that often inspired people on to higher planes (deep), sparking ideas off each other and making them write music that they would never have done on their own. Of course, in time they all fell out with each other: the drummer was always drunk, the guitarist was hamming it with the 'chicks' etc, and it all fell apart. Enter interactive software. Let's make a program that we can throw ideas at which can manipulate music, create variations, help write a mega hit, while we make the coffee and hog all the digestives. Easy.
Thus transpired Dr.T's Fingers, Tunesmith. Keys, KCS Level II program, and 'M' by Intelligent Music. All MIDI File compatible, all MPE compatible, all variation generators in slightly different ways. So what do they do?
You write a piece of music (simple bass line — anything) give it to the variation packages and start manipulating. Try rhythmical variations - give that solid 4/4 back-beat a slight swing feel; accent the third beat in every bar for a reggae feel; replace the hi-hats with tambourine strikes (are we talking soul?); create alternative themes that the ear perceives as logical extrapolations of the original theme both rhythmically and melodically. Try different scalings like 5th, 7th and 13th to create more tension in the music, or perhaps Persian, Indian or Eastern tunings. Try accenting cross rhythms, velocity crescendoes, harmonies, that are either totally consistent with or completely divorced from the original melody.
Of course, you can assign much of this data manipulation to MIDI controller data thus creating MIDI delays, auto panning effects, auto harmonisation etc. For total chaos try time reverse, high percentages of complete randomness, or a drummer who thinks he can use a computer!
These packages are creative tools which can often take the sterility out of the writing process and inspire odd new directions for you to explore.
Occasionally we all make mistakes, and in our case there is no exception. We apologise to all the first users of the Copyist II program for omitting page 7/8 from the manual - sorry! This just happened to be one of the more important pages, but we were fortunate that the Brits are such an intelligent bunch (flattery will get you everywhere) that you managed to guess the rest. Anyone still missing this page can get a copy from MCMXCIX Distribution.
You don't have to make a 'very' long distance phone call to get help with Dr.T's products. MCMXCIX has a staff of three techno-MIDIs on call from 1-5pm Monday through Friday to answer your questions. Be nice to these boys please. If the phone is busy, remember that they are working very hard to take care of the entire UK. Be sure that you have the following things to hand when you call: your program's serial number, your manual.
This page has been written and compiled for SOS by Dr.T's Music Software Inc.