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Heavenly Music Easel

ST editing software for the Sound Canvas

The success of your Canvas could rest on this software.

Armed with Brush and Canvas, Ian Waugh gets to work at the Easel...

Easel's Voicing screen gives you an instant overview of all 16 sounds and associated parameters.

Think of the names of some popular synths and expanders - the ones with real names, not numbers. Which one would you associate the name Easel with?

It can only be the Roland Sound Canvas. With the growing increase in the popularity of MIDI files, the Canvas and its many siblings and offshoots is, along with other manufacturers' GM (General MIDI) alternatives, one of the few synth success stories of the past couple of years.

By their very nature GM modules tend not to be very programmable. After all, there's little point in having a programmable synth if it is designed to produce the same sounds as every other GM module. But there are those who like to tweak and push an instrument as far as it can go, and for these people a computer-based editor can make life much easier. An editor can also help users who don't want to tweak but need an easy way to set up the instrument - select the sounds, volumes, pan positions and so on.

Easel is a dedicated editor for the SC55/155. It uses different screens for different operations and the whole program is very graphic. Some screens do a lot, some do little. The Voicing screen, for example, is used when you need to select the sounds and associated parameters for each of the 16 MIDI channels. The Master screen houses four controls - Volume, Balance, Transpose and Tuning - while others include the Keyboard Setup (containing Split, Note Limit and Velocity controls), Effects, Controllers and Tuning.

You can also edit each Part on a nice big screen with Envelope, LFO, Tuning and FX parameters. There are similar setup options for the drums.

The Effects page gives you graphic control over Reverb and Chorus effects.

The Keyboard Setup page lets you, er, setup the keyboard functions.

The Edit page lets you adjust parameters such as the Envelope and LFO.

The cursor is square and hollow, rather like a picture frame, and is designed to make it easy to select a parameter for editing, but I still prefer the pointer - old habits and all that. Also, you only see the new value of a slider when you're finished dragging it - not while you're dragging it - which can make the selection of a precise value a bit hit and miss. Still, the process is a helluva lot easier than stepping through menus on the Sound Canvas itself. There are even keyboard shortcuts for those who wish to learn them.

Easel makes it very easy to edit the drum map.

Easel Junior contains most of the Sound Canvas' essential parameters on one screen.

The instructions are quite copious, supplied as a 'read me' file on disk. If this has helped keep costs down, fine, but I think we have a right to expect a printed manual even at this price. And while I'm whinging, supplying a few alternative sounds would have been nice, too - it's always interesting to see what programmers can do with their own program.

Niggles apart, Easel is an excellent program both for hackers and anyone wanting an easy way to set up their Canvas. Easel Junior is fine for setting up but not quite as friendly as its bigger brother. The Senior version wins the day for me - easy to use and very affordable.


Ease of use More buttons than a Pearly Queen
Originality It's a voice editor!
Value for money Good, for the full version
Star Quality A twinkle
Price Easel £24.95 (plus £1.50 p&p)
Easel Junior £14.95 (plus £1.50 p&p)
More from Heavenly Music, (Contact Details)

Easel Junior

Easel Junior runs as a desk accessory in high resolution only, but it only needs 520K of RAM. It only has one screen onto which it manages to squeeze most of the Sound Canvas parameters - the major ones, anyway.

Parameters are decremented with the left mouse button and incremented with it while holding down Alt. This may be for some technical reason but it sure ain't friendly. I believe the programmer is currently working to change this.

When you change the Program Number, a list on the right reveals the instrument name. You can make this area show instruments or a drum kit by toggling a selection box, but when you return to instrument name, you go back to instrument one - Piano 1 - rather than the last-selected instrument. Serves me right for toggling too much, I suppose.

The program comes with virtually no on-disk documents, but if you know your Sound Canvas you won't find operation very difficult.

After Easel Senior, Easel Junior is something of a disappointment - useful but not as friendly. I'd recommend it only if you need a desk accessory.

Featuring related gear

Previous Article in this issue

Technics SX-KN2000 keyboard

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Music Of Life Beats, Breaks & Scratches

Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Music Technology - Sep 1993

Quality Control

Review by Ian Waugh

Previous article in this issue:

> Technics SX-KN2000 keyboard

Next article in this issue:

> Music Of Life Beats, Breaks ...

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