Heavenly Music MIDI Song Files
Four software offerings from the authors of the popular Dr Beat Vol 1 make effective use of MIDI Song Files to bring music to your ST. Ian Waugh checks the imports.
Heavenly Music have been at it again - whiling away the small hours tinkering with a tepid terminal, exasperatedly exploiting expiring expanders, patiently probing poignant presets, delicately devising devilish riffs... The prose may be a little purple but then so are these discs. (Er, purple as in rich and ornate, in case you think I'm slagging off in the first paragraph.)
When Heavenly Music's Dr Beat Vol 1 was reviewed (MT, December '91) Vol 2 was promised - and here it is. HM discovered than many Vol 1 users were simply using the demo files to write songs around so Vol 2 contains 41 (no, I don't know why 41) rhythm patterns arranged into long tracks. The adventurous can chop 'em up as usual. The lazy can use them as is and write songs around them.
The patterns vary in length from around 32 bars to over 100 bars. The chances are that you'll need to do some editing in any case. Must admit my favourites are the Latin rhythms - an excellent base for rocky afro funk stuff.
The drums are mapped to the now-standard Roland MT32 but a map is supplied if you use something else. A brief description of the drums used is included, too. HM have an Akai S900/950 drum disk with suitable premapped sounds although I don't have this - yet - so I can't tell you any more about it. Anyway, there are far too many other things to scribble about right now.
The most damning thing I can think of to say about Vol 2 is that some of the patterns are a little open - but perhaps I'm just used to busy drummers (they don't teach the meaning of silence in drum school) and in any event the patterns are by no means all like this. All in all, another goody. If you liked Dr Beat Vol 1, you'll like this.
Ram Jam is a new(ish) idea from HM who modestly describe it as a collection of "killer grooves". Basically we're talking MIDI File backing tracks for you to jam to.
There are ten grooves in all - Blues, Funkjam, Fusion, Jazzswing, Jig (quite C&W), Laidback, R&B 1 and 2, Salsa and Southam. Some of these files are big - Southam is over 80K - so you may have to remove your auto programs and desk accessories if you run a big sequencer.
All the jams are good, although 77 bars of Funk in Dm can be a bit wearing. The Fusion is amazing; I bet they had a party programming that - manic synth and bass arpeggios with hectic piano and brass solos. The pieces also contain solo lines which can give you ideas for riffs of your own (so lift 'em, I'll not say anything).
The idea is to set up a loop point on the last chorus, play till you drop then exit from the loop and play through to the end of the jam. Of course, you could transpose sections of the jams to create versions which are more harmonically interesting and, dare I suggest, write a song around them.
The pieces are configured for the Roland U220 which HM swear by, and although they're close to Roland's GS standard, you'll have to adjust the sounds (basses in particular) and volumes (volume and pan data is included in the tracks and easy to edit).
There are two volumes of Guitar Classics. Volume 1 contains 'Black Magic Woman', 'Breezin'', 'Hocus Pocus' and 'Them Changes'. Volume 2 contains 'Jingo', 'Layla', 'Reelin' in the Years' and 'Soul Sacrifice'. These were actually intended as backing tracks for guitarists (sorry about the language) but there's no reason why a keyboardist can't use them. They include lead lines so you can even just sit and listen to them - after adjusting your equipment. In fact, I'm half convinced that that's what most MIDI file buyers do anyway - it beats watching The Word.
Which brings us to Heavenly Music's latest endeavour: Megga-Tracks, or good ol' MIDI song files. Rather than attempt to keep up with the fads of fashion and vagaries of the record buying public (who we all know is a spotty, pubescent, rich, spoiled brat living in Sevenoaks), HM have gone for rock and pop classics. Amazingly, they've already created over 400 files. The samples I tried included Toto's 'Africa', 'Radio Ga Ga', 'Killing Me Softly', 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' (brilliant) and 'Never Gonna Give You Up' (we all slum from time to time).
In spite of what some may say, we live in a world increasingly dominated by the demand for instant gratification, easy options and the desire to have things done for you. My excuse is time - lack of it. Much as we may like to spend a day programming a killer sound or a week on the ultimate drum riff, it's rarely feasible (especially if you lack expertise in a certain area). MIDI files to the rescue.
Playing around with these files is great fun and ain't that what this business is supposed to be about? (Who said "making money"?). The files come on an ST disk with an MS.DOS header which means they can be read by PCs, too.
At the very least send for their catalogue. Thank Heaven for little pearls...
Prices Dr Beat Vol 2, £10; Ram Jam Vol 1, £12.95; Guitar Classics Vol 1 & 2, £12.95 each; Megga-Tracks Midisongs £26 for 5, Megga-Tracks demo disk £2 (refundable against order).
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