Hollis Trackman II
Perhaps the fastest-evolving Atari sequencing software is Hollis Research's Trackman which has just reached version II. Ian Waugh gets back on track.
THIS IS A new look at an old friend. Actually, it's not that old, as Trackman was reviewed as recently as our March issue. That said, we won't waste time by going over what we already know about the program. Instead we'll look at the additions and improvements.
The original review stated that the Trackman package includes free updates and several have already been sent out particularly to owners who gave Hollis Research some feedback. Trackman II is probably the final free update and incorporates suggestions made from users and, dare I say it, reviewers, too.
Some of the alterations and modifications are minor in themselves, but the attention to detail serves to enhance the program and make it even more user-friendly: Track numbers now darken if they contain MIDI data, a Track Sheet Page lists the tracks and lets you give them 16-character names; recorded tracks, again, are darkened.
A MIDI Event Indicator in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen shows that MIDI data is arriving.
Lots of bits of the implementation have been tidied up, too: Making a Song observes the solo, mute and fader settings and the resulting sequence gives you a "neutral desk" so you can make overall adjustments to the song. When you select a new sequence, tempo, patch memory and MIDI channel allocations are copied from the previous sequence.
You can perform Bounce arid Extract operations by holding down a computer key, clicking and dragging. The Undo box is renamed Redo after you do an Undo. Lets you see if you've undone an undo and it dims if there's nothing to undo - follow?
Patch changes can be sent using three formats - 0-127, 1-128 or a11-b88 - and you can record them directly into a sequence. Extract Notes has been replaced by Extract Events, Rotate Sequence shows the time in milliseconds and Velocity Rescale allows you to compress or expand the dynamic range.
On the programming front, one of the most significant changes is the ability to perform virtually any operation without stopping the sequencer. One or two operations (going to the Screen Edit screen and back to the main screen, for example) give it a very minor hiccup but it doesn't stop. You can even format disks and load a new sequence during Play, in which case it will start playing the new sequence when loaded. And should you make a mistake, Load Sequence is UNDOable. Nice.
In the Screen Edit screen the cursor becomes a cross-hair and there's a keyboard down the left of the screen. A small square shows you which note the cursor is aligned to and this is reflected in the top right of the screen as MIDI note number and note name, along with the position of the cursor in beats and ticks. This screen also remembers the vertical window position of each track.
You can insert notes directly from a keyboard in the Screen Edit screen. They take their length from the quantise value and are inserted at the mouse position. It's better than clicking notes into place but still not an ideal method of step-time input.
The sequence file format has been changed to give approximately 25% greater note storage capacity. The Sequence Index now shows the remaining note capacity - a newly-booted program offering over 100,000 notes on a 1040. Files created with earlier versions are, of course, compatible.
Channel Selects Track in the MIDI menu forces events onto the Track corresponding to the channel of the incoming data. This has several applications but the one I found most useful was the transfer of songs into Trackman from another sequencer.
Repeat in the Quantise menu now lets you program a short pattern into the repeats as you record them. You can set the metronome to MIDI clicks with selectable pitch channel, velocity and so on.
One major addition is the Goodies menu. This houses an Instant Redraw option which redraws the screen on exit from a dialogue box. You probably wouldn't miss it unless you've tried it. It also accesses a 32-point Cue List and you can name the points.
Here you'll also find the Drum List, a particularly useful item which keeps a record of which drum is assigned to which MIDI note number. The drum names appear in the top right-hand corner of the Screen Edit screen as you move the cursor over the notes. You can allocate a range of tracks for drum use and these won't be affected by transpose. Drum Lists can be saved, and four are supplied including ones for the D110 and M1. There's also a Kit file called Reverse which, when applied to a keyboard turns it upside down.
The recorded pitch of a drum can be mapped onto a different pitch on playback, allowing you to try different drum sounds. It also allows you to load a new Drum List and re-map it onto an existing drum track.
If Record Mix on the Goodies menu is ticked, you can record fader, mute and solo button movements as MIDI controller events. A Chase function ensures that program changes, MIDI volumes, pitchbend, faders and so on are correct if you start playback in the middle of a song.
Broadcast Mix enables the sending of fader, mute and solo changes over MIDI. This can be used to control MIDI VCAs and MIDI Mixing desks. Finally, Set Controllers lets you select which MIDI controller number will be used for solo, mute and fader controls, allowing you to use these to alter other controllers such as pan or volume.
One of the last pieces of code to be included is support for the MIDI File Format to facilitate import and export of both individual tracks and complete sequences.
If you're a Trackman owner you should already have received this little parcel free of charge. If you're not, you can become one for £199 and there are now over 50 more reasons why you should consider buying it. You've read most of them here! I Ian Waugh
Price £199 including VAT
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Review by Ian Waugh
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