We give Gajit Music Software's Sequencer One the once over
If you own an Atari 520-ST and would like to get into sequencing but can't afford or don't need the bewildering array of features offered by the 'professional' (read expensive sequencers on the market), Gajit Music Software's Sequencer One is aimed directly at you.
Developed at the University of Manchester it offers 40,000 MIDI events of recording (or 20,000 notes) on your 520 over 32 Tracks, or 114,895 MIDI events on mine which has been souped-up to 1040K. And 32 Tracks is several more than you'd get from some of those much more expensive sequencers currently available, always assuming of course that you had the spare memory to afford you any reasonable recording time in the first place. With a 520 you are usually limited to only a few minutes of music or a longer piece utilising just a few Tracks... and some of those programs won't even load on a 520-ST!
Recording in High Resolution (192 ppqn), supporting many Desk Accessories through its GEM-style interface, able to Import/Export Standard MIDI Files and work in either High, Low or Medium Resolution Monitor Modes, Sequencer One, on the face of it, could be just the thing. But before we get too carried away with all this advertising jargon, let's take a closer look...
If you took Gajits up on their pre-Christmas offer, buying this sequencer for £79.00, you will by now no doubt be flying around the program with ease and creating great music with little or no need to refer to the manual, whether or not you had any previous sequencing experience. I say this because the manual you get with your single-sided disc is 48 pages of no-nonsense instruction, bound in a hard plastic folder and giving an overview of each aspect of the Sequencer before getting involved in its modus operandi. Newcomers to sequencing are well catered for without being given the impression that they are being talked down to.
The Load-Up screen is Track List, the first of three main screens, each of which features Tape-Recorder-type controls in the left-hand side of the bottom screen section along with a few boxes and a MIDI Activity Meter bar which is divided into 16 sections. Why not 32? Well, Sequencer One sensibly displays MIDI Channel activity rather than Track activity - a very practical device allowing a saving of screen space and memory. We are, after all, limited to 16 MIDI channels (See Pic 2).
In Pic 2 you will see those 'boxes' I mentioned, including Overdub and AutoRewind which operate as toggles and whose functions are obvious to all but Ron the Cat who still thinks that the ST keyboard is for sleeping on. When Overdub is highlighted (by clicking on it), for instance, whichever Track you decide to record on will record without erasing any previous recording made on that Track. IE Additive rather than the Destructive recording which you would expect from a Tape-Recorder, or from Sequencer One should Overdub mode not be selected.
Limit and Loop boxes are similar switches, the former relating to the Start and End Position indicators. When the Limit button is highlighted, various Editing functions will be limited to operate only on that section of the Track (or Tracks) within the range of these numerical indicators. The same indicators come into play whilst in the Loop Recording or Playback modes and their values are changed by clicking on either Start or Stop positional indicators and then entering new figures from the ST keyboard. The same system of data entry is applied to Song Position and Tempo buttons. No sophisticated mouse control for data entry offered here, but there again such systems would probably put a strain on the memory available for actual recording, so enough said.
Record, Rewind, Forward Fast, Play and Stop functions are controlled by a simple click of the mouse and this can be duplicated by use of the ST keys F1 to F5 respectively. Pic 5 shows other mouse operations which can be similarly mimicked by the ST keys.
This Transport-type strip at the bottom of the screen is common to all three main screens and the Graphics are spot on. The rest of the screen on load-up is called 'Track' (Pic 2).
I recorded a simple 11-Track sequence using a borrowed Yamaha DX-21 and the holy Roland MT- 32. Looking at the pic you might expect that you could scroll through the listed Track Number (along with the other listed information such as MIDI Channel Number and Patch Name) by clicking on its scroll bar anywhere in the grey area at the bottom. And in a way you'd be right, except that it depends on where exactly you click that scroll-bar as to which ten of the 32 available Tracks will be displayed. If like me you hit the bar too near the bottom, you'll have overshot the mark and missed seeing what's on Track 11. So it doesn't operate quite like your usual GEM scroll bar, but with a little practice it becomes a time-saving device as it starts to feel right.
The triangular things between Track and Channel Numbers are of course the Track Play indicators (they turn grey when you click on them to mute channels) and the round splodge to the left of this (on Track 3 in Pic 2) represents the Track currently being operated upon. That list to the right of the Track List is for entering cue positions along with notes which may be useful later - when Editing, perhaps. Both lists are edited by clicking on the text bar and using the ST keyboard. And there's more...
Double-click on an item on the main Track List (say Track 8 which is the Echo Bell Patch on the MT-32, MIDI Channel 5) and up pops its 'Track Info' box which gives all relevant information for that Track, including First and Last Event, Events Used, and the editable Channel, Patch, Volume, Pan, Key Pressure, Controllers, Patch Change, Channel Pressure and Pitch Bend parameters. Change any relevant values using the mouse and ST keyboard, click 'OK' (or 'CANCEL') to return to the Track List screen in full.
Double-click on a numerical positional entry in that right-hand list and you are prompted to 'Click Left Button on destination' - enabling you to change the Start or End Positions to define what will be the Limit of your Editing operations. So it's well worth entering those cue positions, don't you think?
The remaining screens are accessed via the Screens menu and are the Step and Bar Editor Screens.
The former is the familiar Pianola-roll representation of MIDI Events against a (musical) keyboard diagram (Pic 3). Similar to Realtime and MasterTracks Pro, and the only sensible approach (for me) to Step-Time Editing. This (and the Bar Editor Screen) will scroll along your music allowing certain functions to be performed whilst the music is playing simultaneously. Notes cannot be Edited, however, whilst the song is playing. A pop-up dialog box announces 'Problem. You cannot change Track Data during playback.' Thus assured you hit the 'CANCEL' button and all is well. Well at least you know when the Sequencer is in control. You can now halt play by hitting the Space Bar and start editing notes. Finding the part of the sequence you'd like to edit is best achieved by clicking on either Rewind or Forward buttons for a bit. If there's a section which seriously needs looking at, change the Start and End cue-points to include the section you're working on and then highlight AutoRewind so whenever you stop playback you will be brought back to the start of that section.
The Step Editor Screen can be re-scaled by way of its ZOOM function (see the crotchet in the box top-left), and unwanted notes are deleted by clicking on the DEL lightning icon and then on the offending notes. Entering notes is achieved by use of a keyboard diagram which supplants the usual Tape Transport part of the screen once you've highlighted the KEYB icon (Pic 6). To the right of this keyboard are the magic buttons with which you can select the type of note to be entered (from semibreve to demisemiquaver) in either Normal, Dotted (add half of length of note again) or Triplet modes, and the desired Gate Length and Key Velocity. The Gate, by the way, is shown as a percentage of the chosen note length, and represents the actual length of the note which will be heard in real life. The position of notes entered in this way will depend on the current Song Position, which is represented on this screen by the thick vertical line in the middle of the grid.
You can change the Track to be edited by clicking on one of the +/- arrows next to the 'Trk' numerical box, but you'll have to conjure up the Track Information box which I mentioned earlier by highlighting the i ('INFO') icon in order to remind yourself of what's on the Track, which MIDI Channel it sends out on and so on. Another memory saving device, no doubt.
The Bar Editor screen fills me with a sense of deja vu (see Pic 4). In case you're unfamiliar with this kind of thing each of those boxes represents a bar. The black ones contain MIDI information and the outlined ones don't. It's a screen well designed for Block operations such as Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete (all available from the BLOCK Menu) as you can chose a section of Track to Copy, for example, by simply dragging the mouse across that section and thus highlighting it (see Bars 3 to 7 on Track 2, Pic 4). A series of Prompts and Please Confirm boxes make this screen particularly easy to work with. There's even a Tidy Block function to move notes which would otherwise be cut up at the Edit Points either inside or outside the Block, and of course you aren't limited to operations on only one Track at a time. To Edit all Tracks just tick the Select All item from the BLOCK menu.
There's much more to Sequencer One than I have outlined here, including its ability to Quantize down to 1/192 of a quarter note (which is more than sufficient) either keeping the original note length or just Note-Off Time in so doing. Other professional touches include Strip/Thin Data, Controller Re-mapping in Real Time, Click Tempo (which allows you to enter your own Tempo using the mouse!), a Metronome which you can switch to send Out MIDI-wise enabling you to get rid of the beeps and a very active Undo button. There are features here which I really wouldn't expect to find at this price. It's friendly and it looks good. Need I say more? Sequencer One should sell lots.
Thanks to Charlie at Adam's World for use of the printer.
Product: Sequencer One
Format: MIDI Sequencer for the Atari ST (Version 1.0)
Supplier: Gajits Music Software, (Contact Details)