GenPatch ST MIDI Librarian
How on earth could buying a generic patch librarian program from Hybrid Arts actually save you money? Martin Russ explains how.
GenPatch ST is a multi-purpose accessory program for the MIDI user and Atari ST owner. It is more versatile than the usual generic patch librarians, since it allows you to interact with MIDI data 'live', as well as allowing a wide range of librarian-type functions. You are not restricted to a certain set of manufacturers' instruments either - GenPatch is truly 'universal'. In fact, the whole philosophy of this Hybrid Arts program seems to be to put the control firmly in the hands of the user. GenPatch ST can cope with anything that the current MIDI Spec allows - it can even cope with 'illegal' or non-spec MIDI data. So what would you use it for?
The obvious first application is that suggested by its name: GenPatch ST can function as a MIDI Data Recorder which can load and save any sort of data to and from virtually any MIDI device. This enables you to store and retrieve bulk data like Patch Dumps or Sequence data without the expense of RAM cartridges or instrument-specific librarian programs [further info: see 'System Exclusive Dumps' article in this issue]. A wide range of 'standard' MIDI instruments are already covered by the files supplied with GenPatch, but programming your own Bulk Dump Requests is really just a case of finding the relevant information in the back of the instrument's manual and entering the commands. The program can cope with quite complex 'handshaking' arrangements with no problem. For example, the 'undocumented' DX7 Mk1 bulk dump request is catered for - this requires setting the DX into 'front panel emulation' mode and then sending the key codes for all the key presses needed to send a bulk dump.
Having all your data files stored on one media can help you to cope with the complicated arrangements of instruments so popular these days. Backing up your banks of sounds with GenPatch ST can also be much more thorough and many times faster than searching for half a dozen RAM cartridges, data cassettes and patch sheets and then making copies of them all. Turning up for a session with a few disks containing everything you need is much better than forgetting to pack a RAM cartridge!
Sequencers without disk storage can also change from a cassette-based nuisance to a disk-based workhorse overnight, by using GenPatch to store the sequences. When storing and retrieving sequence data is as fast as it is with this program (basically, the time it takes to access a disk), you can start to use your sequencer much more interactively - as a sort of musical ideas notepad, rather than treating the contents of its memory as a precious, fragile and volatile one-off event. Your sequencer need no longer sit there with a single sequence permanently installed!
But GenPatch can also be very useful in taking care of a wide range of MIDI 'housekeeping' chores. It can be configured to act as a very sophisticated MIDI monitor, displaying incoming MIDI messages whilst allowing you to transmit MIDI data bytes of your own at the same time. This allows you to trouble-shoot data transfers and scrutinise bulk dump requests, even find out undocumented System Exclusive codes.
You can do all this MIDI 'hacking' by programming short segments of MIDI data and sending them out, whilst observing the results on the Atari's screen. These segments, or Macros as they are known, can be saved to disk and recalled later. Pressing a key on the Atari's QWERTY keyboard sends the data. I tried programming a few commands to do things like start and stop a drum machine remotely, request single voice dumps, to set up particular programs on a synth, and to turn portamento on and off. Programming the macros for a particular instrument is just a matter of looking up the relevant commands in the MIDI section of the owner's manual, and typing them into the computer. The uses are limited only by your imagination.
Even more unusual are the facilities offered by using GenPatch as a buffer/storage device. This allows you to load any ST file into memory and examine it in hexadecimal and ASCII formats. Although most samplers already have built-in disk drives, if you wished you could even use GenPatch to store MIDI sample dumps for archival purposes.
GenPatch ST is supplied on a single-sided, copy-protected 3½" disk, with a comprehensive, ring-bound, 65-page manual. It uses the Atari's GEM interface intelligently and is easy to learn and use. I experienced no computer crashes, found no serious bugs and had few problems when using it. The program and documentation are of a consistently high quality, although they perhaps assume quite a high level of technical competence. But then with a program that offers all these possibilities, you do need to have some prior knowledge!
As you can see, Hybrid Arts' Genpatch ST is more than just a Patch Librarian - it is a sophisticated and flexible tool for the modern MIDI musician. The more I use GenPatch, the more I find uses for it. Go on - go generic!
Price £129.95 inc VAT
Contact Syndromic Music, (Contact Details).
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Review by Martin Russ
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