Big-but-budget PC sequencer
There's no longer any need to spend hundreds of pounds to get a MIDI sequencer with a decent list of editing features. Ian Waugh throws Emagic MicroLogic into his disk drive and finds only a handful of omissions
The market for well-featured but budget-priced sequencers is big, and getting bigger all the time. MicroLogic is, as software-watchers will know, a cut-down version of Notator Logic - Emagic's flagship MIDI sequencing package. When it was released, Notator Logic was only available for the Mac and ST, so MicroLogic is the first Logic program for the PC - although a Windows version of the full program is expected shortly.
Micro Logic is fairly easily installed. To run it, the manual says you need a 386 PC or higher, at least 4MB of RAM, Windows 3.1 or later and, of course, a MIDI interface. It currently doesn't support MIDI Mapper so if you have an oddball interface you may have probs. Also, the program is quite memory-hungry and I wouldn't be surprised if it struggles to fit into some 4Mb systems. Get 8Mb to play safe. To anyone currently thinking of buying a PC I'd strongly recommend spending a little more and buying a 486, as 386s are rapidly going the way of the 286.
Micro Logic won't work with virtual memory enabled, and the Setup program makes the necessary changes to your SYSTEM.INI file. That's okay as long as you know what virtual memory and 386 enhanced mode is all about, and can change it back if you wish. Messing about with your files is a trait of many PC programs. Unfortunately.
You can use Micro Logic with a VGA display of 640 x 480 but because it uses so many windows, the display area is a little small. 800 x 600 is better, but 1024 x 768 is much, much better although you may need at least a 15" monitor to view this comfortably.
Let's dive straight in and see where the action is. The Arrange window is where you'll probably spend most of your time. It adopts a similar method of song creation to Steinberg's Cubase. That is, you record a number of sequences which appear on the screen as horizontal blocks, which you can drag around and place on any of the tracks. It's a superb way of creating songs, which is probably why it has been used on so many sequencers.
The track list, against which you place the sequences, is on the left. You can add and delete tracks as required - no unnecessary clutter. Each track can be assigned to a MIDI channel, switched off, or set to allow the sequences on it to play using whatever MIDI channels were used to record them.
Each track can be assigned an icon from a flip menu of over 300. These include small instrument icons, synth types, percussion, waveforms, and so on - cute and informative.
You can give a track a program-change number, volume, and pan setting. You can also select a bank change number here, a facility not all sequencers support upfront.
The Arrange window includes a set of transport functions, but you can call up a separate one which will always float to the top window. If it gets in the way this can be minimised, and the transport functions controlled from the PC's keyboard.
The Event editor shows the MIDI events in a list and there are note, program change, pitch-bend, control change, and channel and polyphonic pressure filters, so you can select exactly which data you want to view and edit. You can specify whether or not events you are editing are transmitted over MIDI.
There are two interesting functions in the Local menu. Note Overlap Correction finds notes which overlap and shortens them. This is useful for tidying up monophonic lines and making the ends of chords neater if they touch the following chord. Note Force Legato makes all the notes in a passage abut, by lengthening them up to the start of the next note.
Our old friend the piano roll editor takes care of matrix editing. It's very popular with users who don't read the dots very well. It only displays notes, not other types of MIDI data, and shows them as horizontal bars against a keyboard which runs down the left of the Matrix window. Again, it's a matter of point, click, and drag.
"You can see how the sequencer has been blamed for the production of mechanical music"
The score editor is one of the most interesting parts of MicroLogic, and one of the program's real selling points. The problem with displaying MIDI data in notation form is that the human element in a performance is not adequately reflected in the precision of a score. A piece of music which sounds wonderful can look very messy on paper.
MicroLogic has a range of parameters to help with this. The default settings will probably be adequate for most music, but just in case they are not, you can alter them. In the display parameters box there's a style option containing 17 styles such as treble, bass, bass -8, piano, organ, various transposing instruments, and so on. These automatically give a part the correct number of staves, and transpose values and clef(s).
You can adjust the display quantisation, too. The settings are similar to those in the Arrange window, but they only affect the display, not the data. There's also an Interpretation function which controls the display of rests and ties. This should usually be left on.
Other neat functions abound. Syncopation displays syncopations as such, instead of small-value tied notes. No Overlap suppresses the display where notes overlap their neighbours, when a passage is played legato. Max Dots determines the maximum number of dots in the display of dotted notes. Although you can use two dots to increase the length of a note by half, plus a quarter of its length, in most cases a single dot plus a tied note is easier to read.
You can add music symbols to the score through the partbox. The top section of the box selects the type of symbol and the lower section changes to show the range of symbols available. The types include note, pedal signs, clefs, dynamics, note heads, articulation signs, diminuendo/crescendo symbols, key signatures, time signatures, and bar lines.
MicroLogic automatically shows accidentals according to the key signature in force, but enharmonic shifting lets you change these. If you select Diatonic Insert, notes can only be entered at the pitches of the current key signature, which can save time if the music isn't full of accidentals.
And so the list goes on. You can determine the direction of the note stems, and beam any group of notes manually; move the staves vertically to adjust the spacing between parts; insert text anywhere in the score, although there is no lyric function to tie notes to syllables; and select the font to use for the text - although you can only have one font within a song.
Finally, you can view the score in normal or page view, and the Zoom function lets you see the score in three resolutions.
Printing is very simple because the only option is the range of pages you want to print. It's essential, however, that you install and correctly set up your Windows printer driver.
If you only have 4Mb of RAM you might run into print problems. If you do, you may be able to print the score a page at a time - but it's a pity MicroLogic doesn't support virtual memory. And although MicroLogic is theoretically compatible with all printer resolutions, some 9-pin dot matrix printers may produce a stretched output.
There is a Tutorial song which the manual uses to explain the basic functions of the program. In fact, a good deal of the manual is given over to the tutorial, so even a beginner should be able to get into it in a relatively short time. The manual is well laid-out, and includes a menu reference, a glossary, and an index.
One interesting facet of the program is the ability to have several editor windows open at the same time - even several versions of the same editor. So you could, if you wanted to, view the same data in the Event list and Score editor and edit it in either (this is the edit method I generally use). You could even edit different sections of the same sequence at the same time using the same editor.
"Open several editor windows at the same time - even several versions of the same editor"
MicroLogic contains a host of features which you would hardly have expected to see in a program at this price a couple of years ago. There are, however, some shortcomings whose significance will depend on how you work, and what sort of music you work on.
The one thing I find very difficult to forgive - or, indeed, understand why it was so designed - is the program's refusal to acknowledge that a piece of music may change tempo. MicroLogic has no conductor track and doesn't support tempo pseudo-events. If you try to load a MIDI file containing more than one tempo, it will throw all bar the first one away.
Granted, the majority of pop and rock music never changes tempo, but a lot does, and so do other types of music. You can see how the sequencer has been blamed for the production of 'mechanical' music...
There is also no drum editor. This is usually one of the first things to go when a program is cut down from a bigger brother, but even Logic senior lacks a drum editor, so there must be something about them that the people at Emagic don't like. As I was brought up on Notator on the ST, I can get by without a drum editor but I do admit that the things are useful - and I know plenty of musicians (drummers especially, but not exclusively) who make very full use of them.
There are a whole host of functions in Logic senior which are not to be found in the Micro version, including the Environment, Transform and Hyper Edit windows, plus dozens of processing, set-up and tidy-up functions.
Let's be sensible about this, though. No budget-priced sibling is going to have all the bells and whistles of a program which costs three or four times as much.
For the price, MicroLogic is very well-specified. It has full Event and Matrix editors as well as a super little Score editor with printout, and it supports a wide range of music symbols.
And there are a lot of functions in MicroLogic which, while small individually, as a whole contribute enormously to the success of the program. For example, Set Locators by Object will automatically set the Locators to the limits of any selected objects. There's a very useful Demix by channel function - vital for splitting Format 0 MIDI files so that each MIDI channel goes on a separate track.
All in all, this is one of the best sequencers available for the PC at this price. It knocks spots off its main rival, Cubase Lite. For a great many users it will do the job quite nicely, thank you.
Price inc VAT: £125
More from: Sound Technology, (Contact Details)
Review by Ian Waugh
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!