Shared Interests III (Part 3)
Shareware & Public Domain software
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, but there are a few free software sequencers around. Ian Waugh digs 'em out.
In the next stage in his exhaustive mission to seek out all that's best in Shareware and Public Domain software, Ian Waugh takes a look at sequencing...
We'll start with the basics of any music set-up just in case you've got a computer but haven't yet got into sequencing. There are several shareware sequencers for the ST, PC and Mac. None quite match commercial software, but they're worth looking at if you really don't have any money...
Score Perfect (Ad Lib BBS) for the ST runs in mono and requires 1Mb RAM. It's a rather cute score editor and printer. You can create music by clicking notes onto the stave or by playing them in from a keyboard in step-time. The docs are in German and the program looks like an advert for a larger-scale version. It doesn't support Standard MIDI Files - shame - but it works.
Final Score (Ad Lib BBS) is another ST program which runs in mono. It's a WYSIWYG score-writing system, almost totally mouse-controlled, with a good range of music symbols (plus the ability to design your own) and it can save files in Degas format for loading into DTP programs.
Scores are entered from a symbol menu. It does not play via MIDI and you have to space all the symbols yourself. However, the on-disk documentation is extensive. The program was actually written in STOS BASIC - it uses STOS' horrible mouse arrow and it's a tad slow - but it's a very creditable testimony to both STOS and the programmers' skill. So, if anyone asks you what's the Final Score - now you can tell them...
The Waddington or Canadian Sequencer doesn't seem to have a proper name and is usually called after the guy who wrote it or his country of origin (I'll let you guess which is which). It was one of the first Shareware sequencers for the ST and should be available from any BBS or Shareware library. Running in mono or colour, it includes minimal on-disk documentation, but is claimed to work "as you'd expect". I have to say it didn't work the way I expected, though that may have more to do with my personal expectations than anything else.
The Cosh Accompanist is another ST sequencer named after its programmer - one way to achieve immortality, I suppose. It's also the best of the Shareware bunch. Running in mono, it's not, perhaps, the most elegant program, but it has lots of features, extensive on-line help and supports Standard MIDI Files (you need version 2.5 for this). Registration is £10 (the programmer resides in the UK) and this will secure you the latest version (currently 8.4) plus tons of music files, a music conversion utility and a jukebox (I presume it's a software jukebox, not a gigantic Wurlitzer to fill your spare alcove). Recommended to anyone who can't afford a commercial program.
Alchimie Junior for the ST has also been around for a while and should be available from most Shareware sources. It runs in mono and it looks rather more sophisticated than the Cosh Accompanist, but it doesn't, alas, support SMFs. It sounds like the precursor to a more extensive program but if it is, I'm not aware that this has yet made an appearance in the UK.
The program comes with a mammoth on-disk manual plus a useful Quick Doc file. Operation is based around a series of windows and icons. It's not completely intuitive so you will need to refer to the docs. Although registration is requested in US$ (25 of them), the programmers dwell in Switzerland. You can pay straight into their bank account by special arrangement. Check it out if you want an alternative sequencer.
And so to the PC. Winjammer (available from everyone) is the most fully-functioning Windows-based Shareware sequencer currently available. It has 64 tracks, piano roll editing and a very acceptable range of edit functions. It can import Ad Lib ROL files and it supports Standard MIDI Files. If you get version 2.24 or later you can select the MIDI In and Out drivers from within the program. Operation is fairly straightforward and there's a good Help file.
The only niggle is that the track name is overwritten in Winjammer files until you register and get the magic code which prevents this. However, if you only get one Windows Shareware sequencer, this is it.
Even though modern sequencers have more editing features than the Mail On Sunday, very few actually have a drum editor to help you construct drum patterns. It's all very well playing the drum track in real-time from a keyboard but unless you've a good grounding in drum patterns it's not the easiest thing to do.
The Drums (from Red Dragon) for Windows offers a traditional drum grid onto which you click hits. You can create up to eight patterns and chain them into up to 32 steps to create a Song. You can't edit the grid while it's playing and it's a bit low on features, but there is an Instrument Table you can edit and also an Auto generator for those times when inspiration is lying in the bottom of the bin along with last night's curry.
The program works much as you would expect it to and there's a short but useful Help file. However, if you want to generate Standard MIDI Files to load into your sequencer proper - and whyever else would you want to create drum patterns? - you'll have to register. It's an overseas jobbie and it'll cost you $20. Well, even Shareware authors gotta make a living.
Feature by Ian Waugh
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