|★ APPLICATIONS ★ CREATION MUSICAL ★ A duet with your CPC|CPC Computing) ★|
|Duette||Applications Creation Musical|
IAN WAUGH tunes in on a new music program
DUETTE is a novel idea and, like many such, makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before, or at least why no one has marketed a music program in quite this way. It comes from a rather unlikely source, too. Chester Music is well known in the field of music publishing, and specialises in educational books. This is its first venture into the world of computer software.
As you might expect coming from such a source, Duette has educational overtones, although any benefit you derive from the package will be a result of using it, not studying it. Basically, it plays tunes, but it also prints the music on the screen as it goes, so you can follow and play along with it.
Duette was designed for solo instruments such as the clarinet, flute, oboe, recorder, saxophone, trumpet and violin, and it should be suitable for most treble clef-reading instruments.
It has 12 tunes in its repertoire, and as these will be of paramount importance when you consider buying the program, here's a list: Fur Elise, Boccherini's Minuet, Borodin's Polovtsian Dance from Prince Igor, the Trumpet Voluntary, Chanson de Matin, Where'er You Walk, the Minuet from Mozart's 40th Symphony, Rose Among the Heather, Radetzky March, All Through the Night, The Ash Grove and An English Country Garden.
The arrangements are fairly simple and shouldn't tax the skills of the average player. They are all in easy keys - C, G and F. with one piece in D and another in B flat.
You get a two-bar count in, and an arrow points to the current bar as it plays. There are always two staves on screen; one plays while the other is being drawn or updated, so you read from the top to the bottom, back to the top again, and so on. It may seem a little strange at first, but you very quickly get used to it.
Before you start playing you must check your tuning. This is done from the Options page. With a pitch value of 46 in the SOUND command, the CPC's J sound chip is spot on 440Hz - International A - so you shouldn't have any tuning problems here. However, you can raise or lower the pitch if necessary.
The arrangements consist of a melody line and a one or two-part accompaniment. Any of the parts can be selected for display onscreen - but only one at a time - and this decision is made in the Options page, too.
Four options determine how the music is to be played. In demo mode the CPC plays all two or three parts itself. If you want to play along you can mute the selected part. This will usually be the melody, but you can also play - and mute - any of the accompanying lines. You can silence all the parts but maintain a one beat per bar metronomic click, or you can play just the selected part.
The pieces play at their maximum speed. You can slow the music down, but you can't speed it up, though none are particularly fast. Further options allow you to play a piece once, repeat it, or play through all the pieces in the repertoire - the Concert option.
Finally, you can change the background - but not the foreground -colour. The default setting is fine, but the facility may be helpful if you have a mono monitor.
The music plays well and sounds very effective. The envelopes change at certain points, and the notation shows dynamics and phrase marks. However, long phrase marks and ties are identical - flat with curved ends rather than being an arc.
In some pieces two notes of the same pitch are joined with what appears to be a tie, when in fact it is a phrase mark. It's odd to see phrasing like this, and although it's misleading it doesn't occur very often. But to nit-pick in this way is perhaps a little unfair, as this does not really detract from the program.
The instruction leaflet mentions a screen-freeze facility, but this does not seem to be implemented. It would have been useful in order to practise the tricky bits. You can stop the music at any point by pressing the spacebar, but then you must start from the top again.
Players of loud instruments - or hard blowers or scrapers - will find an external amplifier a great advantage. The CPC's loudspeaker does not take too kindly to having the volume turned up full.
If you read the not-so-small print on the cover, you'll see the words Repertoire I. As you might guess from this, other albums are in preparation including a special Christmas collection.
The tunes are probably written with a custom tune-designer program. It would have been nice to have the option to write your own pieces, although I know this would be no mean arranging feat. Perhaps we'll see an editor program sometime in the future. As it stands, Duette scores highly in the ease-of-use department and an editor would only complicate matters.
Solo instrumentalists always have problems finding an accompanist, and in any event not all homes have a piano. As well as offering a partial solution to that problem, Duette could help your sight reading and improve your timing. And it's fun!