|★ APPLICATIONS ★ CREATION MUSICAL ★ MINSTREL|KUMA)|Amstrad Action) ★|
|Minstrel (Kuma)||Applications Creation Musical|
Like the Music Composer half of Music Box, this program is a music editor. The two programs have rather more than this in common, but for now let's deal with the differences between them.
There are no icons on the Minstrel screen. Instead there are a series of single-line windows underneath the large editing stave. These control the editing and playback of the music file, with the emphasis on playback. To select a function - note value, say - the function cursor has to be moved under the window. To do this, you have to use the numeric/function keypad as a set of cursor keys, f8 for right and f4 for left.
Once the function cursor is directly under the window, the contents of the window can be altered using f8 to increase and f2 to decrease them. In some places this is natural and straightforward; f8 lengthens the note value, or speeds up the tempo. On other windows, however, it's quite meaningless; if you re selecting file handling and similar commands, you simply have to leaf through one way and then the other until you find the command you want. A menu would have been a lot simpler to use than this silly gimmickry.
Writing and editing a piece of music on Minstrel is none too easy, but you can see and edit all three parts of a harmony on the one stave. This does create serious problems in timing, however. Suppose you enter four crotchets in a row for one voice, and four quavers in a row in another. They each take up the same length of stave, but what happens when you play the tune?
The answer, as I found to my cost, is that both lines take the same length of time. Minstrel plays the passage as if you'd typed in four quavers alteroatina with quaver rests for the second voice's part. If you want the quavers to play through in half the time, as you might at first have expected them to do, you have to space out the crotchets to take up twice the length of stave.
Of course, if you type in a line of minims close together,and then realise you need to fit a line of quavers in over the tpp, you'll have an awful lot of spacing out to do. Moral: wnte the tune down first on a piece of manuscript paper - Minstrel is not a suitable tool for composition.
The biggest single problem with Minstrel is the speed it runs at. If you're leafing through the score you have written so far, 'turning the page' from one stave to the next can easily take five seconds. This is not because the program's doing anything clever, you underhand it's just that Minstrel is written in Basic, and it takes that long to put all the notes up, one at a time. To be fair, Music Box is also a Basic program; the difference is that on Minstrel it shows.
FACING THE MUSIC
After all that, I have to admit that Minstrel has some very nice features. You can insert crescendo and accelerando instructions so as to give your piece expression; you can set the. volumes of the different voices independently of each other; and you can fine-tune the tempo. Another nice touch is the way you can change key in the middle of a piece - a very useful little feature.