This is quite a competent little package which turns your Amstrad into a music processor (as opposed to a word processor). It allows you to create, play, edit and store pieces of music It also has the ability to copy and combine user defined pieces of music created by you. In this manner you can store and play pieces up to 1000 notes long. On the other hand you could have five shorter compositions of 200 notes each. Music Composer is a trifle slow in operation, being written in BASIC and it only copes with one line (or monophonic) music using a single voice from the sound chip. If you're musically literate, then the program should give you no problems at all. For those of us with lesser capabilities, the manual contains all the information needed. However, I suspect a fair bit of initial head— scratching will be necessary if you have never tried playing anything before.
On loading. Music Composer plays through its demonstration tune - classical music buffs will enjoy its rendition of Bach's Double Violin Concerto (even though it's in a different key). As it plays through, so the notes are presented on a scrolling screen. One or two quibbles here. First of all, the program only recognises pieces set in major keys. As the demo tune is written in a minor key and played in the major, you are given the wrong information on the screen -hardly a good start. The speed of the piece is good but it somehow loses time slightly, though after messing about with different speeds, it seems as if it could be just be a problem at this particular speed.
The display is yellow notes on a blue background, with the sharps, flats and stave in black. Here a choice of colours would have been useful. It would not have been difficult and would have satisfied everybody's requirements. Some of the notes are depicted with their tails facing the wrong way, which looks a little odd. and the sharps and flats appear in a rather strange configuration. Barlines have been omitted but this presents no real problem as it is the program's intention to cater to those who only wish to create and play tunes easily and not to teach all of the finery of composition.
Music Composer operates in three modes: Composer, Editor and Mixer. The composer mode allows you to enter notes one by one. Each note is defined by its alphabetic name, then its length; ie crotchet, quaver etc A useful option at this point is the display giving you the note names. You can also choose between high, middle and low range. The screen only displays nine or so notes before scrolling onwards, holding the last three notes on screen as it does. A handy note counter numbers the notes as you enter them. You can decide to either hear the notes on display, the entire piece created so far or just the last note entered on the screen Very thoughtfully, you can view different parts of your masterpiece just by entering the correct note number. At this point, your reviewer found it helpful to have a pen and paper handy to jot down the relevant numbers for quick access.
The Editor mode has a cursor that you can move left or right and check out notes at will Offending notes are painlessly removed and alternatives substituted. Additional notes may also be added The help option is still available here, in case you are uncertain about the notes.
One of the program's best features is its ability to copy defined sections. For this it goes into Mixer mode. Sections of your masterpiece can be copied into a separate address and then shuffled around, repeated or re—ordered. The whole thing can then be joined together and played out as one long piece The speed can be set and if you wish, the key of the whole composition may be changed Once you are happy with it or if the inspiration factor is low, then you can dump it to tape and reload it at a later date
Generally, this isn't a bad program. The editor functions are well thought out and the program is easy to use throughout. The one or two hiccups mentioned earlier on in the review are only mildly annoying and for those of us who would like the chance to experiment without spending a vast fortune, it is well worth a second look.
Jon Bates, AMTIX