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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Electrosound
1985 Orpheus
Programmed by ?
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the eighth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (December 1985).
 

FUNKY BOP CORNER
Julian Rignall, ZZAP!'s resident sound generator ploughs his way through the multitude of features of one of the best music utilities to hit the 64.

 

ELECTROSOUND
Orpheus, 14.95 cass or disk, keys


DECEMBER


When toddling past the Orpheus stand at the PCW snow, my lugholes caught the strains of an excellent version of the Young Ones theme tune belting out of a 64. Intrigued by this, I collared the insane John Marshall for more information. 'Oh, it was done using our new music utility' said he, so I instantly asked for one. After parting with a ZZAP! T-shirt for a copy (what a rip-off), I thundered back to my hotel room to try it out, and decided that I hadn't been conned. I've now had Electrosound for over a month now, and I'm still only just discovering what can be done with it.


Electrosound
has been designed for use by people with varying musical knowledge, and comes complete with 50 preset voices and 24 drum and percussion sounds. There are five different modes, each with a separate function which can be used either to play the computer like a proper synthesizer or create tunes:--

MANUAL PLAY
This is the mode that is best tried when the program is first encountered. What this mode does is turn the 64 into a miniature synthesizer, all the keys on the top two rows of the computer act as a two octave musical keyboard. Electrosound is fully compatible with the Commodore Music Maker keyboard overlay, so if there's a spare one lying around put it over the top to make playing a little more realistic (and easier).

There are nine keyboard play modes which are put into three categories -- mono, poly and unis (unison). When in mono 1 mode, a key pressed plays a note with the voice defined for channel one only. Mono 2 mode plays the channel two voice, and mode three channel three. In this mode it is possible only to play single notes. With poly mode up to three combinations of notes can be played, making it more like a proper synthesizer. Unis mode is similar to mono mode, only a combination of voices sound when a single note is pressed. Using this mode, harmonies of three different voices can be created at the single press of a key.

The keyboard can be 'keyed up' by using the transpose parameter -- this element determines the note range of the keyboard. Normally the bottom note starts at C, but it can be changed to start at D sharp, E or whatever. In transpose mode the octave of the keyboard can also be changed, so playing high or low octaves is possible.

When in manual play mode, it is possible to define and create new voices. When a new sound is required, the write protect should first be turned off by pressing F2. Then a cursor can be moved through all the sound parameter and modulation values using F5 and F7. To change those values use the F3 key (or F4 to change that value by ten).

There are the basic ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) parameters, which each have 15 settings. You can also select the wave type from the 15 variables provided (pulse, sawtooth, sin, noise and combinations of them all). To customize the voice further, the pulse width can be defined to make it more mellow or harsher. If unis mode is being used, then it might be useful to toggle with the detune parameter. This changes the voices in both channel two and three, detuning channel two just below the channel one note, and channel three above. This gives a much 'fatter' and more spacious sound.

Each sound channel has two built-in filters which can be switched on and off and there are separate low, medium and high frequency filters which can also be switched on or off. If a filter is used, then the cutoff parameter can be defined to make the filter come into action at a certain frequency. The resonance parameter can he used in conjunction with the cutoff to emphasise the cutoff frequencies and therefore give a distinctive tone to the sound.

Electrosound allows extensive modulation to a voice, and using the following parameters some incredible sound customisation can be made (like pitch slides).

There are five modulation parameters -- vibrato, PWM (pulse width modulation), pitchbend, autotrigger and cutoff. Vibrato causes the pitch of the note to be constantly changed and produces an effect similar to an acoustic instrument such as a clarinet. PWM is similar to vibrato, being a cyclic modulation. It causes the width of the pulse waveform to vary above and below the defined pulse width of the voice. The result of using pitchbend will cause a voice to 'slide' upwards or downwards or become a much harsher type of vibrato with a bigger cyclic effect. Autotrigger constantly retriggers the ADSR element of the voice, repeating it constantly if a key is held down. When the cutoff is put into action, the filter's cutoff frequency can be varied creating such effects as 'wah-wah'.

Each parameter has four values (trigger, rate, depth and direction), which can be used in conjunction with the five parameters and can be defined to determine when pitch and modulation come into action. Trigger mode can only be used with NTM (see below), whilst rate determines how fast modulation occurs. The depth setting is used to define how far modulation goes before changing course, and direction is used to start the modulation from a certain point. There is also an option which allows S/H (sample and hold) to be used with depth. This setting constantly changes the numbers being fed into the voice parameter giving a 'random' synth noise.

There are also two other values, modulation delay and note trigger mode. Modulation delay determines how much time elapses between a note being pressed and modulation occurring, whilst NTM is used to determine whether this delay is operative before every note is played or only before the first one.

When using manual play, voices can be defined for use in any sort of tune that can be created by using the sequence and track write options.

SEQUENCE WRITE
When using this mode very professional-sounding sequences can be created for use with the track write option. The way tunes are written using Electrosound is quite unusual compared with other music utilities. First of all sequences are written, which are then arranged using the track write. This way completely different styles of tunes can all be merged together to form almost an overture!

When writing, rather than having a musical stave and putting notes onto it, the stave is represented by a 240 x 3 grid, each sound channel taking up one line of the grid. To create a tune, just point the arrow icon to the first square of the grid and put in a note by pressing a key note an the musical 'keyboard'. A note can be put in for each of the three channels or, if desired, a rest can be put in simply by pressing the space bar. Once a chord has been created, the sequence can be advanced one step and more notes added. With this process up to 240 three-note chords can be created per sequence. If there isn't enough space to put a full tune in, just create another sequence and put them together with track write.

The beauty of this program is that drum sounds can be placed in any space, no matter what channel; just plonk them in wherever there's a rest.

When the sequence is finished go to . . .

SEQUENCE PLAY
Which allows the tune to be listened to without erasing it. This mode acts like a tape recorder -- using BNM -- as stop, play, pause, rewind, fast forward, it is possible to listen or skip through parts of the tune. In this mode the tempo of the tune can also be changed to add higher resolution to the sound.

TRACK WRITE
This is represented as a large yellow grid where sequence numbers can be arranged and entered. Each of the ten rows can hold ten tracks, giving huge potential for writing almost endless tunes.

TRACK PLAY
This works in the same way as sequence play, with the same 'tape recorder' controls, only this time the entire tune with all its sequences can be heard. If the tune comes out slightly wrong, then just go back to the track play and correct it.

Electrosound allows storage of voices on both tape and disk and comes complete with a set of demo tunes (which are excellent). The instructions are detailed and explain exactly what each of the functions does. The only trouble is that reading the instructions is a necessity and could well put off a novice, although it is possible just to tinker with the program and get to know the ways around it without detailed reading.

 

This is an absolutely superb utility, is unsurpassed in my eyes (ears)? There is massive potential for a professional musician and the most incredible tunes can be easily created. Some of the sounds it is possible to create really have to be heard to be believed. Slides that only Rob Hubbard could create are now, with practice, possible to muster. The sequence write does take a. little getting used to, but then a flick through the instructions should put you on the right track. If you like playing tunes or want to have a bash at creating your own, then you can't really go wrong with Electrosound.

   


Presentation 82%

Instructions may seem a bit confusing to a novice. Compatible with Commodore Music Maker clip-on keyboard.

Ease of Use 93%
Once initial problems are over it's a doddle to use.

Sound Capabilities 99%
Limited only by the user's abilities. Built in voices are excellent, and once users become familiar with what they are doing some really professional voices can be made
.

Value For Money 98%
Miles better than any music utility in its class and puts the more expensive ones to shame.

Overall 97%
An incredible music utility, reasonably easy to use and most professional in its sound and capabilities.
.

 

 

Downloads
Electrosound.zip (14k)

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (18 Jan 2004)

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