Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Music Studio

Activision released quite a gem in 1985 with Music Studio. Budding composers could finally put their melodies on five and a quarter inch disks and share them with their neighbors.

For starters, the interface is just brilliant. You place notes (and other musical things) on the staffs (two of them) using the joystick. There are four basic interface sub-menus: edit (delete, copy and move note blocks), key (haven’t really delved into this part but I assume it’s to change staff keys), move (bar placement and navigation around in the score) and sound (instrument choice). Note that you can select a block in the score and delete, copy or move it or change the assigned instrument. What’s neat about the interface is that it kinda hints at you what you are supposed to do (no need for a manual).

Little bit of free information: to tie two notes or more of the same pitch, click on the tie item in the move sub-menu and place the first note, then go back to normal editing (click again on the tie item) for the following note(s).


The beginning of the video shows the edit (Ed), key (Ky), sound (Sd) and move (Mv) modes to illustrate what I was saying earlier. After that, the video plays my rendition of an 80s anthem: Van Halen’s Jump. Could not add the bass line (in the lower staff) because you cannot play more than three notes simultaneously in Music Studio (only three sound channels are available on a Commodore 64). That’s really too bad for Van Halen.

Personally, I think Music Studio for the Commodore 64 is a great piece of music editing software. It’s definitely a great way to compose little melodies while being totally retro. Thank you Activision!

There's a limit on how high you can go on the staff for the lead, so it kinda limits what you can do. And as said before, since you have only three channels available, it's a bit of problem when you have a solo lead on the upper staff and three-note chords on the lower staff.

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