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Melbourne House
Utility: Music
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Iolo Davidson
Chris Bourne

By George, an 'Andy marketing release, you're thinking to link rock wonders Wham! with the Music Box software. Iolo Davidson goes Wham! Bam! Thank you Melbourne Hourse and makes a few notes of his own.

This program comes with five of the faberoony Wham! mega-smashes stored in the Music Box's tune memory. Don't ask me what their squillions of fans would make of a Speccy cover version of Young Guns, though!

If you ever tire of the Dynamic Duo's ditties you can erase them and compose your own, or key in tunes from sheet music. This is what the program's really about so serious musicians or Duranees need not be put off by the Wham! label.

Besides the music editor, with its easy method of on-screen composition, this program gives your Spectrum an extra sound channel. That means you can play two different notes simultaneously, for two part harmony or simple chords. You'll want some method of amplification t get the most from this program, as no software can cure the innately feeble Speccy beeper.

Once you've composed your hit (or pinched someone else's) you can save it to tape or microdrive, complete with the machine code routine that plays it, as a block of code for inclusion in you own programs. No mention is made of the copyright situation on the inlay, though, so I've no idea what'd happen if you wanted to use this music in a program for commercial resale.

Terry Bulfib's had a quick hack and informs us that there is 4K of Basic inside, and more importantly, that the loading and saving of tunes is done in Basic. This means that the microdrive Save and Load options will also work on other drives that use microdrive syntax, like the Opus disk or Wafadrives.

What makes it all a doddle to use, and cancels all my previous quibbles us the easy editing. You can play in notes by ear, seeing each key you've pressed marked on both the screen's piano keyboard and the stave. You'll hear it as well and by backspacing you can remove mistakes. You can go through the score note by note, or fast forward through it. Otherwise, just play the tune, all the time with a continual display on the piano keyboard and staves. Plus you can listen to the sound of the notes.

Besides the organ like twin voices, you get a 'bass drum' and three somewhat programmable sound effects based on white noise. You can also alter the playing speed. What you can't do is obtain a printout of the musical score - but since the notation is weird, you won't want to.

First they gave programmers the pop star treatment, now the customers get to be pop stars. I hope all this music doesn't lead you to throw your TV out the hotel window.


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Wham! makes Waves!

Everyone knows that the Spectrum has only a single, rather pathetic, sound channel, so how is it possible to play two channel music? Consider, for comparison, a piano. Pressing two keys causes two notes to sound, and unless you're tone deaf, you hear them as two separate tones.

Your eardrum is vibrated by a waveform made up of a combination of the two original notes. The peaks and troughs of all three individual vibrations mix together in the air, cancelling out out or augmenting each other, until a complex series of high and low pressure waves is formed. You only hear this waveform as two separate notes because the human brain is equipped to unravel complex waveforms into their component parts.

What the Music Box software does is to compare the waveforms of the two separate notes in software, before sending them through the single output channel. By vibrating the Beeper in a complex waveform, the program imitates what would happen to separate notes mixing in the air. The effect upon the ear is similar to that of playing the two notes.

Wham! Make it Musical!

If you want longer notes than a quaver then use more quavers. Two quavers give you a crochet, four makes a minim, and so on. Try to forget about semi-quavers.

You'll find some knowledge of music notation may be helpful when keying in a tune on the editor. I say 'may' because the Music Box uses an abbreviated system of notation that'll annoy real composers.

There are always eight quavers to the bar. You can write in other time signatures - but the bar lines will be in the wrong place.

During replay, the effect on the longer notes is a sort of Little Richard keyboard hammering - or what we flautists call vibrato!

THe music scrolls smoothly to the left during editing or playback. Back spacing causes an empty screen to scroll in from the left.

You have to key in the two channels separately, which means switching between channels.

There are four octaves, which is more than can be accommodated on the keyboard, so you have to switch from one to another, losing your way on the keyboard in the process.

To enter notes into the score, you simply play them in, using the bottom row of keys on the Spectrum as a piano.

Notes for the two channels are shown in different colours. They're reminiscent of the Mad Piano in Manic Miner - but at least this keyboard's tuned.

Sharps are indicated, but flats are notated as sharps of the note below. Sharps or flats are played on the second keyboard row. You can only write in C major.

Rest are shown as an 'R'. However there's no indication of sound effects or even that the tune has ended.