Spectune converts the Spectrum keyboard into a two and a half octave musical keyboard that can be made to record, recall, edit, save, merge and print. The instructions explain concisely how to change the length of each note, the tuning mode (which re-tunes any note for interesting scales), selecting key signatures, time signatures, writing and editing, and so on.
Diving straight into the teaching part of the software, a user starting from scratch can learn the basic techniques of playing and writing music in very simple terms. Using an on-screen keyboard, the relevant keys blink in red and an explanation of how music is printed follows. When you've had enough of the demonstration program, you're then ready to load in the main operating program.
You're offered three options from the on-screen menu, the first of which is a learning game to help you sort out exactly where you are on the keyboard. A note's printed up on-screen and you've got to find it on the keyboard within three lives. It's fun and a useful learning aid - something other programmers should take note of. Returning to the main menu, the second option - edit/write mode - is very easy to use. Having selected a note and specified its length, it's entered into the sequencer. If you change your mind, you can go straight into the editing mode and change any notes by scrolling to the left or right to insert, delete or alter any part of the composition.
The last option on the menu is the play mode. You're now programming music in real time and the sequencer's recording exactly what's played, including your mistakes! But, even if you have entered your tune in real time, the editor still allows you to remove or change any unwanted notes.
Spectune allows up to 26 different tunes in memory at any one time; these can be merged together in any sequence in the final composition. You can also make a hard copy of your tunes on a printer.
Overall, Spectune is a very well-written program, and one that I can recommend. It's a useful educational tool that's fun to use.
OK, so I'd never heard of XORsoft (Who has? Ed.) but that didn't stop this from being my favourite package of the five I play-tested. It was the only one of the programs to let me use the Spectrum's keyboard like a true piano synth (playing each note for as long as you hold the key. and then playing it back in real-time). The program was a little let down by the clumsy use of graphics and the confusing layout of the control keys. 4/5 Peter Shaw