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Utility: Music
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Jon Bates
Chris Bourne

I PROMISED that this month I'd review synchronization devices for MIDI and multitrack tape recorders.

Well... sorry an' all that, but the things I wanted to compare and contrast have not yet materialised at the Bates Motel. As we go to press within about two seconds of my fingers flashing (should that read 'fumbling'?) over an ageing word processor, I guess I'll have to get on the phone, engage Nag Factor 9 and encourage all the long-holiday merchants to stump up review products.

One software house that didn't leap off to spend a fortnight on the floor at Gatwick-On-Sea was Techtricks. After spending long hours working in a recording studio, the brains behind Techtricks spotted, as several other companies have, a need in the market for low-cost, effective and useful music software. Not all of us have the cash or desire to splash out on several hundred pounds' worth of 16-bit hardware and allow the Spectrum to gather dust in the corner of the studio/bedroom.

First off Techtricks's production line is a chord computer - Compachord. The concept is simple. If you've ever bought sheet music of a Top 20 song, say, you will have seen above the lines the shorthand chord symbols: C7, Gdim, A6, (Z demented) and soon. Plonking your way through these is an arduous task when you need lots of chords to play the piece and you know two chords - one is C and the other one isn't!

One possible solution is to buy a chord book for either guitar or keyboard, usually called something bright like 5,000 Essential Chords. This will frustrate you quite a lot - I know, I've tried them. There are also nice miniature chord computers with LCD: very smart and very pricy. In between these options is Techtricks's Compachord.

Load up and you get a keyboard display. Enter the name of the chord you want, and it appears on the screen in the form of asterisks on the correct notes. The choice of chords is very comprehensive, though not all-encompassing, and quite enough for the average player to cope with. What's more, they're quite accurate, with no clangers dropped.

Compachord will cope with major, minor, diminished, augmented, sixth, seventh and ninth chords and any crossbreed of those categories. Quite rightly, it defaults if you try to put in a chord that isn't used, such as a diminished sixth (which only exists in theory). It can invert any chord - ie rearrange the notes - through its three or four inversions, and just for kicks you can get it to run up the scale onscreen.

All in all, Compachord offers well over a thousand chords displayed in a very easy-to-understand fashion. I'm surprised it hasn't been done before; if it has, it didn't get into this column or any other that I can recall.

I was reviewing from the first version, and the upgrade will be available by the time you read this. This should have a guitar-chord display and sound all the notes, and will MIDI-connect with any instrument via any interface. so you can search for the right chord for your own compositions.

Compachord runs on 48/128 and is available for the reasonable sum of £8.99 (including postage and packing) from Techtricks Studio, 17 Whittington Rd, Tilgate, Crawley, West Sussex AH10 5AN. Techtricks will be releasing several interesting MIDI programs. including MIDI delay, in the near future - look for reviews in this hallowed section.

Screenshot Text

Contemplating the essential harmony of the universe with Techtricks's Compachord.