Legend's New Sequencer Bridges the Gap
BY RICK DUFF
MIDI software for the ST can be grouped into one of two categories, beginner and advanced. This is especially true in the case of sequencers: the programs being released are either for the non-musician seeking an entry point into music making or for the professional seeking a great working tool--there are few programs that cater to both.
The major contributing factor to this problem is that software companies either go too far or not far enough. Advanced software has so many bells and whistles that it becomes overkill, not to mention being too darn expensive. Lower level programs tend to be made by the same companies as bare-bones versions of the originals--mostly, it seems, to entice a person into buying the higher-level software. And the memory demands of these "full-featured" programs leave less for your songs and all 520ST owners out in the cold.
Enter Final Cut
From Legend Software Systems comes Final Cut, a 16-track MIDI sequencer that's packed full of special features and easy to use. It runs on any ST or Mega with either a color or monochrome monitor. Copy-protection comes in the form of a hardware key that fits into your cartridge port.
|Final Cut's main screen is designed to resemble a multitrack tape
deck, making this new MIDI sequencer from legend Systems easy
on beginners, while still being useful to professionals.
Final Cut has everything a musician needs in a software sequencer. It has full MIDI event editing, Step Mode entry (if desired), MIDI thru, transposition and more. Further, it's designed to resemble a multitrack tape deck which makes it very easy for beginning musicians to learn MIDI, while still being useful to professionals.
The program makes good use of GEM, letting you use your mouse for all processing (though there are keyboard equivalents for most functions). One nice feature in particular is the ability to set your own expertise level. When you're first learning, you get more help but, as you become familiar with the program, the help disappears and doesn't get in the way. Recording is as simple as selecting a track to record on and clicking the record button. A powerful edit feature is Copy/Merge, which lets you copy a track to another or merge two or more tracks into one. This prevents the supplied 16 tracks from becoming a limit.
Final Cut also lets you split tracks, putting the upper voices from a parent track onto one subtrack and the lower voices onto another--very useful when scoring from a piano part. Since you would most likely play with both hands at once, that would be on one track. With the split-tracks feature you could then divide the parts out for a two-hand score. The current version (2.21a) does not support standard MIDI files, although this feature is planned for the next version, due out by the time you read this.
There are options in Final Cut for appending one track onto the end of another, or repeating a track any numbers of times. Final Cut also has a cut-and-paste feature, making it extremely handy for composers to piece songs together.
One other nice feature I haven't even seen on many high-end sequencers is a function to UNHANG notes. A hanged note occurs when you stop recording, but a note just "hangs" playing on your synthesizer. Hanged notes happen most often during extensive editing or dubbing.
Quantizing (correcting the timing of a track) in Final Cut can be accomplished in a resolution down to the 64th note and allows for triplets. You can sync to other devices (another sequencer, drum machine, or a sync-to-tape machine) via a MIDI clock. You can put the sequencer into a Master or Slave sync mode, either to control a drum machine's tempo or have it control yours.
Included with Final Cut are two utility programs. One lets you monitor incoming MIDI data and also test synchronization with other units. The other lets you convert songs saved in version 1.1 of Final Cut to the current format.
An Impressive Package
I found Final Cut easy to use and capable of some very nice results. I put it to the test, playing complex pieces like Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." It handled all four hands of fast piano without a lost note. One helpful hint is to keep a cue sheet handy and write down the clock beat of the part of the piece you want to edit. This will make it much easier to locate that part and change your event later.
Final Cut is impressive, especially when you consider the small amount of RAM it uses. I found it loaded in as little as 115K, so even on a 520ST you can have complex and lengthy songs without running out of memory. This is positively amazing in these days when sequencers require at least 1MB of memory just to boot.
The one thing I didn't care for was the hardware cartridge-key protection. Mine was difficult to insert, but once in worked fine. By the way, never insert or remove something from your cartridge port while the computer is on or you risk considerable damage to the computer. The one good point of this type of copy-protection is that you can make unlimited backups of your diskette and install it onto a hard drive.
Final Cut utilizes GEM and works fine with desk accessories. The manual is well written and indexed. I found Legend Software Systems to be extremely friendly and competent when I called for technical support. In fact, the person who answered the telephone was the programmer himself. As an interesting side note: when I was at last summer's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Chicago, Atari displayed a MIDI Workstation with an ST running Final Cut.
Overall, my view of Final Cut runs extremely high. It does everything a sequencer needs to do. It offers professional editing and compositional features found only on much more expensive sequencers. It's simple enough that the beginner won't be lost, advanced enough that the professional will be comfortable and perfect for everyone in between. If you're searching for an entry-level sequencer, or looking to upgrade, I'd give Final Cut a try.
Rick Duff lives in Worthington, Ohio where he is a semiprofessional musician. This is his first article for START.
Final Cut,$89.95; Legend Software Systems, 3508 34A Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6L SE8, (403) 450-0736.