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%% UseNet Review - Bars and Pipes Pro v2.0 by Pasi Kovanen %%
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Bars and Pipes Professional version 2.0 ("BPPro") (18 February 93)
Bars and Pipes Professional is one of the Amiga's most advanced MIDI
sequencing programs. The newest version has added many multimedia
Name: The Blue Ribbon Soundworks Ltd.
Address: 1605 Chantilly Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30324
Telephone: (404) 315-0212
Telefax: (404) 315-0213
2295 FIM, approximately $350 (US). The US street price is a bit
above $200, I think.
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
At least 1 meg of RAM (2 meg recommended).
For MIDI usage, a synthesizer with MIDI is necessary.
For multimedia applications, it's not necessary.
Works with accelerated Amigas.
BPPro is serialized: when installed for the first time, a
registration number must be typed in. The number is printed on the disk
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
2 MB of Chip RAM
240 MB Maxtor hard disk
GVP JAWS A1230:
4 MB of Fast RAM,
A MIDI interface
Korg M1 synthesizer
Installation is done with Blue Ribbon's installing software.
I'd prefer the Commodore Installer.
I will concentrate on the sequencing capabilities, because I'm not
so interested in building my own multimedia presentations. BPPro is a
sequencer with thousands of functions and many original ideas. It's not as
conventional as Dr. T's Keyboard Controlled Sequencer (KCS) and is not a
A couple of years ago, I had a quick look at the original Bars and
Pipes Pro. It looked fine and powerful, but without the manual it was really
difficult to use (yes, it was a pirate version, I confess). I used OctaMED
with my M1 and it was nice to use, though music created with OctaMED sounds
like... well, music created with OctaMED. Some friends recommended that I
get Dr. T's KCS. I gave it a chance, but everything had to be done with
numbers. "I had enough of mathematics in High School" (finally over!) I
thought and deleted KCS from my hard drive.
A few months ago, I decided to buy BPPro II. It came and I had a
quick look at it. It looked even more fine and powerful, but without
reading the manual it was really difficult to use. So I read the manual,
and the program started opening to me.
Basically, BPPro works just like any other sequencer. One has an
unlimited amount of tracks to record on. Any track can use any MIDI
channel. But that's as conventional as BPPro gets BPPro. Every track has
its own pipeline (I wonder how they invented the program's name :-)) with a
"valve". The valve controls the musical flow. The pipe can be connected to
three parts: the MIDI-in part, the note part, and the MIDI-out part. When
you record music, the notes go through the MIDI-in part and get to the note
part. When BPPro plays the notes, the go through the MIDI-out part.
Why all these parts? The most powerful little things in BPPro are
called Tools. Tools are modules, separate from BPPro, that are used for
tasks like transposing, quantization, echoing, and even unquantization!
There are dozens of tools in the program, and I have only tried a few of
them. If one puts a tool just before the note part of the pipe, every note
recorded will be processed with that tool. But if one places the tool in
the MIDI-out part, the notes will be recorded unchanged and then processed
every time they go to MIDI-out. One can place many tools into every
pipeline, and thus it's very easy to try different quantizations and
There can be dozens of windows open, and one can change parameters
for tools in real-time while the song plays.
Accessories are a bit like tools, but they cannot be placed on the
pipeline. Accessories are also modules and control BPPro's extensive ARexx
functions, Standard MIDI File importing and exporting, and system exclusive
recording, among other things. They are like programs that open on BPPro's
Tools and Accessories have fun names and icons. "Toasty" controls
the Toaster, "SMoose" loads and saves SMUS songs and has a picture of a pink
moose(!!), "ANIMal" plays animations, "G-LOCKenspiel" controls the GVP G-Lock
genlock, and so on.
There are many ways to edit the recorded piece of music. When one
double-clicks on the track, an editing window opens. Here one can select
classical notation (which can be printed), hybrid (which shows notes as
lines), piano-roll, guitar tablature (for guitar freaks) or list editing. I
find hybrid the easiest way for editing the notes. One edits the music with
a wand, hand, and other editing tools (these are not the Tools explained
above). With the hand, one grabs notes and drags them to new positions. The
wand alters lengths. Rubber deletes notes, and Pen creates new ones. Hard
parts of a song can be recorded by step editing.
Also, pattern editing facilities exist but I haven't had experience
with them yet. When I looked at them for the first time, the program crashed
(I got scared, you know).
Editing the tempo is very easy. You draw a tempo line onto the
tempo map with the mouse. You can easily create linear, sudden, or
exponential tempo changes. My only complaint is that I would like to have
the tempo line relative to the selected "main" tempo; i.e., if I changed the
main tempo from 125 BPM to 120 BPM, the tempo line also should drop by 5 BPM.
Also, mixing is easy. The Mix Maestro window has sliders and knobs
for every channel in the song, and movements of these gadgets can be
recorded in real time. The knob usually controls panning (MIDI controller
number 10) but you can change it to control something else. (Panning
doesn't work with the Korg M1, by the way.). The slider works like the
volume slider in a mixing board and usually affects MIDI volume
(MIDI controller number 7).
Song Construction is a nice window. Here you can break your song
into named sections (A, B, C, etc.) and put the sections in any order you
The multimedia support is extensive with full SMPTE support. It
also has support for Scala, the Video Toaster, Sunrise AD516 card, and its
own slide show program. The SMPTE tracks can be set to real-time mode.
Real-time tracks do not react to tempo changes.
Every track can have its own time signature. This can create really
exciting results, I think (I haven't tried this yet).
Documentation is in a bound manual almost 400 pages long. It is a
bit boring to read (I didn't expect a best-seller, but...) and it lacks a
tutorial. This isn't so nice, because the program has many, many functions
and you don't learn them just by reading. But the easiest way to learn how
to use this program is simply to use the program.
Tools are a wonderful invention. I can change my music in almost
every way I like without destroying the original recording. Non-destructive
Hybrid editing works fine.
BPPro can record System exclusive dumps long "enough", whereas KCS
is limited to 16 KB only.
Importing and exporting MIDI files is easy.
BPPro is expandable; for example, SuperJAM! can be integrated.
Bugs :(. (Look below)
The program has very strange windows. They may look "cool" with
Kickstart 1.3, but with Kickstart 2.0 or better I would like to see
gadtools.library used and normal Amiga windows. Drop AmigaDOS 1.3 support!
There's no direct, good support for Amiga's 8-bit samples. A tool
called "SamplePhone" does play samples, but every sample plays only on one
Step recording should have a quick access to note lengths. For
example, F1 should create a whole note, and F5 a sixteenth note.
I would like to see more extensive pattern support.
Access to some features requires little complicated maneuvers. More
buttons and keyboard support are wanted.
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
I've tried to use KCS but it seemed far too ugly and difficult to
I'm a beta-tester for OctaMED Professional and have been using that
program for over two years now. The direct tracker style is good for
"computer music styles" like techno, not for "living" music. Also it's very
difficult to export songs from OctaMED to other sequencers. Nowadays I
mainly use BPPro.
Lots of bugs. :(
The printing of the notes is quite buggy. Sometimes, notes are
printed without their stems.
When I save extra-hires notes into an IFF file with the Save command,
BPPro tends to go into "fireworks mode" (crash) very often. Also normal
printing sometimes crashes.
The hybrid editor usually works fine, but the notation editor has
zillions of bugs. The notating resolution does nothing, and sometimes BPPro
won't even show the notes (staff centering doesn't work).
The punch-in recording should start playing one measure before the
selected point, and then switch on recording. For about two weeks, it
always started directly on the punch-in point. Now it works fine, though.
I had some trouble a while ago, when the program used to crash
almost every time I started it... and if it did start, it still crashed in a
few seconds. I re-installed BPPro and tried about everything, but nothing
helped. Then I realized the problem: I had my Video Backup System on the
serial port, and it constantly inputs video data to the Amiga. BPPro is the
first program I've seen to crash when it receives that signal.
And this one is really serious. Two times has BPPro crashed when
saving the song, thus destroying both the older and newer version. That's
It does exist, but not here in Finland. 60 days of free technical
I'm not sure about any warranties, but I think they are not
essential with software products.
Despite the long list of dislikes and bugs, BPPro is a good
sequencer, the best for the Amiga I think. If Blue Ribbon only fixed those
bugs and added some comfortableness, this would be an almost perfect
Every typo Copyright 1994 Clumsy Fingers Ltd.
Unfortunately I do not have USENET access. For any comments or
upgrade notices, please contact my friend Tapio Ronkainen,
firstname.lastname@example.org. He'll send your messages to me (I hope...).
- Pasi Kovanen