So you've unlocked the wonderful and powerful Music Composer! If you haven't, stop reading this right now! There are two ways to use this special feature. If you're not musically inclined, you should skip directly to Music Setup - it allows you to pick and choose which songs play in the game. But, if you want to try your hand at creating your own music, stick around, and read up on the music editing features at your disposal.
Table Of Contents
1. The Basics 2. Hands-On Example 2A. Hands-On: Sequence Editing 2B. Hands-On: Song Editing 2C. Hands-On: Multiple Sequences 3. Music Setup 4. Cut & Paste 5. General Options 6. Song Editing 7. Sequence Editing 8. Keyboard Shortcuts
1. The Basics
The first thing you need to know to create a song in the Music Composer is how those songs are set up. It's not quite the same as normal sheet music, but it's pretty simple once you understand. It works similarly to many other computer music programs, usually called "sequencers". It has been simplified quite a bit though! When you start a Song from scratch, what you do first is create a Sequence. A Sequence is a series of musical notes, all from the same instrument. Then you need to specify when, where, and how often to play this Sequence. That is a Playlist. Now, you have a Song! A Song, then, is simply a set of Playlists for different Sequences. Still confused? It makes more sense when you get into it. Let's try the hands-on example below.
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2. Hands-On Example
To do this example easily, you need to have Stockboy running and in the Music Composer. So you probably ought to print this file out. Quick, go do that now. Hurry!!! Okay, now that we've got this printed out, and we're back in the Music Composer, we can actually start doing something! Look at the wonderful blank canvas before you. It looks like this, only bigger:
It looks intimidating with all those boxes and buttons, but you'll understand them all soon enough. The first step is to give our song a deep and meaningful name. Click on the big button at the top of the screen that says "Title: Nosong". This gives you a box to type in a new title. Backspace to get rid of "Nosong" and give it a name that will be remembered through the ages, like "The Eggplant Boogie". Then click Accept to accept it. Now, of course, you need to let everyone know who created this amazing song. So click on the Author button, and type in your name, just as you did the title.
Well, we're out of meaningless administrative duties, so it's time to actually create some music. The first thing we're going to do is make a Sequence. The Composer actually starts us off with one blank Sequence already - see it there? It's named "Seq#01". That's not a very good name, so we'll change it later. The names of Sequences aren't really important in the long run, they're just there so you can tell what you're doing when you create a large, complex song.
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2A. Hands-On: Sequence Editing
The part of the screen shown here, the big band of boxes across the middle, is the Sequence Editor. It's the most important part of the entire Composer - it's where you enter the actual musical notes. It represents a musical scale - Middle C is the center row, which is brighter than the others. The notes go up and down the scale from there in natural notes (sorry, we don't have any sharps or flats!), up to a C one octave higher, and down to a C one octave lower. See the numbers going across? Those are counting beats for you. So let's put in some notes. It's easy - just click anywhere in the musical scale, and you'll place a note. Click on it again to remove it. You hear the notes when you place them, which is handy. Where you put the note in horizontally determines when it plays. For now, don't put any notes past the big black "END" marker. Got some notes in there? Then you've created a Sequence! Okay, let's hear the Sequence before we try putting it into the Song. If you click the Play button, you won't hear anything. Why not?? Well, it's trying to play the entire Song, which is currently empty.
Click on the button that reads "Play: Whole Song", in the "General Options" section of the screen. Click it a bunch of times, to see the four different settings it can have. What we want is "Play: Sequence", because we want to play our Sequence! With that set correctly, hitting the "Play" button at the bottom of the screen will now play the lovely melody you've created. It will keep doing so until you've either lost your mind, or clicked on "Stop" (the button formerly known as "Play"). A quicker way to listen to your work is just to hit the space bar. It also plays and stops the music. Okay, so we've now created a beautiful Sequence! Let's incorporate it into a full-blown Song.
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2B. Hands-On: Song Editing
This section at the top of the screen is the actual Song Editor. "Seq#01" is the Sequence we were just putting notes into. The boxes going across the screen are the Playlist for this Sequence. What does that mean? It's very simple. You click in the boxes at any time you want your Sequence to play. Try clicking in the first box (where the green Play Pointer is), and the third box. They'll turn red to show you that you've set your Sequence to play at those times. Now go change the button you set to "Play: Sequence" back to "Play: Whole Song". Hit "Play", or the space bar, and watch what happens! See, each time it hits a red block, it plays your Sequence. Now, let's try a few things to see the possibilities...
See where the end of your Sequence is marked? Try placing a note beyond that point. Tada! The end moved aside for you! But why did it move so far? Because the length of a Sequence is always measured in Blocks, which are 2 whole notes (2 of the vertical white bars - the lighter vertical bars show you half-notes). The numbers beneath the musical scale count off the whole notes. Well, now your Sequence is two blocks long (unless you put your new note in very far to the right, in which case, it's three blocks long!). Look up at the Song Editor and you'll see that it has added a little tail to each of your red blocks to show the extra length of the Sequence. Now you see the connection between the red blocks on the Song Editor, and the length of your Sequence in Blocks. Each Song Editor block is exactly one Block in length!
Now that the Sequence is 2 blocks long (or 3), we can try some fancier things in the Playlist. Click again on the third box. This removes your second red block, so the Song now consists only of a single playing of your Sequence - one big red block to indicate where you want it to start, and a small one to indicate that it continues on for one block further. So what if you stepped on the Sequence's tail by clicking right on the small red block? Try that, and play the song a couple of times. Do you see? What you did was trigger your Sequence to start again from the beginning as soon as it finished its first Block. In this way, you can have a longer Sequence interrupt itself and start over. But what if you want the Sequence to stop, and not start over? That's easy. Right click on the small red block. It creates a big black block. Now play the song again. See? It played until it hit the black block, and then went silent (and of course started making noise again when it hit the next red block). Remember, left click to place red "play" blocks, and right click to place black "stop" blocks. Left click again to remove a red block, and right click again to remove a black block.
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2C. Hands-On: Multiple Sequences
That's all great, but what if we want the Song to include more than one instrument, or even for that matter, one instrument that actually doesn't just do the same thing over and over? Well, we need more Sequences. Remember, a Sequence is a single instrument, playing a specific series of notes. So if you want a different instrument, different notes, or both, you'll need another Sequence! Getting one is easy. Just click the "New Seq" button in the "Song Edit" box. Now look! There are two Sequences in our Song, "Seq#01" and "Seq#02". Click on the name of a Sequence in the Song Editor to edit that Sequence.
Now too, if you want to change the name of a Sequence, you can just click on "Name" in the "Seq Edit" box. It might help to have more informative names than "Seq#01" and "Seq#02". While we're looking at that box, maybe our new Sequence should use a different instrument than our last one. Click on "Ins: Piano" a bunch of times. It cycles through a variety of different musical instruments. Pick the Drums. They don't work like the other instruments, so why don't we learn about that now?
Try placing some notes in the Sequence Editor with the instrument set to Drums. Weird! Instead of different notes being played, each 'note' of the Drum instrument is a different drum sound! That's because in real life, drums don't have a variety of pitches they play at - they either thud or they don't (sort of!). So in this one instrument, you have an entire drum kit. It's my favorite instrument. But it's a pain to have to click and unclick each spot on the musical scale to hear each different drum, isn't it? So why don't we explore another handy feature? If you just want to hear a specific note, you can use part of your keyboard like it was a piano. The 'piano keys' are:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Q W E R T Y U I
Q is the lowest note, low C, and 7 is the highest note, high C. I is middle C. Not only is it fun to just play around with the notes this way, but have a look over at the "General Options" box...
What's that "Record" button for?? Well, let's leave it on "Free" for right now and try it. Click on the "Play: Whole Song" button and change it to "Play: Sequence". Now, to give us some room to record, we need to set the endpoint of our Sequence somewhere further out. To do that, we have to put in a note a ways down the line. But it looks like a Sequence can't be very long if it has to fit on the screen! Luckily, it doesn't. If you put the mouse cursor at the far right edge of the screen, on the Sequence Editor, it will scroll the Sequence over. The actual maximum length of a sequence is extremely long, so don't worry about it! So scroll over a ways, and put in a 'dummy note' - just any note at all, you're only putting it in to force the Sequence to be longer. Now scroll back to the beginning - place the cursor on the left edge of the screen, on the Sequence Editor, until it's scrolled over there. Now, hit "Play" and our almost-empty Sequence begins to play. If you hit the 'piano keys' while it's playing, each note you hit gets recorded in! This is the fun way to make music. Okay, so record a little ditty that you like, and then scroll over to the endpoint and remove your dummy note - this will shrink the Sequence back down to its real length (whatever amount you recorded). Now what?
Well now of course, we need to incorporate this second Sequence into our Song! You already know how to do it - just click in the Song Editor to place some red 'play' blocks in the second row (the one that has the name of your new Sequence next to it). Now you should have a series of blocks in both the top and bottom rows. Set the "Play" mode to "Whole Song", and hit play! Look how it works - it's playing the Sequences together. You can continue like this and have up to 32 separate Sequences in the Song. When you listen to the whole Song, and see where your Sequences don't sound right together, just go ahead and make the changes while it plays.
So there you have it, a complete, working Song, and you've learned how to use almost every feature of the Music Composer. To save your beautiful number, click on "File", and type in a filename to save it as - make sure it ends in ".SNG", like "MYSONG.SNG" or the Music Composer won't be able to find it in the future to load it back in. For details on how to use the other features of the Composer, check out the other chapters, which serve as a reference guide. Happy music making! Table of Contents
3. Music Setup
Whether or not you want to compose your own music, the Music Setup menu can be of use to you. It's very simple - it lets you pick which song to play at each different part of the game. Using it is no trouble at all: click on "Setup Music" in the Music Composer, and you see this screen. Then simply click on a music situation on the right (Title, Menu, etc.) to select it, and click on a song filename on the left to apply it to that situation. You can also right click on a music situation in order to blank it, if you want no music to play in that situation. There is a scroll bar to the right of the file list you can click on if you need to scroll through more files. The music situations are used as follows:
Title: Plays at the main title menu. Menu: Plays at every other menu in the game - Stockroom menu, Profile menu, etc. Play1 - Play5: One of these 5 is randomly selected every time you start playing a level. Any blanks are ignored.
That's all there is to it! Click "Exit" when you're done, then exit the composer, and your new selections will take effect.
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4. Cut & Paste
There may possibly come a time when creating a Song that you find you have placed some notes you didn't mean to. It could happen! Or maybe you made some notes you love so much you want to repeat them elsewhere! That's where the handy selection tools come in. These tools work in exactly the same way whether you are working on your current Sequence or the Song itself.
To select an area to work with, click and drag the cursor along the bottom bar of either the Sequence Editor or the Song Editor - where the numbers are. It will highlight in blue the area you've selected. If you don't want anything selected, simply right click in the bottom bar.
Now that you've selected some stuff, you have to do something with it. There are four editing operations to choose from. Notice that they show up both in the Song Edit box, and in the Seq Edit box. If you have selected an area of the Song, you'll need to use the buttons in the Song Edit box to affect your selection, and if you've selected an area of the Sequence, you of course need to use the buttons in the Seq Edit box to affect your selection. Here are what the four operations do:
Zap: Removes everything highlighted, leaving it blank. Cut: Removes the highlighted area, and then slides everything past it backwards, so no blank area is left. Cover: Attaches the words "Song Cover" or "Seq Cover" to your cursor. Now click anywhere in the Song or Sequence to put down a copy of the highlighted area. It overwrites whatever was previously there. If you decide you don't want to Cover, right click to get the normal cursor back.
Paste: Attaches the words "Song Paste" or "Seq Paste" to your cursor. Click anywhere in the Song or Sequence to paste in a copy of the highlighted area. It shoves whatever is in the way to the right to make room, not overwriting anything. If you decide you don't want to Paste, right click to get the normal cursor back.
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5. General Options
The options in this box affect your composing in a general way. That probably is not a big surprise. Here's what they do:
Play: Controls what part of your Song gets played when the "Play" button is pressed. Settings include:
"Whole Song" - Plays the entire Song from beginning to end, looping. "Sequence" - Plays the current Sequence in a loop. "Song Selection" - Plays the currently selected portion of the Song in a loop. "Seq. Selection" - Plays the currently selected portion of the Sequence in a loop. Scroll While Playing: If this is on, the displays of both the Song and current Sequence will scroll along with the play pointer. Record: Determines how live recording (via the keyboard keys) works. Settings include:
"Off" - Will not record notes pressed. Use this to play along with the song and practice what you plan to record. "Free" - Records notes as they are pressed without doing any organizing. "1/8 Notes" - Records notes, but rather than placing them in at the exact time they're pressed, it aligns them on 1/8 note boundaries (every other square). Use this to compensate for human fallibility! "1/4 Notes" - Works the same as 1/8 notes, but it aligns your notes to 1/4 note boundaries (every 4 squares). "1/2 Notes" - You get the idea. Aligns on 1/2 note boundaries, which are every 8 squares (the lighter columns). Zoom: Just helps you see your work from different zoom levels. 100% is very large, so you can't cover much area without scrolling, but it sure helps you see things! 50% is normal. 25% is very tiny, and it removes the grid lines to accomodate how small it is. If there's any use for it, it's to visualize the overall song layout. Tempo: The playback speed of your song. It can range from 10 to 500. Neither extreme is very good. This is actually measured in such a complicated way, I won't even try to explain. Suffice it to say, higher = faster. Good tempos are in the 300s and 400s. Table of Contents
6. Song Editing
To learn how the four editing buttons (Zap, Cut, Paste, and Cover) work, check out 4. Cut & Paste. To set the position of the Song play pointer (for instance, to play a specific part of the song), click in the empty bar along the top of the Song Editor. The other buttons work as follows:
New Seq Sticks a new blank Sequence into your Song at the bottom of the list. It gives it the name Seq#NN by default, where NN is which spot it occupies in the list of Sequences. Delete Seq Deletes the current Sequence, after asking for confirmation. If it's the only one in the Song, it gets immediately replaced with a blank Sequence. Clone Seq Adds a new Sequence to the end of the list, which is identical to the current Sequence, including the Playlist. Move Up Moves the current Sequence up in the list of Sequences by one position. Just use it to keep them organized the way you'd like them. The position has no effect on the actual sound of the Song. Move Down A magical mystery button... who knows what it could possibly do?? Table of Contents
7. Sequence Editing
To learn how the four editing buttons (Zap, Cut, Paste, and Cover) work, check out 4. Cut & Paste. To set the position of the play pointer of the current Sequence, click in the empty bar across the top of the Sequence Editor. The other buttons work as follows:
Name Allows you to type in a new name for the current Sequence. Pick something descriptive to help you stay organized. Mute Turn it on to render the current Sequence silent. Notice that it draws a line through the Sequence name in the Song Editor. Click "Mute" again to hear the Sequence again. Ins (Instrument) Click it to change what instrument the current Sequence is played with. You can also right-click to go through the list backwards. The instruments available are: Piano - your basic piano. Drums - A drum kit. Each note is a different type of drum sound rather than a different pitch. Ac. Bass - An acoustic bass. Marimba - To infuse your song with a little island rhythm! SlapBass - A slap bass guitar, to bring in the funk. Beep - A silly little beep, for techno songs. Choir - A rather poor computery simulation of a choir singing. Guitar - Rock on with the hardcore electric guitar. Funky - A collection of wacky noises. Each note plays a different noise. VibPhone - A vibraphone. It makes nice clean plinky notes. Strings - For that big orchestra feel. Volume How loud this Sequence is. You might want some of your Sequences to kind of be in the background, with others blasting up front. Left click to increase, and right click to decrease. Sustain If this is off, the notes in the Sequence will get cut off any time a new note is played in the Sequence. If it's on, they won't. Try it out, and use it for different effects with different instruments. Note that regardless of what Sustain is set to, and what instruments are being used, a note played by one Sequence will never interfere with a note played by another Sequence. Table of Contents
8. Keyboard Shortcuts
Many functions can be done more quickly by hitting keyboard shortcuts. Here's how:
Live Recording Keys: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Q W E R T Y U I
Left and Right Arrow Keys: Press left and right to scroll the current Sequence. Hold down CTRL while pressing them to scroll very quickly. Up and Down Arrow Keys: Press them to move up and down through the list of Sequences.
Z = Zap: Press Z to zap the currently selected region of the Sequence. Hold shift and press Z to zap the selected region of the Song instead. X = Cut: Press X to cut the currently selected region of the Sequence. Hold shift and press X to cut the selected region of the Song instead. C = Cover: Press C to change the cursor to "Seq Cover" mode. Hold shift and press C to change the cursor to "Song Cover" mode. V = Paste: Press V to change the cursor to "Seq Paste" mode. Hold shift and press V to change the cursor to "Song Paste" mode.