Hi everyone ! Arkos is proud to present you his new sountrakker on CPC, STARKOS 1.1.
- 256 positions available.
- *** NEW ***. Now you can see the patterns scroll while playing the song !
- Digidrums are supported : it is possible to enter 'SPL' keys along with a sample number, that can be read through the external player while playing the song. However, you can't load/hear a sample inside the editor.
After having typed RUN"STK", appears the STarKos main menu.
Most of the pages composing Starkos follows the same 3 parts design : a menu on top-left, some data on top-right, and the middle and bottom of the screen being taken by the song information.
You can go from a part to another by pressing TAB, and ESC to come back to the first one.
With the cursor keys, move this one, use SPACE or RETURN to select.
Every number upon which you move can be modified, either by typing a new number (ESC to cancel), or by increasing/decreasing it through left/right combined with SHIFT and/or CONTROL. Each number possesses a min/max limit, and every of your entries is corrected according to this interval.
Note that some numbers are signed, so you will have to use '-' if you want to enter a negative value by typing it. Finally, let's precise that all numbers use the hexadecimal notation, I won't insult you by explaining.
IMPORTANT : You can access most of time to every screen composing STarKos
with these keys :
Useful shortkeys too :
POSITIONS, PATTERNS, TRACKS, SPECIAL TRACKS and INSTRUMENTS
Even though Starkos works as most trackers, some variations exist. A little vocabulary lesson is essential :
- The TRACKS repesent the basis of your compositions. All the notes are entered there. Each track has a height from 0 to 127, and you've got 512 of them. Each track is identified by its number.
- a PATTERN is composed of 3 tracks, each played on one channel of the PSG. It's impossible to play a track alone, it must be included to a pattern. You can use up to 256 patterns, each having a height from 0 to 127. If the tracks included are higher, then they'll be truncated INSIDE THIS PATTERN ONLY, which means that the 'overflown' data aren't erased from the memory at all, they're not used in this pattern, that's all. So it's possible to use half of a track in a pattern, and the whole in another. On the opposite, a pattern can be higher than the tracks inside. In this case, there's no problem, you'll find empty notes at the end of the tracks. Note that it's possible to use the same track 2 or 3 times in the same pattern.
The fact that the tracks are independent of the patterns allows a lot of memory saving. I encourage you to use a track as much as you can along your song.
- SPECIAL TRACKS are new. They allow to set digidrums, and speed changes. Each pattern has a Special Track, on top of the 3 normal tracks. You have 256 special tracks available.
THE VARIOUS SCREENS
Once STARKOS is loaded, the first screen appears :
THE TRACKS LINKER
This screen allows to link the tracks of your songs. Press TAB to go in the middle part of the screen, and use up/down with SHIFT and/or CONTROL to move quickly.
Here are the explanation of the columns you can see :
NOPOS : Positions number. The position 0 is the first one played of your
As you've probably notice, some NOPOS are white, others blue. Know that only white POS are going to be played, because only them are included to the interval of the played positions, from 0 to ENDPOS. To modify this value, 2 ways : Press TAB till you're in the upper right part and modify the value.
You can also use the keyboard shortcuts in the middle part : RETURN to
define ENDPOS, SPACE to define LOOPTO, according to the cursor position,
But let's go back to the upper left menu. We'll see later about 'DISC' and 'MISC', but by selecting 'SONG INFO' (or by pressing TAB twice), you go to the upper-right menu. Here's the description of the various columns :
SONG POS = Current position. It's the pattern linked to this position that's going to be edited (when going to the pattern editor). It's also from here that will be played the song if you select 'PLAY SONG'.
END POS = Last position used in the song. Defines the end of the song, in other words.
LOOPTO = When the music is over, it loops to the position designed by
INSTR = Number of the current instrument. You can play this instrument (see below), and it's this one that will be written inside the tracks when editing patterns. OF course, you can change it at any time.
BEG SPD = Speed of the song when played from the beginnning through PLAY SONG.
REP FRQ = Replay Frequency. Various possibilities : 13, 25, 50, 100,
OCTAVE = ...Octave. Used when playing a sound, or entering a note in a track.
FREEMEM = Free memory. STarKos manages memory dynamically and optimizes data as much as possible. When this value equals 0, then the screen becomes red and the last action is cancelled. It's greatly advisable NEVER to save your song if this happen.
Let's now have a look at 'DISC' and 'MISC'.
This menu allows you to load/save your song/instruments.
Note : All files generated with STarKos are saved in ASCII format. Disc accesses are therefore slower, but it's a necessity, as the data aren't written linearly in the memory. It brings a second problem : the AMSDOS errors managment of such file is a bit limited ; it doesn't allow an accurate detection of what error can happen while loading/saving. However, when an error occurs, it's possible to RETRY or CANCEL.
STARKOS filenames have reserved extension :
- GETDIR : reads the disc directory, and gives back the remaining kilobytes,
as well as the numbers of SONGS/INSTRS on the disc. Loading a file is
disabled if there's nothing to load, which is logical.
A little remark : a loaded music is already completely optimized, so it's useless to optimize it once loaded.
This menu has various options, about the software and your song.
OPTIMIZE = Optimize the song. If you feel a bit cramped, try this. Warning,
as all the data is crushed, the software might slow down a bit.
Press ESC to get out of this menu.
Let's now deal with serious things :
Here's the first really interesting part of this notice.
You're here to create your instruments. The upper-left menu allows you to copy or destroy any instrument.
A STarKos instrument is built on a values list, of 256 lines max strong. These values are detailed just below.
Know that you've 2 possiblity to create your sounds. The first one, the most complex but also the most powerful, consists in using the list of lines. The second one is graphical, like in the BSC's sountrakker. You can flip from one to the the other by pressing ENTER.
But for now, let's stick to the first one. In the upper right menu, you can find this :
NO INSTR : Number of the current instrument, the one that's being edited.
INSTR END : Instrument height. Corresponds in fact to the last line used.
INSTR LOOP : Number of the line where the instrument is going to loop when having reached its end. INSTR LOOP <= INSTR END.
LOOP? : Boolean telling whether the sound must loop or not. INSTR LOOP is useless if LOOP?=0. A sound that doesn't loop doesn't make any sound at the end.
RETRIG? : A tiny but useful boolean that, when set to 1, resets the Register 13 of the PSG at the beginning of the sound, so that you don't have to create a line especially for that.
SPEED : Defines the time (a multiple of the Replay Frequency) between playing two lines of the instrument. '0' means that a line is played every 50Hz (if your Replay Frequency is 50), 1 = each 100Hz... Very useful to play slow and long sounds without having to copy the lines several times. Save both time and memory.
CLIPBOARD : You can't access it directly. The value indicates where is the pointer inside the clipboard. It allows to copy lines of instruments in memory, to paste them elsewhere later.
Let's have a look at these columns :
VOL = Gives the volume, from 0 to &F. The volume is cancelled if a HARD sound is triggered. Likewise, a non-HARD sound with a volume to 0 cancels all the line, as nothing can be heard.
NOISE = White noise value, from 0 to &1F. Mainly used for drums, percussions and explosions. Not linked to SND, but needs a volume greater than 0, or a HARD sound.
ARP = Arpeggio. A signed value (from -#5F to #F added to the basic noise (given by your tracks, or your keyboard). Type 0,3,7 on 3 lines to get a minor chord.
PITCH = Value added to the final frequency. Usually used to create pitch bends or vibratos. Value between -#FFF and #FFF
HARD = Tells if a HARD enveloppe is used. 0 if no, 1,2,3 or 4 if yes. 1 corresponds to a sawtooth curve, 3 to its symmetry. 2 to a 'montain' curve, 4 to its symmetry. Don't forget that the PSG can only manage one hard envelope, so giving a hard sound to more than one track at the same time generally results in harsch sounds (but some of you may find something interesting out of that for sure).
SOUND FRQ = Sound Frequency. In AUTO mode (value =0), the sound frequency depends on the key played by your track or your keyboard. By giving a value (from 1 to #FFF), you force the frequency on your own initiative. This can be used to create special effects or to add effect/drums before the rest of the sound.
HARD FRQ = Same thing, but for the HARD envelope (1-#FFFF). Note that if the AUTO (=0) mode is no more used, SHIFT becomes useless and is cancelled.
SHIFT = This one is interesting. Give the report between HARD FREQ and
INITWAVE = Allows to force the Register 13 to 1. When this happens, the HARD envelope is restarted from the beginning. Warning, setting a INITWAVE=1 in a loop produces a very disgracious sound.
HARDSYNC = An idea from ST Trackers. Allows to perfectly synchronize
a normal enveloppe with a HARD enveloppe (if HARD set to 1, of course).
Indeed, when the previous formula is used, appears an approximation between
the two curves, which brings a 'mwwwaaaiii' sound so distinctive of hard
sounds :). When HARDSYNC is set to 1, the player corrects the sound frequency
to get an EXACT multiple of
FINETUNE = When HARDSYNC is activated, so is FINETUNE. Allows to generate a shift between the SOUND FREQ and the HARD FREQ. Now you can precisely master your 'mwwwaiiii', how lucky you are :). Value between (0 and &FF).
As you can notice, the 'NO POS' column has white (only one when the instrument is empty) and blue values. Only the white ones are included to the interval of the sound to play. To enlarge this interval, increase the END parameter.
p>As I said above, there's a second sound editor, graphical but less powerful. It will however be useful to quickly create simple sounds composed of volume and noise curves.
Press ENTER to switch between the 2 editors.
Oh, how beautiful it is ! By pressing TAB, you switch between the 2 graphics.
Some explanation :
- Light blue : This column is going to be played, no problem.
- Halftone : Won't be played because whether the SND doesn't equal 1
(so the volume has no incidence on the sound), whether HARD is set to
1, which cancel all volume anyway. To clear this halftone, check these
two flags with the 'line' editor (another way, very simple, see below).
For simplicity's sake, as soon as you modify a column, SND is automatically set to 1 (only if HARD=0), so you don't need the 'line' editor to create simple sounds.
To finish, note that it's possible to insert columns with F0 and '.', but that corresponds to a column-insertion in the line editor ! Thus, only the volume/noise curves are shifted. As before, only the interval defined by your cursor and END is shifted.
Now you've got a wonderful sound, let's learn how to play it !
PLAYING A SOUND
It is possible to play the current sound in each top-left menu of the main pages. To do this, you just have to use your keyboard, exactly like in the BSC's Sountrakker.
" # $ % & '
S D F G H J
It's also possible to play the current sound in the lower part of the instrument editor, by using the keyboard while pressing CONTROL. Warning, changes made on the sound data while playing it DOESN'T apply on what it heard ! You have to retrigger it to hear the changes.
Now you're ready to fight among the Follins brothers and Madmax, let's see how to create patterns...
The upper-left has nothing outstanding :
By pressing TAB you go to the lower part, the pattern edition itself. You can find the 3 tracks, and the special track, smaller. Here's the description of the column composing each normal track :
KEY : key and octave to play. Example : C-1, D#4.
INSTR and KEY are linked : you can't have one without the other. VOLUME
is always associated with a KEY, however you can put it where's there's
You can also put your digidrums in 'normal' tracks by pressing |. The number of the sample is defined by the current instrument, from 1 to &1f. Warning, the rest of the line will be ignored.
Let's talk about the clipboards. You've got 2 clipboards only for the pattern edition. They work exactly like the Soundtrakker's, with one option added.
The first clipboard is used to save a whole track. Note that if you copy
('copy' in the copy/cut/paste sense) a TRACK, you won't be able to paste
it into a SPECIAL TRACK, and the opposite.
Something new : if you use CONTROL instead of SHIFT while pasting, you'll paste notes only, and not emptiness ! So it's like a OR paste mode. Very useful to mix two tracks into one.
The second clipboard allows you to take notes from a track, one by one,
to stack them up in memory and paste them one by one where you want.
What's more, coming back at the begining of the clipboard sets a limit at the last item put in the clipboard recently. This limit can be redefined by copying others notes inside the clipboard.
Ok, I think we've talked about everything. Wasn't it great ?
Here it is, I guess that's all. Here's my advice : PRINT THE 'KEYS' file on this disk, it's very useful and has many keys to functions I coded to make STarKos powerful and nice to use.
I hope this tool will please you because it wasn't easy to make, even if it looks so when over...
Bugs report, remarks, suggestions, here we go :
- Contrary to what most people think, it is NOT possible to convert ALL the ST musics to CPC, even if they use conventional sounds. The ST PSG runs at 2mhz, against 1 for the CPC. So, in order get the same sound frequency, you must divide all periods by 2. From this can come an approximation, or a desynchronisation between the normal and hardware soundwaves. That heppens in the MEGADIST song included in this kit. As suggested Madram, you could correct that by doubling the sound frequency (50hz-->100hz) and 'surrounding' the desired values with the 2 nearest values, and switching between them. Good luck.
About the tool in itself :
- STarKos is slower than most trackers, that's because the organisation is far more complex. I allow 255 instruments, 512 tracks, 256 patterns and special tracks... It's more than any trackers on CPC or ST. If I had managed my memory like BSC and PRODATRON did, I would never had enough memory. Everything is allocated dynamically. It's quite complex to manage and takes a bit of machine time.
- The pattern display is slow. That's not because the code is not optimized, but because I used the tools I already had ; they're quite powerful, honestly fast, but that's not enough for such display. I needed pecialized routs.
- But I can't afford that for the moment : I don't have enough memory ! STarKos is 24000 lines long, for 30KB max of compiled code !
- And last but not least : I MADE STARKOS FOR THE CPC SCENE, SO TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT IT !!!