Written by  :  Trixter (9126)
Written on  :  Sep 28, 1999
Platform  :  PC Booter
Rating  :  4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars
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A then-revolutionary concept marred by the PC's hardware limitations.

The Good

For anyone wanting to compose music on an actual staff with a computer, Music Construction Set was a breath of fresh air. The construction-set metaphor that was first marketed successfully in Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set was borrowed for MCS, and it works very well. You literally use the keyboard, joystick or Koala pad (remember those?) to "grab" notes, rests, etc. from the "toolbox" and drop them onto the bass or treble clef.

For those with a Tandy or PCjr, clear 3-voice music was attainable. For those not so fortunate, the internal PC speaker code used a clever hack that somehow mixed four voices into one, allowing you to hear all four voices. The "instruments" were essentially a sine wave, but I discovered a great side-effect of such simple representation: You stopped listening to how the music sounded, and started paying attention to how it was written. Several pieces of music theory "clicked" for me just listening to the music and seeing how it looked onscreen.

The program supported printing sheet music through any common (Epson FX-80 or IBM Graphics Printer compatible) dot-matrix printer so that you could show your creations to real :-) musicians.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the PC speaker hack, however clever, did not produce sound that was aurally pleasing to the ears. I still remember the puzzled looks I got from my friends and family as I played my latest MCS compositions for them--on a tiny piezo speaker that sounded like a symphony of bees. I didn't mind it, but looking back I think my brain was filling in for what the speaker couldn't produce. Rose-colored headphones, anyone?

While the program could print sheet music, it did so one staff per page, vertically, along the left edge of the paper. I cannot think of any proper reason for this except laziness.

The Bottom Line

Music Construction Set will forever be ingrained in my computing past. If you have a Tandy or PCjr and would like to play around with music, then by all means, give MCS a try.