AOH :: SIDNWS12.TXT|
SIDPLAYER NEWS #12 June 1987
ANSWERS TO SOME COMMON QUESTIONS
This documentation file presents answers to some of the most commonly asked
questions about Sidplayer.
Q: What is Sidplayer?
A: Sidplayer is a music system for the Commodore 64 and 128 computers. The
system includes an Editor program that lets you create song files, a Player
program that lets you play songs done by you or other people, and other
Q: Do you need a player program to hear the songs?
A: Yes, a player is needed. There is no SYS call that starts the playing.
Q: What are some player programs and where can I get them?
A: The first player is KPLAY, which features a piano keyboard display with keys
highlighted in colors to show the notes playing. The next player is MPLAY
(Multiplay) which can be set to automatically play several songs. The MAGIC SID
MACHINE player can also autoplay several songs. Another player is SINGALONG,
which plays a Sidplayer song that has an accompanying words file. It displays
the lyrics and changes them in time with the music. The SIDPIC player can
display a picture while it plays a song. The STEREO SID PLAYER can play two
songs simultaneously if you install a second SID chip in your computer to get
six voices. These players can be downloaded from the various commercial
services and from BBS's. Over 2000 Sidplayer songs are also available from the
services and BBS's.
Q: What are the different kinds of Sidplayer files?
A: The music file for a Sidplayer song is identified by a .MUS filename
extension. A Singalong song has a music file and a corresponding words file.
The filename for the words file is the same as for the music file except that
the .MUS extension is replaced by a .WDS extension. A picture file for a song
also has the same filename but with a .PIC filename extension. Sometimes these
files are bundled into special self-dissolving library files. A .SAL file
contains the music and words files for one song. Just LOAD the .SAL file and
RUN it, and it will write the .MUS and .WDS files to your disk. A .PIL file
dissolves into .MUS and .PIC files. A .WPL dissolves into .MUS, .WDS, and .PIC
files for one song.
Q: How do I make songs?
A: You need to use the Sidplayer Editor. The original Editor is published in
the book "All About the Commodore 64, Volume Two" by Craig Chamberlain,
published by COMPUTE! Books. The book is $16.95 and also contains sections on
Advanced BASIC, bitmapped graphics utilities, and sprite animation utilities.
Sidplayer is also published in COMPUTE!'s "The Complete 64," a book and disk
combination for $29.95 which also contains Speedscript and other popular
Q: Where can I download the Editor?
A: The Editor is a copyrighted commercial program and is not in the Public
Domain. It should not be on any telecommunication services or BBS's. Only those
who purchase the book are supposed to have and use the Editor. If you buy
Volume Two and don't want to type in the programs or order the disk for the
book, COMPUTE! does allow you to copy the programs from someone else.
Q: Do you have to know music in order to create songs?
A: If you have the sheet music for a song, the Editor is designed so that you
can enter the song without having to understand all of the markings. There is
also a chapter on beginning music theory in case you want to learn about it.
Q: Where do you find sheet music?
A: The most suitable kind of sheet music to use is piano sheet music. Piano
sheet music for classical works and contemporary songs can be found at stores
which sell just sheet music as well as at some stores which sell instruments
and at some record stores. Also, many libraries have sheet music and there is
even a magazine that consists of several sheet music selections each month.
Q: What is the Enhanced Sidplayer?
A: The Editor was completely rewritten to be faster and include new editing
features and new sound commands. It is published with a new Player and other
utilities in the book "COMPUTE!'s Music System for the Commodore 128 and 64:
The Enhanced Sidplayer." It is a book and disk combination priced at $24.95.
The disk contains Commodore 128 versions on one side and Commodore 64 versions
on the other. See SIDNEWS #7 for a complete description of this product.
Q: Are the songs compatible?
A: The Enhanced Sidplayer can play songs created by the original Sidplayer
Editor. The earlier Sidplayer, however, cannot play songs created by the
Enhanced Editor that use any of the new command or note features. Enhanced
songs can be played only on the Enhanced Player.
Q: Okay then, where can I download the Enhanced Player?
A: COMPUTE! has decided not to allow the Enhanced Player to be freely
distributed. COMPUTE! owns the copyright and feels that a Public Domain player
would be counterproductive to sales and would weaken the copyright. Anyone
wishing to use the Enhanced Sidplayer machine language playing routines in a
program to be distributed must get written permission from COMPUTE!. Thus far
COMPUTE! has not granted such permission to anyone. So, the Enhanced Player
should not be on any services or BBS's, and to get it you have to buy the new
Q: If I get the Enhanced Sidplayer, most other people won't be able to play the
songs I make, so shouldn't I get the original Sidplayer instead?
A: Songs created on the Enhanced Editor will be compatible with the earlier
players as long as you do not use certain commands and note features. The new
Editor was rewritten from scratch completely in machine language, and includes
the most requested new editing features that make song entry much easier and
less tedious. Some people find that they can enter songs in half the time that
it took them on the original Editor. The Enhanced Editor is significantly
easier and more fun to use, and is definitely easier for a beginner, so it
would be the better choice. The 263 pages of text in the new book also describe
the music system more thoroughly than the 100 pages of actual text on Sidplayer
in Volume Two.
Q: Which note features and commands in the Enhanced Sidplayer should I avoid
using so that the songs I create will be playable on the earlier players?
A: Do not use the following Enhanced note features: double sharps, double
flats, dotted thirty second notes, sixty fourth notes, triplet durations,
double dotted durations, and utility-voice durations. Also do not use phrases
16 through 23 and do not use any of the fourteen new commands: HLD, PVD, PVR,
P&V, RTP, LFO, RUP, RDN, SRC, DST, SCA, MAX, UTV, and JIF (most of these are
advanced commands and would not be used by a beginner anyways). If you take
care not to use these note features and commands in a song, the song will play
fine on any of the earlier players.
Q: Is there a way to tell Enhanced songs from other Sidplayer songs?
A: It has become a common practice to use the Lira symbol (British pound sign)
at the end of the song filename, just before the .MUS extension, to identify a
song as using Enhanced features. If a song without the Lira in the filename is
played on an earlier player and seems to screw up, playing at the wrong tempo
for example, it could be an indication that the song is actually an Enhanced
Q: I can't find the Enhanced Sidplayer book in any stores at all, and I have
looked. I keep waiting and it doesn't show up. I'm getting pretty upset about
it. What's the deal?
A: The bookstores do not seem to be automatically stocking the new book. You
can try to special order the book, but there have been cases where people have
been told that the bookstore can't get the book, even from B. Dalton's and
Waldenbooks stores. Probably your best bet is to order direct from the
publisher. People have reported receiving their order in two weeks so this way
may also be the fastest. See the information at the end of this file for the
phone number to call. If you special order the book, be sure to give the full
title and the ISBN number. Note: As of this writing, the author still hasn't
seen the book in a store himself.
Q: How do you make a words file for a song?
A: You need to use a word processor to create a text file and then run the text
file through a special conversion utility. You also need to put special
commands in the music file indicating where the words should change. It is
explained in detail in Chapter 17 of the new book.
Q: How do you make a picture file for a song?
A: Just take a Doodle or Koala Pad picture and rename it to have the name of
the music file but with the .PIC extension.
Q: How large a file can the Enhanced Player handle?
A: First of all, the largest size file that can be created is 150 blocks, on
the Commodore 128 version of the Enhanced Editor. The Commodore 128 version of
the Enhanced Player can play a music file up to 150 blocks long. The Commodore
64 version can also play one up to 150 blocks long provided there are few songs
on the disk (the disk directory takes up some memory). A words file does not
change the size limit on the Commodore 128 version but it does reduce the size
limit on the Commodore 64 version. A picture file has no effect on maximum song
size on either version.
Q: I have a song that won't play on the Enhanced Player. It just stops.
A: It is probably stopping with a Clobber error. Play it in the Enhanced Editor
to check for sure. About 99% of all the earlier songs should play on the
Enhanced Player. Those that stop with a Clobber error are using too many
commands between the notes, and the computer is not able to keep up with the
music. Cautions against this practice were given in Volume Two. The Enhanced
Player is more sensitive to Clobber errors than the earlier players, and a song
which came close to causing a Clobber error on the earlier players may actually
cause one on the new player. Also, the Commodore 128 version is slightly more
sensitive to Clobber errors than the Commodore 64 version. A song which causes
the Clobber error can be edited to not use so many commands between notes and
thereby eliminate the problem. See page 139 of the new book for more
Q: Some songs sound a little different on the Enhanced Player. They don't sound
bad, but just different somehow.
A: Yes, there are some subtle timing differences having to do with the added
features, and the differences are noticeable on some songs.
Q: What are the waveform and envelope settings to get a piano sound?
A: There are none. The SID chip oscillators cannot produce a realistic piano
sound. The waveform produced by a piano does not conform to the simple pulse,
sawtooth, and triangle waves supported by the SID chip, it is different in
different octaves, and it changes shape during the course of a note and
according to how hard the piano key was struck. The waveform is too complex for
the SID chip to emulate. Some other instruments which can't be emulated very
well are saxophone and acoustic guitar. Although the SID chip could produce a
fairly good piano sound from a digitized sample, this technique uses too much
memory and processing time and won't work with Sidplayer. The best you can do
is experiment with different settings and different sounds until you find
something that sounds good. The type and style of the music also makes a
difference. A sound will sound more like an acoustic guitar, for instance, if
the music itself is the kind that would be played on an acoustic guitar. If you
want a more convincing piano sound on a computer, get an Amiga.
Q: Are you going to do a Sidplayer for the Amiga?
Books by Craig Chamberlain:
"All About the Commodore 64, Volume One" (a tutorial in the BASIC language),
$12.95, ISBN 0-942386-40-X
"All About the Commodore 64, Volume Two" (advanced BASIC and graphics and music
utilities to give you the power of machine language with the convenience of
BASIC, including the original Sidplayer), $16.95, ISBN 0-942386-45-0
"COMPUTE!'s Music System for the Commodore 128 and 64: The Enhanced Sidplayer"
(a book and disk combination containing the complete Enhanced Sidplayer
system), $24.95, ISBN 0-87455-074-2
COMPUTE!'s Toll Free Order Number: 1-800-346-6767
In New York, (212) 887-8525
COMPUTE!'s Toll Free Number for Dealer Orders: 1-800-638-3822
In New York, (212) 887-8566
P.O. Box 5038
New York, NY 10150
Sidplayer is currently the most popular non-MIDI music system for the Commodore
64 and 128 computers. At $24.95, the Enhanced Sidplayer has more features and
costs less than other commercial music systems, and it is better documented.
Most people find it worth the price, and find it worthwhile to get the book for
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