Using the MusicStar MIDI Keyboard with a IIGS

Recently I purchased a MusicStar MIDI Keyboard to use with my IIGS. When I bought my IIGS it has an AudioAnimator card with it, which provides stereo output, a digitizer, and MIDI in, out and through. Ever since I read up on the card, I have been on the lookout for a reasonably priced keyboard to use with it, and the MusicStar, on sale at Computer City for $79.00, was a good deal.

MIDI is a standard that was created in the early 1980's for connecting digital instruments and computers with each other. Because it is a platform--independent standard, a MIDI instrument such as the MusicStar, which is marketed for the PC, can also b e used with an Apple II, Amiga, or Macintosh computer, with an appropriate hardware connection and MIDI software (more on that later). The keyboard came with a CD, containing the MusicStar program, which was of course useless to me, along with some sound samples, and 7 high density disks which contained the same software. I just reformatted the disks. It also came with a MIDI cable that is suitable for using with a PC sound card, but not a standard MIDI in port, and a manual that described the control k eys on the keyboard. Before using the keyboard, I had to go to a local music shop (MidAtlantic Music, on Kirkwood Highway) to purchase a MIDI cable...the cost was a little over $5.00 for the cable.

The keyboard has a MIDI out port and an external power supply. I connected the keyboard to the Audio Animator box with the MIDI cable, and connected the power supply. Then I fired up the IIGS, to see what would work with this new keyboard. My first ch oice was The Music Studio, published by Activision, but this program requires that the MIDI port be in slot 2--I keep my Audio Animator in slot 6. (Also, as it turns out, Music Studio requires that MIDI--in be come through an external MIDI adaptor conne cted to the modem port...which is not my setup, although it is probably the most common.) So I was unable to use it with that program until I swapped the card into slot 2. I next tried to use it with the Audio Animator software that came with my card, b ut that didn't work either...I was able to input sounds, but not hear them, because the Audio Animator expects to output sound via MIDI as well, and there is no MIDI--in jack on the MusicStar keyboard.

Finally, I started up SynthLab, which comes on the installation disks for System 6.0 and 6.0.1 of GS/OS. This program worked perfectly with the keyboard! I just used the setup dialog box to turn on MIDI in, and could at that point play different instr uments via the Keyboard. SynthLab allows you to record up to 8 tracks of music, so it is possible to record one track as a Piano melody, then record a second track with Slap Bass rhythyms, and a third with a Drum Kit, etc. My children and I have all enjo yed using the new Keyboard, and I am slowly making progress at turning out tunes that sound melodic.

What is the implication in a school setting? Well, the IIGS continues to be one of the most capable computers for music that are available. With its Ensoniq sound chip, capable of 15 simultaneous voices and stereo output, the IIGS is superior to most Macintosh models (with the exception of the AV models). In addition, good software for using with this is free, in the form of SynthLab. There is still a lot of good software available, both commercial and shareware, some of which is listed below. And it is good to remember that if a MIDI capable instrument is advertised for a Macintosh or PC, it is probably also usable with the IIGS. This also includes MIDI connectors for the Macintosh, which typically connect to the modem port, which is identical to t he port on the IIGS & IIc+ (for our purposes here, at least).

MUSIC Software for the IIGS that will work with the MusicStar MIDI keyboard

*No longer published, available used

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