Easy Beat 2
Occasionally a piece of software comes along that works so well it makes you smile. After playing around with this sequencer for just a few minutes, I realised this was one such programme – intuitive, original and effortlessly stylish in the way all Mac software was meant to be.
There a quite a few Mac sequencers out there, and fundamentally they’re similar (though with wildly different price tags). You enter musical notes either with the mouse or via an external MIDI keyboard, build up a series of tracks using different synthesizer voices, edit and play. It’s the way in which Easy Beat does all this that makes it special.
Perhaps the most familiar way of entering notes in any sequencer is in Keyboard view: click on a piano keyboard and stretch a note to the desired length. Unusually in Easy Beat, Score view works on exactly the same principle: you click on the desired line of the musical stave and simply stretch across the bar to create an eighth note, quarter note, and so on. The note beneath the cursor changes as you hold down across a bar.
This method of entering notes on a score justifies the price in itself. Virtually every other sequencer and score program is modal – you have to use a different tool for different length notes, resulting in interminable mousing and clicking. Mode-less point-&-click is fast, accurate, and a joy to use.
You don’t need an external MIDI keyboard and interface, but if you have one the set up is easy. The manual says you won’t even need to open OS X’s Audio MIDI Setup program, and I didn’t. You don’t even need an external synthesizer either because there’s one built into every copy of OS X. Easy Beat makes full use of it, letting you add various effects in its Controller view.
Drum view is for programming beats, and more than fills the gap left by the demise of Virtual Drummer, a shareware program that sadly never made it across from OS 9.
The printed scores are good, and unless you require the complexity of Finale it will be more than adequate for most musicians.
Technical support is exceptional: I received a reply to a query within two hours. Documentation consists of a manual (which, as with all good software, I didn’t need) and tutorial.
You may be wondering how Easy Beat matches up to GarageBand. In a nutshell, they’re just different. If you want to experiment with loops, look at Apple’s product – but if you’re a musician or aspiring musician wanting a serious sequencer that won’t break the bank, look no further. I use both. The new version of Easy Beat allows simple and accurate drag-&-drop import to GarageBand, so the programs are complementary. The only omission is Easy Beat’s lack of audio tracks, but the publisher assures me they will be added soon.