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mike0liver

Replacement for Atari "Breakthru'" sequencer

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In the 1980s, I decided I wanted to produce a sort of "backing tape" to handle such things as guitars strumming, violins playing, flutes piping, etc. that I could switch on and play my Technics keyboard to. You see the kind of thing in many high streets and London underground stations. I had an Atari ST computer and saw a piece of software on a magazine cover called "Gajits Breakthru' Midi Sequencing software". I bought the mag, tried the disk and eventually bought the full Breakthru' programme. I used the setup with, eventually, total success and was very happy. A couple of years back, my Atari ST ceased working and I thought I'd have to obtain a copy of Breakthru' that worked on Windows. Think again. It doesn't exist.

So, I attempted using an Atari Emulator route and fell foul of the usual problem with tech-heavy activities. I just couldn't understand how to get the Breakthru' software to load into the emulator (STEEM) once I'd fathomed out how to set that up. It didn't seem to recognise the Breakthru' launch file and I got into a dreadful muddle with what disk drive to put various files into. Also, it all seemed to be crammed into a small window and was difficult to sort out. It's probably me with my technical knowledge rooted in the 1980s and my brain in the 1960s . I was originally encouraged by the idea of the emulator but, in the end, gave up because I just couldn't understand what I was supposed to be doing.

Now, I'd like to find software to replace Breakthru' but usable on my Windows 10 PC. However, the technology available seems intent on giving me such complex software, offering stuff I neither want nor need, that I can't work out how to use the software for what I do need. So, I was wondering whether someone could walk me through Cakewalk (which I'm told contains the necessary facilities) so I can re-create all my old "backing tapes". Can anyone help?

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2 hours ago, mike0liver said:

 my Atari ST ceased working

Another one bites the dust, so sad R.I.P.

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Unless you've got your old Breakthru files saved as standard MIDI files, I'm not sure how you'll get them in to Cakewalk.

I had a bunch of old projects in Music-X on the Amiga. Unfortunately the Music-X to MidiFile converter software was buggy, so most of my projects couldn't be converted. I ended up recording the projects real-time from the Amiga to Cakewalk.

You should be able to do something similar with STEEM, but I suspect it's gonna be difficult on a newer machine. I had limited success with an Amiga emulator on the PC, but only in Windows XP. 

In the end I bought a second hand Amiga 600 for the job.

You might have to resort to eBay and replace your ST.

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Well Cakewalk can certainly do what you apparently want, and do it for free, but unfortunately not without your intellectual engagement in order to sort out what it can do from what you need.  There are now literally dozens of DAW's/sequencers that will blow away anything that was available on the Atari platform, but most of them suffer from the problem (from your perspective) that new hardware platforms with free software can do far more than what a half million dollar hardware studio could do in the Atari days. Since you are considering Cakewalk, we can assume that you do not want a Mac solution. Because hardware overkill has led inevitably to software bloat, most commercially available sequencers are part of a suite of recording/MIDI/production/mastering applications tightly integrated into a single program. I have no experience performing  live with MIDI backup, but likely someone will come along who does. In any case, your best bet is to start with something new, bite the bullet and learn how to use the parts you need, and ignore the rest. 

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Thanks a lot guys. It's good to know there are folks out there who have suggestions that look like they might bear fruit. To be honest, it isn't my Atari that has given up the ghost, it's the external floppy disk drive and the Philips monitor that went within a couple of days of each other. The floppy drive went first and that made it difficult to work efficiently - but not impossible. Then the monitor just wouldn't fire up and I don't have the room to use a TV instead (let alone a spare TV set).

So, I've bitten the bullet and decided to switch to my PC - although it would be easier if I could work out how to use STEEM. I don't mind re-creating the song files in Cakewalk - it was a fun exercise when I did it on Breakthru' - but getting Cakewalk set up to do what I want is proving beyond my capabilities at the moment (I'm a bit of a techno dunce). Are there tutorials that are likely to be useful? I've looked for some videos to help but these seem mostly to concentrate on audio rather than midi and I don't need audio recording. I'm perfectly willing to engage with the learning process for Cakewalk - hopefully, though, with some guidance. Having examined dozens of programmes, it isn't the lack of availability that has stymied me, but the sheer plethora of features that has made me hanker for the simplicity of the Atari sequencers of the 80s.

In answer to msmcleod, I foolishly didn't convert the Breakthru' song files to midi files, so I believe they're lost forever unless I can fathom out STEEM. I think slartabartfast (that well-known planet maker) has it right and I need to persevere with Cakewalk which several people have told me can do the job (although I had no offers of how to achieve that). I've downloaded the PDF manual and am hoping that will make things clearer (although most musicians' objectives today are very different from mine and the manual is likely to be written with their needs in mind rather than mine).

I'm going to pursue fogle622's link - for which, many thanks - and I'll report back when I have some news. Meanwhile, if there is anyone out there who is prepared to guide me through Cakewalk and/or STEEM, please let me know.

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@mike0liver

I'm looking forward to reading your Sekaiju update.  Hopefully you won't find it as difficult to use as  I find the name to spell 😁

Like you I am a rank beginner using Cakewalk by Bandlab.  The program has way more capability and features than I'm ever likely to use and certainly more than I need.  Plus I have great difficulty retaining new information.  I've found YouTube, "baby steps" and repetition are my friends.

The best section of this forum is Tutorials.  I've watched the "Cakewalk by BandLab - Tutorial for Beginners" multiple times.  It's more midi focused than some of the other videos.   Plus it is a standalone video versus being one video of a video series.

The "Chernobyl Studio - Cakewalk by Bandlab Tutorial Series" is an excellent overview of the program.  The video series focus is audio recording and mixing.

The first post in the Tutorial section is "Getting Started".  The series is created by Cakewalk.

There are more videos listed but these are the ones I keep returning to and viewing time and time again.  I like to have the program open and follow along while viewing a video.  For me, watching and doing helps me to retain what I'm viewing better than just watching.

Edited by fogle622

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Well, I downloaded, installed and fired up Sekaiju and, although it looked like it might serve my purpose, I couldn't work out how to use it. I did the obvious and opened the manual but, like so many software manuals, it didn't seem to address my needs. Oh, I'm sure the fault lies with me but I am going to need to devote some time to reading the manual before I can set the programme up for step entry and Midi sequencing. On the positive side, it did seem to recognise my USB Midi interface kit but there was no device identification for my Technics KN6500 keyboard (which was connected to my USB Midi Interface).

Without entering any notes into the software, I hit the <Play> button and sounds came from my keyboard - they seemed to be pretty random but there is obviously something encouraging happening. Unfortunately, when I tried to enter some notes on to the musical score sheet, it refused to accept them with a fairly meaningless and unhelpful error message (something like "I am sorry, but I can't do that").

Anyway, I'm trying to be positive and I shall persevere. Meanwhile the Cakewalk support team are communicating with me - I have asked them to explain how I do what I want to do or at least point me at a tutorial or something. On that note, I shall have a look at your Chernobyl Studio link and see what that's about. Keep in touch.

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Hi mike i use steem on my pc with breakthru2 and its brilliant and it runs in windows 7 8 10 with ease

If you need some guidance

 

I am willing to help

 

Lee

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Welcome to the forum, Lee. It's great that you're willing to help, but Mike hasn't been back since his 4 posts in this thread almost a year ago. 😉
Maybe someone else will come along who is interested in this topic, but feel free to offer assistance.
Thanks!

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Hi Guys:

It's good to be back. After the frustrations of my previous efforts, I gave up the search and started to use karaoke tracks to input some of the backing instrumentation to play along with. Not a perfect solution but it worked up to a point. I must admit I didn't return to these discussions - until now. I was told of a gadget called a "Mist" - an fpga machine that could effectively replicate an Atari ST and allow me to use my Breakthru 2 sequencer. However, on investigation, the equipment seems to need some tech savvy and costs €200+. I don't want to shell out the cash and then find I don't have the ability to use what I bought.

So, I renewed my efforts, came back to the Cakewalk discussions to see what had transpired in my absence - and found Lee's post. My problem with achieving what you have, Lee, is that I've never been able to get STEEM to run on my PC. I seem to get part of the way there but never appear to have the right drives set up or work out where I'm supposed to put my Breakthru' floppies and song files to get them to load and be available. So it's probably in this area where I'm most likely to need help. I really am a dunce when it comes to the technicalities needed with this kind of exercise - probably due to my age (81). I can program in Visual Basic and I know something of how a computer works but, with software, I need someone to say "install the software, left-click on the <OK> button, then enter the file location on your hard drive etc., etc." That is, step-by-step. I have the STEEM files on my Hard Drive (I'll check that they are the latest) and, if you are game for a hard time, I'd be forever grateful for what assistance you can give.

What country do you call home? I'm in the UK so, if you're in the USA, we may need to allow for time differences. First, though, you'd best tell me if you're still happy to help after what I say and how we can make that convenient for you.

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to the people at Cakewalk for everything they've tried to do to help me - you don't often get that kind of service 🙂

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On 6/23/2020 at 7:46 PM, 57Gregy said:

Welcome to the forum, Lee. It's great that you're willing to help, but Mike hasn't been back since his 4 posts in this thread almost a year ago. 😉
Maybe someone else will come along who is interested in this topic, but feel free to offer assistance.
Thanks!

It's Mike! As you can see I'm back and it looks like I'm just in time. I'm hoping to make contact with Lee and take things further. Thanks for your help.

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I've made contact with Lee through Facebook and we are meeting (virtually) later this evening. Thanks to the Cakewalk team for facilitating this.

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