Jam Break! -- by Bret Victor

So you've been working on your socioeconomic thesis for a few hours, your eyes are blurred over, and you know it's time for a break. Time for something OTHER than non-committal deregulatory statuate influxuary tariff tortes. Well, what better way to relax and unwind than by grabbing your souped-up heavily-distorted electric guitar and powering out a few chords? Except you don't own a guitar and don't know a thing about music. In fact, you've never even seen a piece of sheet music since your year of piano lessons with old widow Frump in second grade. So what can you do when you want to take a jam break? Why not pull down the ol' Apple menu and choose the Jam Break NDA?

To install Jam Break, either use the Installer, or copy the Jam.Break NDA and the Jam.Break.Stuff folder into your System/Desk.Accs folder and reboot. Or, if you want to launch from IR, make sure the Jam.Break.Stuff folder is in the same directory as Jam.Break.

Jam Break is based on the principle that you should be able to make, yourself, awesome-sounding music by pounding away mindlessly at your keyboard. When you open the NDA, you might be tempted to just start the music and then randomly hit keys and see what happens. So do that. It's a lot of fun.

Then, you'll probably want to know how it works. So here's how: each row of the keyboard is set up to play two octaves of a pentatonic scale, which is a cheesy set of notes that will sound good no matter what you do with them. Furthermore, all notes you hit (unless you use the bottom row) are played right to the beat. So you can't hit a wrong note because there are none, and you can't mess up the timing because Jam Break makes sure everything is on the beat. What more could you want?

To start the music, hit a number from 1 to 3 to choose your intro. The computer will start playing a cool background beat, as if you had a drummer, bassist, and another guitar player behind you. The beats include chord changes, so all you have to worry about is making the melody. The keys behave like the following:

The top row of letters (from Q over to ]) plays a lead guitar, right on the beat. The middle row (A to ') plays the lead guitar echoed and on the beat. The bottom row (Z to /) plays the guitar, but doesn't match it to the beat. This would be if you wanted to try to make up some quick riffs yourself. However, it usually doesn't sound that good unless you're very coordinated. So if you just want to play around, stay off the bottom row. Each row has the same notes in it (i.e., Q is the same as A and Z).

Each of the three rows functions independently. So you can (as I like to do) use the middle row to fool around down in the ASDF area, and use your right hand to play something on the top row up in the UIOP area. It will be as if you had two seperate guitars playing at the same time, and the notes will harmonize and sound good and all that. And while it's not bad to just randomly hit the keyboard, it really sounds good to just "move around" to adjacent or nearby keys and make up cool melodies.

The row of number keys (1 through =) will play built-in riffs. You can hit the key once for a single riff, or keep tapping it really fast to play it repeatedly. (When playing Jam Break, you should never hold down a key. As long as you just quickly tap the key you want to repeat, then you can hit keys in other rows and have them play at the same time.) Again, the riffs are independent of the top and middle row "guitars", so you can for example play a melody on the top row while hammering on the 8 key to play a riff in the background.

The riffs in the row of number keys are called "fixed" riffs, because they always sound the same. But what if you are jamming along, and you want to play a quick riff off of a certain note? Well, holding down either control, shift, or both control and shift while you hit the key will respectively give you one of three riffs off of that note. If you, say, hold down control while you move down the keyboard (P, O, I, U, etc.) it sounds pretty cool.

If you want to tell your backup guitarist and bassist to try out another beat, hit a number on the keypad from 1 to 4, and at the end of the beat, they'll switch to that one.

When you've had enough, hit the spacebar, and the music will start fading out. You can still play while it fades, so you can end your song gracefully. On the other hand, if your parent/spouse/inlaw yells at you to turn that noise off immediately or he/she/it will rip your face off, escape is the key to press.

Finally, hitting the up or down arrow keys will adjust the volume of the IIgs internal speaker. If you don't have a stereo card (you poor thing), then you'll probably want to crank up the IIgs speaker volume. Of course, if you do have a stereo card, you'll want to hook it up to some big mighty speakers and jam until the neighbors come for you with torches and pick-axes.

A couple notes: riffs use the same "guitar" as the bottom row (Z to /), so you can't use the bottom row while riffing. This is almost never a problem, since you'll almost never want to use the bottom row anyway. Also, don't try to replace Jam Break's instrument files with your own instruments. The reason is that all of Jam Break's instruments are out of tune with each other, and so Jam Break plays them out of tune to compensate. If you try to replace them with instruments that are in tune, the song will sound out of tune. Lastly, if you, for some reason, want to rename the Jam.Break NDA file, you also have to rename the folder to whatever the name of the NDA file is, plus the ".Stuff" suffix.

Well, that's more than you need to know. Besides, the keys are summarized in the NDA window. So fire up Jam Break and start jamming!