As Roland's current MC500 makes its way toward the status of industry standard, we look back at the machine that introduced the world to recording music on a calculator keypad.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER. Here I am, taking a nostalgic look at an old trusted friend of mine, the Roland MC4 MicroComposer, while elsewhere in this issue you'll find me waxing profound over the same company's wunderkind, the MC500.
What's the connection? Simple, really. Both machines are sophisticated digital sequencers controlled by microprocessors, and both allow their users to program complex music.
The difference is that the MC4 is designed to control monophonic CV/Gate synths while the MC500 is designed to be used with MIDI synths. Apart from that, these two machines are essentially the same beast. What is curious, though, is that to my knowledge, this is the first review of the MC4 to appear in a magazine.
But the MC4 is old technology, no doubt about it. So why write a piece on it now? Well, just in case you didn't already know it, there's still a lot of life left in monophonic CV/Gate synths, especially modular synthesisers which have no contemporary equivalent. And because the secondhand market for this generation of machine is hardly buoyant, it might be worth your while to hang on to that trusty old monosynth rather than lose a lot of money selling it.
So the MC4 becomes an attractive proposition - more so when you consider its current market value. When it first appeared at the start of the decade, you wouldn't have got much change from £3000 for the whole system; nowadays, you can buy one brand-new for £300. Secondhand, I've seen them for as little as £100.
History. In the beginning there was the first MicroComposer, the MC8. It was a powerful if overly complex eight-channel sequencer designed primarily for Roland's mega modular synth system, the System 700.
The MC8 begat the MC4, a slightly scaled-down but much friendlier four-channel version which, in turn, spawned a more compact machine called the MC202 back in 1983. Strangely enough, the MC4 is far simpler to use than the MC202, as it is not endowed with vast numbers of multi-function switches. On the MC4, each switch has its own purpose depending on the mode you are in.
While the MC202 - with its built-in, SH101-derived synth section and low (350) asking price - soon became popular with home studio owners, it was the MC4 that caught the imagination of the serious synth programmer and composer. For most of its production life, it reigned supreme in the facilities it offered for digital sequence recording, and in the ease with which they could be used.
BEFORE WE GO on to see what the MC4 has to offer, let's see how it works.
Basically, the MC4 has three modes of operation, selected by a sprung toggle switch located above the rotary tempo control. These modes are Play, Edit/Data Entry and CMT. The first two are fairly self-explanatory, while CMT mode is for data transfer to and from cassette. The MC4's calculator-style keypad (also a feature of the MC8 and MC500) performs a different set of functions for each mode. When you turn the thing on, a large fluorescent display shows the timebase, the quarter-note step and gate time. The default values are 120,30, 15, but these can be changed by entering new numbers on the keypad; in practice, readings of 96,48,24 or 96,24,12 are the most useful. The next display "page" shows the default tempo of 100 BPM, and this can be changed from the keypad or by using the rotary tempo control.
"A second CV is used to open and close a synth's VCF and/or VCA for dynamics, breathing life into music in a way unmatched by any more recent system."
The next page brings you on to the data entry side of things. You can choose from a number of different methods of data entry, these are selected using the shift button and simultaneously pressing a number on the keypad - the 'shift map' to the left of the keypad shows you where you are, as a little LED lights up to indicate which method you've selected.
The first option involves entering data in real-time using a suitable keyboard. This "records" your performance, warts and all. Linked to this method is a "Gate Rewrite" function that allows you to input timing data by simply tapping any note on your connected keyboard. This can be useful for correcting timing discrepancies entered in real time, but alternatively, you can enter pitch data in step time and then input the timing data manually.
You can also enter data totally in step-time by inputting pitch data, which can be done either from an external music keyboard or by typing in numeric data from the MC4's keypad. You can then type in note length (gate time) equivalent to the previous note plus the length of the rest, and give that note a short or normal step-time value (see Figure 1). Alternatively, you can enter a dummy note and turn it off by giving it a step time of zero.
One of the real beauties of the MC4, though, is that you can switch from one mode of data entry to another at any point. You could enter four bars in real-time, the next eight in step-time, the next two in real-time and the last two by entering the pitch data in step-time and the timing data in Gate Rewrite.
In other areas, though, the MC4 shows signs of age. For example, it doesn't have a quantise feature (common to most modern-day sequencers) to auto-correct any inaccuracies in your recorded music. But you can tidy up timing errors either in Gate Rewrite or by typing in new data on the keypad.
The MC4 is essentially a four-channel sequencer that enables you to play up to four synths at once, each playing a separate part. But each channel has two CV (Control Voltage) outputs. Normally, the second CV is used to open and close a synth's VCF and/or VCA for dynamics. This can breathe life into an otherwise dull piece of music, and the degree of direct control you have over synth parameters remains unmatched by any more recent system.
The second set of CVs can also be used to "play" another VCO for eight-voice capability, but for true eight-voice polyphony, these need to be used in conjunction with the MC4's one-shot trigger connections (one for each channel), which masquerade under the title MPX. The one-shot pulse outputs can be used anywhere in your composition, and unless you're after the eight-voice polyphony, you can connect them to just about any external drum source equipped with a suitable trigger input.
So, a comprehensive system of ins, outs, and data entry. In some respects it leaves modern equivalents standing. In others, it shows its age - though the time it takes to familiarise yourself with this aspect of the MC4's operation is no longer than it would take to adopt the same process on, say, a Yamaha QX1.
ONCE YOU'VE GOT your data in, you can copy, insert, delete, transpose, repeat and otherwise edit that data at will. One particularly powerful (and useful) option is the ability to copy data from anywhere in your piece to some other point; this includes copying data from late on in a tune to a position much earlier. In other words, bars 25-32 can be slotted in between bars 4 and 5 with little fuss. Total control over the structure of your composition is what this feature effectively provides - though it's as well to have a piece of paper handy to make notes so that you don't get confused, as the MC4 is not over-endowed with helpful display messages.
"Its ability to calculate the playing time of your piece can be useful... you set precise timings by moving the tempo control until the display shows the appropriate time."
As I've already begun to indicate, the MC4 offers some powerful (if hardly up-to-date) interfacing facilities. As well as the CV and MPX connections, there's the usual Roland DIN Sync 24, plus Tape Sync (efficient FSK code) input and output. Inputs and outputs for external clocks - in conjunction with the variable timebase - allow you to sync the MC4 to practically any older drum machine or sequencer.
There's also a CV input for the tempo which, if controlled by a spare CV2, allows very precise control over tempo variations. Ins and outs for the external keyboard come complete with calibration controls and a Total Tune control.
Three years stood between the MC4's introduction and the arrival of MIDI, so you're not going to find any MIDI-equipped examples lurking on dealers' shelves. Roland, however, did come up with a couple of interfacing boxes that can prevent the MC4 from being made redundant by a MIDI system. Their OP8M, for instance, is a CV-to-MIDI converter that enables the MC4 to "play" MIDI synths, while the later MPU101 allows you to program the MC4 from a MIDI keyboard.
I've missed out some other useful features. Like the Tune routine that gives out a CV equivalent to A440 (assuming the VCOs are tuned to 8'), though you can type in any other note you wish to tune to. And like the MC4's ability to calculate the playing time of either your whole piece or just a few bars. This can be wonderfully useful if you're writing something for TV or film, as you can set precise timings simply by moving the rotary tempo control until the display shows the appropriate time. Interestingly, if you're using CV2 to control tempo, the MC4 will take any speeding up or slowing down into consideration and calculate the total playing time accordingly. The MC4 has an unbreakable habit of losing recorded data when you switch it off, so it's necessary to save the machine's contents onto tape. Roland made the MTR101 tape machine to allow this, and since it was a custom device, it could be controlled direct from the MC4 keypad.
The MTR101 offers a number of other useful little refinements over and above what you'd get from a standard audio tape deck. For example, you can give a tune a file number for later retrieval and, should you give a tune a file number that is the same as one already on tape, the MC4 will ask you whether you want to overwrite the original, so you're unlikely to erase anything precious by accident. When loading data from tape into the MC4, the MTR101 will search for a specified file number. Data transfer takes just a few seconds and is actually foolproof.
Not quite a disk drive, but certainly the next best thing. You'd be mad to buy an MC4 and not invest in an MTR101. You can save data onto a standard audio cassette machine, but it takes in the region of five minutes and is not always reliable.
THERE'S LITTLE POINT delving much deeper on what you can and cannot do a Roland MC4. Basically, if you can think of a tune, you can record it with the MC4, in the knowledge that the only serious limitation you're likely to come up against will be that of polyphony.
At street level, the MC4 could hardly be less fashionable than it is at the start of 1987, seven years after its introduction. But the music industry is filled with professional players and programmers who still swear by the things, people whose MicroComposers sit uncomfortably (but still usefully) among Fairlights, Synclaviers, and sophisticated MIDI production systems. At the time of writing, I have five MIDI voice units (synths, samplers, expander modules), a MIDI drum machine and a new Yamaha QX5 MIDI sequencer; but very often I'll do a whole piece on my MC4 and an ancient ARP 2600 modular system, simply because there are so many things possible using that combination which just can't be done using the modern gear.
Tomita, Hans Zimmer, Daniel Miller, Tim Souster, Steve Porcaro and Dave Paich of Toto would probably agree with me on that.
At the time it came out, the MC4 was a major innovation, but (like so many major innovations) it was also a bit expensive. At its current price level, you'd be out of your brain to ignore it if you still have a CV/Gate synth.
And alongside the featureless hi-tech black visage presented by today's new instruments, it also looks extraordinary.
Just like a computer, the MC-500 has. fixed functions. A program booted from a 3 1/2 " disk determines how the MC-500 operates.
The MC-500 is extremely easy to operate, featuring an ,@ Dial, a 2-line LCD display (each line 20 characters long), and a numerical key pad.
The MC-500 can be synchronised with MIDI devices and a multitrack recorder.
REAL-TIME RECORDER SOFTWARE DISK (comes with the MC-500)
The MC-500 comes with a 3," disk containing programs which let the MC-500 function as a real-time sequencer and provide tremendous memorycapacity and a wide variety of functions.
The performance data is written in the MC-500 by real-time recording from a connected MIDI instrument. Once the performance data is recorded, the MC-500 can completely control any MIDI instrument from a synthesizer (such as the @JUNO or SUPER JX), to a drum machine (such as the TR505, TR707 or TR-727), or a MIDI sound module (such as the Super Quartet MKS-7).
The MC-500 also allows the perfect formation of any MIDI set-up from a simple sequencer-synthesizer set-up to a complicated professional set up.
The MC-500 itself can store the performance data for up to eight songs or about 25,000 notes.
The song name can also be stored for each song. In addition, the performance data can also be saved on a 31/2" disk.
In this case up to 100 Song or about 100,000 notes can be stored in one disk.
The program provides the MC-500 with four recording tracks.
Each track can polyphonically record MIDI messages of all 16 MIDI channels including note. bender, exclusive messages. . etc.
In addition, a rhythm track is separately provided to control MIDI rhythm instruments.
The rhythm track stores the performance data created by step writing and can control up to 32 sound sources. Eight levels of accent can be programmed for each sound source.
Convenient recording functions are provided. The Punch-In/Punch-Out function allows unwanted parts of a recording track to be replaced by other performance data at will.
The quantizing function automatically corrects the rhythm. And the Overdubbing function allows the user to overdub other performance data while listening to a previously recorded performance.
The performance data can also be loaded by step writing-all notes and rests are written in the MC-500 step by step
For greater convenience, a variety of editing functions are provided. The Merge function allows the performance data recorded on several recording tracks to be mixed on a single track.
Extract function transfers the performance data of one MID/ channel recorded with other MIDI channels' data on one track to another track. In addition, the performance data for every single measure can be transposed, inserted, and deleted.
A Micro-Scope function allows every Single note to be edited over several elements such as the note length and its strength.
Even alter the performance data is recorded by the MC-500, the tempo can be modified in detail-accelerando (becoming gradually faster) and ritardando (becoming gradually slower) can be programmed.
STEP-WRITE SOFTWARE DISK (available in the near future)
This program allows the user to write the performance data using the MC-500 controls.
Even people who cannot play an instrument can easily create performance data.
The performance data is created by inputting a note name, gate time, step time, and other elements for every note of a composition. Any complicated composition-even a composition physicry impossible to play-can be easily created.
This software, like the Real-Time Recorder software, offers a variety of editing functions. The total playing time of a composition can also be controlled.
The performance data filed by this software is compatible with the data filed by the Real-Time Recorder software.
MC-500mkII - $1795 The MC-500 MK II MicroComposer is an upgraded version of the MC500 sequencer that is fully compatible with all existing MC500 software packages and files. In addition, the MC-500 MK II has 4 times the internal RAM capacity allowing up to 100,000 note capacity. When used in conjunction with Roland's software Turbo 500S (included with the MK II), the unit's internal memory can store the entire contents of a single 3.5" disk, 4 or more of the same type of phrase tracks can be added to 4 existing tracks, 2 independent midi outputs, and more.
It runs off a Roland 2-prong power cable which is not included in the auction (but these are easy to get). In 1984 Roland released an 8-track MIDI sequencer called the MSQ-700. Weighing in at 11 lbs it looked like half of a TR909. The MSQ-700 is an 8-track sequencer that holds up to 6,500 notes that can be stored on one of the 8 tracks. Several functions of the MSQ-700 include a chain function, multi-track function, overdubbing and a merge function. The MSQ700 is a very reliable and robust design which will survive for decades. It is based around a Z80 micro-processor. There are 2 circuit boards, one is mounted to the front panel and contains the controls, the other is mounted to the base plate and is the main digital board. Use it to control your TR-909 or JUNO keyboard. The MSQ-700 is compatible with both MIDI and Roland's proprietary DCB sync methods. Today the MSQ-700 is a very useful sequencer for storing 8 short sequencer loops, with all the advantages of hardware control. Lots of knobs and switches! Its immediacy makes it a creative tool."
Beethoven's amanuensis* it might not be, but for dancey doodlings, you won't find a better scratchpad than the Roland MSQ700 'multitrack digital keyboard recorder'. STEVE HOWELL reassesses the sequencer that dared not speak its name...
What is a sequencer? Is it, as we have come to believe of late, a device where your every musical idea can be realised, recorded and edited to microscopic perfection, so that intricate and highly detailed musical themes and arrangements emanate exquisitely from a multi-track, multi-channel compositional environment fashioned in software? Or is it, more prosaically, just a device that plays a sequence of notes?
In the August '95 issue of SOS, Derek Johnson and Debbie Poyser mentioned (in passing) the Roland MSQ700, an underrated little sequencer from the early days of MIDI. Falling somewhere between a 'composition workstation' and a simple sequencer, I felt their comment that the MSQ was a "fun tool" was about right. While it isn't the all-singing, all-dancing composition workstation that modern devices aim to be, its very simplicity is its greatest asset.
The 'alpha' portion of the gadget's name was a bad acronym of MIDI SeQuencer, but the numeric part is harder to fathom. There was nothing '7' or '700' about the MSQ700; being an 8-track device with 6,500 note storage across 16 MIDI channels. Maybe it had 700 components inside! Anyway, it was Roland's first proper foray into multitrack MIDI sequencing, and intended to build upon the modest success of MC4 MicroComposer. The MC4 was a 4-channel CV/gate device, into which you entered notes and note-lengths methodically and numerically. Tedious? A little, but actually quite interesting, and once you got the hang of it, a very flexible and extremely precise way of creating music. The MSQ700, on the other hand, was a MIDI sequencer, and data was entered in a more approachable manner, from a MIDI keyboard rather than a numeric one.
MY FIRST SEQUENCER
The solidly-built MSQ700 came in a similar styling to the contemporaneous TR909. Festooned with chunky, smackable keys and no less than 33 (yes, 33!) big glowing or flashing red, green and yellow LEDs, the MSQ700 was very easy to use and a joy to behold. Moreover, it had more sync facilities than you could wave a stick at, being able to sync to the Roland DIN SYNC 24 code, MIDI clock (though no Song Position Pointer) and/or FSK tape sync code. It could also convert one sync type to another; so it was possible to use the MSQ to sync your TR808/909 or TB303 to MIDI clock or to tape (the latter of which, unless you had an MC4, was previously impossible, or at least very difficult). Even if you don't use its sequencing capabilities, its MIDI-to-DIN SYNC and DIN SYNC-to-MIDI conversion capabilities alone justify its second-hand price -- especially if you own any fashionable, DIN-SYNC equipped Roland devices. It will also record and play Roland synths equipped with their precursor to MIDI, the DCB buss, and so could perform as a MIDI-to-DCB converter for your Juno 60 or (suitably-equipped) Jupiter 8.
However, this is to neglect the MSQ700's sequencing capabilities. True, it doesn't offer hundreds of tracks or 128 MIDI channels, and you can't embed SysEx commands at machine code level -- but then that kind of malarky is not its greatest strength. Where it scores over even the latest sequencers is in its immediacy and ease of use. The MSQ700's eight, large track keys are used to record and overdub data into, and although essentially an 8-track device, each track can store up to 16 MIDI channels. The track keys are a welcome alternative to all the cursor-pressing, page-scrolling, soft-keying data entry methods found on other hardware sequencers, and certainly a lot more fun than mousing around a computer sequencer and clicking on inscrutable icons, only to be rewarded with "The application has unexpectedly quit, because an error of type 39 occurred." Even the MSQ's four-digit LED display, which shows nothing more than bars or tempo, is informative enough for the most part.
Recording is as simple as selecting a track; you just press Load and play. To add more parts, press Overdub, select another track, press Load and go for it. Any MIDI data you lob at the MSQ will be recorded, including program changes, mod wheel, pitchbend, aftertouch, sustain and other footswitch information, and these may be overdubbed onto separate tracks and then merged later if you want. The MIDI channel to record on is selected on your MIDI keyboard -- whatever you select gets recorded. Painfully easy!
Data can be input in step-time or real-time, and these modes are selected by a large toggle switch. In step time, notes are entered at a length equal to the step length selected by the dedicated horizontal Resolution switch, and you may select from 1/2 notes to 1/32 notes, including triplets. Two big keys allow you to enter rests and/or tied notes equal to the selected resolution. Step time is an ideal way to enter really tight, metronomic sequences and solid bass lines, and if you're a bit ham-fisted, it also enables you to enter quite dextrous performances. Step-time data entry can be a novel way to make music, and the accidents that happen from time to time can be highly serendipitous. The large keys certainly make step-time entry easier than most sequencers I know of. The quantisation option on real-time-only machines helps a bit, but they still demand a certain level of keyboard profiency.
Of course, real-time entry is also available on the MSQ, and it will faithfully record what you throw at it. An internal 'beeper' metronome is provided (by way of another large toggle switch) for you to keep time to. In many respects, you can use the MSQ700 much like a tape machine, locate to any bar position in a sequence, and continue adding data in a tape-like linear fashion. You can punch in and out, and a footswitch is provided to assist in this. If you're a reasonably decent player, the MSQ's simplicity may well appeal to you as a straightforward multitrack MIDI recorder.
TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING
Quantise, called Time Correct on the MSQ700, is quaintly described in the manual as "allowing modification of your key touch manner". Available after the event, it's almost non-destructive, in that you quantise the track onto another, so if it all goes horribly wrong, you still have the original to try again. You may quantise to a variety of resolutions from 1/2 notes to 1/32 notes. No fancy 'groove' templates, shuffle or microscopic note slippage functions, but again, that's the charm of the MSQ -- it's quick and easy. The quantise is pretty effective most of the time, but it can do odd things sometimes. As the curious Japanglish manual warns: "If setting a longer or the same timing value, you may be annoyed by the various troubles such as timing values differs, a notes is lost, etc". Absolutely!
Once you've filled up a few tracks, you can merge several tracks onto one, freeing up the other tracks for more overdubs. No 'un-merge' is available, so be careful before you erase the source tracks. Playback is achieved by hitting the large blue Play key (a footswitch input is also provided, for hands-free operation). A sequence may be set to repeat endlessly by flicking the big Repeat switch. Being so simple, there is no undue strain on the MSQ's processor, so MIDI is dealt with efficiently, and sequences play back with a reassuringly solid 'feel'.
With each track capable of storing a complete multi-channel sequence, the track keys can also be used as 'sequence select' keys, and you can play each sequence simply by selecting the 'track' (ie. sequence) you want to play. These may be selected manually, but you may also program the running order of the eight sequences using the Chain mode. To do this, select Chain mode, press Load and simply specify the sequences in the order you want them to play, by hitting the track keys as appropriate. Pressing a track key enters the sequence into that step, and advances to the next step where you may enter another. There is no repeat function for steps as such; just select the same sequence as many times as you need it. The Chain mode is a great way to construct songs (albeit limited to eight sequences), and I much prefer this way of working over the linear, almost tape-like method adopted by a lot of sequencers today. Eight sequences may seem a big limitation, but a sequence can be any length, and may be added to at will. With some forethought, quite structured compositions may be realised in this way.
Of course, at this point, the normal reaction would be to dismiss the MSQ's sequence storage capabilities as wholly inadequate. Let's be honest, though, a vast majority of records these days consist of a basic structure (8- or 16-note bassline and a simple drum pattern and chord structure) that run throughout the whole song, with just a few variations and build-ups for choruses, hooks, a middle eight and the like. Viewed in this light, the MSQ's seemingly miniscule storage of just eight sequences may even be considered excessive for modern purposes! In practice, however, it restricts the MSQ700 to only one song in memory at any time.
TUNE IN, TURN OFF, DROP IN
Gripes? Of course! Apart from the absence of even simple editing (see the 'Not So Golden Retrievers' box), one missed opportunity is that as the sequence is playing, you can't drop tracks in and out of Play using the track keys -- the MSQ must be stopped first. Similarly, you can't change sequences in real-time, to create on-the-fly extended remixes or to try out ideas before committing them to a chain. On the other hand, the chain mode is so simple to use, it's not especially limiting. To be able to do either of these would have made the MSQ700 quite a neat little 'performance' sequencer.
Another irritation concerns overdubbing. Imagine you have laid down a four-bar bass line and drum part on some tracks, and you overdub something on another. When recording with Repeat switched on, the bass and drum tracks keep trundling on repeatedly as you overdub onto the other track, but on playback, they will stop at four bars while the overdub keeps playing in isolation. It would be nice if tracks repeated in playback regardless of other tracks' lengths, but then I suppose it's a tad late to ask Roland for a software upgrade!
Niggles aside, the MSQ700 is still a good sequencer, the main reason being because it's simple, fun and spontaneous. Once you are aware of its limitations, you can easily work within them. You may swear at it from time to time, but even the most powerful modern sequencer will elicit profanities, especially when it crashes mid-session -- which the trusty MSQ700 will never do!
So, who would buy an MSQ700 these days? Me, for a start. I had one when they first came out (I must have paid £800 or more) and I made some of my best music on it. But of course, I read the ads, believed the hype and convinced myself I needed all the sophisticated, nerdy functions other sequencers offered, and rather foolishly traded it in for something else. Big mistake! Instead of making music, I was poncing about with tiny keys and a 2 x 16 LCD -- and my music was none the better for it [Yes, we've noticed -- Ed].
I've recently acquired another MSQ700, and the fun and spontaneity is back. My musical requirements are not that demanding, and so the MSQ suits me just fine. If you are one of the many people still recording to tape, then the MSQ may be an ideal way of doing some basic sequencing, or adding 16 'virtual' tracks cheaply. If you already own a more comprehensive sequencing package, as an adjunct to your main sequencer, you too may find the MSQ's ease of use appealing. Quick, easy and almost the modern day equivalent of lifting the lid off a piano and playing! When I've run out of steam, I can just switch it off and walk away, safe in the knowledge that I can come back to it at any time with no system re-booting, application launching, sequence loading, MIDI map extensions reset and the like.
You couldn't call the MSQ700 the best hardware sequencer in the world, but while it may be 'functionally challenged', what it does offer is blinding simplicity and ease of use, in a world where sequencing a tune seems to require an honours degree in computing science. Remember, folks, less can be more -- and it can also be fun.
NOT-SO GOLDEN RETRIEVERS.
Data storage has come a long way in ten years, and although there's no floppy-disk drive on the MSQ700, the memory can be backed up to a normal cassette. This may seem a bit archaic, but it works okay and is no different in principle to modern DAT back-up routines. 'Files' can be given reference numbers at the point of back-up, for easier recall when restoring. Furthermore, the restore functions are actually quite intelligent, and you can select to replace the whole memory with the contents from tape, or have the MSQ place the restored data into any spare tracks that may be available, preserving data on other tracks. If this sounds a bit arduous, the fact that sequences and chains are retained in memory when you power-down is a big plus point, and the cassette-streaming is only there as a back-up function.
How about editing? Sadly, very little to speak of. There are three buttons, which give access to the aforementioned quantise and merge functions, plus an erase function. However, this will only erase entire tracks -- you can't use it to erase one bum note or lop off four bars from the end of a sequence, for instance. Missing, of course, is Copy: it would have been nice just to have a simple 'append' function for extending, say, a four-bar bass line, over which you might want to add eight bars of chords. A transpose function would not have gone amiss either, and of course no Undo function is available. In fact, none of the functions we take for granted these days are available on the MSQ700. Having said that, neither is the mind-boggling complexity!
DANCING IN THE BARGAIN BASEMENT
With a second-hand price of £100 or so (pay no more), if you're on a budget and you want to sequence some noise, a second-hand MSQ may be just the ticket. If you're into the dance scene, where simple, hypnotically repeating sequences and riffs are the order of the day, you could be knocking out respectable dance tunes for around £500, armed with nothing more than a simple MIDI keyboard, an MSQ700 and (say) an Akai SG01V 'vintage' synth module. The MSQ's DYN SYNC compatibility makes the similarly-equipped Roland MC202 MicroComposer an ideal choice for adding squidgy, sequenced basslines. Add to this setup even the simplest little multi-tracker, with the MSQ's simple but effective tape sync, and you could expand your music-making capabilities enormously.
I have to say that I would not recommend the MSQ700 to someone wishing to realise dense, intricate orchestral compositions, other than as a scratchpad for getting ideas down quickly and easily. But for those who believe that simplicity and immediacy are of more value than esoteric functionality, a second-hand MSQ700 may be a refreshing alternative to today's multi-functional sequencing workstations