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Rhythm Core Alpha 2 New synth/solo instrument released for Nintendo DSi and 3DS portable game consoles

Submitted by on September 16, 2013 – 10:30 am No Comment

Three years ago, SoftEgg released a really neat combination of sequencer and solo instrument called “Rhythm Core Alpha” for the Nintendo DSi as a download in their fledgling DSiWare Shop. The program had some unique features designed around the idea of live performance, namely the ability to change the key of your backing tracks with the +Control Pad, and the ability to play solos using the stylus on this kind of 6 way grid setup. The sound engine was sample based, but it did give you some envelope control, and the European release added vibrato, greatly improving the sound. Otherwise, it was a pretty solid standard piano-roll style sequencer that made pretty good use of the DSi sound hardware.

Well, evidently ever since then SoftEgg has still been working on it and has just released “Rhythm Core Alpha 2” in the Americas, with a European version coming “real soon now”. The number of new features that they have packed into it is kind of insane, but I suppose they did have three years. Here is a list of features:

• Drum Pad screen
• Mixer screen
• Solo screen now includes 10 different variations
• 1,2, and 3 row tradtional piano layouts.
• 8 way solo grid
• 6 way solo grid. *
• “Wide” mode with large buttons for playing with fingers
• Customizable grid arrangement
• Notes light when played
• Sample-based synthesizer engine has been enhanced:
• ADSR volume envelope*
• Pitch Envelopes
• Envelopes curve control
• Vibrato (multi-waveform, including square wave variations for chiptune arpeggios) +
• Echo (can be setup differently for each track)
• Portamento (nice glides between notes)
• Key/scale changing buttons can change block (loop) or pattern step.*
• Record solos and key changes+
• “Block Lock” mode always edits playing block. (Good when recording solos across multiple blocks!)
• Individual blocks (loops) can be saved and loaded from system memory. Over 90 example loops are included.
• Export MIDI files to SD card!
• Loads RCa1 songs!
• Tracks and blocks can be renamed.
• New sounds and samples.

(* = Rhythm Core Alpha 1 feature that bears repeating. + = feature that first appeared in the European release of RCa1.)

The inclusion of the Vibrato, Portamento, and Echo features increase the sound quality and playability tremendously. Even if you use other programs for your sequencing, the solo mode is like a stylophone on steroids, and is really awesome to add some live performance components to your set.

This list only kind of scratches the surface of all the things the new program can do. For example, in the original version you could set it up so that pressing a button jumps to a different loop (they call them “blocks”) or into a different part of your “pattern” (which is how you combine loops and chord changes to make a song.) It would always wait till the end of the current loop before changing to the next one. The new version you can set a multiple of beats on which a change is allowed. So, for example, if you set it to 4, then every 4 beats is an opportunity to press the button and change to another loop, or restart the current loop, or change chord. And you can set this differently for every button.

And there are lots of little tweaks like this hidden in its menus. There are 14 different waveforms you can use for vibrato. A few of them, if you set the range to be a whole octave (which is 768 for some reason), they will simulate an arpeggiated chord as used in chiptune music.

You can actually set the waveform for Attack, Decay, and Release parts of envelopes (including pitch envelopes), and it has some interesting options. Besides the normal linear and exponential decay types of curves, it has a double-peak curve, a square wave, an eight step linear curve, and a random curve. Most other soft-synths don’t even give you a curve control at all!

The new envelope control for pitch is set up interestingly. Rather than using the same ADSR envelope as the amplitude, sustain is fixed as the current note’s pitch, and you can actually set how far down the release goes. This makes a lot more sense in many ways.

The solo mode’s 6-way grid is now joined by an 8-way grid and some piano keyboard options. There is also a “wide” mode where the buttons for soloing are all twice as large, presumably so that you can use your fingers to play it. You can also customize the amount of note offset of each line of the solo grid modes… sort of like using a different tuning on a guitar.

The ability to export MIDI tracks to the SD card is pretty cool, and one wonders why none of the other DS music programs have implemented this. You can also save and load individual loops, which is pretty handy for composing live. It comes with an interesting selection of loops and drum tracks, hardly your standard toy keyboard selection.

I could really go on forever about every little feature… it is a very deep program, especially for something on a Nintendo game system. As a $10 download in Nintendo’s eShop, it is really quite a steal, even if you have to buy a Nintendo to play it on.

You can find more information on their website at http://www.rhythmcorealpha.com .

This post was submitted by Tim Trzepacz.

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