L'heure du Jazz++

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original in en Katja Socher

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Katja is the German editor of LinuxFocus. She likes Tux, film & photography and the sea. Her homepage can be found here.

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Jazz is a midi sequencer with many interesting features for editing and composing your own music!

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Jazz++ is available as pre-compiled package or as source code. Installation from source code is an adventure of its own because you need to find your way through a faulty wxwin-1.68E library which is needed for the installation.
The precompiled versions however are easy to install and we start with this:
Download ftp://ftp.jazzware.com/pub/jazz/stable/linux/jazz-bin-4.1.3.tar.gz
Don't try to use the rpm version from jazzware.com. It's a fake and contains only a script to install a tar file. You will not have the advantages that come with normal rpm files.
1) Go to some directory (your home directory or /usr/local ) and unpack jazz-bin-4.1.3.tar.gz:
tar zxvf /where/you/have/the/package/jazz-bin-4.1.3.tar.gz
2) Download the jazz-bin-4.1.3_addon.tar.gz you can find at the end of the article and run tar zxvf /where/you/have/the/package/jazz-bin-4.1.3_addon.tar.gz
3) chmod 755 jazz-bin-4.1.3
chmod 644 jazz-bin-4.1.3/jazz.cfg
If you do not execute step 3 then every user will modify the configuration file. With step 3 all users get a default config file. There is no configuration per user.
Now start the jazz program from bin/jazz . To produce "sound" you need a working sound system installation. Alsa is a good choice (see the alsa article).
I will also explain the installation from source but you will need some experience to do it. You find the description >here<

Getting started

You can e.g. load a midi file that is already on your computer (perhaps because you typed it in with a note edit program like e.g. Rosegarden) or you record some music through an external midi device (jazz has numerous options for this but as I unfortunately don't have such an external device I couldn't try it out myself) or you can start with a clean sheet.
Jazz lets you compose your own music as well as editing your songs!!
There are two main windows that you will need all of the time: first the track window which lets you work on the whole song or whole parts of it and second the piano window which also allows to edit single notes and events. Lets have a look at the track window first as you will start with it.

The track window

[main window] [track settings]
First click with the left mouse button in one of the unnamed fields below the field with speed written in it. A new window opens. Here you find a list of various instruments you can choose from.
There are really lots of different instruments and there are also some you can get interesting sounds with like e.g. bird tweed, telephone ring or a seabreeze.
Under trackname you should give your track a name, this name should give you hints to what instrument it is as well as perhaps some more information about its part in your piece like e.g. right and left hand for your piano, melody...
You also set the midi channel in this window. There are 16 channels and each of your instruments should have its own channel. You can choose any channel you want, only channel 10 is reserved for drums. This means that even when you select a piano for channel 10 you will hear some kind of a drum sound. So if you want drums select channel 10, otherwise select any of the other channels!
When closing the window again you will see the trackname in the field that you clicked on before. On the left under M you can see the midi channel that you chose. If you click on the M a T will become visible and the numbers will change. T gives you the tracknumber.
Under Prg you will now see a number, that's the number of the instrument you have chosen.
Clicking on the small field left to the Prg field you can see the letter change from P to M to S and back to P. P stands for Play. If you change it to M the track is muted and you will only hear all the other tracks play. With S it's the other way round. It stands for solo and only this one track is playing. This is very useful if you have multiple instruments and want to hear only one or want to hear all but that one.
In the big field you will see your music written like some bar code. For this to happen when you started with a clean sheet let's look at the most important button in the toolbar of the track window: The button for

The piano window

[piano window] To get the piano window you either click on the toolbar button with the piano keyboard on it or if you want the piano window for a certain track (instrument) you right click in the bar code field of the desired track.
On the left side you see a piano keyboard and if you click on it with the mouse you can hear sound. In case that you have selected a drum on channel 10 you will get a list with drum instruments instead and can listen to their sound. (If the piano keyboard doesn't change to a list of drum names for channel 10 you can click Settings-->Events in the menu of the piano window and tick "Show drumnames on drumtracks").
To insert notes (which will again look like bar code) into the big field on the right you just have to click on the insert button (the fourth toolbar button from the left) and then click in the field on the place where you want the notes to be. The next four buttons in the toolbar determine how long your inserted notes will be. But you can also edit them manually by right clicking on the note you want to edit and then dragging the mouse while the mouse button is still held down.

To get yourself some help for your compositions you can e.g. use the Random Generators and

The Harmony Browser

[Harmony Browser] Go back to the track window. In the menu click Misc--> Harmony Browser and a new window opens.
One way to use the Harmony browser is to click on the available chords. Put the ones you like in the Sequence by holding shift-key while clicking on the chord you like. If you now click on the chord in the sequence the chord gets into the piano buffer. When you now go to the piano window and left click in it you can paste the chord there.
Back to the Harmony Browser. If you go to the menu Settings--> Midi you can change the pitch of the notes in the harmony browser so you can have chords with a lower or higher sound.
Here you can also set the midi channel the Harmony Browser should use for its instrument (this is important when you want to use it for several instruments because otherwise all will sound like the instrument in the channel set there).
Another way to use the Harmony Browser is to first put some single notes in the piano window. If you select these notes in the track window and then click Action-> Analyze in the Harmony Browser the single notes will be transformed into chords. You can see them in the chord sequence and can then paste them into your song.
To select the notes you want click with the left mouse button and drag the mouse over them. If you want to select more than is visible in the current window you have to hold the shift-key down while selecting. After scrolling you can then continue your selection.

Random Rhythm Generator

[Random Rhythm] Select the area of your track where you want the random rhythm to be in the track window. Open the Random Rhythm Generator by clicking Misc-->Random Rhythm in the menu of the Track window. At first you should choose an instrument. Then you can set all the other variables you can see in the window and generate the rhythm by clicking Instrument--> Generate. After that you can go on with another instrument until you are finished.
Listen to it. I personally find that you have to try it out several times. Sometimes it gives a nice rhythm and sometimes it doesn't. It's just random but still it's nice to use.
The variables you specify are actually probablitites. E.g. in the rhythm field you specify the probability that an instrument is played at that time. A high value means a high probablity and a low value means a low probability.
In the documentation it is suggested to define every instrument twice. Once you choose high probabilities on a few positions and once low probabilities for many positions. It really gives a quite nice result.
You can also define groups of instruments to make the different drums play a bit more together. This is what you see on the right side of the dialog box of the random rhythm generator. Note that you have to define a contributor before a listener.

Random Arpeggio Generator

[Random Arpeggio] I also find it interesting to use this generator. An arpeggio can be described as a chord that is played one note at a time. In other words, instead of playing all notes of a chord at once they are played individually one after the other. Sometimes it really gives very nice sounds! I especially like to copy the chords first to another track so that I have one track with the chords and one with the arpeggio. Usually it gives a very nice sound!

Just play around with it. You will be surprised what nice sounds and rhythms you can generate quite easily.

Now that you have a piece of music you might want to edit some parts of it:

Editing your music

There are really lots of possibilities in Jazz++ to edit your piece of music any way you like and we can't discuss all of them here. So let's just look at a few of them:

Insert and Repeat

If you want to insert some notes somewhere in the middle of your piece and need more space for it you can just shift the other notes with cut and paste. First click and drag the left mouse button to select the notes that you want to move, then click cut in the menu. When you now click paste and move your mouse over the track window you will see an arrow. If you left click it will be pasted on that place.
If you want to repeat a part do the same just click on copy instead of cut.
Another way to repeat something is to use replicate. First select the area that you want to replicate. Then in the Trackwindow Edit--> Replicate. You now have to click where you want the copy to start. A dialog box opens. After closing it you have to click where you want the replication to end. If you have "Repeat Copy" ticked the selected part is repeated to fill the destination range. If "Insert Space" is ticked other parts of music are shifted to the right to make room for the new music.
You can also insert a part from another song into this new song by just saving the part as pattern (File--> Save Pattern) and then insert it later into the new song with File--> Load Pattern.
To delete something you can go to Edit--> Delete. In the dialog box you can decide whether the deletion should leave an empty space or the music from the right should move to fill the gap.


To transpose part of your music you have to select it first, then go to Edit-->Transpose in the Track window.
Another way to transpose is to use the Harmony Browser. You can choose some chords that you like. You then select the part of your music piece you want to transpose in the track window and click Action->Transpose in the Harmony Browser. The notes from your music piece will be transposed to the pitch of the chords.

Tempo Adjustment

[Tempo Adjustment] You will be astonished how different a piece of music can sound depending on the speed with which it is played. To adjust the speed go to the track window. There you see the field speed. Clicking the right mouse button will decrease the speed, clicking the left one will increase the speed.
To change the speed only in some parts of your song click Misc--> Edit Tempo in the Piano window. You will see that a new field under the notes becomes visible. Here you can draw the desired tempo changes with your mouse. (For some reason I sometimes have to click on Misc--> Edit Tempo again after clicking Apply to get it work correctly.)

Changing the pitch

Click Misc-->Edit Pitch in the Piano Winow. It works similar to changing the tempo in a part of your song: You will see that a new field under the notes becomes visible and can draw the desired pitch changes with your mouse.


For this you use the velocity button Misc--> Edit Velocity in the piano window.

If you don't like any of the changes you made you can of course undo them by clicking the undo button (Misc--> Undo).

I hope you have some idea now what Jazz++ is all about and can't wait to play with it for yourself! There are lots of other features to explore like the guitar board, the random shuffle generator etc. etc. but this is up to you to try it out yourself!

Have fun and enjoy!


The program itself has very good documentation when you click the Help button. You can also search in it.