You are here

Keyfax Software Twiddly Bits

Exploring Twiddly Bits, a collection of musical fills, riffs and embellishments played by leading session musicians and stored in MIDI file format. By Paul White
Published June 1994

In recent years we've come to terms with sampling other people's sounds and bits of other people's records, and using them to create something new. Keyfax software, masterminded by Julian Colbeck, has decided that if you can't beat them, at least you can sell them something – in this case, Twiddly Bits, a collection of musical fills, riffs and embellishments played by leading session musicians and stored in MIDI file format.

The guitar and bass examples for the disk were created using MIDI instruments, while the drum parts, courtesy of Bill Bruford, were recorded using a Kat percussion controller. There are also licks, riffs, trills and slides for wind instruments — input from a wind controller, naturally. Other areas covered are brass, strings, percussion and organ, and for Sound Canvas users, there's the bonus of a little chunk of setup data that enables that machine to respond to aftertouch.

The MIDI data is presented in sections, usually a bar or two long. Most of the examples are in the key of C, and recorded at 120bpm, which makes them easy to transpose. For the benefit of GM users, track 1 of each group of 'twiddles' includes a patch change to bring up the right sound, but non‑GM users can simply pick their own patches in the usual way. A comprehensive but microscopically printed manual is included.

In order to make the disk usable to the greatest number of people, it's formatted for PC, which means it can be read directly by Atari and PC, and also by Macs via Apple File Exchange or AccessPC software. However, the review samples crashed my Mac every time I inserted the disk so I had to transfer them via my Atari. I've mentioned this to Julian and he assures me that he'll remedy it.

Having tried out the 'twiddles', I can see how useful they will be to a great many people, and I can think of other areas of music that would benefit from future volumes. The Bruford drum fills are excellent, and I would have loved to hear a disk full of his fills and rhythms. Though no special equipment is needed to play convincing piano parts, some of the flourishes on this disk require considerable skill to play and arrange, as do the strings, which makes them more attractive to the digitally challenged. On the other hand, the wind controller and guitar synth‑generated parts just can't be emulated on a keyboard, and the fact that you can change notes in your sequencer means that you don't have to use everything exactly as it's supplied.

I feel this disk is well worth having; although you can buy any number of dance grooves, there's not much choice when it comes to more conventional styles. The next release will be a disk of guitar styles and I shall look forward with interest to future Twiddly Bits — how about a disk of Stockhausen groove templates?