- Simple to use, price is low, microphone recording feature is great for budding artists
- Limited control and feature set
JamTrax is clearly aimed at kids and those wanting some good, but basic music-making software. It's an easy way to waste a few hours and have a bit of fun. It's very easy to use and may even work as a gateway to other more complex music programs, if you get the composer's bug.
Price$ 19.95 (AUD)
Sony's JamTrax is a music program aimed directly at kids, but is an addictive little toy for anyone who dares to have a go. What's more it costs a meagre $20 (at the time of writing) and is very easy to use. If you've ever caught yourself singing along to the radio or found yourself staring into space, imagining your life as a famous musician, well... this isn't going to get you there. However, it's a lot of fun and perhaps buying it for your kids will start off their musical career, landing you the financial kick-backs of parenting famous children!
Although it's aimed at a younger market, JamTrax does have the potential for more features, and we get the feeling Sony has left these out as a means of segmenting its other music applications, rather than keeping this one simple. Still, for the price it's no big deal.
Put simply, JamTrax is a sequencer and Sony provides you with the library of loops to sequence. Loops are just blocks of audio, such as a guitar riff or drum beat. JamTrax includes guitar, drum, bass and effects loops among others, which can be layered on the main screen in tracks. The tracks are divided by blocks or bars of four beats. Each loop is quantised to the four-beat blocks (including each beat within the block), so they will always match up to parallel beats on other tracks and will always sound in time, assuming the beats aren't syncopated. Using the mouse and the paint tool you simply click and drag how much of each loop you want to lay down; use the eraser tool to un-paint.
All you need to concern yourself with is which loops you want to use and decide how you want to lay them down on the track. You can even deconstruct Sony's pre-made songs to practice before starting your own song from scratch. Once you have composed your song it can be saved as a JamTrax file to be changed later, or saved as a WAV file. You can even e-mail it to a friend directly from the application.
One of the main focuses of JamTrax is the ability to plug your microphone in and not only sing along to your music, but record your own vocal loop and cut into the mix just like would with any other track. The few settings you can tweak include setting the key of the entire piece, setting the volume of either the song or a specific track and setting the tempo of the whole song.
That, in a nutshell is what JamTrax can do. What it won't do is import external samples, such as an a cappella. The loops are stored on the install disc, which must be in the drive for the application to run. It won't let you cut and paste parts of your song or tracks and there is a limited song length. We would have liked to see the ability to export to MP3 as WAV files can be quite large, but it's not essential.
The only problem we had with the software was using it in Windows Vista. Our Vista machine would not run it after installing so we switched to XP, which worked out fine.
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