Micro Rhythm (Firebird) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing


Micro Rhythm
By Firebird
Commodore 64/128

Published in Zzap #20

Julian Rignall has a bash (yuk) at Firebird's new drum machine program and comes to the conclusion that it can't be beat (double yuk)

Micro Rhythm

If you've ever fancied turning your C64 into a proper drum machine or just felt that you might have some sort of rhythmic bent, then take a look at this new release from Firebird. Although it's in the same price range as the millions of other budget games, Microrhythm is the most professional drum machine available for the C64. I know it sounds silly, but believe me - for a couple of quid you make your C64 sound like a complete drum kit!

The cassette comes complete with thirteen preset sounds - base drum, snare, three toms, two wood, clap, two hi-hats, and two cymbals - all of which can be used in various forms on your rhythms.

Microrhythm has two main modes of operation - "Bar Write" and "Song Write". Using them both you can write a bar, or series of bars and then sequence them into a 'song' or rhythmic backing track. Here's a breakdown of both modes of operation:

Bar Write

Writing a bar is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this program as it lets you be totally creative and very noisy. There are two ways you can write a bar, either in real-time or by working out your rhythm and putting single beats into the bar. A maximum of sixteen beats can be inserted into a bar or you can decrease the length of the bar to a minimum of one beat if you so desire.

Sounds are inserted into a bar by pressing any key along the OWERTYUIOP line. A cursor whizzes along the bar and every time it goes over an inserted drum beat the relevant sound is played. Alternatively, drum beats can be positioned anywhere on the bar by using the cursor keys. If the bar is a little too slow or fast, then the tempo can be changed (there are fifty settings).

To produce some different sounds you can change the pitch of a beat (there are sixteen different pitch settings) and give the impression that there are more drum sounds. If the pitch settings are used cleverly, you can produce some quite brilliant tom run downs and some really weird effects.

Beats can also be 'flanged' with one of eight settings to make them sound more 'spacious'.

Song Write

Once you've written a series of bars they can be sequenced using the "Song Write" mode. All you have to do is call up a bar by typing its number, then you can insert it into the sequence by pressing RETURN. You can repeat bars as many times as you like and up to 99 different bars can feature in the sequence. Fortunately, sequences can be saved out to tape for future use.

Another novel feature of Microrhythm is that you can play drums from the keyboard by entering "Keyboard Play" mode and prodding various keys to beat out a rhythm. Not very productive, but noisy fun nevertheless.

The best thing about Microrhythm though, is that the facility exists to load in a different set of sampled sounds. Firebird aren't promising anything, but there is the possibility of say, some animal sounds and other 'alternative' noises in the reasonably near future!


This is a really amazing drum program, better than anything else I've seen or heard on the Commodore, and some of the more expensive, dedicated drum machines. You can sit down and bash out a really great sounding drum solo or build up a complete rhythmic backing track.

The quality of the drum sounds has to be heard to be believed - no hiss, crackle or anything, just crisp bashing sounds. The program is brilliantly presented and extremely well thought out. Its real beauty, however, is that it's easy enough for a complete novice to use, but isn't condescendingly plebian for a serious musician. It's just about impossible not to produce something which sounds tunefully rhythmic, unless you try really, really hard, but at the same time the program is flexible enough to produce any amount of varied and professional sounding beats - your imagination's the limit.

At two quid Firebird are practically giving the program away, and you'd be silly to miss it.