Of course, the main reason I got my ST in the first place was to make music, in glorious MIDI splendor. I started slowly, since my budget was smaller than my RAM and all I had for the first few years was a Casio CZ-230s (pronounced Chee-Zee). My software was simple as well, Activision's Music Studio. I bought it for $29.95 at Toys R Us the week after I got the Atari. Serious stuff, this.
Nowadays, it's a little more complicated. I have both my STs linked via MIDI and SMPTE to my PowerMac, my ADATs, some VCRs, and all my midi gear. I can even control everything from the mixer screen of my Atari sequencer through Midi Machine Control!
The fantastic program which allows my decade old computer to keep up with the newer stuff is Dr. T's Keyboard Controlled Sequencer. The final version (that I still use today) has features that some state of the art Mac and PC programs don't have! It is called KCS Omega II and it kicks major booty. Unlimited tracking, Controller remapping, Algorithmic composition, Regenerative computer controlled transformation of any parameter (so a melody line can change and evolve into another), Rock solid timing, Full chase or refreshing of time code (all formats) and tweakability of midi events that is unrivaled. It really is so powerful that after using it for almost 5 years there are features that I haven't even tried yet! And in terms of getting down and having access to the data and letting the computer crunch some "what ifs," I have seen no equivalent. It is a sequencer and an academic computer controlled music system.
The down sides are of course a steep learning curve, and the lack of digital audio editing. I also don't like the feeling that the modules are like separate programs, the interface seems a bit dated. But I do slave my ADAP SoundRack to it via MIDI or SMPTE and so I can get some semblance of audio tracks.
The KCS recording and editing screens, respectively.
The KCS Mixer and the Song Editor. The Atari ST's video resolution of 640 x 200 x 4 colors only could handle one screen at a time, so you would have to switch back and forth between editing and mixing environments. Not the way we do things in the enlightened 1990's, but at least CodeKeys was there to help me with macros that really sped things up!
The transcription module of KCS was called the Copyist, and does an adequate job. The screen resolution is pretty much the only hindrance to laying out a perfect page. I did use this program professionally and no one ever said "It looks like it was done on an Atari." Most people just assumed I had a Mac.
Throughout the Multi Program Environment, KCS allows you to run any program as a module. This was before NeoDesk or Ease or MultiTOS, and offered a limited form of multitasking. CZPhonix, a decent shareware CZ editor (one of three gazillion- it must be a fairly easy program to write!) is pictured on the right running under the MPE.
Some of the best music software was indeed shareware. A veteran of the ST scene, Harry Wootan of Polk Products, came up with some GREAT things: ST Midiex; a sysex librarian, an FB-01 editor and various utilities. Dave Henry's GFA Basic program Midi Music Maker was a great conversion-player that I still use to this day. Another program worth mentioning is MidiSpy by our favorites, the CodeHeads. Not shareware but really cool and unique, as it allowed real time background recording of midi at any moment, even if inspiration struck during using your word processor.
On the audio side, we have Hybrid Arts cool hardware unit, ADAP SoundRack which can do a lot more than just sample in stereo! An advanced editor (akin to Sound Designer, it even uses the same file format) at one moment, it can be turned into an effects rack, a real time FFT analyzer, an oscilloscope, a SMPTE or MIDI trigger unit or a keyboard zone mapper with a click of the mouse! And, all at 16 bit, 44.1khz quality, with professional balanced ADCs and DACs. Sounds really, really good. The only thing missing is a resonant filter, but heck - this box was made in 1985! (Can you say Ensoniq Mirage?)
The editor screen of the ADAP software. Sampling time was limited by RAM, later Hybrid Arts developed a hard drive recording system called ADAP II. Of course, one of the programmers at Hybrid Arts was none other than John Eidsvoog, who later started CodeHead software. It's all starting to make sense now.....
On the right, Mr. Eidsvoog's smiling face peeks out of Hybrid Arts' generic synth editor/librarian, GenPatch.