How Notator SL Revolutionized Music World

Notator SL running on iMac.
Notator SL running on an imaginary “Atari iFuji” in an alternative future.

C-Lab’s Notator SL for Atari ST revolutionized the way music was made with computers when it appeared in 1988.

Atari ST, which was the only platform Notator ran on, was already the personal computer of choice for musicians of all sorts because of the integrated MIDI interface, which, among other things, ensured a very tight MIDI Timing. But before Notator the music composing apps were clumsy and hard to work with.

Notator was rock solid, fast and easy to use. It had an excellent integrated notation editor. Its pattern-based approach, where you created different patterns, corresponding to the different parts of the song, and then chained them in four concurrent lines, was reminiscent of the hardware sequencers of the pre-computer era. Moreover, the hardware add-ons that C-lab gradually brought out turned the Atari ST in a modular music production monster. It was a dream come true and countless hits and movie soundtracks were made with it.

Notator SL, eventually, evolved into Notator Logic which, in turn, became Logic, in its various versions, up to Apple’s current Logic Pro X.

Even today there are musicians who use Notator SL on the Atari ST computer. People who have never stopped using it, like Fat Boy Slim and Paddy McAloon, to name a couple of the most famous cases. But also young musicians who, in this old hardware-software combination, have discovered a “new” way of making music.

And, yes, there was also Steinberg Cubase by Karl Steinberg, the other great Atari ST based music application, but that’s another story that we’ll cover in a future post.

We have an Atari ST with Notator SL in our studio, and we still use it with full satisfaction.

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