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Will Harvey's Music Construction Set (MCS) is a music composition notation program designed by Will Harvey for the Apple II and published by Electronic Arts in 1984.[1] Harvey wrote the original Apple II version in assembly language when he was 15 and in high school. MCS was conceived as a tool to add music to his first and only published software, an abstract shooter called Lancaster for the Apple II.[1][2]

Will Harvey's Music Construction Set
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Designer(s)Will Harvey[1]
Richard Plom (Atari ST)
Programmer(s)Will Harvey (Apple II)
Richard Plom (Atari ST)
Platform(s)Apple II (original)
Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, C64, IBM PC

Music Construction Set was ported to the Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64, IBM PC (as a booter), and the Atari ST. A redesigned version for the Amiga and Macintosh was released in 1986 as Deluxe Music Construction Set.



With MCS, the user can create musical composition using a graphical user interface, a novel concept for the era of its release. Users can drag and drop notes right onto the staff, play back their creations through the computer's speakers, and print them out. The program comes with a few popular songs as samples. Most versions of this program require the users to use a joystick to create their songs, note by note.

The program takes advantage of optional advanced equipment. For example, the IBM PC version allows users to output audio via the IBM PC Model 5150's cassette port, so they can send 4-voice music to their stereo system. The same program also takes advantage of the 3-voice sound chip built into the IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000.

The Apple II version supports the Mockingboard expansion card for higher fidelity sound output. In addition, use of the Mockingboard allows the musical staff to scroll along with the music as notes are played. Without it, the Apple II needs nearly every spare CPU cycle to produce audio, and as such can't update the display while playback is in progress.

The application supports the 4-voice sound hardware of the Atari 8-bit family. It can also utilize the Ensoniq sound chip in the Apple IIgs.


Electronic Arts ported MCS from the original Apple II version to the Atari 8-bit family, IBM PC, and the Commodore 64.

The version of Music Construction Set for the Atari ST is not a port and shares no source code with the original versions. It was written by Richard J. Plom for Intersect Software Corporation under the name The Orchestrator. It was acquired from Intersect Software by Electronic Arts and rebranded Music Construction Set in 1987.[3] The Atari ST version is the first version to have supported the new MIDI standard, with this computer's built-in MIDI hardware.

The program was completely redesigned for the Amiga and Macintosh, but under the name Deluxe Music Construction Set. This version has more features and better graphics, including lyrics and IFF SMUS files.[4]

In 1986, it was ported by Randel B. Reiss[5] to the Apple IIGS, where it makes use of its built-in Ensoniq wavetable sample-based synthesizer. The port was never released, but its music engine was used for producing the soundtrack for the Apple IIGS game titles Zany Golf and The Immortal, both of which were written by Will Harvey.[1]


II Computing listed Music Construction Set third on the magazine's list of top Apple II education software as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data.[6] Ahoy! stated that despite some limitations, Music Construction Set for the Commodore 64 "will aid both experienced songwriters and dedicated novices alike. It's a powerful music processor and a joy to use".[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  2. ^ "A Conversation with Will Harvey". ACM Queue. February 24, 2004.
  3. ^ "Music construction set - 102715665 - Computer History Museum".
  4. ^ " - is for sale (Bl 3nder)".
  5. ^ "Randel Reiss, Producer". Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved 2005-02-06.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Ciraolo, Michael (Oct–Nov 1985). "Top Software / A List of Favorites". II Computing. p. 51. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  7. ^ Davies, Lloyd (May 1984). "Music Construction Set". Ahoy!. p. 49. Retrieved 27 June 2014.