PhoenixStudio Documentation

Copyright by Henrik Rydgård 2001-2004


Welcome to the Phoenix Studio 1.1 documentation!

If you are running the limited demo version, some features described will not be available. To get them, purchase the full version at!

See the end of this document for contact information.

About PhoenixStudio

Phoenix Studio is a combined software synthesizer and music sequencer for the PocketPC. It consists of three monosynths, one drum machine, a mixer with effects and a sequencer with full automation.

How does it work?

If you ever have used Propellerheads' "ReBirth" or "Reason" for the PC or Mac, you'll probably quickly feel right at home. Even if you haven't, I'm sure you will be able to pick up the basics quickly. Just read on.

The base unit of a song is a Pattern, which is simply one bar of music for one of the machines. A "machine" in this context is one of the synths or the drum machine. From these patterns you build songs in the sequencer.

Just like in ReBirth, practically every parameter can be automated.

The user interface

As you've no doubt already discovered, you can switch between the different screens by using the seven tabs:

The interface of this program looks quite a bit different from most other PocketPC programs. PhoenixStudio has a custom interface system because the standard Windows controls are far too slow, big and clumsy for this kind of software. Hard work has gone into making it as intuitive and easy to use as possible. If you've never used a music program before, it might take some time to get used to it, but most of you will probably be able to dive right in and play.

The machines at a glance

The Synths

The synths are 303-style monosynths, but with dual oscillators, more waveforms, ring modulation, two filter modes, attack control and detune. 

The Drum machine

The drum machine in PhoenixStudio is a sample player, where you can replace samples, change their individual volumes and compose interesting patterns.

The Mixer

The mixer is a four-channel mixer with three built-in effects: distortion, delay and reverb. This is also where you change the tempo and shuffle settings.

The Synthesizers

Pattern selection

To select the pattern you want to edit, use the pattern selector at the top of the screen:

There are four banks (A, B, C, D), each consisting of eight patterns, making a total of 32 possible patterns per synth per song. Tap A, B, C or D to choose a bank of patterns. Then tap a number to choose that pattern. In the example picture, pattern A1 is selected.

Composing synth patterns

To compose a pattern, you simply tap in the synth pattern editor, which looks like this:

Pattern Length

Tap anywhere on the LN row to set the length of this pattern (where it will loop).

Step attributes

Below the notes (from C to C2) are the step attributes. These are:

ON: Sets whether this step is an audible note (green) or a brief pause (empty).
SL: Slide (this note will smoothly bend into the next one)
AC: Accent, means that this note is extra sharp and loud
UP: Transposes the note up one octave
DN: Transposes the note down one octave
FL: Flam - the note becomes two 32nd notes 

Pattern editing commands

To the left of the pattern editing area, there are some command buttons:

Clear: Resets the pattern
Copy: Copies the pattern into the clipboard
Paste: Pastes the pattern from the clipboard
Arrows: Transposes (vertical) or shifts (horizontal) the entire pattern
Inspire: Moves your notes randomly around to create a variation of the current pattern. Very useful when you need ideas.
Revs. Turns your pattern backwards! Due to the way slide works, the result may be interesting... 
Rand!: Generates a completely random pattern - use with caution!

Synth parameters

The synth parameters reside below the pattern area and look like this: 

Osc1, Osc2: Sets the waveform of the two oscillators: Zero, Saw, Square, Triangle, Sine, PWM, White noise
Transp: Transposes the oscillators individually.
Detune: Detunes the oscillators
Mix: 0 means only Osc1 is heard, 255 only Osc2.
RingMod: Turns on ring modulation. When this is on, mix is ignored. Since ring modulation multiplies the waveforms, if one of them is "Zero" nothing will be heard.
Bass: Lets an extra copy of the sound through a second filter without resonance and adds it to the normal sound.
Lowpass/Highpass: Sets the filter type.

Tune: Transposes both oscillators together
Cutoff The base filter cutoff frequency.
Reson.: The filter resonance.
EnvAmt: How much the filter envelope affects the  filter cutoff.
Attack: Attack (fade-in) time for both envelopes
Decay: Decay (fade-out) time for the filter envelope
Accent: Power of the Accent step attribute

The Drum Machine

The buttons to the left and the pattern selector at the top work just like the ones in the synth screens.

Composing drum patterns

To compose drum patterns, tap around in the editing area:

This is slightly different from the synth pattern editors. Any number of drums can of course be activated per step. You can also select drums, in order to replace their samples (more about that later). To do this, just click the two-character drum name. The file name of the sample of the drum will be shown at the bottom of the editing area in the full version.

Changing pattern length

To change the length of the pattern, tap on the long bar below the main editing area above the sample file name.

Accent and Flam

If the Accent box is checked, you will add accented (strong) hits when you tap around, otherwise you'll add weak ones. To remove a hit, just tap it again.

If the Flam box is checked, you will add flam hits when tapping. Flams in PhoenixStudio are double 32nds. 

Filter controls

These are the controls for a simple lowpass filter. The combined output from all the drums are fed through it. Cut and Reso of course means Cutoff frequency and resonance. The filter is only active if the Filter checkbox is checked.

Setting volume for individual drums

With these controls, you can change the volume of each one of the drums individually.

Loading drum samples

To exchange a drum sample, select it as described above by tapping it's two-character title in the pattern editor, then select the sample you want in this box, and tap Load in sel. drum. The X button will simply unload the sample currently selected in the drum pattern editor.

You will only be able to access samples in the PhoenixStudio/Samples folder and its subfolders. You can put any sample there as long as it's a 16-bit 44.1khz mono standard .WAV file. More formats may be supported in the future.

The Mixer

The mixer in PhoenixStudio has four channels, one for each of the three synths and one for the drum machine. It also has some built-in effect units: four distortion units (one per channel), one delay and one reverb. Tempo settings are also located here.

Channel Parameters

Panning: The top-most slider moves the sound between the left and right speakers. Most PocketPC speakers don't play sound in stereo, but headphone output is usually in stereo so this really does make sense :-)
Volume: The big vertical slider sets the volume of this channel.
Delay: This is the amount of sound from this channel that will be sent to the delay unit.
Distort: This is a simple per-channel sound distortion unit. Drive controls the amount of distortion while Color is an experimental parameter which changes the sound a bit.


Effects parameters

Delay: Here you can adjust the panning of the delayed sound, the feedback amount (amount of sound that is delayed again and again), and the length of the delay in 16ths. The length knob is special, it's a +/- knob. Just tap in the upper part to increase the value and in the lower part to decrease.

Reverb: Sets the global amount of reverb applied. Turn it down to zero to free up some processing power if the sound starts skipping. The "Reset" button clears the internal memory of the reverb. This is needed because in very rare cases weird noises may end up looping around in the reverb. The Mono checkbox should be self-explanatory. If it's not checked (stereo) the reverb consumes large amounts of processing power. 

Tempo/bar settings

Tempo sets the playback speed in BPM  (beats per minute). 

Shuffle will add that groove to your song, by time-offsetting every other 16th note a bit.

16ths/bar is a way of changing the kind of rhythm in your song. Set it to 12 for 3/4ths, 10 for 5/8ths and so on. Changing this value will mess up the timing of all recorded automation, so do this when you first begin composing your song. Make sure to change the lengths of the patterns you want to use to the same amount.

The Sequencer

The interface of the sequencer is split into two parts: the sequencer view at the bottom portion of the screen and the SEQU tab with sequencer editing commands.

The Sequencer View

To open the sequencer view, tap the Song Mode check box at the bottom right of the screen.

This is the sequencer view, in Song Mode. Use the Song checkbox to change between Pattern Mode and Song Mode. When you're in Pattern Mode, only the row of buttons will be displayed, and several of them will be disabled.

The controls

Play: Starts playing
Stop: Stops
Rec: Starts recording automation events.

The small buttons (in order):

+: Increases the pattern number in the selected cell
-: Decreases the pattern number
Repeat: Copies the current cell into the next cell, then steps forward
X pattern: Deletes the pattern from the selected cell
X automation: Deletes all automation from the selected cell
<<: Scrolls backwards
>>: Scrolls forwards
Song: Switch between Pattern and Song mode
Loop: Enables/disables looping


+. -, and R have shortcut commands, the hardware buttons on your PPC. If your PocketPC has a directional button, you can use it to navigate. Which button is which differs by device, so experiment. To quickly enter A1 A2 A3 A4, just push the buttons for +, R, +, R, +, R, +. 

The vertical lines

In the screenshot above, there are three vertical lines:

Red Line: Loop Start
Blue Line: The current playing position
Green Line: Loop End

Moving the playing position

To move the playing position, just tap on the bar numbers in the top of the sequencer view, To move a loop point, move the playing position to where you want it, then press the corresponding "Set" button on the Sequencer tab.

Recording automation

Every parameter in PhoenixStudio can be automated. To record changes at specific points, make sure playback is stopped at the position where you want the recorded settings. Press the "Rec" button, pull your sliders and knobs, then press the "Rec" button again.

If you want to record continuous movement, first press the "Rec" button, and then the Play button. When you want to stop recording, press the "Rec" button again, and the Stop button if you want to stop playback of course.

Automation events are visible as tiny red vertical lines in the tracks in the sequencer view.

The Sequencer Tab

Since the space at the bottom of the screen is rather limited, I've put many sequencer options here.

Loop points

As I wrote above, use these buttons to move the loop points to the current song position.


Clear: Clears everything between the loop points.
Cut: Copies all pattern data between the loop points to the clipboard, then removes it from the sequencer. Automation is deleted.
Copy: Copies all pattern data between the loop points to the clipboard. Automation data is not copied.
Insert Space: Inserts some empty bars at the loop start point. The number of inserted bars is the distance in bars between the two loop points.
Paste Insert: Pastes whatever is in the clipboard at the loop start point, and moves what was already there to make room for it.
Paste Replace: Pastes whatever is in the clipboard at the loop start point, and replaces whatever comes in its way.


Copy Pat. Mode to Track: Dumps automation information for everything from the pattern mode to the current song position.
Copy Pat. Mode to Current: Copies automation from pattern mode to song mode. Doesn't change anything in the sequencer, just moves the knobs and sliders.
Delete inside loop: Removes all automation from the loop.

Operate On

The buttons mentioned above only operates on the tracks you have selected using these check boxes:

Follow Play

Follow play: The sequencer view will scroll along when the song position leaves the screen.
The Loop checkbox has been moved to the Sequencer, for easy access from anywhere in the program.

The System Tab

Handling song files

New Song: Lets you start over. Actually, this button loads the newsong.pnx file from your \Program files\PhoenixStudio\data folder, so if you want a different default song, just make one and put it there.

Load Song...: Shows an Open file dialog, which lets you choose a song to load.

Save Song: If you have saved your song before, it overwrites the older version (just like Save does in every Windows application). Otherwise, it acts like Save Song As below.

Save Song As...: Shows an ordinary Save file dialog, which lets you enter a name for your song and save it.


Exit PhoenixStudio: Exits the program.

Exporting your song to .WAV

Download the free Phoenix Wav Exporter for PC from! It will export everything between the start and end loop points into a standard 16-bit 44kHz stereo .WAV wave file, ready to be mastered or burned straight onto CD. 

Contacting the author

Just send an e-mail to with the subject line PhoenixStudio.

About the author

My name is Henrik Rydgård. Currently I'm studying Computer Science at Chalmers University of Technology (CTH) in Göteborg in Sweden.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: All mentioned trademarks are copyright of their respective owners.