Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

Archive for March, 2014

Accessability in music making: are touch devices the answer?

Yes! And emphatic and deeply felt yes…it is an answer, maybe not the definitive end-all-be-all answer for everyone. I am one of appx. 52 million people in the USA who suffer from some form of arthritis. And arthritis is just one of many afflictions that could effect ones ability to play and/or create music.

For me as a keyboard player I like to hook up an external MIDI keyboard to play various music apps on my iPads. But the option of using just the touch screen is used more often. My arthritis is in my hands which is double bad since my greatest joy in life is to create and play music and I make my living using my hands (as a software developer) on the other style of keyboard, this typewriter kind of keyboard.

On very bad days I have much pain with which to contend and on good days I don’t notice a thing. What I have noticed is that I can keep at the iPad touch screen far longer that with a music keyboard. The wrist angle, the finger stretching (not much required), and how I sit, all come in to play. And now that I have been at this for a while, I can conclude that using the touch screen with my many wonderful music apps allows me to be more productive, and more creative.

Accessibility for needs far beyond arthritis (or carpel tunnel, etc), exist in this very same platform. There’s at least one fellow who is paraplegic that has posted some excellent performance videos of him using Garage Band to create some excellent rock music.

Now sure, being in a wheelchair would not necessarily stop a trumpet player, guitarist, pianist, etc. But folks who have disabilities or impairments often don’t have the strength in the body parts that do work to be able to handle the strain of say holding their instrument for long periods of time. Even with a strap, guitars and basses can wear one down after a long session, imagine holding a trumpet or trombone up to your lips for five minutes…

The iPad is not only super lightweight, its also played (mostly) from a tabletop/laptop position. The touch interface, especially on some of the more innovative apps, can be considered as the key to the accessibility; my fingers can span many octaves of a piano keyboard on iPad, while on full sized keys I can cover just over one octave comfortably. Sure the keys are tiny, but as with anything new its a learning process. And many of the iPad instruments forgo the traditional keyboard layouts and have unique interfaces. Who will be the masters of these new instruments?

I think the touch interface will allow me to play and create music for a long time and I think without it, my creative abilities would slow over time as the hand problems continue.

I am interested to see if there are any people in the physical rehab profession that have used touch devices in any capacity related to their work. For many years I have heard a about “music therapy” from various parts of the medical field, especially in psychology (both in a positive and a negative manner….anyone remember Noriega? The CIA was blasting him with AC/DC, etc, in an attempt to drive him out of his compound. I guess it worked….Hells Bells!)

But for physical therapy and mental too, there are dozen of iOS apps available that could help a lot of people. And this is one of those topics that I am interested in and I want more information…but as usual, I have to balance my time, which I do not have enough of. But the driving forces are the ones that get answers and due to having a sister that is disabled and thinking about my own problems…well maybe there’s enough umph in me to actually dig deeper into this subject.

If anyone knows about this subject, has any experience with it, knows someone who could benefit….or just has a desire to learn more, please let me know…post a reply…email…whichever. It will be interesting to see where this may lead.

Collected facts:
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. A joint is the area where two bones meet. There are over 100 different types of arthritis.
Ref: US National Library of medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002223/

Expectations (prognosis)
A few arthritis-related disorders can be completely cured with proper treatment. Most forms of arthritis however are long-term (chronic) conditions. Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability. 39 million physician visits and more than 500,000 hospitalizations are attributable to arthritis.
All age groups are affected by arthritis, including about 300,000 children.

REF: Arthritis MD.
http://www.arthritismd.com/arthritis-facts.html

An estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States reported being told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia.
REF: cdc dot gov.

Be seeing you,
— Bourne 20Mar14

Chapters by Smitematter-Album Review

A new feature to the blog…music reviews. Not just any music or something picked from my library, no. I will stick to the main theme of this site and review only iOS made music (or at least partially made with iOS, I won’t impose a lot of restrictions).

Here we go with our first “iOS produced” album review:

CHAPTERS by Smitematter is an album created and produced entirely using iOS devices (iPad, iPod). This is issued by iOS record label Apptronica, and it’s a great one.

Chapters is categorized as Electronic on the Apple iTunes store, but as with most music classifications, that term falls short. Sure it is electronic, but it is much more than that. But let’s forget labels, and move right into what the music is, what it evokes.

This is a very dynamic album for one thing and that was surprising. It is sometimes very smooth and ambient sounding, and other times very powerful and moving. The ebbs and flows of the tunes are strong, but not shocking.

Mixed in amongst the sonic delights are electronic percussion plus the sounds of beautiful warm strings, rocks drums, mysterious background vocals, strong guitars, and many strange yet hauntingly beautiful sculpted synth sounds. Everything fits together in what, according to the artist, is a deeply personal and biographical recording. And it sounds like it, to me.

As instrumental album some may not want to admit to connecting to the music, or feeling it on a personal level but I certainly did. There are sounds and happenings here that touched me inside and even though there is seriousness and melancholy that permeates this recording, there are also some light moments that made me smile. “Light” being a relative term here.

Smitematter is not only a recording artist, and a family man, he’s also an important blogger/app reviewer in the iOS music world as well as a synth sound designer (I have a sound set of his that came with my iPad synth app “Nave”). Obviously he has a lot of talents and also what must be a very busy life.

My congratulations to Smitematter on producing a great recording. In some regards, this is a breakthrough album, for if one didn’t know, one would have no idea that this was created using only iOS devices. The sound quality here is as good if not better than some commercial recordings. And being issued from new label, Apptronica provides more proof that high quality music is being produced on iOS now and that it should become even more accepted as a legitimate music making tool.

Chapters is recommended to anyone who’s a fan of electronic music, atmospheric music or just enjoys listening to really good, well produced music.

Chapters on the iTunes store:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chapters/id828471822

Smitematter’s blog: http://smitematter.com

Be seeing you
— Bourne 03Feb14