Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

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Another challenge: iSymphonic Orchestra app…why is it a challenge? Well if you glance down at the last few posts in this blog you shall see that I have a lot of new technology and tools for the making of music. I have a lot to learn in different areas of music tech, and I just added to that by acquiring this app.

This could be the beginnings of my dream app. It’s still early in the life of iOS music and things advance rapidly, so I have a lot of hope now.

So to begin, let me state that the sounds are superior to the other available iPad strings and orchestra apps. This is no Soundfont player, there’s a different technology under the hood, and the difference is quite remarkable. I can’t recreate what it sounds like to me on my monitors when the wav file is processed in iMovie and then uploaded to YouTube — I really have no idea how much fidelity we lose doing that, but it’s significant, I’m sure.

I have created some short demo segments of the various instrument presets and some include cool EFX. I’m uploading the wave files to Soundcloud. I’ll post links here — (see bottom of this post for the links) but as I write this I want to get more example files posted. This will be higher quality, and I hope that one may be better able to judge the sounds via Soundcloud.

Getting started:

Okay so iSymphonic Orchestra is from developer Crudebyte
http://www.crudebyte.com — they also sell the CMP Grand Piano app, which is apparently the best sounding piano app available for iOS. I’ve heard some examples and I agree, though I don’t have that app.

On the main page is the app’s tiny keyboard. Use two fingers to enlarge the keys (like zooming in on a map), and then tap the left arrow above the keys and swipe left or right on that line to change the note keys.

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Three functions can be accessed by icons on the right hand side. The arrow takes you to the recording and midi track page.  Keep in mind this will record midi performance data, not audio. That’s why you need a host app like Auria. The recording is control by a standard enough looking transport control, but below that is a section that appears to have three timers, currently set to 0:00:00. It is probably some obvious thing that I don’t see…but I don’t see it…so…help!

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The next icon up labeled HMT gets us to the tuning page. Hermode Tuning has been described as pure tuning for that extra punch. This technology dynamically tunes (changes frequencies) in real-time. This usually has to do with tuning the 3rd and 5th intervals. I had to listen carefully but I did hear the difference in an example I found on youtube.

In German with subtitles but the organ speaks universal so it’s all good: http://youtu.be/uHIA-DM3Wrs

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Also I am no MIDI expert but there is a note tuning change MIDI message and I guess that gets incorporated within the app? If someone wanted to dive into that well…hey now it’s on the iPad! I should mention that Logic Pro, Cubase, Cakewalk and other similar PC software titles include this tuning technology. Pretty fascinating stuff, but that’s as far as I go with that.

MIDI controls and more:

Back to the main screen…The icon that looks like a stylized V over J allows for adjustments in the key velocity. And this is something that I need to mess with and get straight…It seems overly sensitive for me but I have not explored this with any positive results yet. But I really need to, if you heard the first sound demo a lot of goofs are due to …well not this directly..it is my hands…but I think I’ll need to understand this so I can adjust for my playing.

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Once more Back to the main page: at the top are MIDI settings; it displays the number of connected midi devices, which seems like there is one more than I think there is, so maybe it’s counting the internal MIDI network stuff that sits in iOS? Another question here, with no answer from me.

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To the right of that is the input midi channel selector. From 1 thru 16. and next to that is the Page/part drop-down list, which seems like internal track numbers labeled part 1 thru Part 16. As I scrolled through the part numbers the instruments selection and MIDI channels would change so it has predefined parts….okay…and…..? The Questions are piling up.

At the top right on the screen is a latency display and to its right is a counter for polyphony — the number of voices in use. Some of the complex programs use many voices per note and the iPad hardware will impose the limits, there is actual documentation covering this.

Below that are the two knobs with drop-downs next to them. On the left is the volume knob, along with a dropdown list for selecting the program, (or sounds) from 1 to 10. And to the right of that are the available reverb and delay effects with a knob to adjust the effects send level; there are 18 EFX presets.

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Nothing is perfect

There are a few problems that I ran into and hope then devs can get fixed. The main problem for me is that the default volume is set to maximum whenever the sounds are changed using the main voice change drop-down. Now, when I changed the part in the Page drop-down, and the voices changed, the volume remained at the same level, so there’s that.

The MIDI sensitivity settings function — I am thinking that I don’t want to mess around with that for who knows how long before I get what it is. There are no instructions given so…oh well, I am sure I will figure it out eventually but the dev could give me some help here, ya know?

The last thing is please, please Crudebyte, don’t force me to use iTunes file sharing to get MIDI files in and out of the app. Like most iOS music makers, I don’t want to mess with a PC connection…please allow the “open in…” function. Remember we are MOBILE and don’t tend to carry the PCs around with us.

Otherwise, this is a brilliant sounding app and it will take some time to fully explore and understand the nuisances of the various sounds. It seems like the tuning and sensitivity will be key items in mastering this app.

The users performance is more sensitive in this app than others that I have used and with the way the instruments are structured within each sound preset, how one approaches playing the sounds will be the key to successfully using this app.

Orchestration is it own subject matter so a better understanding there will help immeasurably with this app.

As for the high price — though set higher than the two biggies of iOS music, Auria and Cubasis, tis apple and oranges. It is so subjective but it will be worth the price for me because I have been writing/creating an orchestral piece, mostly using Music Studio; iSymphonic Orchestra will enhance my ability to interpret what is inside of me into what I am making with sound.

As with all other enhancements that I use and have I’ve written about, my head is still on firmly and I know this is a tool that will help me do better things, but none of it means that I will make it better music. The effort is still in creating and executing; the tools are there to help — and man, are we getting some neat tools or what?

Demo sound links:

Main link for all of my songs:

 

Be seeing you
— Toz Bourne 12Aug14

 

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