Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

Archive for the ‘Music Making’ Category

iOS Music; coming of age

Coming of age


Music making on iOS devices will see further advances with the release of iOS9. Some music app wish list items will be coming to our iDevices late this year. At the annual Apple developer’s conference (WWDC) this last week, Apple revealed some wonderful new tools that will be available for music app software developers in the next iteration of iOS. Hopefully many will jump on in and develop and/or enhance apps that will make use of the new features.


New sounds for iSymphonic Orchestra

The developer Crudebyte has added a new IAP for the iSymphonic Orchestra app.  The “Arpa Sound Set” includes 15 presets of some interesting instruments and combination of instruments.

I have posted a sound app demo on YouTube ( see below) covering the new sound pack; and this,video includes a bit of an unfinished song in the form of a music video, this uses several of the new presets as perhaps a better example of the sounds.


Be seeing you

— Bourne 07Jun15



 Alchemy Synth is back! 


Alchemy restored — wonders and miracles in the App Store.  

These past few days has been an exciting time for many iOS musicians. We’ve had a couple of very special, new apps hit the App Store, and a near miracle occurred with the return of Alchemy Synth.  

As it was a tragedy, I will mention Alchemy Synth first. Hooray — Alchemy has returned to the App Store. This has been my favorite music creation app, a real go-to app for me over the last three years. Well, the app developers, Camel Audio, shuttered their doors (went under and closed shop a few months back), and the app was pulled from the App Store.  Well, however news had surfaced that Apple bought them and that by June or July there would be some answers for the app owners.


This is a big deal for many fans of this synth app because without an entry in the App Store, restoring previous in app purchases was very difficult if not impossible for some. And heck just getting the app on say, a new device, was near impossible as well. But today there is an App Store update and the update info states that it is all about restoring the previous IAPs. I am doing exactly that on my iPad-mini retina where just five days ago I had deleted Alchemy to get back badly needed storage space. It was the advent of a new app, or a couple of them actually, that allowed me to feel comfortable with deleting Alchemy from one of my iDevices.


New apps and loads of new sounds 

Korg made a surprise released of the iM1 synth workstation app just days after KV331 Audio released their highly anticipated Synthmaster app.  

Synthmaster for iPad is similar to Alchemy in many regards; they both come from existing desktop software synths, both offer a synth player app, not a true synth, for iOS. Both are initially free with available pro upgrades and IAPs for sound packs. I do like Synthmaster quite a bit In the short time I have played with it, even though the app had a bit of trouble at launch and needs some fixes and a new UI. However, the sounds are brill.

Just as I was getting used to Synthmaster; Korg released the iM1 synth workstation app. Again, an app that comes from the desktop, but even better in that they emulate the real hardware from the widely sold Korg M1 synth workstation. This app offers a couple of inexpensive sound packs (emulating the memory cards that were used in the hardware…back in the day). With the IAPs there are more than 1,800 instrument sounds. Now, many sounds throughout the cards are a bit redundant, but they are very good, high quality sounds. But it gets even better.



Korg’s iM1 offer some unique performance options including built in Kaos pads, a chord player, multi-layered sounds, tweakable parameters, and more. But maybe the neatest trick is that iM1 is available as a new instrument from within Korg’s fantastic Gadget app. It is a great, and for me, a needed addition to Gadget.

Each of these apps in their unique way, provide for me an inspiring music making environment. Once the inspiration turns to perspiration, with both Gadget and Alchemy, as examples, I can easily take the music, and the MIDI data files out and get those into a DAW (desktop or iPad) for further recording, mixing, and mastering.

Paving the way

For iOS musicians, the ability to create full sounding renderings from our compositions, has become a bit easier, and the quality of generated sounds is really top notch. As one further example of my view that iOS is a serious music production platform let us consider this from the desktop world.  A recent poll of desktop music software users rated the 50 best desktop software synthesizer plug-ins and three of those I recognized as having a version on iOS. And they are: 
Arturia-SEM – #21. I have the iOS iSem app and am quite fond of it.

Z3TA+ – #14. I do not own the iOS app, but it is a high-rated, and much loved synth.

SynthMaster – #2. Synthmaster, the synth is number two for desktop users, that is cool news. For iOS we have the Synthmaster player app, a player of preset sounds…fantastic sounds that someone else designed and tweaked…I love it, since I don’t have much time for that stuff.


* I should also mention that #30 on the list is the Fab Filter Twin 2 synth which is coming to iOS as a part of the future Auria Pro upgrade.

The thing that really strikes me here is seeing iOS get even more seasoned software developers porting their work over…it is a growing trend. There are rumors in the air of even more coming.  Also to mention is how some apps have gone the other way, porting from iOS to the desktop as a plug-in.  Again this is nothing new, several iOS music apps also exist in a similar form on the desktop, such as Nano Studio, Sunvox, Crystal Synth; all very good software music tools. But the difference it seems is that larger music software developer shops are coming on board to iOS in larger numbers (admittedly, KV331 Audio is not a big firm, but they are not a 1 or 2 person shop either…or they have a lot of other resources).  But these are known entities, and it feels really good to see these quality apps coming and knowing there is a big bright future for iOS music making.

There’s been a lot of app news and fun things happening recently, but the most important question is: what does this do for my music?   Well, I hope to answer that soon with some groovy new tunes. 

Be seeing you 
– Bourne 28May15 



App demo — Beatwave 

Good day, 

My first Instructional app demo is up on YouTube.  I used a really cool app called “Explain Everything” to make the bulk of the video.  

Beatwave, version 2.5 from developer Collect3, is a pattern based sequencer that can be used to make a wide variety of tunes…from EDM to Jazz.  It’s a Free universal app requiring iOS 7 and up and is a 77.2 MB download.  Even though it is a sequencer it does not have MIDI, however it is Audiobus and Inter App Audio comparable.  Various in-app purchases (IAP) are available and the video demo uses the full Pro upgrade ($9.99 at this time).  

The quality of the sampled sounds are darn good and it’s a fun and now fully functional music making app.  This app has a long history and sat dormant for a while as iOS music making gained large strides.  Last summer (2014) the app received a huge upgrade to 2.0 with other enhancements and fixes is now up to 2.5 (I used the Beta build, version for the app demo). 

As it is a free app, it’s worth a look, especially if you are interested in similar apps such as Auxy or Medly, which are also pattern based sequencers…and all are free on the App Store. 

I had to split the video due to the size, according to a pop up message when I tried to upload to YouTube from my iPad.  Anyway, here they are: 

Beatwave part-1 
Beatwave part-2 

Be seeing you

— Bourne 06May15

Caravan — the album 


New music: 

I’ve released an album called Caravan.  It s available  on Bandcamp:

And I made a music video of one of the songs — it’s on YouTube:

As I state in comments on my Bandcamp page, this concept album started with one song, Caravan Of Spice, which I made last year (and was featured so kindly by Chip at  I had done some Wiki research on the anicent spice trade in conjunction with creating that song…and well…you now how one link leads to another.

There is a lot more to the history of the ancient trade routes than many realize.  Many more parts of the world were connected by various trade routes than I had imagined.  The most famous of the routes is probably the Silk Road and I was surprised to learn of many others, such as the Amber Road, the Royal Road, and the Grand Trunk Road (not a band name).  All of this information provided a great basis for inspiration and a place where I let my imagination run.  

Near the end of 2014 I had set a goal to release this album in February and hey, I almost got It here in March.  A few life setbacks caused some time delays but nothing too bad.  The real delay was the dreaded “last minute changes” that I had to implement.  Once I had all of the pieces finished I listened to them back to back, as a whole story.  Unsatisfied, I decided to reshape the album.  

I cut out some songs, and recorded some new instrument parts or changed some effects in other songs, but nothing too drastic.  

At the time that I reworked the Caravan songs, I had started to explore some very cool new music apps.  As it turns out; the song, Sahara, was made with one of those new apps: BeatHawk by UVI,  and it was the final addition to the album (song number 3).  And I have really started to like that app, a lot. 

The idea of a camel caravan dramatically traversing desert terrain is a romantic one in our western brains; the reality was quite different and often extremely harsh.  I’ve attempted to express all of these various ideas and emotions through the works on the album.  

The sounds, all created from various iOS instrument, synth, and drum apps, are intended to evoke a feeling or provide for a mood only.  I’ve not tried to be historically or culturally accurate in the use of instruments and sounds; as evidenced by my song, The Silk Road, which features a simulated ancient Chinese stringed instrument (using the  iGuzhend app) and Japanese Taiko drums (via DrumJam).   I just liked the combined sounds…





What is next?

You just released an album and a music video…now what will you do? 

I am not going to Disneyland…

always seem to have a backlog of tunes in various states; from just started to complete.  There are new apps and new iOS interface and storage technologies to explore.  I have ideas on making more themed works…and on and on… 

There is not enough enough time remaining in my life to accomplish everything that I can conceive — so setting priorities is the first order of business.  I already know what is up next (most likely)…a music video of a song that I wrote last autumn.  This will be a larger project; more detailed, more elaborate, and longer than any video I’ve done to date.  No estimates for a completion date though.  


Here is to making music, right now, wherever you are…

Be seeing you,

— 02Apr14 







iOS Music at SXSW 

Busy Times

SXSW Music.  March 16-21, 2015 — Austin, Texas.  

I had a very interesting week immersed in the SXSW Music conference.  I met many great people, heard some really good music, and learned quite a bit at various panels.   The highlight of the week occurred on Friday (March 20), at the Music Gear Expo where there was a decent sized iOS Music presence.  

For iOS compatible hardware there wasn’t much beyond a couple of class compliant audio interfaces (Yamaha has a couple of new ones that look good), except for Jamstik the guitar/MIDI controller.  The guys from Jamstik did a fun demo of their very interesting controller using iPad with GarageBand and BeatHawk; this was at fairly high volume over a good PA system and it was great to hear those apps in that context.  Both GB and BH sounded very good!  

The guys from Jamstik were really great to talk with and are enthusiastic about their product and iOS music making in general.  They have a new Kickstarter campaign for the next version (Bluetooth LE) starting on March 25…check it out:


The Highlight Moment: 

Interfacing with iOS developers and music peeps in geneal was fantastic, but the highlight of the whole week was a really nice chat that I had with the fabulous musician Mr. Adrian Belew.  He is a super great guy; smart, friendly and genuine.  He was at SXSW representing his two iOS apps: Flux by Belew, and Flux: FX.  Both of these app are amazing and unique.  (I must admit that I don’t have the Flux by Belew app….yet.  But Flux:FX is amazing indeed!) 

When Mr. Belew handed me a custom (Flux) iPad cover along with his autograph (in above picture)  I was quite delighted.  I asked if he’s used Flux:FX in his own music production and he said that he’s recently been recording his vocals through it, and that some of the sounds are really amazing.  I am truly inspired and plan on experimenting with running my voice through Flux:FX just to see what can happen.  (I just hope that I don’t blow my flux capacitor in the process).  

Nearby the Flux setup were reps from the iOS app, NoteTracks, to whom I proudly showed their app was already on my iPhone.   Also near was one of only three US employees of PropellerHead,  who was also a super nice fellow.  He mentioned that a new Propellerhead iOS app is in the works, but he couldn’t provide any details other than that it would, of course, work with Figure and Take.  While I had his ear I lobbied to get more more jazzy or Chill type sounds into Figure; he agreed with the idea but said its not easy to influence what sounds they put into an app.  

We talked about various music apps and then I wondered what I could do with Figure’s output run through Flux:FX.  So following that, I made a goal to create something interesting with this app combo.  So far, I have some very interesting results but not much that is musical.  I’ll keep at it…Flux:FX can be rather deep as there a lot of options including a sequencer (yes an effects app with a built in sequencer…very cool).  

Mostly NASA Swag from SXSW Interactive

I went to a music conference and all I got was NASA stuff?

NASA had a booth (it was a large area, not sure what you call it…), for SXSW Interactive, and Tuesday was Convergence day where Film, Interactive, and Music share in panels and various activities.  I attended a presentation on Astrophysics and Hollywood showing how films such as Hubble 3D and others are created not just from images but along with various bits of raw data derived from sources other than visible light (x-Rays, microwaves, etc).  It was a fascinating discussion and I was especially interested since NASA and filmmaking are two of my most favorite subjects following music.

The key idea that sparked me to attend SXSW this year was a post last year at asking folks to vote for a panel to be included in SXSW.  Mobile Music Geekout – Marketing, Content & Hot Tech was the title and those are subjects of great interest to many iOS musicians.  It turned out to be a very informative panel by very intelligent and sharp-witted presenters.  And I must thank Olsin from the panel for being such a nice guy; now if I can just find where you posted that picture of us that was taken in the Irish pub, that would be great!  LOL. 

I was hoping to put the previously mentioned song “Figure In Flux” (I just now gave it that title), here for streaming but since the song does not yet exist in a useable form I was going to offer another one instead.  However, Now I see how the recent WordPress enhancement that makes creating a blog entry a lot easier also seems to have removed my ability to add a song file/audio player to my post.   If I have to figure out the HTML code to get that working…well…it probably won’t happen.

New Album

My new album, Caravan, will be available soon at Bandcamp.  I just have some finishing touches for documentation and album/song artwork and then the act of uploading the song files…which has to be done from a PC not my iPad where the songs reside.  Arrrrr!   Oh the hassles we deal with sometimes! 

I will post the release announcement in forums and emails as soon as I have it all uploaded and ready to go.  

Be seeing you,

— Bourne 


A Bright and Cloudy Future

This post concerns new and future music making cloud based software and services. And please be sure to check the Video page link above to check my new YouTube music videos.


The future of mobile music production, on the whole, looks very bright and the future of music production in general looks to occupy space in The Cloud. Thus…a bright and cloudy future.

Cloud based storage is all the rage…it’s a good money maker. But it’s service in the cloud (or cloud as a service?) that is the focus here. The first example is Propellerhead’s Discover:
(, which is stated as still being in Beta testing phase. Discover is a cloud based service for users of the developer’s PC/Mac software Reason, and/or their iOS apps Figure and Take.

Collaboration is the focus for cloud based music services and the providers know that ease of use is the key to success. Access to Propellerhead’s Discover is built into each of the titles mentioned above so a song idea started on an iOS device in Take or Figure can be imported easily into Reason for full expansion. Another aspect is the community share: post up your Figure or Take song and let others remix it. Or find a Figure tune that grabs your attention and import directly into your iOS device and do with it what you will.

A great example of a successful community share is fellow iOS blogger, Jakob Haq’s song “Nebula Rasa” which has over 90 versions remixed and uploaded on Discover. I just now downloaded Jakob’s original tune and am going to attempt my first ever remix of someone else’s music. This is just something I never thought of doing but I figured (pun intended) why not give it a try. Since Figure can only hold up to 8 bars of music per tune and has three tracks, it’s not like a huge intimidating work to mess with. And it’s the overall ease of use and simplicity that allowed me to even think about doing a remix. I say Propellerhead has succeeded, at least with me.

The Pros get cloudy

The recent NAMM show was chock full of cool stuff, and some very interesting announcements. Beyond the hardware, and just beyond the software — Avid, of Pro Tools fame — made a couple of announcements that got my attention. Though not directly iOS related this could be significant for iOS musicians, or anyone like myself that did not come from a desktop music production background but does not discount the idea of its usage.

Avid Everywhere is to be a cloud based community for sharing tracks, for remixing and all kinds of stuff, somewhat like Propellerhead’s Discover mentioned previously. This will be tightly integrated within the Pro Tools DAW software including a new free version called Pro Tools: First.

Avid’s Vision:
Avid Everywhere is our strategic vision for helping content creators and media organizations connect with consumers more powerfully, efficiently, collaboratively, and profitably.

I’m looking forward to the release of a free and very usable version of Pro Tools. Here are some details:

Pro Tools: First has most of the same features as Pro Tools, the notable differences are the track counts, with Pro Tools First having up to 16 mono/stereo audio tracks, 16 MIDI tracks and 16 Instruments tracks for a maximum of 48 tracks compared with hundreds of tracks for Pro Tools.

Xpand!2 multitimbral music workstation (hundreds of sounds), plus over 20 effects, sound processing, and utility plug-ins

Any Core Audio- or ASIO-compatible interface

Pro Tools First comes with an introductory amount of free cloud storage, enabling you to save and sync up to three projects at a time, so you can always pick up where you last left off—on any Mac or PC with Pro Tools First installed.


Many, like myself, have learned (or are learning) recording and mixing on iOS. A PC with Pro Tools in a free version should enhance what has been learned and help the music to sound better. The reduced number of tracks and effects are stated very clearly but heck, with current iOS music production set-ups this doesn’t look that limiting.

Nothing is really free…and so for some this may be a problem: Pro Tools First will use cloud storage for saving projects (limited to three for free). I don’t care (right now) about that, but I see where it is part of a nice and easy path for customers to follow for upgrades and expansions.

Getting a free DAW is not new: Other desktop DAWs have trial versions but they usually expire after 30 days. Better than that are things like Pro Tools lite, Cubase lite or whatever they call it…and Ableton 9 Lite that I have. These are not demo versions, but are limited and usually come free with the purchase of something else, like a keyboard. With Live 9 Lite, there are eight tracks for audio and MIDI, a VST host, and has a few nice sounds which make it a limited in scope yet functioning DAW. Pro Tools First should far exceed this.

Avid should get a lot of attention from entry level music producers as well as those that have been limited by the cost of most professional level DAWs. And the idea of building community around all of their versions of Pro Tools is a brilliant marketing strategy. Bring in the noobs with shiny free stuff, get them making and sharing content and as they do, they get exposed to the bigger and better tools. The increasing consumer need for upgrades is built into the system in a satisfying way — not forced upon them (at least from what I understand of their new in app purchase system, but I could be wrong).

Mixed clouds

In music tech I see increased compatibility with nearly every release and not just cloud based. We have iOS music apps that can export projects into desktop DAW formats such as Korg:Gadget’s ability to create Ableton Live files. Several iOS apps are built exclusively for remote control of desktop DAWs or music hardware. Apple has brought iOS and OSX (Mac) closer together and are making it easy to do continuous work on any device with their Handoff technology (not integrated with music apps yet, that I know of).

Integrating mobile to desktop, desktop to cloud, and back to mobile is the way things are going with computing in general and music tech is coming right along too. If this allows for more creativity, productivity, or both — then I welcome the new methods and tools and am ready to explore.

Another bit of music tech news from NAMM that caught my attention was the announcement of a cloud based automated audio mastering service. I got this from a video from NAMM. That idea is too vague for me to think about right now, but it’s another cloud service that is coming to a future near you.

There are already a number of music software related cloud services and I see many more coming soon; this is the future. If Avid Everywhere is successful it could be a huge influence on all following cloud based music services. There is competition in this market; my first glimpse of it was with the iOS app, World Band which I’ve ignored as have most iOS musicians. (also in Beta) is a site that I came across recently that appears to occupy some similar space in the cloud. Here is their blurb

Nebulus is the only cross-platform, realtime music collaboration solution, enabling musicians to create songs together in an interactive arrangement suite. We bring cloud collaboration to music production in a way that has never been done before.

Another cloud based site is from PreSonus, makers of great audio equipment. They run their own Soundcloud kind of site but I don’t think it is geared towards collab.

The foundations are being laid for us to work and live more in the cloud and I think some extra help from the cloud is okay for me, but beyond that I am not so that I need to reside in the cloud.

Ownership rights of songs, and now song fragments (or whatever) may become an issue, but the sentiment towards sharing seems very strong right now so perhaps I’m over thinking this. However, let’s see what happens (and see where the money flows) with the first cloud-based-shared-creation hit song.

I’m reminded of Rolling Stones lyrics, but with the modern twist:
Hey, hey, you, you, come onto my cloud

Be seeing you (in the cloud)
— Bourne 19Feb15