Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

Posts tagged ‘iPad music’

We interrupt this version

iOS8 is here.

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In a bit of great timing, an iPad-mini Retina (the fast one), arrived on Wednesday, and later that night iOS8 arrived. Never an early adopter of technology, and not about to risk an early upgrade on my production machine (iPad4), this presented me with a great opportunity; take the role of beta tester for the greater iOS music making community.

I’m not alone, by no means. It was a bit like election night as we checked at various forums and blogs and saw the early returns trickle in. Oh no, the news was bleak; three hour download times; 6GB storage needed; the App Store is broken; AudioBus doesn’t work under iOS8!!!

I was like…hold on a minute, this is not right. I need to see what’s going on. At that time I was still loading apps and restoring content and running tests to establish some kind of benchmarks for the brand new device. We dove in within an hour of the dire warning posts.

By midnight the mini was loaded with iOS8 and rebooting, in total it took about an hour. Before I pressed Upgrade the app usage settings indicated that I’d need 4GB of free space in order to download iOS8…ymmv. It did not use up all of that 4GB space, regretfully I did not record my free space prior to the install. But it seems like I am down only a few hundred MB.

Early results are in

Having surpassed the first hurdle with iOS8 up and running it was time to see what was what. Like I’d done earlier with the brand new mini, a new iOS install requires some setup. Time consuming for me is the settings…this is where I go turn everything off.

iOS music app testing revealed a lot of problems, some were expected and others, not so much.

AudioBus test results; (many apps have not been upgraded to iOS8 and so are known not to work with AudioBus, none of those are listed as available apps and are not listed here).

AB input: Update —> Cubasis and Nave updated for ISO8 and and work fine in Audiobus

Problems :
Rock drum machine — audio artifacts, stuttering, unusable sounds.
Squeech — shows as available in AB input, but it gets the AB error when launched. It functions, standalone in iOS8, just not in AB.

Good results:

Different Drummer
Sunrizer
Nano studio
Galileo
NTBYFS
Cotracks
Thumbjam
Galileo
Singaling
Voxkit
LoopyHD
Arpeggionome

Output:
AudioShare
GarageBand
LoopyHD

EFX slot: (all worked just fine)

All Holderness Media apps (Echo Pad, Crsytalline, etc) and
All the Kymatica (Aufx series) apps
AD480 Free
Turnado.

Only one issue; EchoPad has no icon in the AB lists, when loaded into a slot it shows as a white icon, but I can see the familiar three dots of its logo and it did work just fine.

Other troubles: (from the not ready for AB app list)

DM-1 the great drum machine app belched fire and junk but not drum sounds when used stand alone.
DM-1 was updated and works fine as stand alone and in Audiobus.
(9/22/14).

Impaktor will not launch and Amimoog launches but does nothing

Inter App Audio (IAA) test results.

Apps that were already IAA compatible worked just fine: Alchemy, iSem, Thor, Auria, GB, AudioShare, LoopyHD, Thumbjam, and more including all of the AB input apps listed above.

I still haven’t finished populating this new mini, so I may wait until more apps get iOS 8 updates, but any further app troubles, or resolutions will get posted here on the blog.

Other iOS8 goodies

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At the App Store there are several improvements including, app bundles–where one can purchase an entire collection of apps in one go, often at a discounted price. Developer videos can be imbedded in the app description, and almost best of all, and almost the cure for app searching is the new Explore button. At the bottom of the App Store screen.

I write almost, because it is not perfect, and needs improvement but it is a step in the right direction. I found no listing for synths, but there is a section for xylophone — hmmm! Also some of the entries in various categories were questionable (I saw a French horn app listed under flutes).

Yet, this is a much needed improvement, and like other changes it will evolve and improve over time (I hope).

Apple has added a MIDI over Bluetooth function and I am not sure but maybe only GarageBand has it built in? And while not specific to iOS8, both the mini and ipad4 contain Bluetooth LE, I used the cool app Apollo MIDI over Bluetooth from the fantastic developer with the best name; Secret Base Design. I launched the app on each device, selected the proper in and out, and then on each device, I launched a MIDI capable app and then proceeded to play one iPad’s synth (Thor) from the other iPad’s controller app (Chordion). And needless to say, it worked perfectly. Newer Mac computers have Bluetooth LE built in so that’s an option for Mac owners of which I am not. Still this opens up even more cool music making possibilities.

Conclusions

This was and still is an interesting exercise; one offshoot is that all of this got me somewhat up to speed on iOS8. By reporting on these results I hope to help anyone that is attempting to decide about the upgrade; or anyone that’s just curious about the whole process.

Many iOS music apps are big resource eaters so when several are put together to ride on Audiobus it isn’t difficult to hit some limits. Audiobus does a fantastic job and has been enhanced from the beginning, but in order to do all of that, the app devs make code changes, probably a lot of changes. For the enhancements to work, AB compatible apps must incorporate the AB changes. While many apps were ready to go on launch day, others are still rolling out. There’s a lot for most devs to deal with, AB updates, various MIDI stuff, audio copy/paste, general changes to the iOS and any other changes to the actual apps. It can take time, especially to test all of the changes and work out bugs before a release can be pushed out.

My hat’s off to all of our beloved music making app devs for delivering the fine apps and for the continued support. All of us are moving forward with better tools and easier ways to share our music data, now it’s up to us users to do something good with these tools.

Let’s make some new music!

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On a side note: Zen Garden, a special iOS8 app, did work very well and is amazingly beautiful. I recommend checking it out. But it is over 400MB so it’ll have to leave the mini soon, I’ll need that space for Cubasis, which just got updated and is available as of this morning.

Be seeing you,
— Toz. 19Sep14

Music and video on iOS

A measure of success?

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I recently experienced a  bit of unexpected, well not sure how to tag it; popularity, or success? Success in the fact that, regardless of quality, I created something that thousands of people checked out. Of course hindsight being what it is, I think that I have could done things different — better.

But given the timing of events the speculation is unfounded. I could not have done things different and still achieved the same results. I am referring to the YouTube video demo of the iSymphonic Orchestra app that I posted a few weeks ago. The last time that I checked, it had nearly three-thousand views. Originally I felt that at least twenty and maybe up to two hundred people would check it out. Over three thousand views; that kind of number is way beyond anything that I’ve ever been associated with.

Surprising, staggering, and amazing, are some words that come to mind that express my feelings about this. I told someone that it was my fifteen minutes of fame albeit in a little micro segment of web activity dealing with iOS music making apps. So it’s more like my 15 microseconds of fame.

Had this been planned then there would have been a lot more content to immediately follow. Sure I have content, much of it yet to be put in useable form but nothing to really follow-up for all of the viewers. Again, this was nothing planned nor anticipated. But all of the views were welcomed and the main thing for me, the gain as it were, is the added exposure for iOS music making.

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To blog, or not to blog?

Multiple goals are usually behind any one decision, such as the existence of this blog. My blog postings are sporadic and wide ranging which reflects, somewhat, my life. But this is here is to promote iOS music making, to encourage support of the arts, to document my journey into this new music making world, and to (hopefully) provide some encouragement and knowledge of how to make music on iOS devices.

By default this blog and anything I ever post on-line that is music related could be consider as self-promotion. If I had something to sell it would be obvious, but the base of it all is to promote the idea of mobile music making and to encourage others to dive in and make music. But why the encouragement? Why mobile music making and why dive into a professionally dominated venue at all? Because of my muse!

Is muses a plural? I guess so, the autocorrect left that word alone. I have two; a human muse and a computer muse that work on me at various times. My human muse knows who she is; one of my first ever iOS made songs was all about her, and it’s one of the few songs I’ve written that contains words (probably 90% of my output is instrumental, even though I’ve written notebooks full of poems and lyrics). So I have a lady friend who provides a lot of inspiration, and then there is this thing called iOS that is the other muse.

My first discovery of a music making app on an iPod touch thrilled and intrigued me to such an extent that it would be difficult to measure. Though not hard to measure are the results of this enthusiasm. My creative output (subjectivity aside), has soared since delving into IOS music making. And recently I have begun to combine the sounds with images resulting in music videos. This is leading to bigger and what I hope are better things.

As a child there were two things I wanted to be when I grew up (beyond being a famous rock n roll star like every kid I knew): first was an oceanographer and the other was a film maker. And my hero, Jacques Cousteau, was both! Neither of those ideas went anywhere and I ended up with a long lasting career in information technology (what we once called data processing). That story is not so different from many other people I know. But there are others that were able to pursue their dreams from an early age, and some of those have made a living from that dream and that is to be admired for we know that ain’t an easy thing to do.

Just do it

Yet, as they saying goes, it is never too late. There are many cases of artists finding their muse later in life and making a go of it. I am lucky enough to live in a democracy (what remains of it), so I am free to pursue my dreams. And with all of my recent creative output and the new technologies available, it seems like it is time to focus in on what those dreams are, or rather what they may become. An ocean going scientist is not the direction I am heading, however my idea of becoming a filmmaker could be realized to some extent.

Creatively, I consider myself a photographer, a music producer, a writer, and a vessel that contains many comedic characters (more on that later). As such I have many abilities that are useful in movie making (visual storytelling could be a better term). So the question then is, what to do? I will pursue this question but still based on my iOS music making since it is such a dominant force and can’t be avoided.

One thought on this is to make cohesive, story telling music videos. By cohesive I mean that the images would reflect the music and vice versa. The MTV era allowed for desperate images and sounds to be accepted as one, but I do not favor those much. The best of the music videos have images that correlated with the story of the music (I’m not a fan, but see Michael Jackson’s Thriller for one of the best examples). Some of the video images I have put with my music are related and some are not. A story? Not so much.

My first few music videos are really in the experimental vein, just learning what various apps can do and how it all works on iPad. But moving forward I hope to create more ambitious projects. Available time will dictate all of this as it does to everything else, and as usual my ambitions probably outweigh my ability or my do-ability! However, I’ll never get anything done if I don’t try!

My main goal is still to use my iPads as much as possible though I have hit quite a few bumps in the road as I have tried to create and post my work without the use of PCs. Many iOS apps for web use fall a bit short and do not offer enough functionality such as this WordPress app that I am using now to write this, and the YouTube app, which doesn’t give one much control or update ability for their YouTube channel. Once I realized this, I resorted to the PC just for some basic updates and edits. The iPad can do what I need technology-wise, it’s just that some apps fall short and need to offer more control.

My current pursuit is checking out various iOS video making and editing apps that are available, and there are a ton of them. I tend to be careful in choosing apps since there are so many and for the pocket money pricing it could be easy to purchase too many that won’t be used. I like to make smart choices but first I must limit the choices. This involves web based research into app developers, and reading independent reviews including those on the App Store (though those are last in priority due to the nature of the beast).

What comes next? A video page on this blog for one, (probably just links to all my vids) and some kind of animated music video is a real possibility. As usual there will be a learning curve with what I intend to do, but until I run out of learning capacity, this fits in so well with everything else that I have done iOS related that it does seem like a logic next step.

Be seeing you
— Bourne 03Sep14

Another challenge: iSymphonic Orchestra

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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

 

Hybridizing music creation platforms

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IPad and PC — side by side

 

I have expanded my music creation capabilities in an unexpected direction. The picture above could have been a test of “which object does not belong with the others.” Just last week, one could have pointed at the Windows PC and stated that it did not belong in Toz’s music creation process. But that has changed…by accident.

I shall explain because many people know how much I dislike Windows, plus I have little experience with PC DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation), so this is somewhat uncharted territory.

I spent a good bit of time and effort doing research and online shopping for mini keyboards. From the various brands that work with iPad, I chose one and went to Guitar Center and bought it. This looks to be a larger decision then I realized as it turns out.

The Novation LaunchKey Mini was the choice. Novation has two (free) iOS apps that work directly with the keyboard; the knobs and buttons do specific things inside the apps and they light up–oh boy. The function of the knobs and pads is what sold me…and yes having it light up is very cool. On iPad2 and the iPad4 everything worked right from the get go. That is nothing special, it’s an iOS device, these things tend to work!

Novation has been around for a while now, a good company. Besides making hardware synths, they also make software synths and various plugins for some of the big-ass$$ music production PC software. It’s been normal for many years to include software with a hardware product. I still have some lite and demo versions on a CD I bet. These demo/lite versions ended up being worth less than most freeware, for me.

Well things have changed; the LaunchKey Mini came with download codes (no more cd’s, yeah) for free PC music software. The big one is Abelton Live 9 Lite. Okay, another lite piece of crap I wondered? Well no, it is a real deal. It’s reduced from the other version (the number of music tracks is limited and many higher end functions are not included), but instead of being crippled as seemed to be the case, this software is fully capable of producing music from end to end. From composing to playing all of the parts to mixing and mastering. I think I can have four audio tracks and four MIDI tracks? Not sure, but I do know I have a lot to learn.

But wait, there’s more…

The Ableton software can host plugins, which are software instruments, like a synth, or drums, or special effects like reverb. Also included in the freebie package were downloads for two Novation synth plugins, and a download for a huge set of samples and loops (zip file was near 900MB).

Okay all things look great and I have extra stuff…but we’re taking windows software, trouble was lurking, of that I was sure. I installed Ableton easily enough but before I tried anything, I first watched some vids, checked the help functions and have started RTFM (reading the f-ing manual). So when everything was ready I held my breath and plugged in the mini keyboard to PC via USB. I clicked through some menus — what the guy in the video had instructed and oh my…it freakin’ worked.

And it worked beautifully, not only that, but the sounds; the built in synths and drums…sound really good. Never had anything sounded this good that was generated on my PC, but the amazing thing for me is that it worked from the get go!!! Hot damn!!

With Ableton acting as host for plugins it was time to try to incorporate the free Alchemy Player and sound packs that I had downloaded a long time ago. I am not sure why I downloaded that stuff since at the time I had no software in which to use it. I had nothing but disc space to loose I suppose, but I really didn’t have a plan for PC music.

Well, it was big smile time again because it all worked. Installing several plugins in Ableton was mostly painless. Alchemy Mobile synth from Camel Audio is my all time favorite iOS music making app, so now with the desktop player up and running there is a way that I can transfer preset sounds from desktop Alchemy down to the iPad version. That’s the next hurdle in this process.

At this point things are, so far, very good. It all worked so well and easy because Ableton, Novation and Camel Audio are all masters of their game. Unlike a lot of software that I have used, or attempted to use over the years in Windows, these are practical tools, well engineered with artists in mind.

In just glancing over Ableton Live I can see what the fuss is all about. It’s a DAW but it is quite different from others and is geared more toward Live performance (it’s the name….duh), and modern electronic music production. I see delving deeper into this since I am sure it will lead me to new creative avenues. And the education factor is large as well; I will learn more about DAWs and sound processing, and mixing, etc.

Enhancing iOS music

None of this advanced PC software takes away from my music making on iPads, it will only enhance it. So far I have glossed over what got me here in the first place; the LaunchKey Mini keyboard. The thing is small, but feels pretty solid for a modern age plastic device. It is small enough to fit in a backpack, which was the main objective. It looks cool (with lit buttons and pads) when running the Novation Launchpad and Launchkey apps. Those apps work well together and there is a button on the keyboard that allows for fast switching between the apps. Plus the keyboard’s knobs and pad buttons can be mapped within Ableton, and various synth apps to perform selected functions. This is a great addition for performance in that one wouldn’t have to lean over and touch the pad (or PC keyboard/mouse) to change a setting, just twist the appropriate knob on the mini.

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Having a portable keyboard may be the single largest factor in all of this, and gee that was my point for buying it. But I’ve been a bit distracted by the PC stuff which is all well and good. The mini keyboard itself has synth style keys, meaning they are not full sized keys, but they have a good feel and are pressure sensitive. The knobs and buttons are extras, very nice extras indeed. But having a keyboard when I travel should allow me to fully expand on ideas that I come up with. At times I have waited until returning to the Bourne Studios to lay down some parts using my big keyboards that I could not quite get right by just using an iPad app touch keyboard. The touch interface is great for a lot of music creation but sometimes, I need the touch of those physical keys.

Everyone has their own ideas on what they consider valuable; for me acquiring the LaunchKey Mini has been a huge bargain. For the price I paid, which was okay to begin with, I got more than that back in extras. I think if one were to purchase a lite version of Ableton it would retail at about the same price as the mini keyboard (hypothetically I mean). Add in two soft synths and over 1GB (uncompressed) of loops and samples and I feel like an expert bargain hunter.

Where this leads musically, I don’t know yet especially since I have been branching out more already in terms of new types of music. However there are other positive factors that have influenced me already and may change everything soon.

Not mentioned in today’s article, and shall be the subject of its own, is my recent purchase of a great old app. Yes, old in terms of iOS music apps, and it’s: Nanostudio, and she’s a beauty. I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks yet it has fast become one of my favorite apps. More on that soon.

There is another potential huge event — an app really — on the horizon…a real true to life orchestral strings app. More on that as soon as I know more.

Be seeing you
— Bourne 08Aug14

The Horn Of Plenty: iOS Music Apps

At this moment in time, the plethora of iOS music apps along with the low pricing structure gives us abundant — and maybe for some, overwhelming — choices for how to make music.

Even if not overwhelmed by the choices, if you’re a typical iOS music maker, you’re still faced with many decisions on how to begin, and then continue and complete a music project. How does one decide which synth is best for a given tune, when the choices are each so rich and immersive?

Personally, I often let the apps take me to a starting spot. Maybe you bounce from one to another or maybe a certain sound leads to a certain melody or rhythm. At some point the sounds and notes seem right, and then, there is a take off point.

Where to start is one thing, to continue and if so, to where are the next questions. Many things can lead one to a dead end, and one thing that is worth trying (and I think worth mentioning) is to re-visit some old ideas with a totally new approach. Especially with a new technology such as the iPad.

In that vein, I have found some old midi files of mine and moved them, as unfinished and as rough as many of them are, here to the iPad and am ready for importing into apps. I don’t have high hopes to resurrect something that will become a masterpiece, more like a Frankenstein I’m sure…(which was a big hit song for Edgar Winter in the 1970’s so maybe, it’s not such a bad idea…)

Now the decisions loom; which apps for this midi file, where to start with this one? And within the apps, which sounds and articulations and dynamics will I choose? Should I change the key, or the tempo, or both, or neither? And just like following any other avenue in our quest to make music via iOS devices, it’s the journey that will matter the most.

So, follow that road…any road, as long as it is taking you on a journey of exploration and discovery. As it is for me at this moment in time, I have so many paths from which to choose. So many different beginning approaches to try. But all I can do, all anyone can do is try one at a time. Try to make something fresh and unique based on what you have and what you know. There is nothing new in music that hasn’t been forgotten so no matter where that road leads, it seems like a good idea to follow it, at least for a while…it may lead to higher rewards, and we won’t ever know about that unless we get out and travel those roads.

Be seeing you
– Bourne 24Apr14

A new way to make music:

This new music/sonic tech (iPad in particular) opens so many new doors I think as with many new things, especially groundbreaking inventions, there is and will be controversy. “Real musicians” whoever they are, could be a bit miffed at the thought of non-musicians making music. But the whole point of the easy access of a touch surface, and the highly advanced processing power is to allow for new creations. To go beyond the norms and conventions. From the beginning, computer music was different, and it took a certain amount of guts, daring, or some avant guard sense of the world, even to accept it as music.

Innovations in musical instruments throughout history have opened up vast territories that had been previously unavailable, unimaginable even. The piano was a culmination of many innovations and technology breakthroughs, so much so that it makes it difficult to classify; in what category of instruments do you place it?

Well it has strings, one may say. Yes, indeed strings it has…88 of them. So its a string instrument, along with the violin? Well, no, it is actually considered a percussion instrument. Because each of those 88 strings is struck by its own hammer, or a set of hammer parts and pieces and weights and well, a bunch of physical stuff that works incredibly well together. Unlike the harpsichord on which the strings are actually plucked — the piano strings are struck much like what happens when playing the bells, a glockenspiel, or the vibes. So it is technically a tuned percussion instrument.

The piano then is an example of a high tech device which did indeed change the course of music history. Where would things be in this world with no piano tunes from Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin, Ray Charles, or Oscar Peterson? I think a sad place.

(I wonder if, back in the day, someone might have claimed, “You can replace 22 strings players with that damned pianoforte contraption.” Or , “It’ll be the end of the orchestra…”)

In so many areas there are thousands of innovate ways to use an iPad/iPhone, etc. from commercial flight tracking software for travelers, to word processing, spreadsheets, inventory management, and credit cards acceptance (and I’ve seen iPads now at several retail shops being used as a cash register). There are highly specialized apps for land surveyors, piano tuners, and pilots.

And then there is the what I believe to be the iPad’s most significant game changing function….that is its sonic capabilities. At this point in time it is certainly just a conjecture but the hardware and iOS could become significant in music history as starting a whole revolution not only in how sound is generated but also where it is made (parks, airplanes, bathrooms) and by whom…by who. By me, that’s whim.

Not to loose sight of something though…this should be mentioned early on in this blog. Ease of use and automatic tuning, and gesture control is fun and with the right apps, anyone can make sounds…sounds that are not terrible. But let us not forget…what makes something listenable? What makes something a good song? There are so many intangibles…

Well, we all have opinions but it is my contention that musicians and composers have nothing to fear from the fun music creation apps and folks generating tunes from them. I am not afraid that someone that thinks A# means “A Pound Sign” will create better music than I. And if they do, then I have a lot more work to do (which I already do anyway).

The well written, well played song will be superior to any computer enhanced creation. Emotion is the core of music and when a composer lays it out, or a player injects themselves into the performance, nothing can rival some of the levels that can be achieved.

Until we have bots that can think and feel, I believe that only humans with the drive and the talent can create true, lasting art that can touch your insides.

I am not saying anything against automation….hell I am writing on an iPad I can’t very well dis much that is computer related, can I? But a music system or a game of gestures where pretty music will flows easily is fun and all, but now let me have some control over that. Given an opportunity like that, I am convinced that a musician could take that as an ingredient and make something much more out of it.

Cheers,
Bourne
20Aug13