Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

Posts tagged ‘music apps’

Future Tense

Hot on the heels of the successful collaboration project that resulted in an epic song and the Better Than Epic band, I’ve published a new solo album called Future Tense. This collection of songs covers a variety of styles from ambient to techno to jazz.

Future Tense album cover




News, projects & happenings



First off is a plug for a friend who recently released a new song on iTunes.  Bridges Burn РSingle by AVB

AVB has two other singles on iTunes titled: Brand New, and You Push and I’ll Pull.


Another challenge: iSymphonic Orchestra








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 — 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.


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!











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:


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 is my hands…but I think I’ll need to understand this so I can adjust for my playing.


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.




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.


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


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.