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« iPad UK release date announced | Main | The Netbook owners' comfort blanket »

Making Music with the iPad - Groovemaker (Loopers, Synths and (Drum) Pads-Part 2)

We have been playing with Groovemaker on the iPhone for a while now, it has been great fun and we have really enjoyed it.  The interface on the iPhone is well thought out and responsive, but there are times when the smaller screen area of the iPhone makes it necessary to leave the main screen to access other functions of the app.  That's why were really excited to hear about the release of Groovemaker for the iPad.

The UI

IK Multimedia have taken advantage of the extra screen space available on the iPad to open up the user experience and make more of the interface and app functionality available to the user on the same screen. The main controller view that forms the basis of the iPhone app is now top and centre of the iPad interface (the area inside the yellow rectangle on the picture below) and is called the 'central control zone'.  It is literally like having the iPhone placed on the iPad screen with the other screens unfolded out around it. It really is a lovely looking interace.

010-Groove.jpg

If you have used the iPhone app then much of the interface will be familiar to you already. The extended controls in the iPad version, give easier access to the Solo, Mute and Lock buttons for each of the 8 tracks, along with volume control sliders including integrated VU meters and Pan controls.  Another new control tweak is the up and down buttons for each track which scrolls through the available loops, but you can still access a list of all the loops via the Loops button in the central control zone as in the iPhone interface.

Sequence tempo is also easier to access now without needing to press and hold the Tempo button.  Although none of the interface interaction on the iPhone was overly annoying, in fact we think IK Multimedia did a fantastic job, as we have already mentioned, it is much nicer to see all the controls laid out on the iPad screen and access them quickly without having to remember where things are hiding.

Making Music

This is not a sampler program, you rely on the pre-loaded loops to build your sequences, but even the free version comes with 120 loops pre-installed and also a free song called Juice (a song is really a bunch of loops that can be used and remixed together, almost infinitely).  You can get another free song when you register the product too.

These songs are a great way to get started, and in seconds you will be creating sequences that can be saved or exported (more on that in a minute).  The instant creation of music is what impresses us about this app. There are four buttons to the right of the central control zone labelled A-D and these give you different random mixes of the current song using the built-in loops which can give a very different feel.  Button A gives you a 'Mild' version, B is 'Perc' for a Percussion only version (useful for taking things down to the basics for a sequence), C is 'Inst' or Instrumental, focussing the sound on the instrument samples, but the most fun one is D 'Random' which gives a completely random mix of your track, with great results sometimes that are useful starting points for creatively using the loops.

Even with no previous experience, you can dive straight in and start making 'grooves', which is really quite satisfying.  Just don't start doing this having promised to follow the other-half up to bed 'in a minute', because half an hour, or longer, can quickly disappear once you start experimenting with different loops and getting into mixing different sequences together, it can be addictive.

Mute, solo and grouping

Being able to group tracks together simply by sliding across them, using numbers 1-8 in the central control zone, is great for muting, soloing, or changing the volume of all of these tracks at once.  This lets you, for example, solo just the drum loop and bass for a bit, which you can record as a sequence by pressing the Groove Snap button, then bring the rest of the groove crashing back in by releasing the solo button if you are playing 'live'.  It really is great fun to play with.

Sequencer and Song Export

Up to 15 of these groove snaps can be saved, then you can move to the Sequence function to build your final mix with a simple drag and drop interface.  Grooves can be previewed before you add them, and used repeatedly so that a complete song with different sections can be built up, which becomes your final mix. This mix can then be exported, via Wi-fi, to your computer as a full quality 44khz 16bit WAV file.

Grrovemaker download track.png

The export works via a browser interface, the app tells you the IP address to enter into your browser address bar, e.g. 192.xxx.x.xx etc., and then you can listen to your mix and/or save the audio file by right-clicking on it.  It works quickly and very easily and the quality is really good.

In just a few seconds our mix was on our Mac and opened up right away in iTunes. From here we could convert the file to an AAC version.  Interestingly this reduced our 10.4MB 1 minute audio file down to 986KB file with no real noticeable loss in quality.

Conclusion

As we have already said, the Groovemaker app is great fun to use and pretty much anyone can get down to creating mixes and acting out DJ fantasies as soon as it is started.

The interface is very straightforward to use, even the creation of the sequence with drag and drop grooves makes production of the final mix a breeze.  All this relative simplicity however belies a very powerful tool for music creation.

If you need to create a soundtrack for one of your movies, chilled, manic, or somewhere in-between, Groovemaker can do this for you.  If you want to play DJ at a party, Groovemaker is there.  Or even if you just want to get the kids interested in putting loops together and making their own creations, Groovemaker will enable you to do it, and you can get started for Free, so you have nothing to lose, except the hours that may disappear as you get embroiled in groove making.

Groovemaker is supplied in several paid versions too.  With the Free version you get 1 song and 120 loops, but there are also House, Hip-Hop and D'n'B packs at £5.99 ($9.99) each. These paid-for packs include 4 songs (plus another track on registration) and 315 loops, flavoured appropriately for the category you have chosen.

We think you will like this app.  If you do, let us know in the comments.  Check out the videos below for actual footage of the Groovemaker app in action.  There are quite a few more on the Groovemaker channel at YouTube.

 

 

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