Entries in iTunes (7)

Interview with Mark from Msavwah about GarageBand for iPad

Last Sunday we brought you news of the Daft Punk and Tron tribute song, 'End of Line' from Msavwah. 'End of Line' was created entirely in GarageBand for iPad, it's one of the first all GarageBand tunes to be featured as a commercially available song on iTunes. We caught up with Mark from Msavwah to get his thoughts on GarageBand for the iPad and further details on how he created 'End of Line'. Over to Mark:

"When I first saw the iPad 2 keynote, what I found to be most impressive was the GarageBand app. After using it on the original iPad I must admit that the iPad 2 is now looking better and better. More on why in a bit.

If you have any experience creating and recording music using any of the old 4 track personal studio units then you will probably recognize that the iPad could be sold in kiosk mode with only the GarageBand app and be fully capable of replacing, and greatly improving on, any product in that market. If you happen to already own an iPad, you can fork over a measly $4.99 and jump right in.

Not too long ago I sold my $3,000 Roland electric drum kit, my bass guitar, and six of my electric guitars, keeping only my beloved Steinberger 6-string. When the GarageBand app was released I found that it easily replaced all of those instruments and also gave me more flexibility in a portable touchscreen device than using GarageBand on my MacBook Pro. Not without it’s limitations though.

About the time I started tinkering with the app, I was heavily listening to the Tron:Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk. I enjoy a range of music from Slayer to Natalie Merchant (and nearly everything ever done involving Mike Patton). Video game and movie soundtracks, this one in particular, are what I’m most into at the moment.

When I fired up GarageBand on my iPad to figure out how it worked I decided on recreating the song End of Line, which was firmly stuck in my head, almost entirely from memory. Reading music is something I have almost no clue about. Usually if I can hear it, I can pick it apart and put it back together.

I don’t usually like to use a click track, so I started by laying down a simple drum beat. On the first track I recorded only the kick drum and snare hits onto an 8 bar loop. With that up and running I started sampling the many keyboard synth sounds. I had given the ‘smart’ version of the many instruments a very brief run and decided against using any of them for the sake of customization. After finding the sounds I wanted to use I began recording the instruments. This is where the learning started. I soon discovered the key limitations of using the GarageBand app. It began with trying to perfect the fuzzy sounding synth bass line. First of all, the keys are tiny. Second, there is no tactile feedback. The biggest problem I had with this part was that the individual notes were running together and I wanted them each have their own distinct attack. No matter how many times I tried it, it just was not coming out like I wanted. This is where I first duplicated an instrument track and started to piece all of the notes together. I found that I was able to record the first half of the notes on one track, and the second half on another to get the sound I was hearing in my head. Even still, there was one note that just would not play ball. So I duplicated the instrument on yet another track just to record one note. I soon found myself running out of tracks, while only having a few of the parts recorded. Once I had all of the notes perfected across the three tracks, I was able to join them together onto one track. Note that this can only be done if all of the source tracks are intended to be exactly the same as the destination track. In this case they were. To join multiple parts together you select pieces by tapping and holding the first, then tapping to add another. At this point when you release and tap the highlighted parts as a group you will get a new popup menu with the “join” command. After doing this I was able to free up those two duplicate tracks and delete the empty instruments, freeing the tracks for something else. I then returned to my drum track using the same methods. Create a duplicate track, tap out the high hat open and closed parts. Then join them with the original kick and snare drums on the first drum track, freeing up the duplicate drum track for something else later on. Note here that there are a total of 8 tracks available at any time. No more. Unlike the old 4 track recorders of the past, you cannot “bounce” or mixdown multiple tracks onto a single track to give yourself more free tracks. That is, not unless it’s done strictly as explained above using the “join” command. An example to better explain this limitation is to consider having 4 different instrument tracks. Let’s say you have a drum track, a bass guitar, an acoustic guitar, and a keyboard track. Using analog tape you could bounce all of those down to the drum track and have three fresh tracks available. Rinse and repeat. Here, however, if you try to mix down a bass, a guitar, and a keyboard onto a drum track you will get nothing but drums. Any of the built in instruments you combine will sound and play as the instrument and settings as they are on the destination track. This also means that you cannot live mix, which brings me to the next part of the song.

On the first half of the song I had a few of the instrument tracks dialed in just how I wanted them. But, for the second half of the song I wanted to use the same recorded pieces, only this time with tweaked sound settings, making the same parts sound a little bit different. Here, any alterations you make to any instrument track parameters are persistent for the duration of the track. If you want to duplicate a particular recording from one part of the song and place it onto another part of the song but with tweaked sound settings, then you will need to create a new track to do so. I decided to do just that, and by now I was about out of tracks.

Some other limitations of using the app: Optimizing. There will be several annoying wait times as the system is “optimizing”. There is no control over when this happens, and it happens alot. This is where you will be happy you have (or wish you had) an iPad 2. The memory and speed differences between the A4 and A5 chip are reason enough to upgrade if you will be using GarageBand often.

This pretty much sums up what I learned. I taught myself to use this fantastic app by recreating this song.

There was no intention of releasing this song, but after it was finished I decided that it was worth looking into it.

I did some research and settled upon TuneCore.com to get the track on iTunes. They had it live within just a few days. Also, since I did not write this song I had to look into the legal hoops and jump through those. There is a licensing deal pending with Disney Music to ensure they and the Daft Punk duo get their rightful royalties."'

'End of Line' can be purchased on iTunes. We love it and can't wait to see what Mark turns his hand to next!

Song created entirely with GarageBand for iPad now available on iTunes

Mark of Msavwah has created a rather superb tribute to Daft Punk and Tron entitled 'End of Line' using nothing but GarageBand for the iPad. Isn't it amazing to think that using nothing more than an app that costs no more than a trip to the cinema it's possible to create and publish music on a commercial basis.

We have been in touch with Mark and look forward to sharing his thoughts with you later in the week. In the meantime why not show Mark your support and purchase his tribute song.

We have heard from quite a number of our readers who have used GarageBand to create part of a commercially available song, but we would love to hear from those of you who have followed in Mark's footsteps and released a track made entirely with GarageBand or other iOS app.

Further Reading: Jaw-dropping Daft Punk cover using the KORG iMS-20 app

Revinyl 2.0 - Now With Added iTunes

We reviewed the music (re)discovery quiz Revinyl last year. We especially liked the philosophy behind the app and the multiplayer mode on the large iPad screen.

Now, as promised, the new version, Revinyl 2.0, includes songs from the massive iTunes library, using previews on the store as the snippits you hear and have to identify in the quiz.

The app is being actively developed following this new release. Here is what the site says about their future development plans:

Look for future updates to enrich the game play experience, including quiz review and sharing. Revinyl will also bring on shopping lists so that you can purchase the songs you discover in the quiz. A new music player is also in the works to add the visual analog touch to playing digital music.

Revinyl 2.0 is still great fun and is available now in the app store for just $0.99 (59p) which is well worth it for a game with such a great philosophy and desing.

iPad vs. The Brain That Wouldn't Die!

Movie Vault is a curious little app. Where else could you go to watch 'The Brain That Wouldn't Die' or 'Hercules and the Captive Women'! All these movies and many more besides are available from within the nicely presented Movie Vault iPad app.

In essence, the app is streaming these movies from various online Public Domain archives (via WiFi or 3G), meaning that you'll be hard pressed to find any half-decent modern movies. However, the real charm of Movie Vault is in discovering a few old classics and hundreds of not-so-classic movies such as the two we mentioned earlier.

Movie Vault is nicely constructed, the developers seem keen on adding new features and the video quality whilst nowhere near iTunes quality is watchable; think old VHS cassette quality and you won't be too far adrift. Our one criticism, which we are sure the developers can fix in a future update, is that the horror section contains some movies that you most certainly would not want your kids watching, so it would be nice to be able to passcode lock either the app itself or specific movie categories within the app.

Movie Vault isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for an additional source of content or are simply curious about the history of cinema this one's for you.

As an aside, we would really love to see TV Vault or Radio Vault.

Apple update their Remote app to version 2.0

Apple updated their iTunes and Apple TV Remote app yesterday making it compatible with the new Apple TV but also adding some important new features.

The most important new feature is comprehensive support for the iPad. Whether you are using Remote to control your Mac iTunes library or a new Apple TV we are confident that you'll love the new interface which mimics iTunes almost exactly. Genius Mixes and Genius Playlists, iTunes DJ, Podcasts, TV Shows, it's all there.

There are a couple of improvements that we would like to see and also a totally new feature we think should be incorporated. The is no support for iTunes radio stations and there is no drag and drop creation of new playlists, you can create playlists and add songs to an existing playlist but drag and drop would have been nice.

As for future features, we would really like to see video and audio streaming from an iTunes account to the Remote app, kind of like the reserve of Apple's new AirPlay feature.

Inkling: It's like iTunes for your Textbooks

(edit: Video removed - YouTube version was not authorised, text amended to refer to Inkling website to watch the video)

Inkling_Two_Up_highres.jpgImagine the scene:  You are about to leave home for the first time and enter the  world of Higher Education, you're off to College or University.  You are excited and nervous. Everything is packed, and you are ready to walk out of the door and into your new 'adult' life, but just as you are about to leave your Parents hand you an A4 sized box.

"Yes", they say, "it is an iPad!". They also tell you that all of your textbooks are in that little box too, and there's more, they tell you that you have credit enough on your iPad for hundreds of individual chapters from any textbook you need. "Don't spend it all at once!" they say, and they mean exactly that, you don't have to spend all of your credit at once on one very expensive textbook. Instead you can buy just the chapters you need that term (semester) and just the ones you will need for the rest of the year.

With the release of Inkling for the iPad, this is now a reality, and we think it has very important implications for the publishing business as a whole.

What is Inkling?

Inkling is the name of a new app, and also the company who have developed, with the publishers/authors, new electronic versions of certain key textbooks. The four launch titles, all from McGraw-Hill, are:

This is certainly only the beginning.  As faculty and institutions begin to see the impact of using electronic versions of these textbooks and the learner engagement that comes from using the iPad, and arguably other tablet-type devices, we are certain that this type of application, if not just Inkling themselves, will radically change the way that key texts are delivered and distributed to students at all levels of the Education stream.

It is a development that has got the team here at iPad Creative very excited about the future of publishing and Education.

What makes Inkling books special?

These textbooks are not just PDFs or electronic versions of the paper version. No, these are enhanced textbooks feature interactive illustrations, video, text highlighting, electronic versions of margin notes, and one of the most interesting and creative features in our opinion, collaborative note sharing with other registered Inkling users that you know, e.g. those studying the same course, as well as faculty members.

That's right, you can make (electronic) notes in the textbook and share these with other Inkling users by connecting with them via their username, but more impressive is the ability to subscribe to a Tutor's note stream, enhancing the learning interchange and providing Educators with another route for learner engagement, something that they are on constant quest to maintain and improve.

(This video is hosted at CNN and it looks like the embedded Flash video will not work on your iOS device, but you might be able to watch it on your device here. We mention the pertinent points for our discussion below anyway.)

In the video above, Matt MacInnis, says that Inkling went back to the authors and publishers to make these electronic textbooks so much more than the paper version, adding in interactive features such as quizzes which not only give you feedback on correct or incorrect answers, but if you are incorrect, it tells you why, and what the correct answer is to help you learn where you went wrong.


Not so different in the Classroom

Inkling_Reading_C_highres.jpgYou might imagine with all this new fangled stuff that it would be a bit weird sat next to fellow students with their traditional paper version when your Professor calls out, "could everyone turn to page 128". Because of the different nature of the electronic textbooks in Inkling, they do not really have pages as you would in a paper book, but Inkling have made efforts to help users out in this area by making it easy to jump to any page. The built-in search gives you the advantage though, enabling you to quickly access any text or illustration in the book, as well as in your own notes that include those key terms.

The iTunes Music Store Pricing Model

One of the key features that stood out about Apple's iTunes Music Store when it was introduced, and one of the aspects that shook up the Music Industry, was the ability for customers to buy individual songs from an album. Before, we had to buy the whole album on CD and, although there were other online music stores around, this purchasing model and improved customer choice really hit the mainstream with iTunes. In other words, we could pick and choose what we wanted, or needed, to create an à la carte product tailored to us as the customer.

Now a very similar model can be applied to the academic publishing industry. Previously, the only option for students was to buy the whole tome and swallow the hefty price tag but now, with the introduction of individual chapter purchasing, Inkling are opening up a new, à la carte, way to buy.

The price of buying the paper version of the textbooks quoted in the above video is $180, but by selecting just the chapters that are needed the student could only end up spending about $50. Savings that both the student and Parents will appreciate, arguably providing less of a barrier to accessing learning resources for those who find it difficult to afford, especially if the iPad does not have to be purchased by them, but is issued to the student by the Academic establishment as part of their enrolment (from reading the FAQs it looks like your purchases follow you to a new device if you get an iPad after finishing your studies, so your purchases are not lost).

Some of us who are not so close to College age any more might bemoan the loss of the traditional paper based books and the feel of physically flipping through the pages and scribbling notes in the margins. It has to be acknowledged though that the form factor of the iPad lends itself perfectly to reading textbook pages, being about the same size, and for a generation that are not as used to holding and using paper books, it is probably not much of an issue and is certainly what the future will look like.


More info

There is a good FAQ at the Inkling site which answers a lot of questions about the detail of using the app and there are some nice little video demos of the key features too.

As we have already said, the launch of Inkling and no doubt other similar products eventually, fills us with a good deal of excitement about the future of publishing and the user benefits it will bring, even if it is a shift in thinking for the Publishing houses. With a big name like McGraw-Hill behind Inkling's launch though, it looks like an inevitable march towards a different purchasing model, at least in the Academic sphere where not all of a book is required or needed.

Your thoughts?

What do you think? Are you involved in Education in some way? Do you have any thoughts on how this might be a good move? Or do you have some serious reservations about this development?  Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

Apple Changes Categorisation of Apps in iTunes for iPad

If you are running iTunes 9.1 on your Mac, have a look at your apps section.  Has it changed?  We have just noticed that our apps section when viewed as a grid is now split into three areas:

  • iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad apps (we are guessing these are 'Universal' apps
  • iPhone and iPod Touch apps (non-iPad apps?)
  • iPad apps (designed for the iPad only - if you have any downloaded)

This is interesting because it is really not clear which apps are iPad only or Universal in the App Store in our opinion.  Although this categorisation will only show on apps you have on your computer, it is at least a start to making sense of the (in our case) hundreds of apps kicking about on our hard drives for testing purposes, or just in case we need them some day.