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Entries in keyboards (5)

Video: Stunning Audio Samples in SampleTank

When we raved about the professional quality audio samples in IK Multimedia's new SampleTank app (still 50% off until 13th November), we wanted to show you how good these sound, but to be honest we don't have the skills. Fortunately, IK do, and they have added a page of video demos showing just how amazing their SampleTank app sounds.

Future Tech

Sometimes, we are guilty of taking all this for granted but remember, this is all happening on a portable tablet device, a computer that you can take with you wherever you go and plug it in to any MIDI keyboard via things like the iRig MIDI. Future-tech of our childhood is here!

On with the Demos

We have included a few of our favourites video demos below, to see the rest check out the page at IK Multimedia. For now though, grab a pair of headphones and listen to the quality of these samples, we think you will be impressed.

The nylon guitar and Sax sounds in this one are amazing, they sound better than our real nylon guitar

Beautiful piano sounds in this one

The Lovechild of an iPad and a Guitar: The iTar

We love Kickstarter, it gives inventors a chance to make the gadgets we want to see and provides a constant source of creativity.

We also love Music, Guitars and iPads. Mash all of these things together with some serious credentials in making musical instruments (for the likes of Vernon Reid, Chemical Brothers and Lou Reed) and you have the iTar.

What is it?

With a prototype that looks part 80s classic headless guitar / part frying pan, the iTar has some serious potential in our opinion. It is guitar shaped with a MIDI key fretboard and can act as an instrument, soundboard, lighting board or pretty much anything else controller.

The $200 price tag for an actual production unit might be a little high for some, but there are plenty of funding options if you want to support the project towards its $50,000 funding target.

A serious option

If you really want to integrate your iPad into live performances and/or your music creation workflow, it's actually not a bad price when compared to many instrument interfaces and it's probably a small fraction of what you would normally pay for a custom made instrument from the iTar's makers StarrLabs.

We think the iTar has some real potential, especially for live performance.

Check out the promo video below from StarrLabs, plus get the full back story and funding options on the Kickstarter page:

Be sure to let us know in the comments if you think this one has got potential, especially if you plan on backing the project.

On the Music Path: Beautiful, Intimate and Effective

How would you like an intimate 1:1 guitar lesson from some of the top musicians in the business? In your own home!

With On the Music Path app, that is pretty much what you get. You can even say, “Hang on, slow down a bit and play that again”, as many times as you like without annoying your tutor.

If you want to improve your musicianship, appreciate high quality video and classy app design, we think you will love On the Music Path, and it is not just because our favourite actor/photographer/musician Jeff Bridges told us to.

Here’s Jeff to tell you more about the app. We'll give you our hands-on review after the video:

The Approach

As you can see in the video above, On the Music Path uses high production value video tutorials to teach a skill. We liked the teaching approach used in the videos. The guitar videos, for example, show both hands of the tutor on the guitar, all the way through the lesson, so you can see exactly what they are doing.

These videos are supplemented with onscreen guitar tabs (or optionally music notation) highlighting the notes being played with a little blue arrow above or below the Tab.

IMG 0359

Each lesson begins with a short introduction from your tutor where they demonstrate the skill your are going to learn, what will be covered and how it can be used. These introduction videos are very personal and although it may sound a little hokey, it really feels like they are talking directly to you. Try it and see.

You're In Control

You can control the speed of the video playback and even slow it right down to quarter speed whilst retaining the exact same pitch. Very useful if you need to break a riff or song down note by note.

There can be some strange sort of echo like stutter if you play the video at the slowest speed, but you have to expect this really from the audio and the notes are still clearly audible to play along with.

Another great feature is being able to set in and out points on the video so that you can loop and repeat a section that you are trying to learn, very handy. 

Once a video lesson is finished the app pauses with a screen that lets you tap once to carry on to the next part of the lesson, or double-tap to replay the last video. This seemingly small detail has a big impact when you are learning.

Instead of breaking your concentration, going back to a menu or rewinding a video, just double-tap to practice the skill again, and again. It is a very useful feature (one we had to use quite a lot!).

Your Tutors

This app is not for wannabee super shredders or death metal fans necessarily, not at the moment anyway. The style of music being taught and the manner of your instructors is relatively sedate with Blues and Folk style guitar playing being the current topics covered.

Some well known musicians have lent their talent and knowledge to these tutorial videos though, talented and authentic musicians who love their craft.

Our teachers have won Grammy’s, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, played at the very top of the charts and even been nominated to Parliament…But that’s not why we chose them. We chose them because they’re great teachers: They have the patience, generosity and talent to inspire you to become a better musician.

Among these is Jackson Browne (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer); Songwriter, Folk Rock guitarist and Brit legend Richard Thompson (OBE); and noted guitarist Steve Postell who delivers a stellar series on the fundementals of guitar. These are really good, solid basic lessons that any beginner guitarist will find invaluable to starting them off on the right foot (or leg actually) in their guitar playing lifetime.

Only acoustic guitar lessons are available right now, covering mostly folk, blues and classical playing, but the app shows a 'Coming Soon' label on electric guitar lessons with Eric Johnson, Sitar with Ravi Shankar Piano with Vonda Shepherd and Drums with Steve Ferrone, amongst several other instruments, so there is a lot to look forward to.

Video Size and Quality

The videos are gorgeous and look fantstic on the iPad screen if you opt for the full HD quality lessons. You are looking at around a 750MB to 1GB download that will be stored on your iPad though.

If, like us, you are struggling not to overstuff a 16GB iPad, you will find yourself deleting a lot of apps, podcasts, music, photos and other video to make room for these lesson downloads.

You do have the option of Standard quality downloads or the much smaller low-res versions.  These take about 380MB and 180MB on average respectively. We tried them all for most lessons and the low-res videos are ok to watch on the iPad screen if you don't need to see the detail but the Standard quality videos were more acceptable to watch on the iPad.

If you can make room for them though, the HD quality is worth it, especially if you plan on hooking your iPad up to a larger display whilst using On The Music Path. We used HDMI and VGA out to watch the video tutorials on our HDTV in the lounge and they looked and sounded fantastic.

The guitar tab overlay is always clear, no matter what quality video you have selected, so you won't have problems seeing the notes you need to play.

No Streaming

We think it would be better if there was an option to stream these lessons, meaning we wouldn't have to keep them on our iPad. This may mean we lose the portability of the lessons, but if your main use for the lessons was at home where you have wifi and broadband available, having to wait for the stream each time wouldn't bother us too much.

The Cost

On the Music Path is a free download for your iPad, and most lessons have a sample provided for free.

Lessons range from $1.99 - $19.99 (£1.49 - £13.99) which might seem a bit expensive but, when an hour with your local guitar tutor costs around £25, consider what you're getting for your money:

  • 45 mins to 1 hour of personal instruction from a professional musician
  • Content to keep and re-watch again and again
  • 1:1 lessons with top names in Folk/Blues/Country and soon Rock music
  • Very high quality video
  • Well produced teaching tools, such as tab display and video slow down with pitch retention
  • Lifetime access to download lesson content again if deleted

If, like us, you are running a limited budget, then you may have to ration yourself to one or two downloads per month.

Given the size of the tutorials, especially at high quality and the amount of content in each one, you probably wouldn’t want to download all of the lessons at once anyway.

Overall Impressions

If learning to play guitar or becoming a more accomplished player , is something you have always wanted to do we think you will relish On the Music Path, especially if Blues, Folk and Classical is your thing.

As more lessons are added in the future in other areas such as Rock guitar, Keyboards, Bass, Ukulele and Drums, so the app has the potential to become your portal to all manner of musical instruction, right there on your iPad.

We highly recommend you check out On the Music Path, you have nothing to lose as the app is a free download from the App Store.

You will be able to tell if it is for you from the free samples that are included. Just be sure to free up some space on your iPad, especially if you are already struggling with your 16GB iPad like we are.

Playing with iTM MidiLab and iPad (video demo)

Want a free way to use your iPad as an external keyboard with GarageBand (or other DAW)? We did, so we tried out the iTouchMidi (iTM) MidiLab app which lets you do just that, via Wifi.

iTM MidiLab is actually an iPhone app and is promoted as "a dynamic showroom allowing for new users to experience the iTouchMidi concept" and a "gateway to iTouchMidi".

Just The Basics

So the app is limited in functionality, providing just the basics, but it is useable enough for amateurs and the MIDI-curious to get an idea of what can be done with MIDI controllers or just to play around with different instruments (and to save us from the awkward 'Musical Typing' mode).

In this free app you get three different control interfaces, the site lists them as:

  1. Button Matrix 4 X 4 with Midi Feedback 
  2. Midi keyboard (C-2 -> C8) with pitchbend
  3. XY Pad, sending CC 18 & 19 on midi channel 1

Quick tip - Shake your iPad to switch between the different interfaces.

Getting Started

Once you have the MidiLab app on your iPad, all you do is download a bit of server software for your Mac or Windows Computer (or even transfer it from the MidiLab app itself via browser file sharing), install and run the server on your Computer, select your Computer name from the MidiLab startup screen on your iPad and you are away.

We liked the idea so much that we put together a hastily recorded video for you to see how simple it is and importantly, how little latency there seems to be.

On a technical, iOS, note: We recorded the video with an iPhone which was held in the other hand so it is a bit shaky but the whole thing was edited entirely on the iPad with ReelDirector, a bargain at $1.99.

If you want more advanced functionality iTouchMidi sell standalone interface apps which are a little pricey at $5.99 each, but they do allow more control and add functions like Velocity (by hitting the top of the keys for a louder sound) and Program/Bank changing in iTM Keys for example.

Let us know what you think and if you try out iTM MidiLab yourself. We would be interested to know if your experience was similar to ours, especially with the low latency.

Friday Fun: First Ever iPad-only StudioTrack Made Song

  

Spanish band Jubilee (MySpace link with lots of Flash on the page) have made this very nice looking video to show how they recorded their song 'The Preacher' using just their iPads, the built-in microphone and recording-studio-in-a-box app StudioTrack from Sonoma Wire Works.

It is a lovely song and very impressive sounding given the way it was recorded, so we thought we would share it with you before we go off into the weekend.

We will be posting our thoughts on StudioTrack very soon so if you have used StudioTrack on your iPad and want to let us know what you thought, either email us using the link to the right of your screen or leave a comment below. We may even use your comment in the review when we post it next week.