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Entries in music creation (35)

Loopseque For Kids - Fun and Educational

We liked the original version of Casual Underground's Loopseque a lot and now they have released a special version of the app aimed at younger ones starting to explore music creation on the iPad. It is being offered for only $0.99 (69p for us) at the moment so we purchased it to see what our little testers thought of it.

Fun and Familiar

Loopseque Kids is a fun app with cute graphics and sounds, some of them restful, some not so much. If you have used Loopseque before then the user interface will be familiar to you with it's circular soundfield but unlike the original, to switch between one of the (only) three sound sets you touch the circle in the middle. This changes the sounds, graphics and colours to match a particular time of day, either daytime, dusk or nighttime.

Loopseque kids sunset

Sound Choices

Too much choice can be confusing for very young ones or those new to music making and this app is aimed at being an introduction to music creation for youngsters, but within those three sound sets there is a good range of tunes that you can create.

In addition to the main circular sound grid there are little trees, houses, hills, clouds and sun or moon, all of which have their own assigned sounds too that can be played over the top of your arrangement.

Whilst limited, the app is a lot of fun and, with a bit of experimentation, can even be quite soothing with the nighttime sounds especially.

Play Your Own

For slightly older ones, the limited soundest can be a bit frustrating and our (admittedly short attention spanned) 6 year old tester found this to be the case.

That's where the piano mode comes in. This gives you a circular keyboard with a couple of different instrument sounds covering a lower and higher octave. We liked this mode for enabling experimentation and it is multitimbral so you can play chords plus a melody if you have the skills.

Loopseque kids piano night

For less than a dollar (or pound) we think Loopseque Kids is a great app to have on your iPad both to encourage musical exploration for your little ones and as another distraction technique on long journeys.

You can download Loopseque Kids from the App Store now and if you have little ones using your iPad we recommend you do so.

If you try this out with your young iPad users be sure to let us know what you think.

iRig MIDI & SampleTank for iOS: Hands-on Review

Ok, let's get straight to the point: If you don't already have a MIDI input device for your iPad/iPhone, if you want one and can afford it, go and order the iRig MIDI right now!

We can't think of any major reason why you wouldn't. But if you want to know a bit more about iRig MIDI, why we think you need it and IK Multimedia's new SampleTank for iOS software, be sure to watch the video below and then read on for the inside scoop...

 

iRig MIDI Hardware

Setting up and using iRig MIDI really is as simple as the video above makes out!

In the box, as well as the iRig MIDI, you get:

  • 2 x 5.2' standard MIDI cables - DIN to 1/8" jacks
  • 1 x very short USB to Micro USB charging cable
  • Quick Start guide

The iRig MIDI has 3 MIDI ports: In, Out and Thru with two Red LEDs which reasurringly light up to indicate throughput in and out.

Setup is very straight forward. We had no trouble at all using our M-Audio Oxygen 8 test keyboard controller with any of the CoreMIDI compatible apps we had installed on our iPad.

We tested the iRig MIDI with a fairly simple setup but the Thru port also allows some more complex setups and a few alternative use cases are detailed on IK's site.

Little Shorty

The only real problem we had was the ridiculously short USB charging cable. This cable connects your standard iPad/iPhone charger to the iRig MIDI and charges your iOS Device while in use, which is handy and very useful.

But because the cable is so short we had to leave the iPad on the floor to be close enough to the charger and this meant we couldn't control the apps or use the touchscreen as it was out of reach.

In the end we used a 4-gang extension cable and had this sat on the desk, which took up precious work space and got in the way a bit, but it's not the end of the world and the extra sockets were handy.

Update: We heard from IK Multimedia after posting this review and apparently they wanted to include a longer cable, but doing so would not meet Apple's power rating requirements to charge the iPad and so they had to go with a cable of this length to get approval. Still, as they pointed out, at least you do have the option of charging the iPad with iRig MIDI and they supply the cable in the box.

Flawless Operation

This issue aside though, the iRig MIDI worked flawlessly with our MIDI Keyboard and apps like GarageBand, Addictive Synth, Animoog and NLog Pro, all recognising the Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels without any further setup (as you would expect with Core MIDI) and there are over 100 apps that are compatible with iRig MIDI listed on IK Multimedia's site.

The iRig MIDI is highly recommended by iPad Creative. For us, it certainly lives up to the promise. Go and get one.

 

SampleTank for iOS by IK Multimedia

If you want to start using multiple MIDI Channels or layering with your iRig MIDI, then you will probably need to use IK Multimedia's own SampleTank app, which comes in a Free version (available now from the app store) with a limited sample set initially.

Upgrades

In-app purchases can be made for different sample packs as you need them. The range of options for upgrades and add-ins is a bit complex to be honest, but it does give you the chance to add what you want if not everything suits your musical or playing styles.

The best value seems to be the upgrade to SampleTank for $9.99 (£6.99). Upgrading to the whole lot will set you back around £30 ($39.99) though, making it a more considered purchase for many of us.

Professional Sounds

All the samples are taken from IK's well respected desktop version of SampleTank which has been used in many professional and commercial projects.

The app has been designed for live use and its design allows you to switch between one of the four instrument banks, play over riff loops and/or presets using a midi controller and the onscreen keyboard simultaneously. 

The samples sound really good for the most part, just take a few minutes and give them a listen in the video demo below.

The main features of SampleTank for iOS are:

  • 4-part multi-timbral live sound module
  • Over 900 MB on-board sound library with over 400 instruments in 16 categories
  • Huge selection of melodic and rhythmic patterns for accompaniment or groove creation
  • Instruments are processed using 20 different insert FX with up to 4 simultaneous inserts per part
  • Master reverb effect with individual sends

The full set of samples takes the app up to just under 1GB, which meant a bit of app juggling on our 16GB iPad. This gives you a great range of sounds with a nice batch of Presets to get you started. The presets cover a good selection of styles from Pop through Reggae to Rock and a few Thrashy ones. There are also 3 pages of empty Presets for you to save your own customised versions. 

We were especially impressed by the quality of the samples in the Woodwind sections such as the Sax samples and also the Piano and Keyboards sounded great.

A Few Issues

As impressed as we were with the sounds in SampleTank for iOS, we thought we should mention the two issues we had: 

  1. We know the app was designed with live performance in mind, but we really missed a recording function. (Update: IK Multimedia have said that a recording feature is on the wish-list but there is no timescale as yet)
  2. The app is currently not Universal, so on the iPad we have to use it in 2x mode. It isn't the ugliest app at 2x we've seen on the iPad, but the text and keys do look pretty fuzzy and the lack of clarity gets annoying after a while, especially for those of us that rarely use iPhone apps on the iPad precisely because of this. But, an iPad version is on the way according to IK and hopefully it won't be long. (Update: IK Multimedia have confirmed to us an iPad version "is on  the way and it WILL be Universal", plus it will be a Free upgrade for those who have already paid for SampleTank for iOS)

These issues are not deal breakers, and we know that both of them can/will be addressed in future updates.

Final Thoughts

Because SampleTank for iOS is initially a free download and includes a selection of IK Multimedia's professional sound samples we would definitely recommend you download the app and have a look.

Because of the onscreen keyboard you don't need to have an external controller, so SampleTank for iOS stands alone.

Combined with iRig MIDI and an external controller though we think IK Multimedia have provided live performers with a fantastic way to incorporate their iPad and favourite Core MIDI compatible app into their setup.

Addictive Synth - Perfect Name, Amazing Sounds

Addictive Synth

"Addiction: a physiological and psychological compulsion for a habit-forming substance. In extreme cases, an addiction may become an overwhelming obsession."

That perfectly describes how we feel about Addictive Synth from VirSyn.

For substance read the literally amazing array of sounds that Addictive Synth can generate and the obsession comes from knowing that despite hours spent with the app, we have only just scratched the surface of what it can do.

We love playing with this app so much that it has taken us a lot longer than it should have to post about it. Why? Because every time we sit down to write the review we start playing with Addictive Synth and that's it, the review is forgotten about and the evening has gone.

Before we go on, take a look at the video below from VirSyn for a taste of what Addictive Synth can do:

Sounds

Watching that video you were probably as surprised as us at how much this little app can do. It sounds fantastic to our 80s-tuned ears and features some very strong customisation options.

We were absolutely blown away by the sheer range of sounds that Addictive Synth is capable of producing. Many sounds defy definition and they can be so minutely tuned away from the standard sounds that any synth/electronic type sound is probably achievable.

Presets

Digging into the Presets, one minute we were tantalisingly close to getting that Knight Rider sound (Dip Down Preset 1/16 Arp) the next we were sending the cats running out of the room with the strangest sounds they may ever have heard from the iPad (Resozz with Chase Arp) then calming things down with much nicer sounds (like the haunting Ethereal Preset).

When you find that perfect sound you can save it as a Preset for use again. Addictive Synth comes with 128 Presets giving you a good range of starting points but there are 192 slots altogether for you to use.

Editing Sounds

All of this is, of course, just the beginning. You can further shape the sound using a wide range of tools that include the following:

  • Six dynamic wavetable oscillators per voice, up to 48 total.
  • Continous morphing between two oscillator sets.
  • Realtime editing of up to 128 partials (overtones).
  • Realtime editing of filter structure to create arbitrary body resonances.
  • Extensive modulation possibilities using up to 4 LFOs and 4 Envelopes.
  • Control matrix allows real time control of five parameters using the X/Y touch pad, the modulation wheel and the tilt sensors of the iPad.
  • Monophonic or polyphonic with 8 voices.
  • 128 factory presets, unlimited user presets can be shared.
  • Up to three effects concurrently usable selected from: equalizer, phaser, flanger, chorus and stereo/cross delay

Really, you need to get this app and play with it to see and hear for yourself what the app can do, especially when editing the Waves or Filters simply by drawing the waveform with your finger across the screen it is very Addictive, we have to say.

If you want to get the best from the app you would benefit from downloading the PDF manual or viewing it online (via Google Docs - Google account needed).

Arpreggiator

Addictive Synth's Arp mode really impressed us with its versatility and depth. As you can see from the screenshot below you can customise the Arp with up to 32 steps, you can program the Tie, Accent, Note transposition and also randomise any of these parameters using the 'randomizer' or dice icon.

This is a brilliant feature we liked a lot. The 'randomizer' is described as intelligent and gives useable results at almost every throw of the dice.

MIDI

Of course, Addictive Synth is CoreMIDI compliant and we were able to play the app with our MIDI connected keyboard via the iRig MIDI (more on that very soon) without any problems. A little bit of fiddling in the parameters on the Control screen can reap some great benefits when combining effects on the Modulation wheel too.

 

Recording

We had a few crashes with Addictive Synth, which is always a bit of a concern with a performance app, but we think making sure there are no other background apps running and perhaps even a restart before a recording session would minimise or preclude these crashes completely.

We did find the Record function a bit flaky, we usually had to give it a couple of goes to get it working and this was usually when the app crashed in our experience. If you follow the tips above though it will help.

You can record any loop or sequence you play and using ACP export it to GarageBand or one of the other compatible apps, but Addictive Synth also records it as a MIDI and Audio file for sharing via iTunes, so you have a good range of options for capturing your sonic creations.

Overall

We have to say that Addictive Synth has now become our go-to synth app for it's versatility of sound and relatively easy accessibility. If you want to, you can geek out in the Control Screen and get specific with the detailed shaping of your sound based on an existing preset.

If you have even a vague interest in creating digital music we think you will really like Addictive Synth, it truly lives up to its name - we can't put it down!

If you've already tried Addictive Synth we would love to hear what you think, or even hear what you have created with the app, comments and links are welcome below.

Addictive Synth is available on the App Store for $9.99 (£6.99)

iPad Music Creation Gets Even More Awesome Next Month

The future of iPad music making is looking very exciting thanks to the efforts of NLog Synth Pro's creators Tempo Rubato and SoundPrism makers Audanika. The iPad is going to be hit with a whole ton of awesome come September.

If you have been following the discussions on Twitter, the Developers' blogs and/or in the Google Group you will already know that these two companies have developed a way to connect concurrently running iPad apps so that instructions and user input can be passed between them.

There is now a 50 strong Google group of Developers, that is the beginning of a collaborative movement to connect a raft of iOS audio/music apps to each other using a commonly agreed framework.

Sebastian Dittman from Audanika explains a bit more about it in his blog post and his enthusiasm and excitement about getting this working is evident in his post and in the video below:

This is exactly what iOS musicians need and we are very, very excited about what it means for music creation on the iPad, especially as it relates to using just one self-contained device.

For a quick demo of the awesomeness to come check out the video below from NLog. To quote Sebastian Dittman, "The future looks bright", for sure!

Retronyms Tabletop: Gridlok Tutorial Video (and Free Samples)

Got Retronyms Tabletop app on your iPad and want to know more about using custom samples in the Gridlok module? So do we!

Helping us out is Retronyms themselves who have published the video below, showing how to use the free samples they are giving away to celebrate 1000 Likes on Facebook. Click that link to download your free samples and follow along:

Act Now and get Retronyms' Amazing Tabletop App at a Bargain Price

From the video above you can see that Retronyms' new iPad app Tabletop does something pretty special. As soon as we purchased this app and started playing around with the demo sessions we were really blown away and our minds are now racing with the potential this app offers musicians.

Modular Power

Created exclusively for the iPad, the modular device approach and simple interface design belie the power that this app has in store for musicians, both pro and amateur. We think it will become especially useful when linked up to other iPads, extending the workspace or syncing with apps like iElectribe or similar, especially for live performances.

Great Introductory Pricing

The app is currently enjoying some keen pricing under Retronyms' launch promotion, you can get the app with 9 of the 15 modular devices included for only $4.99 in the App Store. These devices together would normally cost you $50, so it is great value.

In addition, most of the extra modules are currently on sale at $0.99 to celebrate the launch (usually $2.99) as in-app purchases. Act quickly to get your discounted copy of Tabletop!

Here is what the pros are saying about it:

Huge Potential

We have only just begun to play around with Tabletop and, although we are far from professional musicians, even we know this could be huge. As more people experiment with Tabletop and start creating songs or live performance recordings with it we think it is going to be one of the more significant app developments in the iPad music scene.

The video below illustrates just one way Tabletop can be used, in this case for creating samples from the Turntable using the recorder and incorporating them into a live mix. It is nearly 7 minutes long but stick with it as the end result is really interesting. Enjoy, and get experimenting with Tabletop.

Have you purchased Tabletop? What do you think of it? Sound off in the comments below.

24 iPads + 1 Awesome Music Lesson = Must Watch Video

When we were at school, music lessons were just an excuse to muck around and, ever so occasionally, to actually play an instrument or learn a song. Needless to say we were generally bored out of our minds and completely uninspired by the whole thing.

If music lessons were like this though, using iPads and real instruments together to actually create something we would never have wanted to do anything else!

Neil Johnston the man behind Store Van Music, the company that made this song and video, is passionate about making music education fun and engaging. If this video is anything to go by we should all be listening to him.

This well crafted pop song will get stuck in your head, and if you really like it you should be able to buy it very soon from the iTunes store.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Win the Chance to be a real DJ with RGBSOUND

Last week we reviewed a new iPad audio app RGBSOUND and we thought it was great fun to play around and get creative with.

Now we have been sent the details of a competition by the app Developer Francesco Cricchio. The grand prize is a chance to DJ at one of the parties they are hosting around Europe, as well as plenty of copies of the app for your friends so you can have your own DJ party. 

Here is what Francesco had to say in his email:

RGBSOUND Music App Contest: upload your video on YouTube while you are playing your rhythm with RGBSOUND; insert in the title the tag "RGBSOUND Music App Contest", email us the link at rgbsound@gmail.com and participate to the contest. 
The first 10 classified, ranked based upon originality and musicality, will get 5 copies of RGBSOUND each to play together with friends.

The winner will have the occasion to play as DJ at one of our "RGBSOUND parties" organized around Europe.

Stay tuned and TAP YOUR SOUND!

 

Here's a video example:

So if you fancy being a real DJ for the night grab a copy of RGBSOUND for only 59p ($0.99) and get your videos up on YouTube.

OscilloScoop - Carve Your Own Synth Sounds

Oscilloscoop icon

Over the last few weeks we have been playing with OscilloScoop, a sound maker app with an interesting game-like interface twist, here's the detail and a video to help you see why you should buy it.


Crafted Design

OscilloScoop was designed by Lukas Girling and developed by interactive artist and programmer Scott Snibbe (Gravilux, Bubble Harp and the upcoming Bjork album apps) along with game designer Graham McDermott.

Getting Creative

Although we don't imagine professional DJs will be using the app necessarily, as non-professionals we found the app a lot of fun to play with and we have lost many hours exploring and experimenting with the apps myriad adjustments.

Carving into the rotating cylinders feels really creative and organic, very much like shaping clay on a potter's wheel.

Just like pot throwing, you can completely reshape your creation and start again if you get carried away or make a complete mess.

Song Creation

OscilloScoop also has the advantage of being able to save your carefully moulded sound for instant recall later, meaning you could create songs or performance sets if you wish.

There is no Audio Copy & Paste, but we were able to use the iPhone version (it's a Universal app so this is included in the price) to record into GarageBand on the iPad via the iRig or AmpKit Link so that multi-layered soundscapes can be created.

We would have been happier to see more beats included in the purchase price (complete sets of 20 new beats can be had via in-app purchase) but a lot of clever design has gone into making this app deceptively simple to access and the Landscape mode is even better for fine control of your sound.

Recommended Purchase

If synthesizer sounds mixed with great beats are your thing, we would definitely recommend you try out OscilloScoop. It is currently available for $1.99 (£1.19) on the app store as a Universal app.

The app has been out for just over a month now so if you have tried it already let us know what you think about OscilloScoop in the comments.

If you haven't seen it yet, here is the video demo from the Developers that made us buy it (be sure to note the Landscape mode later in the video, it will help you shape your sounds more accurately):

 

NodeBeat: Create and View Musical Soundscapes

The NodeBeat app by Affinity Blue has been out for the iPad (and iPhone) for a few weeks now and we have been experimenting with it and returning to it since the app was released.

Why we liked it

What makes NodeBeat more than worth the $0.99 (59p) asking price is the range and depth of the sounds that you can create with it. The basic premise is the same for any tune, but the configurable options are what make the app so interesting.

As an instrument, NodeBeat is not something that can be relied upon to play the exact same sounds, exactly the same way, every time. It is far more organic than that.

But it is this that keeps us coming back to it. We found it very relaxing to use and to experiement with.

A few tips

Try for instance running the app in 'gravity' mode so that the notes fall towards the floor (usually the default), then turn your iPad slowly around from landscape to portrait mode, see how this affects the sounds generated as the nodes fall at different rates and collide with each other.

You can just watch the nodes interact with each other as they enter a configurable proximity field, or you can take control and move the nodes around, forcing interaction and actually 'playing' NodeBeat as an instrument.

Our biggest tip: dig into the setup and really experiment. Like any synth, you can dramatically change the sounds generated using the Attack, Delay and Release controls, plus the Echo and Pulse settings. You get live sound previews so you can make your changes organically, on the fly.

Go and get it

For $0.99 in the App Store we would definitely recommend you get NodeBeat on your iPad. Spend some time with it, experiment with the settings, get to know how to sculpt the sound and we think you will love the creativity this app gives you. Check out the promo video below to see the app in action.

NodeBeat - iOS Music Sequencer from AffinityBlue on Vimeo.