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Entries in music (38)

Kids Can Mix It Up With Mixeroo

This initially seemed like an odd idea for an app. Using the studio mixing desk as a basis, Mixeroo aims to help kids learn about music and the relationship of the instruments to each other within the overall song via a very simple (in a good way) interface.

We've played with audio mixers before on our iPads but we would never have thought of handing them over to our kids so they can learn in this way, yet Mixeroo Developer/Dad/Professional Sound Mixer, Kirk Wheeler, obviously did.

We were kindly provided with a review copy of Mixeroo by Kirk and we were not really sure what to expect but, in short, we loved it.

Remixing The Songs

Mixeroo is supplied with 4 songs with the music created by Michael Farrell, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with some well known recording artists and with some big name TV shows. The four songs are: Twinkle Twinkle, Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider and Ode to Joy, each with their own mix of instruments and, in most cases, percussion.

These songs run on a loop when you hit the play button so that you can continuously make adjustments without having to restart the song every time. The instrumental arrangements are not just repeated each verse either, there are variations played in each verse emphasising different instruments or parts, the audio is very high quality too.

The very simple interface hides a lot of versatility. For example, you can fade out the drums for the verse, then bring them back in for the next verse to build up the song, you can make one instrument, maybe the main melody, louder then do a 'hush verse' before bringing everything back in. You can also use multi-touch and adjust more than one slider at once.

We were surprised at how much fun it is playing with the song mixes and changing the overall sound and presentation of the song, we even let the iPad Creative kids have a go in the end and they loved it too. It was interesting to watch how children learn the interactions and how they quickly understand how to control the sound they are hearing with the simple but attractive sliders.

Overall we would say that Mixeroo is a surprisingly fun and educational app that kids love experimenting with. We would recommend it for iPad users who want to encourage little ones to explore and learn about music.

Mixeroo is available for $1.99 (£1.19) in the app store and we think it is great value.

What do you think of this idea? Have you tried Mixeroo with your little ones? Let us know in the comments below.

Akai SynthStation49 - iPad docking Keyboard

When Akai Professional brought out the SynthStation25 with integrated iPod Touch/iPhone dock we were desperately scouring the Internet for hacks that would allow a dock extender to work with our iPads but most reports were that the full functionality was not going to work this way.

But worry no more, Akai have just announced at NAMM 2011 the iPad version with a larger keyboard to match, the SynthStation49 (with 49 velocity-sensitive keys as opposed to the 25 keys of the smaller version).

The SynthStation49 is iOS CoreMIDI compatible so should act as an interface to pretty much any App using MIDI but it also has an onboard USB connection so that you can hook it up to your computer / DAW and control that too.

We think this might just be what live gigging musicians have been waiting for to use some of the awesome iPad apps in a real context.

The iPad is charged when docked and can be adjusted to different viewing angles so it looks like they have put a lot of thought into the iPad integration.

We hope that Akai have addressed the latency issues that some were reporting with the SynthStation25 but we are sure we will hear about that soon enough!

You can read more details and a full description of the features on the SynthStation49 webpage, but here are the main ones from the announcement:

  • Portable, velocity-sensitive keyboard with pitch and modulation wheels
  • Nine velocity-sensitive MPC-style drum pads which light when triggered
  • Dedicated transport control buttons including Play, Pause and Record
  • Play MIDI keyboard and drum pad performances into an iPad via CoreMIDI or AkaiConnect apps
  • Built-in, adjustable dock charges your iPad while positioning the screen at the perfect angle
  • USB port for connecting to a Mac or PC, receiving power and controlling MIDI music software
  • Professional ¼" stereo outputs with volume control to connect mixers, speakers and recording equipment
  • Headphone output to practice and compose in private

If this is just what you have been looking for or you have any thoughts about SynthStation49 let us know in the comments. 

Gorillaz 'The Fall' - The Lowdown

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By now, you may already have heard the rest of The Fall, Gorillaz new album recorded primarily on the iPad. We mentioned it in our last post, but if you haven't heard it, the whole album can be streamed for free on a dedicated page at the Gorillaz site.

Music is, of course, highly subjective and The Fall is a bit of a mixed bag musically. If you like the Gorillaz previous work or are a fan of electronic based music, then you may well enjoy it as we did, but we know that some people will not be quite so keen.

Whatever your opinion of the music itself, we think you can't fail to be impressed that the album was made primarily on an iPad, in hotel rooms and tour buses, over a period of just 32 days, whilst the band were busy with their 'day job' of performing live in front of thousands of fans.

It feels a bit futuristic to say that a portable tablet device can replace a recording studio, at least in many ways. What is interesting for us especially, as dabblers in all things musical, are the iPad apps that were used to create the album, and we have listed them below.

It should be noted that the iPad wasn't the only instrument used in the creation of The Fall. The site mentions that the other instruments used were Korg Vocoder, Ukelele, Microkorg, Omnichord, Moog Voyager, Melodica, Guitar, Piano, Korg Monotron.

This was in addition to vocals recorded by the band and also on Track 13, Bobby in Phoenix, Bobby Womack. Oh and we shouldn't forget 'Track' 15 Seattle Yodel featuring the Archie McPhee Yodelling Pickle.

Give the album a listen if you haven't already and then check the links below to read more about each app used. As always, we would like to know what you think, of both the album and the use of the iPad in this way, let us know in the comments. 

So without further ado, here are the iPad Applications used to create The Fall, with links where we could find them: 

Speak It! / SoundyThingie / Mugician / Solo Synth (despite digging around, we couldn't find an app with this name) / Synth / Funk Box / Gliss / AmpliTube / Xenon / iElectribe / BS-16i / M3000 HD / Cleartune / iOrgel HD / Olsynth / StudioMiniXI / BassLine / Harmonizer (check out the overlay template for your iPad on this page) / Dub Siren Pro / Moog Filatron

Gorillaz Preview 'Made-on-an-iPad' album

As you may already know, the new album from cartoon rockstars Gorillaz, entitled The Fall has been 'made on an iPad' and there has been much anticipation of the album release. The 15 iPad composed tracks are described as a 'musical diary' recorded during the Gorillaz recent 32 day North American tour, reflecting the sounds and experiences of the places they visited.

The track in the video above, 'Phoner to Arizona' is the first track off the album and has been released today as a sneak peek. Tomorrow, paid subscribers to Gorillaz fan club Sub Division will be able to download the album for free, but even if you are not a member of the fan club you will be able to stream all 15 tracks from tomorrow here.

We are looking forward to hearing the rest of the tracks, but at the moment we are reminded of a BTTF quote, "That's very interesting music, Marty".

Baby Chords Makes Musical Babies

It is difficult not to be a pushy parent sometimes, no matter how much you try, but surely a little gentle coaxing in the creative, musical direction is ok, isn't it? 

Baby Chords is an app that might help both entertain and distract little ones, whilst introducing them to the principles of making music with scales and chords.

The app has been specifically designed to make basic, possibly harmonic, noise making easy for anyone. This is from the iTunes description (capitalisation as per the original):

Pressing any three consecutive notes ALWAYS PRODUCES A CHORD. Sliding your finger across notes ALWAYS RESULTS HARMONIOUS.

Select among delightful instrument sounds of the PIANO, HARP and GLOCKENSPIEL with beautiful baby musical instrument interfaces, baby PATTERNS and baby BLOCKS as display options.

Baby Chords is in the app store now for $2.99 (£1.79). Let us know if you try this app, and what your little ones think, in the comments below.

Friday Fun: Material Girl iPad Cover

This is probably the cutest song we have seen played entirely on the iPad so far. Madonna's Material Girl is covered here by Finnish acapella 'girl band' Viisi (meaning Five in Finnish - not to be confused with 90's British boy band Five).

The music, of course, is played exclusively on their iPads. It looks quite impromptu and makes for a bit of viewing fun on a Friday.  Interestingly, there were a few apps used here by Viisi that we didn't know about iBone XL (a Trombone sim) being the main one that we hadn't come across before.

The other apps used are... actually, for a bit of fun, we'll let you work that out for yourself. There is a place where you can find out the apps used, let us know in the comments if you can identify any of them.

Viisi have also posted a much more polished song played on the iPad which really shows off their vocal talents too called "Aikaisintaan sunnuntaina" ('The Earliest Sunday' - according to Google Translate), a track which appears on Viisi's eponymous album.  You can see the video for that one below.

 

Video Find: iPad as a Music Studio

Can an iPad replace a laptop as a Music Studio? Here is someone who thinks you can.

In this video, recorded on an iPhone, Andrew Turner (deepliferecords on YouTube) discusses replacing his failed two year old HP Tablet with an iPad and a bunch of apps plus hardware add-ons, as a music creation device.

Andrew demos IK Multimedia's Amplitube for iPad and the iRig hardware interface along with NLogSynth PRO and a Korg nanoKEY midi controller plugged in via Apple's Camera Connection Kit. He is certainly impressed and at the end of the video he says:

"Overall, I'm very happy with the iPad as a replacement for my laptop... there's nothing that I can't do so far with the iPad that I could do with the Windows Notebook or a Windows Computer." 

We tend to agree with Andrew, but what do you think? Can an iPad replace a laptop for music creation? Let us know in the comments. 

Korg iMS-20 vs Deep Purple (Video Find)

A few weeks ago we told you about the release of the Korg iMS-20 app, at the time we were flabbergasted by it and we remain so. Since then there have been a few demonstrations of what you can do with the app posted around the Web, but none as impressive as this video from cyberspacecowboys on YouTube.

We loved it, we hope you do too! If you have seen any more stellar examples of what you can do with the iMS-20 iPad app let us know.

AmpliTube for iPad - Review

We let you know how much we liked IK Multimedia's iRig hardware as a general iPad input device a few weeks ago, but of course it was primarily designed to partner with their own software for (mainly) guitarists AmpliTube for iPad (and separate iPhone version).

We have been testing AmpliTube for iPad for a while now and we have been hoping on an upgrade to version 2.0 (as the iPhone version has been recently) before posting our review.

As version 2 of the app has not turned up yet we thought we would let you know what we think of version 1.0.2 of AmpliTube for iPad so far anyway.

This is one of only a few guitar effects / amp simulation apps specifically made for the iPad, so what did we think of it? Read on to find out.

The Premise - Analogue Amplitude

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Any guitarist will tell you that as much as they love their amp and the special relationship it has to their 'sound', the biggest bugbear is carrying that hulking great box around to band practice, gigs or anywhere else they may wish to take it.

If their amp doesn't have a headphone jack then another major problem is that getting that great sound usually involves cranking the amp up to levels far too loud to be compatible with sleeping kids upstairs, tolerant but deafened spouses and elderly (or litigious) neighbours.

The Digital advantage

The first thing that you will notice is that AmpliTube for iPad weighs a lot less than a guitar amp! Seriously though, the advantage of any audio app should be that it means you have to carry less equipment with you especially if that means you can play your guitar, amplified with effects, in places where you would not have bothered taking a real amplifier.

IK Multimedia have a software/hardware solution in the iRig and AmpliTube that could in theory replace a physical amplifier for example when recording demos, rehearsals, private practice and even plugged directly into a house PA.

iRig_into_ipad-small.jpgThe User Interface

One thing that has always impressed us about IK Multimedia's apps on our Macs, iPhones or iPads, is the attention to detail in the User Interface (UI) and AmpliTube for iPad is no exception.

The effects pedals are drawn beautifully, as are the amps, with all the knobs and switches replicated in exact detail. Other UI elements are also well drawn and for the most part their function and mode of operation is clear.

AmpliTube for iPad operates only in landscape orientation and this allows you to see four effects at once next to each other, compared to one at a time, up to a maximum of only three pedals, on the iPhone.

Most of the time we were able to adjust amp and pedal settings by directly 'turning' the control knobs on the screen without any problem.

What does it sound like

Arguably, the quality and authenticity of the sound is of utmost importance for any app trying to simulate a real guitar amp and effects. It is probably best to acknowledge that any digital version of an amp is not really going to sound like the real thing exactly.

Bearing this in mind, we were really blown away by the sounds we got from AmpliTube for iPad.

The default settings need a bit of tweaking to get the best out of them, but as mentioned above the controls are accurate and responsive on the iPad's touchscreen and they shape the sound as we would expect their real world equivalents to.

We used an Epiphone Les Paul for most of our testing and the double humbuckers push too hard to get a clean sound from the Clean amp without some serious tweaking of the default settings. With a Strat type of guitar the default was fine.

ipadgui02.jpg

As you would expect, switching to the Crunch amp gave a nice punchy rhythm sound with the Les Paul Humbuckers which was hardened up with a quick adjustment of the tone controls on the guitar.

The Lead amp gave us a sound we preferred over the Crunch amp to be honest and the Metal amp really does give a nice high-gain setup which, when combined with the Overdrive pedal covered most of the Rock/Metal styles easily. However, you will probably always need to include the Noise filter as one of your four pedal choices to control feedback and hiss.

The Bass amp was actually quite a surprise and gave us a nice, warm, bass sound generally which was fairly easily shaped using the tone controls. A definite bonus.

Cabs and Mics

Each of the amp sounds is further enhanced, or shaped, by a selection of five different Cabinets along with a choice of Dynamic or Condensor microphones, which can drastically change the tone of your sound.

We found most of them useable and it is worth running through the Cabs and Mics to see how they affect your tone.

Amplitube-ipad-03_main.jpg

Pedal Effects

A few of the eleven effects pedals we really liked. The standout ones for us were Chorus, Flanger, Phazer, Delay and a lovely sounding, infinitely controllable Distortion pedal.

We were not so impressed by the Fuzz pedal (we found it hard to get anything but  a badly broken sound), which was actually a bit of a disappointment but this might be our ageing ears.

The Wah too seemed a bit gimmicky. You can adjust your Wah snap in manual mode via the accelerometer, by tipping the iPad which makes for a fun demo to friends. In practice though, we found it very difficult to hold the iPad, tip it backwards and forwards, and play a lick on our guitar, obviously not the intended use.

The Auto-Wah settings failed to impress as well, being either too harsh or not effective enough for our tastes.

We found the Octave pedal a little heavy handed too, but it was useable with some careful tweaking.

Other Key Features

Some of the other features included with AmpliTube for iPad are the adjustable Metronome, bypass Tuner and the useable-but-slightly-clunky song or backing tracks Wi-Fi import function. This last feature lets you practice by adjusting the track's volume so that you can play over the top with your AmpliTube driven sound.

We look forward to the iPad catching up with the iPhone's new 'slow-downer' function so that we might have half a chance of playing along with real guitarists playing at half speed.

There are also 36 presets, some of which are pre-populated but overwriteable, but unfortunately in this version you cannot rename the numbered squares so you will have to write down or remember what is saved to each preset (this has been changed in the iPhone version 2.0).

ipadgui04.jpg

Conclusions

We can highly recommend AmpliTube for iPad to any guitarist looking for an app written and optimised for the iPad and its relatively large touchscreen. There is no doubt in our minds that IK Multimedia have set the bar for other app developers in the guitar amp/effects arena.

The range of sounds and effects that you can achieve for less than a quarter of the cost of just one decent effects pedal is truly amazing. For just $19.99 (£11.99) for the full version you really cannot moan about the price, but if you do think that is too much (really, it is not) then you can get a FREE lite version with a reduced number of effects (Stompboxes) and just one Amp and Cabinet, with other Amps and Cabs available a la carte style via in-app purchase.

Further Info and Specs

If you have never seen or heard AmpliTube in action, the video below gives you an overview of the UI and sounds that are available. If you are still not sure we would recommend downloading the lite version and give it a proper run through, there is nothing to lose and it sold us straight away on the full version. We have listed the full specs for AmpliTube for iPad below this video.

  

The Specs

AmpliTube for iPad is available in two versions (there are three versions on the iPhone):

  • Free - includes 3 stompboxes (Delay, Noise Filter & Distortion once registered), 1 amplifier (Lead) and speaker cabinet as well as both microphones (dynamic & condenser). New stompboxes and amp/speaker cabinets can be added through in-app purchases.
  • Full - £11.99 ($19.99) - everything available via in-app purchase in the free version all in one package. So that's 11 stompboxes (delay, fuzz, distortion, overdrive, wah, envelope filter, chorus, flanger, phaser, octave, noise filter), 5 amplifier/cabinets and the two microphones

Other key features of AmpliTube for iPad include:

  • 36 preset slots
  • Built-in Tuner and Metronome
  • Import songs via wi-fi and playback for practice
  • Low-latency as good as the Mac/PC system

A Real Page Turner

We mentioned a few weeks ago the sheet music, page turning, app Masterdaelion that required both an iPad and an iPhone paired together, but what if you haven't got an iPhone? AirTurn have another solution for you.

The AirTurn BT-105 is being launched this coming Tuesday 16th November. It is a little black box with a Bluetooth transmitter that you can place on the floor and connect it to one or two foot switches.

The box basically sends a signal to your iPad that equates to 'Page Up' (Left foot switch) to move back to the previous sheet or 'Page Down' (Right foot switch) to move on to the next sheet. It can be used with apps that allow you to read sheet music in PDF format as well as guitar or other instrument tabs.

Ready to roll 

The press release names a few apps it can already work with:

The BT-105 works with a growing number of iPad apps, including forScoreMusicReader, and unrealBook.

but we would expect more apps to enable Bluetooth as this type of accessory becomes more common for the iPad.

Of course, if you are a musician and also have a Bluetooth equipped computer, the BT-105 will work with any app that accepts Page Up / Page Down commands, even PowerPoint, although we are not sure you want to control presentations with your feet, but you could - let us know if you do!

The BT-105 will retail for $69 and you will have to buy foot switches on top of that if you haven't already got them lying around, so it is not the cheapest musician's hardware accessory, but it does serve a niche.

More technical detail can be found on the BT-105 announcement page and the video below demonstrates how it works in practice. Do let us know if you get one of these units, we would love to hear how well it works for you.