Entries in Synth (12)
Ever fancied speaking/singing like a Cylon (original series), a Dalek or even Metal Mickey (it was a big 1980’s weekend tea-time show here in the UK)?
Voice Synth by Qneo can help you do just that, but there is so much more to the app than that. We’ve been playing with this universal app on both iPad and iPhone for the last few weeks and we love it.
If you need a fantastic sounding vocoder with a great UI, myriad range of controls and options, or even if you want to sound like some sort of robotic popstar, we recommend you go and get this app right now.
But if you want to know a bit more about Voice Synth check out the video and a few of our notes below it.
Here is a very comprehensive walk through of Voice Synth from Qneo which tells you all you need to know and we promise everything that is shown in this video demo is easily achievable within minutes of opening the app.
As you’ll see from the video, the range of controls, filters and effects is mind-blowing, check out the features section of the Voice Synth site for more detail.
The UI is lovely looking and not just eye candy, it is functional and responsive too. We especially liked the EQ with its swipe-to-set action and live meters, as well as the central Pitch/Scale Shift dial (very HAL).
Incoming update and much needed features
As much as we enjoyed using Voice Synth, our main gripe with the app was not being able to send audio out to GarageBand or other DAW type app on our iPad, with email being the only way to get recorded audio out of the app currently.
With the upcoming 1.1 update though, much needed ACP (Audio, Copy & Paste) support is being added along with MIDI support and uncompressed WAV audio export. This will give Voice Synth some serious potential for use in recording of your vintage 80’s/futuristic tinged iPad productions.
We are sure that Voice Synth will provide hours of fun for anyone though, even if you are just letting the kids play around with their voices. Our iPad Creative kids loved the Sampler feature and also the Live mode where Voice Synth converts your voice instantaneously (best with headphones but also works well through a hi-fi or amp).
We recommend picking up Voice Synth now while it is carries a 50% discount so that you can start delving into its powerful features and you’ll have it ready for the more useful 1.1 version which is imminent.
App Store Link: Voice Synth
If like us, you love playing around with the Animoog iPad app and the built-in presets but at the same time know there is so much more it can do, you will love this.
As awesome as the supplied presets sound to us, we know we could be sculpting our own unique sounds in Animoog but we had no idea where to start, until now.
A helping hand
Provided by Dubspot, a New York based Music Production and DJ School (who now offer online courses too), this video from Instructor Matt Cellitti will show you how to go from completely initialising your sound so that it is a blank canvas, through how to setup and understand the controls, on to seeing how you might gradually shape your sound into something more unique.
This is just part one of a three part tutorial, but it has already opened up the Animoog app for us. We can't wait to see the other two parts when they are released.
A big thank you to Matt and Dubspot for releasing this tutorial for free on YouTube, check out their channel for plenty more tips, tutorials, interviews and discussion on electronic music making.
It's quite chilled, so take a few minutes out of the pre-Holiday madness, sit back and have a listen:
Despite it's erroneous claims to be "the first professional synthesizer designed for the iPad", a PR statement which has caused a flurry of disgruntled comments from some of the music press and a number of very fine iOS Developers, Animoog by Moog Music Inc is definitely a great sounding Synth app with a fine looking UI.
We have only just begun to play with it but we are very impressed with what we see and hear in Animoog.
We are, of course, not synth experts or Moog purists by any means, but we do know that this synth app has a fantastic range of sounds and offers some interesting and creative interactivity as a musical instrument.
These interactions are delivered, in part, via the Fairlight-esque wave modulation front screen and the unusual keys which respond to vertical movement of your fingers to effect modulation of the notes.
Then there are the backscreens which let you fiddle to your heart's content with the built in modules, some modelled on classic Moog hardware so that you can, as the Moog website says, "quickly sculpt incredibly fluid and dynamic sounds that live, breathe, and evolve as you play them."
We had no problem getting Animoog to work with our MIDI keyboard using iRig MIDI into the iPad.
Apparently it will work with Virtual MIDI in a future version.
30-Day Bargain Price
Animoog will normally cost you, a slightly too pricey in our opinion, $29.99 (~£20) but for the first 30 days it will only set you back $0.99 (69p) and for that price you have to download it and see for yourself what it can do.
Here is a video overview, including some helpful interface clues, from Moog themselves:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
noteplex is a fascinating new way to create music on your iPad. It uses a board made up of lots of little cells onto which you place 'nodes' that, when activated, play sounds and trigger pulses which shoot out in multiple directions to hit other nodes/sounds creating chain reactions and melodies.
Pulses and Visual Displays
As you can see from the demo video above, this pattern of pulses provides what looks like a many-coloured fireworks display representing the audio's path around the screen. It can be quite beautiful to look at. The whole experience brings a smile to your face and a sense of satisfaction when you get the patterns working harmoniously together.
The sound samples are quite useable, mainly synths but with bass and drumkit sounds included too. If you want to, you can also add your own samples to the soundbank, which extends its potential even further, although it has to be done via iTunes File Sharing which is a bit of a clunky workaround.
The variation of sound samples, note life, volume and replication gives this app an extraordinary depth, not something that can be fully understood at first sitting. The more we have experimented with the app the more we have been amazed at how much you can do with it and some stunningly complex arrangements are possible.
Note selection (pitch or drum part) is via a multi-coloured keyboard at the top left of the screen, with sound sample dropdown, node type, note volume and note life settings continuing across the top of the screen. Below that are the move, add (edit) and erase tools for nodes.
At the bottom of the screen are more controls for tempo, pulse rate (experimenting with this dramatically changes your song) and playback controls along with File save, open, upload, and Net (more on this below).
The usual pinch and zoom controls allow you to place notes more accurately, it can be a bit fiddly getting the note to appear in the right place without zooming in.
Sharing and Inspiration
Like a few other iOS apps, noteplex allows you to upload and share your creations, as well as download songs created by other noteplex users. You do this via the Net button at the bottom of the screen, where you get to see the 'Most Recent' uploads as well as the 'Top Rated' songs. Selecting any song will download it to your iPad ready to be played.
You make a song a favourite by pressing on the star at the bottom right corner of your screen as someone else's song is playing.
This is useful when you are new to the app to see what others can do with it, but noteplex lets you edit their songs as if it was one of yours. You can see what they have done, plus add or take away nodes of your own. Maybe this is a way to collaborate on noteplex songs in the future?
There are a few glitches, the sound stutters occasionally during playback and always when a menu is brought up whilst the song is playing. We had a few random crashes too but this may just have been low memory on our iPad.
Occasionally, after downloading one of the songs from another user, the text in the Sound and Tempo boxes turned into big white blocks and the sound stopped working, which was a bit odd and we thought it may be to do with custom samples in that track.
We are sure these issues will be addressed in an update though and on the whole, for a first release, this app is very impressive.
At just $1.99 (£1.19) in the app store we would definitely recommend you check out noteplex. With a little patience and experimentation with node placement, note life and the node types, we think you will be impressed with what noteplex is capable of.
Be sure to let us know what you think of noteplex in the comments below, we are keen to hear what your impressions of it are.
Flabbergasting! That is the only word we can use to describe how astonishing KORG iMS-20 truly is. As a steady stream of iPad apps drifts past our field of view we are often amazed and surprised, but only occasionally are we flabbergasted.
KORG iMS-20 is a complete recreation of the KORG MS-20 analogue synth. It contains just about everything you need to create impressive tunes; sequencer, drum machine, mixer and pads, it's all here. Sharing your iMS-20 music could not be easier with the app's near perfect implementation of the SoundCloud network.
For those not entirely up to speed on analogue synths, the original Korg MS-20 has been used extensively by artists such as The Prodigy, William Orbit, Portishead, Jean-Michel Jarre and Daft Punk. Make no mistake, this is a serious piece of music making code and its arrival on the iPad is a watershed moment for iPad creativity. At its introductory price of just £9.49 (under $20) it's also a bargain.
As I write this the KORG iMS-20 app holds the number one spot on both the US and UK 'Paid Apps' charts, eclipsing Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and even Apple's own Pages. Clearly quality is rewarded on the App Store.
KORG iMS-20 isn't for everyone, but if you have any kind of interest in making music with your iPad you need this app, there is nothing quite like it on the iPad or on any other platform for that matter.
YouTube video demonstration by Bullerbyne.
Fancy performing live with some of the fancy iPad Synth and audio apps? VJ Frank Z has you covered. He is taking pre-orders for a custom guitar-like frame which mounts your iPad and controllers on what looks like a snowboard for your very own live performance. Whilst some are scoffing at this idea, we happen to think it is very creative!
Check out the video evidence below, and extra kudos points to the person who leaves a comment naming all of the iPad music apps VJ Frank uses in his video:
Synth from Retronyms is a superb synthesiser app for the iPad. It's one of the very first apps that we show to iPad objectors - just try replicating that on your £199 netbook! Our only grumble is that Synth is missing a few key features that make it an essential purchase. A recent update has gone someway towards bridging the gap between fun and essential.
Version 2 new offers a Pitch-Bend wheel, and an in-app purchased upgrade path that provides much deeper control over the sounds of the instruments, in fact you can pretty much create your own instruments from scratch.
We'd like to see Retronyms add basic recording features before we wholeheartedly recommend the in-app upgraded version, but it's a great little app even in its current incarnation.
Our last 'not excuses!' post caused quite a stir, we are not making any promises, but there is a small chance that some form of old school arcade emulation may find its way onto the iPad soon. We'll be sure to update you with more details as the project nears completion.
In the meantime we turn our attention toward the area of music synthesisers. There is already quite an array of synth apps available for the iPad — hardly surprising as the iPad is just about perfect for music creation — however, all but a handful appear to be upgraded iPhone apps.
We think there is a place for music creation applications that are narrowly focused on replicating the distinctive sound of just one artist, perhaps even just one specific album from that artist. We'll use the seminal 1976 Jean Michel Jarre classic, 'Oxygene' as an example of how and why this should be done.
"I listened to all of Jean Michel Jarre’s albums obsessively, to the point of knowing every note by heart. His music accompanied me as I wrote « 2010 : Odyssey Two. His concerts are always a celebration of wonderment…" Sir Arthur C. Clarke
A truly defining album, not just of the 70s but also of Jarre's career. Oxygene proved that electronic music can be emotive, sweeping and even soulful. Oxygene Synth, a synthesiser app based on nothing but the musical equipment and production procedures that Jarre used to create Oxygene would be a sure fire hit and could possibly lead to a renewed interest in the music of France's most enigmatic musician.
Here's how we think it should work...
Authenticity comes first
Oxygene Synth should contain the full variety of analog synthesisers and other electronic instruments and effects that Jarre used when creating the original recording. This is vital to the whole endeavour, without the full range of authentic instruments and sounds the app simply wouldn't appeal to its target audience and would likely be seen as a cheap money grabbing exercise. We are no synthesiser experts but we do know that getting that authentic sound will require broad software emulation of the EMS VCS 3 analogue synthesiser, a 'portable' synthesiser use by Jarre, but also Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Portishead.
The full emulation of early synthesisers is a worthy endeavour, old beauties like the EMS VCS 3 and Yamaha CS-80 — a synth also used by Jarre, Vangelis, David Bowie, Keane and Coldplay — need to be preserved for future generations. Unlike many other classic instruments these synths are no longer in production. Interestingly, the Yamaha CS-80 has already been reproduced in software by Arturia using their TAE (True Analog Emulation) technology, a technique which allows for the accurate modelling of the behavior of analog circuits on a personal computer. We've contacted Arturia about the Oxygene Synth, we'll post their reply here.
Next comes music
Oxygene Synth should include the complete album as MIDI files. This will allow the user to examine the timing and nuance of each note and effect. A Smule Magic Piano songbook style interface would make for a wonderful way for the music keyboard novice to make quick progress, though ultimately a full musical keyboard and portrayal of the original physical controls should be presented.
The icing on the cake
So far we have the full array of sounds, the musical note-by-note breakdown of the entire album and a way for the inexperienced to recreate Oxygene. Adding video interviews with Jean Michel Jarre, tutorials, sleeve notes, poster artwork, album reviews, a 'making of' documentary and social networking hooks would really make the Oxygene Synth app shine.
We think there's a big future in this kind of app. The iPad is so much more than any other personal computer, it's more flexible, more personal, and in many ways more powerful. By the end of 2011 the installed user base could be approaching 30 million. Given the right price point and advertising — surely Apple would feature the Oxygene Synth app at a Steve Jobs keynote! — we are convinced that the Oxygene Synth would be a success.
We are currently attempting to get in contact with the man himself. Stay tuned! You can show your support for the Oxygene Synth iPad app by mentioning this article on your own blog or by tweeting about it on Twitter. Let's see if we can make this happen.
Without being able to play an actual instrument, such as Piano or Keyboards, Guitar or Drums, there are still many ways to make music electronically, and the iPad as a platform for unleashing this creativity is no exception. There are new music creation apps being added for the iPad nearly every day, as well as those already existing for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
In this mini-series of posts we will take a look at a few of the main non-Keyboard Synths, Loop and Drum Pad apps that have caught our attention and, importantly, have been written especially for the iPad or have their own re-worked version for the iPad.
First up, a very faithful simulation of an awesome piece of beatmaker hardware:
KORG iELECTRIBEGorgeous to look at and very detailed in its execution, Korg's digital recreation of its own classic hardware the ELECTRIBE•R also includes a few features from some of the more advanced Korg beatmakers the ELECTRIBE•SX and ELECTRIBE•MX, and even the inclusion of the Vacuum Tube animation in the window at the top, the Tubes react as the real ones would, a really nice UI touch.
Korg calls this app a 'virtual analog beatbox' and they say that while it is fun to use it 'is no toy'. Everything has been brought over from the ELECTRIBE•R, the 'entire sound engine and sequencer' and nearly all the functionality you would expect is present here, including features such as:
- 16 step sequencer
- Four part percussion synthesizer (enhanced by cross modulation)
- Four part PCM synthesizer
- Accent function
- Virtual Valve Force Tube modelling (for that analogue warmth, controlled by a Tube Gain knob)
- 64 pattern presets get started straight away with these presets covering those on the ELECTRIBE•R plus new ones created especially for iELECTRIBE
- 8 master effect types some brought over from the SX/MX hardware including the super-grungy Decimator, nice!
- Advanced Motion Sequencing: allows live 'tweaking' to be memorised and replayed in your sequence. This improves on the original hardware which was limited in the number of parts it could memorise and incorporate into the sequence, but the iPad app has no limitation, Korg claims it can memorise 'all the parameters for each and every part', allowing some pretty complex patterns to be created.
Sequences you create can be saved in the app, called up later and amended or enhanced, but unfortunately there is no export option at the moment for DAW sync, which means that your creations stay on the iPad and cannot be incorporated into your desktop based music software, at the moment. This may be added, but there is no word on that happening just yet from Korg, although a lot of the iTunes reviews and Korg forum posts are asking for this functionality.
Overall though this app is amazing value for money when you think about what is included here. We have no doubt that, with a certain amount of skill and practice, this app could be used for a live performance, and with the portability of the iPad this could take your performances places the more bulky real life hardware couldn't. Plus you can check your e-mail, browse the web, and show off your photos on the same device, try doing that with your hardware beatmaker!
iECLECTRIBE will normally be $19.99, but until 30th June Korg are selling it for $9.99 (just £5.99) and we think this is a great price for what is 'virtually' an excellent recreation of a couple of hundred dollars worth of hardware. Have a look at the videos below and check it out in the app store if it pushes your buttons.
An in-depth look at the app compared to the real hardware
One of the key creative areas taking the iPad app space by storm is music creation. We are not talking full blown songs written on the iPad necessarily, but that's not out of the question. In the few weeks since the iPad’s US launch we have seen a proliferation of synthesisers, piano simulators, DJ apps, stringed instrument emulators, drum kits, an Accordion app and even a Cat-voiced Piano (we kid you not).
Interestingly, Music Creation now has its own link on the US iTunes Store, so we are not the only ones who think this area of iPad app development is noteworthy. So with that, we present the first in an ongoing series of key app roundups for music creation on the iPad, first, we are looking at Keyboard/Synth apps.
We have already posted about Pianist Pro, we thought it looked great and we were really impressed with the app’s features, especially with the built-in drum machine and Appregiator, but in the last week MooCowMusic have added MIDI export capabilities to Pianist Pro (so your musical creations can be sent to Garageband for example and enhanced and built upon on your desktop machine), data file export to Mac or PC, and fixed a few issues, so it is worth another look, or get the upgrade for free if you already have the app.
Check out the video below for more on Pianist Pro’s features, we think it is a viable alternative for those without an external keyboard, or who want to experiment and get their ideas down, even if you are not going to use it for actual recording of performances in your DAW.
Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD
If you don’t want, or need, all the features of Pianist Pro, you could try out the more straightforward Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD, made for the iPhone originally, and now optimised for the iPad in this version, this free app is fine for playing around with ideas, practicing or learning the notes on the keyboard, or for children to pick up and play with straight away. This link will take you to the app store where you can download the free app now.
You have probably heard of Magic Piano by Smule made specifically for the iPad, from the creators of innovative iPhone apps such as Ocarina and Leaf Trombone. We mentioned it yesterday and there are lots of videos on YouTube with people playing a variety of songs in the app. Magic Piano takes a slightly different approach to music making on the iPad.
What blew us away is the creativity and imagination that has gone into the app. There are different ways to play the tunes including a circular or spiral keyboard, or users can play along with preloaded songs by tapping along with ‘beams of light’, a little bit like TapTap, but more elegant.
There are different difficulty modes so that, even with no musical ability, you can start tapping away on the screen and create a pleasing sound with the ‘No Fail’ mode. We think this is brilliant, a way for anyone to create ‘music’ on the iPad, have fun, and impress their friends, without the technical barriers of making a reasonable sound that could be presented by a straight forward keyboard simulator.
If you are a bit of a keyboard wizard already, you can challenge yourself with the ‘Game Mode’, where you have to tap the screen in the correct place, or your song sounds out of tune.
But the really unique and creative function of the app is the Duet mode. The Magic Piano app can hook you app with another user from anywhere around the world, and you can play a song together in a virtual duet. Or if you want to, you can just browse the globe and listen to other people playing duets.
Whilst it is not a serious music creation app, the fun factor and accessibility for those who are not musically trained, and the capability of the app to provide challenges to the more advanced user, makes this a recommendation from us. Even better, Magic Piano is on offer at the moment for just $0.99 (or 59p). A genuine bargain!
When we were kids we loved that scene in Ferris Beuller when he used the synth to make coughing, sneezing and snoring sounds to fool his (extremely gullible) parents that he was ill in bed. We even talked about doing this on our iPads before the launch. Now we can, with our final app in this brief round-up.
Synth by Retronyms (the people that brought us StudioTrack the awesome multi-track recorder for the iPad, amongst others) is a polyphonic synthesizer for the iPad based on a simulation of the traditional midi keyboard.
This sits on top of the sample database from the DopplerPad app that Retronyms made for the iPhone/iPad. There are 40+ instrument sounds supplied, Delay and Distortion knobs to tweak and a Mod wheel for some funky effects whilst playing. Of course, the most exciting thing about this app for us is the Sampler.
When we were younger, these synthesizers cost thousands of pounds and there was no chance we would ever be able to see or touch one, let alone own one, so to have this on the iPhone with DopplerPad and now the iPad with Synth means a great deal of retro fun for us.
At the start of the video demo below, if you listen carefully, you can hear the Sampler in action, and it makes the purchase of this app a given for us.
Whilst not a full blown Synthesizer that a pro might use, for getting the creative juices flowing and exploring sampling of real world sounds, we think this is a brilliant app, and at a price of just $0.99, it can’t hurt to download it now and start playing around with it, even if it is just to renact those Ferris Beuller nostalgia moments.
We hope you enjoyed this roundup and find at least one of the apps useful, but if you are using another keyboard app to create music on the iPad let us know in the comments.
In future posts we will be looking at Loop apps, Guitar apps, Drum pads, and others too, so if you have any suggestions for these or any other music creation apps, again let us know in the comments and we will consider using them in our roundups (giving you full credit of course).