Top Tech for my Band Room – Open Peoples Eyes!

Eyes OpenI have a very short list of the most important pieces of technology that I could not do without in my band room rehearsals. (This is above and beyond the technology associated with quality instruments!)

  1. My iPad (This benefits me but also my students. By keeping me more organized it helps me run a much more efficient rehearsal and therefore helps me teach to a higher degree of efficiency. The ways that my iPad helps are too numerous to list!)
  2. Recording capability – We record and evaluate those recordings on a constant basis. They are our check with reality – Many times we think we are doing better than we actually are!
  3. Of course #2 leads to #3 – an awesome sound system – This is a music classroom and should have playback capabilities superior to most other classrooms! (This one time, a principal gave me one of those one speaker, panasonic tape recorders and expected me to be happy!)
  4. Lastly – an overhead projector with a computer that is capable of handling multi-media projects easily, movies, sounds, and pictures! Internet connection is almost becoming essential! I could not believe it when walking into another band room last year that did not have a computer and projector! I had not even thought about that scenario for a long time!

 

During vacation I thought I would spend more time creating music than I did – I only created one piece of music this past week…. If you are interested take a listen and let me know what you think! The only app I used was NanoStudio – It was very interesting sitting next to my nephew, who now owns 3 iPads, while recording this piece! It was kind of like when I walked into that Band Room without the items listed above last year – He was very surprised at what I was doing and had a ton of questions – Things like – Why are you tapping on your iPad like that? What, that’s a drum kit? Can I listen? You did all that in one app?

It is our job to open people’s eyes to the possibilities available to us and our students – those eyes that need to be opened are our own eyes, our students, our parents and our administration. Even the tech people at our schools need to see what is possible in the music room using iPads and other tech!

 

 

So in the world of making music on iOS devices there are a slew of great apps to play with. Now when I say play, I also mean do serious music making with!

Recently Alex Matheu released a brand new app called Sliver Small IconSliver. In short, Sliver is a powerful tool for soundscape and sonic texture creation.

Another way to describe this app is as a tool to create very interesting and ever changing textures that will fascinate you and keep you playing for hours! Here is the list of ideas you could use Sliver for…

  • Soundscapes
  • Ambient
  • Drone
  • Glitch
  • Noise
  • Pads
  • Sound Design / Sound Effects
  • Unique Sonic Textures
  • Cinematic Sound Elements

SliverWebInIpadTake a look at the pic to the left. You see the heart of this app pretty quick, although it may not be immediately evident what you see. There are four independent slots (slivers) where you can insert audio and then change those audio slivers in many different ways. You can do this live or automate it. You have filters, XY pads, effects, dynamic physics, audio share, audio copy, and audio bus. How’s that for some fun!

The good news is that Sliver Small IconSliver is being offered at 33% off currently as an introductory price. That price is quickly coming to an end though! Like this weekend…. If you like creating music and messing around with being creative on your iPad this is a no-brainer purchase at $3.99!

Watch this introductory video to get a better idea of what this is capable of… http://matheusound.net/sliver/media/

Download Sliver

NanoStudio on Sale – iPad/iPhone Recording Studio in your Hand!

NanoStudio LogoNanoStudio is one of the oldest and first apps that people really bought into for making music on the iPhone/iPad. It is currently on sale for $6.99 which is the cheapest it has ever been. So if you have been holding out because you want a great price the time has come! Pull out that gift card, fire up your device's camera, and redeem that baby! Go make music!

FROM THEIR WEBSITE – It has virtual analogue synths, sample trigger pads, a comprehensive sequencer, a sample editor, a mixer and multiple effects all integrated into a single application.

Record your ideas in real time, mix synth layers with samples, compose and arrange your tune using the powerful sequencer and bring the mix alive with effects such as reverb, compression and EQ. Share your tune on SoundCloud from wherever you are or use the comprehensive audio mixdown options and MIDI export feature to get your ideas over to your desktop DAW when you get back home.

I love the fact that there is even a desktop version of the app for windows and Mac available on their website so go try it out first if you want.

As for compatibility – This app works on iOS 5.x or later. It will work with the iPad1 and up, the iPhone 3GS and up as well as the 3Gen iPodTouch and later. How cool is that? That means those devices you bought 4 years ago will still run this amazing app that puts a ton of creativity in the palm of your hand!

MIDI input through Core MIDI devices, Audiobus, Audio copy/paste, SoundCloud and even MIDI files are all part of the deal! No in-app-purchases to gain functionality that should just be included!

You get the Eden Synth, the TRG-16 Trigger Pad Instrument, Sampling, Sequencing, and Mastering tools all in this one app.

Here are a few screen shots -
TriggerPadPanel1 SequencerPanel1 MixerPanel2

EXAMPLE TRACK -

While trying to figure NanoStudio out I did this track…. Of course I got lost in time and am now an hour later going to bed than I should be but hey….. Isn't that what creating music is all about…. Having fun?

http://soundcloud.com/tpshimmons/learnano

COMPARISON -
NanoStudio reminds me a lot of CausticCaustic which is a $9.99 app with the same sort of concept – read about it here on my earlier blog.

Caustic has done a heck of a job putting up tutorials on their YouTube channel though whereas BleepInteractvie has hardly anything about NanoStudio on their YouTube channel. There are so many other people that have covered NanoStudio though that I am sure the pressure is not there to produce their own.

 

XKey iPad Musical Keyboard by CME (UPDATED)

XKeyYou can hook up to 7 of these keyboards up to one iPad without external power! Yup…. that’s 7, as in S E V E N!!!!!

UPDATE – I had at first mentioned that this was going to be available in June – after a comment by Shirley I had to go digging for more information! Here’s the deal – the 25 key XKey is CURRENTLY available! It costs $99 and is on sale. The keyboard coming out in June is the Xkey 37 key version! It even comes in several different colors.

Here is the YouTube Video discussing the new version - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFeSrZIfLrk

Thanks for bringing my error to my attention Shirley!

What is Xkey ?
Xkey is a MIDI keyboard controller equipped with 25 velocity-sensitive keys. It is a class compliant USB MIDI device, meaning it does not require a driver to work with computers (Mac, Win, Linux).

Why should I choose Xkey from all the other 25 key MIDI keyboards?

Because Xkey is equipped with 25 standard size keys but is thin, and consumes very little power when connected to your tablet, making it the perfect mobile keyboard solution. Also because it has unique features such as the possibility to send polyphonic after touch.
There is currently no other mobile keyboard on the market able to send polyphonic after touch, making Xkey unique .

Composition in Band Class Update

SandsWell it’s been about three weeks I think since I first posted about getting the students started on their composition assignments.

My first and utmost thought on this entire project is that if I don’t get them writing they will never get any better! So far we are now on the fifth week. The only requirement right now is that they write out a melody and make it look neat. It is now time to up the ante…. Next week I will start marking points for correctly notating the melody- things like making sure the stems are on the correct side of the note heads, correctly observing time signature …. You know the details. Up until now I have simply been making comments on their papers about these details. There has been a steady improvement in quality. As I share each others compositions with the class and they get to see what they are all doing, you can see things click in their brains! Especially when a 5th graders writes out something amazing and a high schooler wrote out something lame.

Some of the kids are using the free version of NotateMe, others are using NoteFlight and the rest are using paper and pencil. I like NotateMe because it reinforces writing musical notation correctly and neatly enough that the app can actually recognize the symbols being drawn.

From here on out I will be having the High School students take a picture of their creation and posting it on their blogs…. A huge reduction in paper work! Most of the kids are using WordPress for their blogs.

In a couple weeks we will cross the bridge of….. Can you play what you wrote. Did you play it first or write it first and does it make musical sense ( especially in the higher grade levels)

Of course I have to compose as well…. Here is my composition for this week inspired by my friend who is in India…

Inspiration In The Storm – Using my iPad to express where words fail.

Using the iPad to put my digital sheet music on was my original intention when I bought the iPad1 the day it was released. I never imagined I would actually be using the iPad to create music and that it would be replacing my professional keyboards that have cost me a pretty penny (and a few dimes too!) I don’t think Steve and Apple had any idea what their little device was going to end up doing either!

The iPad inspires people to be creative, that’s the short of it! Especially with apps like iGrand Piano from IKMultimedia – and MultiTrack DAW – and Thor PolySonic Synth. I have loved playing the piano ever since about 4th grade when I asked my Mom to teach me – I really wanted to play in church. So my journey began and now I still enjoy playing piano but these days it is my keyboard in my basement instead of that old upright in the old stone church down the road from the two bedroom house we grew up in.

I am forever in search of better sounding piano sounds from keyboards, software and apps. Well I’m here to tell you that I really like the iGrand Piano app sounds that are now on my iPad! The app is on sale from January 30th until February 13th, 2014.  You can get iGrand icon smalliGrand Piano and iLectric icon smalliLectric Piano for only $9.99 each on the App Store. That’s 50% off the normal price of $19.99.  Already have iGrand Piano Free for iPhone or iPad?  Well you can upgrade to the full version at the special $9.99 price through in-app purchase as well.

This app has been one of those that I have been eyeballing for awhile now. This app and one other piano app were the two that I had decided I would buy. Which ever one went on sale first was going to be “it”. The other app is CMP Piano Small iconCMP Piano and has just as awesome of piano sounds in it!

So, since iGrand went on sale and that unused iTunes card was just sitting there, I downloaded the iGrand app and anxiously waited for it to download! I had played around with the free version but couldn’t wait to get my virtual hands on the full version! iGrand gives you 8 concert quality piano sounds for your $10. There is an in-app-purchase that gives you an additional 9 world-class pianos (but that will cost you another $10) I really don’t like IAP’s but it is the reality of apps now so I will deal with it.

Like this post stated – great apps/devices inspire people. The sounds in the iGrand Piano app were fun to play and all of them sounded great! I grabbed my little QuNexus keyboard and plugged that into the iPad and just started playing. A few ideas started forming so I then fired up MultiTrack DAW small iconMultiTrack DAW and started recording. (Why not Cubasis you ask? Well, I really didn’t want any drops in sound quality that I had gotten the previous night while using that app. Using MultiTrack DAW was a bit better but even using that app I have issues – like the sound just drops out for a sec or two while recording. When playing the recording back later all the audio is there but it is a bit weird when it happens)

After laying down the piano track I then went and fired up Thor Small iconThor PolySonic Synth and added a pad sound and a bit of a counter-melody. Now keep in mind that I played the entire song on a little QuNexus controller, which is great for many things but I am not so sure I would list playing piano parts as one of those things! I then uploaded the song right to SoundCloud from within MultiTrack DAW. Then I remembered that I should have ran it through the Audio Mastering Small IconAudio Mastering app that Igor has done such an amazing job with! So I saved a wav file version of the song and ran it through that app and uploaded it to SoundCloud  so you can all listen to the comparison of the before and after versions! (Of course if you are reading this post too many months in the future both files may not be there any more because I will need that space for new pieces of inspiration!)

Just a word about the song – I made it for a few youth that are very special to me and are having to deal with the imperfect world we live in. Sometimes we just are at a loss for words to say but music fills that need…. In the words of Apple – this is “my verse.” Hope it touches you. I pray God let’s you know peace in the middle of this storm, through His music…

Amazing iPad DAW for Music Classes!

CausticIn the world of using mobile devices to assist you in your music making endeavors, iPad is the king. There are few apps that are of any real use on the Android market for musicians. Every now and then I do hear of something worth the time of Android toting musicians. On iPad though the app store is overflowing of choices of all flavors! (disclaimer – I make that statement from tons of research – not from my personal experience as I do not own an Android device. If you would like to disagree with me I would love for you to leave comments below telling me what apps and devices you are using in the Android world!)

On December 14, 2013 though a strange thing happened! One of the apps for Android that was actually pretty amazing for musicians came to the iPad! Caustic is a music creation tool inspired by rack mount synthesizer/sampler rigs. Caustic is an app in which a lot of musical creation could be done. All in one app. Caustic is one of those apps that cost’s $9.99 but I would strongly suggest as a possibility for schools using iPads in music tech classes. There are so many different parts of this app to explore that it would easily fit the bill for filling an entire semester class and keep the kids (adults) busy, busy, busy.

Look at this list:

* Subsynth – Virtual analog subtractive synthesizer
* PCMSynth – Multi-sample wave synthesizer
* BassLine – 303-like monosynth
* BeatBox – 8-channel sampling drum machine
* PadSynth – Harmonic table pad synthesizer
* 8BitSynth – 8bit equation solver synthesizer
* Modular – Fully configurable and routable synthesizer
* Organ – Tonewheel organ with rotary speaker
* Vocoder – 8-band harmonic vocoder
* FMSynth – DX-style 3-operator fm synthesizer

* Effects rack supporting 2 effects per machine (16 effect types).
* Mixer desk with EQ, panning and global Delay/Reverb effects.
* Master section with effect slots, parametric EQ and limiter.
* Song sequencer

Here is another feature that even some of the more expensive iPad DAW’s cannot say – Caustic supports automation recording on most controls and includes powerful editors for modifying automation curves.

We are talking about being able to teach kids all of those different module’s listed above, mixing techniques, all about effects, sequencing and song composition all without having to dig around for different apps. This app actually does not currently support AudioBus, which I almost always require an app to have before I consider it. I don’t believe that is such a drawback in this case as there is so much built into this one app. Depending on the ability of your iPad there are 14 slots you can fill with different modules (as listed above). Caustic is VERY processor friendly even on an iPad2!

There are several ways to share your creative genius built in Caustic – You can export wav files, ogg files, and even MIDI. Amazingly enough there is even a FREE PC version of this app online for those of you PC users out there! Which by the way really bugs me that it actually says PC on the app store as PC should actually be written as WINDOWS! It is written correctly on the developers website though.

Think about what kind of curriculum you could build off from this?! You have all the critical parts to compose with this app –  percussion, bass lines, melody lines, accompaniment even a vocoder that vocalists (and non-vocalists) can have a ball with. There are a ton of presets available too in each module but you could really dig in and teach the kids about how each one of these modules works behind the scenes. Amazing.

Plus the developer has a ton of awesomely created YouTube tutorials already loaded up. Seriously, this is the best collection of videos from any developer I have ever seen! Now we are talking about a flipped music class? hmmm….

YouTube Channel

I will say that I was so blown away with the possibilities in this app that I purchased it at full price. I have no idea if this thing will go on sale at any given time. If it ever does I would hope there was a way for a school to “purchase” it for an entire class immediately.

By the way… the app does require you to be running iOS6 so if you still have one of those iPad1′s around it will not work for this app. I am very interested if any of you schools are sporting iPad1′s so leave me a comment below if your school is till making use of the original iPad1. I know I have came back into possession of my original iPad, bought on the day it came out…. My wife moved to an iPad2 and my kids are using iPad3′s or iPad Mini’s so that iPad1 is being put back into use by me in various ways alongside my iPad2.

Griffin Announces New iPad Interface at CES

Griffin 2014 Interface

As I was following my news feeds I saw that 9to5mac has pictures and information about a new audio/MIDI interface from Griffin (Now we know why the 30 pin ones are being sold so cheap at $39!)

Here is the info from their site – “Above you’re seeing the company’s new StudioConnect HD, an audio interface that marks a significant upgrade from the previous generation that we reviewed last year. Compatible with both Mac and iOS, the $199 interface includes two combo 1/4 inch/XLR inputs with separate gain controls, a pad switch, 48v Phantom Power, clip indicator, and two TRS 1/4 inch balance outputs for your studio monitors. Like the old version, it’s also built to dock and charge an iPad. The new StudioConnect is clearly aimed at more experienced musicians, and the solid metal construction for the first time makes it competition for other interfaces in its price category. The new StudioConnect lands in fall 2014.

It makes no mention of whether it is the new lightening or the old 30 pin connector but I am going to guess it is the lightening connector. It also doesn’t mention if you actually have to dock the iPad or if there is a holding spot for the iPad and you simply plugin a cable.

I do find the pictures they have up very interesting in that it lets us see that USB MIDI connections will be supported in this version. Which means that new USB keyboard with no standard MIDI connections on it will be useful with this interface. There is also a miniUSB port on the back as well!

I like the fact that there are gain controls right at hand for the two inputs. It saves you from having to muck around in the software/app to find where to set the input levels if that is even possible with the app you are currently using.

The picture above are the small shots of the interface, if you want to see the big shots you will have to click on the small versions below which will then take you over to 9to5mac’s site.

The last item I want to draw you attention to is the release date of FALL of 2014 – the bad part about CES is we have to wait so long for these things to be released!

BONUS – The website I linked above also has a holder for iPhones that Griffin intends for use by guitar players. Of course I am interested to see how it is being clamped to the guitar because this might be able to be used on other instruments as well (or mic/music stands)

 

Some iPad Creativity – Using Thor and Cubasis

Greece HatOne of the searches that brought people to this blog over the past year was their search for “Muti-Track DAW for iPad”.

Using my iPad as a multi-track DAW is one of the ways I get to have fun on it! I don’t have games installed (well not that many) – I just have a bunch of music apps! I have several recording apps – MultiTrack DAW small iconMultiTrackDAW was the first one I bought but as that only recorded audio I soon put out the money for Cubasis small iconCubasis so I could record MIDI as well. Of course when GarageBand small iconGarageBand for iPad came out that was a great $5 deal – and now it is free! I bought AniMoog as one of my first music synths and started adding more and more synths through the past few years.

One of those new synths from this past year that is simply great was Thor Small iconThor Polysonic Synthesizer. It is a great synth that has amazing sounds in it that inspire you to record so that you can layer more musical lines on top of what you are currently doing. Out of all the people I listen to on SoundCloud that are using iOS to create music I continue to find them using Thor!

This recording also uses AudioBus small iconAudioBus – AudioBus is what sits between Cubasis and other apps like Thor – AudioBus works pretty well on an iPad2 so I use that more than the newer InterApp Audio.

I used one EFX app in the FX slot in AudioBus  - I put AudioReverb small iconAudioReverb in there for the melody line. Thor fed directly into AudioReverb and then the sound went into Cubasis. That meant that once I recorded the melody line I would not be able to go back and change the reverb settings but the benefit was that I had access to other FX’s from what Cubasis has built in.

Of course the last step was to upload my “masterpiece” some place I could share it with others and get feedback from my friends – friends that live in the same town as I do, friends/family that I have known for years that are online, and friends I know only by name and the sounds of their music! SoundCloud small iconSoundCloud is a great place to find other people writing music on just an iPad. It is places like this that I find others who enjoy the creations they come together under their fingers into something that they can call theirs…. something that inspires them to keep on living and looking for beauty in the world. Jack Morefield wrote this on his SoundCloud bio…

“Why is this music important to me? – many reasons, but the main one is that now, because of technology, I am able to make these compositions I have been hearing my whole life all on my own, which I never dreamed possible. I cannot believe that we can do on our computers and hand held devices more than any money could buy in a studio even 15 years ago…

So, I am slowly turning from a musician who had to prattle on – guitar wise- to a composer of soundscapes….to me that is very fulfilling.”

Here is my latest:

Here is Jack’s SoundCloud: – Listen to this piece he wrote on his guitar and recorded his iPad to record and provide further backup for his guitar.

iFretless Bass App Review

iFretlessIconThere are so many music apps available online that it is sometimes hard to filter through and find the truly inovative apps that will truly change the way we make music. Even when you do stumble on an app that you think might fit into this category it takes me several videos and a ton of reading to fully believe enough to actually pull the trigger and purchase the app.

iFretless Bass is one of those apps. I have been looking at this app for a while now and after seeing a YouTube video this weekend I decided it was time to make a purchase. Here are the two reasons I think this app is going to be a blast to start using;

  1. The interface allows for a new method of interaction not easily done on a piano style interface. This interface allows for so much more expression and access to a wider range than a piano does on iPad. Go watch a few videos on their web site and you will see what I mean.
  2. The app allows you to use MIDI to control other apps. This means that even though this app has amazing samples already included that are going to allow anyone to record some great bass lines, the sound options are endless with the inclusion of MIDI! Use iFretless to control Animoog or SampleTank or whatever other app you want. Even use it to control external MIDI devices!

Of course I would not even bring this app up on my blog here if it did not support AudioBus! One other technique I am going to try out is using this app along with Apollo, an app that allows me to use Bluetooth technology to wirelessly control a software synth inside of Logic Pro on my MacBook. I hope the latency is fast enough to use live!

Go watch a few of their videos, actaully go watch all of their videos! This app is going to be a nice addition to my live performance tools not to mention the apps I use to record my own songs! I love the new interface and possibilities it all opens up!

This is the app featuring iFretless Bass and Voice into iVoxel -

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