The Future of Learning To Play

capo3-logo-headerWell, I wrote about the future having arrived a few days ago when I wrote about NotateMe. I wasn’t kidding either and apparently a LOT of other people were very intrigued as well! Thanks for reading that post about the transformation from NEEDING a computer to being able to work ONLY with a mobile device in music.

Now let’s talk about the future of LEARNING how to play a piece of music. For thousands of years people have relied on learning how to play music by listening to it – they repeated sections of the piece over and over, repeating what someone played for them. Simple call and response, over and over. When learning someone else’s music this tradition has not died even now.

Now though, it is going to be a whole lot easier! If you have EVER worked on figuring out a song by ear you know how many hours it takes us! (OK, well at least me a few thousand others who are not blessed with the ability to play anything we hear by hear!) This app is going to save you hours!

Capo3 Small IconCapo has been out for a while now on a normal computer and is now up to version 3! Now Capo Touch Small IconCapo Touch available for those using iOS mobile devices!

In fact currently both the desktop version and the mobile versions are on 50% sale! So the time to buy them is now!

Capo3 Small IconCapo3 for the Mac – $14.99 (50% off normal price)

Capo Touch Small IconCapo Touch for iOS – $4.99 (505 of what the normal price will be soon!) [runs on both iPhone and iPad]

Let’s talk about what Capo is since most of us don’t know….


  • Automatic Chord detection – it will TELL you the chords for any song in your iTunes library! Doc Brown would have hated us having this tool available back when we were taking Ear Training and Music Theory back in college!
  • Slows Your Music – High quality time stretching engine that will slow that music down to a learnable pace!
  • Looping Regions – Play it again Sam! Over and over, slower if you like, until you get it!
  • Transposition – Now we can instantly change the key of the song!
  • Chord Boxes – For those of you who are guitar players (or teach guitarists) Capo will show you how to play those chords it has automatically detected AND if you transpose the song it transposes those chord boxes too!
  • Capo and Tuning Options – yup got those covered too for all you guitar players
  • Metronome, Count-Off, and Effects – Not sure where that beat is? Well turn the metronome on silly!
  • Beautiful Interface – Gives you a great experience browsing you music library to pick that next song to learn.
  • iCloud Syncing – Work on you iPhone while out and about and then when you pull out your iPad later everything will be in sync. Of course, since Capo is also available on a normal computer it syncs there as well!

There is at least one difference between the desktop version of Capo and the mobile. On the desktop version you are able to actually draw in notes on top of the spectrograph, just like you would in a piano roll on a MIDI sequencer. Then, after drawing those notes out, you will actually get TABS so that you can learn the part on your guitar.


I am impressed at all of the pro musicians they have who are backing this app too! Go ahead, click that picture below and read everything they are saying about it! Pretty cool. These are not just some ol’ teacher like me – these are people getting paid good money for the music they make!




Capo Pros Shot


The app currently has tabs, chords, and chord diagrams for guitarists. Which is awesome but I would love to see the ability to have music notation instead of tabs! Even if I could export what I have done in Capo as an XML file to use in Sibelius or another notation app it would be awesome. I currently am using Capo2 and the export function does not work very well – OK, actually I could never get it to do anything – UNTIL I imported the MIDI file into Sibelius. Once it imported into Sibelius I was able to see the notes I had drawn in. Of course it was not performance ready but it would give us non-guitar players something to look at that would be better than tabs. Now, if it would just export the chords as well!

Maybe the export functions are better in Capo3? If someone has v3 and could let me know it would be awesome!

If you are ever in need of an app to help you figure out how to play a song that you do not already have music for this is it!

In fact, this answers one of my issues I have with my own music – I play and record then I forget what I played and recorded! This app helps me solve that issue! Usually, I am composing in a DAW, like Cubasis or Logic and using audio recordings. Before this app there was no way for me to turn that audio back into any sort of notation to help me remember what in the world I played! Now, problem solved!

If you are a teacher, a performer, or an amateur musician, you would be crazy not to grab at least one of these if not both of them!

Capo3 Small IconCapo3 for the Mac - $14.99 (50% off normal price)

Capo Touch Small IconCapo Touch for iOS - $4.99 (505 of what the normal price will be soon!)



Remember - if you are inspired to purchase apps because of my blog, please click on my links and help give back to my efforts here. Each link is an affiliate link and gives me a small percentage of Apple’s profit on each app. The developer still gets their full profit.

iPad’s and Running Sound for Your Performances

dl1608-w-ipadAre you looking for a way to run sound for your live performances that will make your life easier? Are you in a situation like us where it never seems like there is a person to run the sound for the show?

Mackie may have the answer for you…. The Mackie DL 1608 or the DL806 are two sound boards that incorporate the use of an iPad to make running sound so much easier! The mixer has a space built in for you to slide your iPad right into it – the iPad then becomes the interface for all the controls on the mixers. In fact, you will not see the typical array of sliders and knobs that would normally be on a mixer because most of those have disappeared into the iPad. Remember though that the handwork of processing the mix, eq’s, compressors and limiters is still actually being handled by the mixer itself.

Here is the part that will blow you away… The iPad does not have to be docked to run the sound! Slide that baby right out of the dock and take the iPad where ever you want and the show will continue just like you were sitting back there in the back of the room like a normal sound person! That means that for those events when there is no sound person…. you simply hand the iPad to a student sitting in the front row playing clarinet, they run sound right from on stage. Maybe you run sound for the choir teacher but do it while you are sitting with your spouse in the audience.

Now, you do get a few additional features if the iPad is docked – the iPad will charge while running the show and you will be able to record the stereo main outputs. Which means, as soon as the show is done you can upload those recordings to the school website for the kids to review.

Check out the videos they have on YouTube – some are strange so be warned now, it IS Mackie we are talking about here!


Recording with My iPad and the Cubasis App (MIDI into Audio)

I thought it might be fun to explain a technique I use often when recording – even when it is just messing around.

When building a song,  I will often record audio tracks only but I have discovered that this leads to an issue! I find that using just audio gives me actually two big issues! 1)I forget what I played so when I go to add more to my composition I mess up and play things in wrong – especially 2-3 days later if I didn’t finish the first day! 2)When recording straight audio if I mess things up it means re-recording a large chunk again!

Today I want to tell you an easier way….

It’s simple – Use MIDI (of course we are talking virtual MIDI on the iPad).

Here’s what I mean…. I will load up Cubasis first in order to be ready to record. Then I open one of the many different music apps I have and start messing around. When I’ve decided that I have something I like then I will set up the MIDI channels in that app so I know they are transmitting out of the app. Then I jump into Cubasis and create a MIDI track. I then set that track to listen to the information coming from the other app (which is as easy as picking it from the list) Then I hit record, jump into the other app and start playing. When I am done I can then go back into Cubasis and edit what I have played to my hearts content. When satisfied then I use Audiobus to take the audio coming from the other app and bring it into Cubasis as an audio track. Now, that does give me 2 tracks wight he same info on it – one is MIDI and the other Audio. I have to remember to mute the MIDI track otherwise it causes me confusion when I hear it playing the other apps later on in the process of building the rest of my composition.

I’ve made a video so you can see part of the process – You will see the MIDI tracks on track 1 & 3 and you will see that I am recording audio from the Thor app into track 2 (the MIDI being played from track one) and then I am also recording audio from Nave into track 5 (the MIDI being played from track three). I have the Thor and Nave apps open in the background both with background audio turned on (this is a very important step you will not want to miss!)

I do have to say that I could NOT have done this on my iPad2, I am currently using an iPad Air and have not had the audio issues I used to have with the slower processor. I have no idea how smoothly this would work on an iPad3 or iPad4. Of course I am very excited to hear Apple’s WWDC live cast Monday to see what interesting advances in technology they will be wowing us all with!

If you have question leave me a comment and I will get back to you…. Here is the video…. (By the way, if you can figure out the time signature for this let me know will ya?)


FiddleWax Yellow is out and is free for the first week! Now that’s a concept…. hmmmm…

FiddleWax YellowFiddleWax Yellow - Harmony Looper (They have released the app for free for the first week of it’s release so get it quick!)

I love their mission statement on the front page of their website -

“Fiddlewax instruments are designed from the ground up to enable anyone who enjoys music to experiment, play, and create their own songs without formal teaching or instruction.

Every aspect of Fiddlewax puts music first. Simple interfaces help musicians focus on what they’re creating; there are no ads, faux-wood textures, or frivolous interaction to distract from the creative process.”

Their Yellow instrument I think fills that statement very easily…. It is a live vocal harmony generator, effects processor and looper all rolled into one app with a simple interface.


  • Realtime 3-part vocal harmony using our very own super fast, polyphonic, pitch-shifting and audio analysis pipeline. Sing and synthesize new sounds and audio textures on the fly.
  • Built-in effects to add chorus, distortion, reverb, low-pass, and high-pass filters with the push of a button. Quickly transform your voice into other instrument sounds as you play.
  • Synchronized, auto-expanding looper to layer up to 6 audio tracks at once. Easily start/stop any track and clear tracks individually when you want to overwrite/undo.
  • Integrated recording function to save and share songs. Send to other installed apps, attach to email, or download later from iTunes when you sync your device.
  • Low-level core audio implementation makes everything run super fast and robust (built using The Amazing Audio Engine).
  • Headphone-aware control logic reduces the chance of squeaky feedback while you record.
  • Great for all experience levels, from beginners to experts.
  • Precision interface optimized for 10-finger multitouch.

NanoStudio is on sale!

NanoStudio LogoNanoStudio is on sale again at $6.99 (down 50% from $13.99!)

If you have not purchased and used NanoStudio you would be well advised to pull the trigger – it’s one of the easiest ways to get started making music on an iOS device.

The app allows you to record anywhere you want using an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch – It has analogue synths, sample trigger pads, mixer, effects and a comprehensive sequencer that is easy to use. When I say easy to use, I mean it! I love the watt they designed the interface!

I just purchased NanoStudio this year, I have not idea why I waited so long! I think the fact that it came out with an iPad version is what made me but it. I love the sounds and ease of use – This is a great app for us teachers to use and a great app for students to use as it is so easy to get make work!


Here are a few songs I recorded using NanoStudio – Nothing spectacular, just me having some great fun creating music (Isn’t that why we are musicians?)

This first one uses the sample recording capabilities in NanoStudio – I recorded me thumping on an Arizona Iced Tea can a few different ways and then made a song with those samples…


This next one is from Spring Break – Me in the beach house on Th Gulf of Mexico, what more fun could one have? You HAVE to listen to at least the 2:00 section – I was really messing around with the X-Y pads on the effects to get the sounds that I ended up there. I really like that section!

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…

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


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?

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 -

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…


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