FileMaker13 DataBase in the Music Classroom

FileMaker Large IconFileMaker13 is the latest version of FileMaker and it comes with some excellent improvements over the past! I will be adding a few more posts this next week about some of those improvements. In this blog post I want to highlight one improvement and point out a few reasons why using a database is so much better than using a spreadsheet. Then…. I’m going to bed. So every year I have to recruit and keep track of upcoming beginning band students. The first step in that process is our local music store comes in and gives a quick test to give us some indicators as to each students general musical aptitude – rhythms, pitch, chords and melody. Then they also have the kids try out instruments to see if they are a good fit for whatever they are interested in. These two “tests” give us a real basic building block for the next steps to be taken in class. I get those results in a spreadsheet form that looks much like this…. (I have already imported this into FileMaker though and have added a few more fields to the spreadsheet which is why you see some check boxes) 5th Database Spreadsheet Style   If I was to have left this info in spreadsheet form then I would not be able to foo some very useful things with that information like put is on my iPad in a different view along with a bunch of ways to mark things the first week of school… I can see at a very quick glance a lot of information about the student now. I can also make very quick changes to each students information – things like mark them present on four different days, indicate if they have changed their mind and actually need to be dropped, I can see if their parents attended the rental meeting or if they need a school instrument, if they have an instrument or a book and at the bottom I can see their test scores. (TAKE NOTE OF THE REPORTS BUTTON AT THE TOP!) 5th Database iPad Form   If I wanted to see more than just one kid at a time then I also have a list view setup which is even quicker when I am in the middle of 50 plus 5th graders anxiously ready to play those instruments! 5th Database List view As I mentioned above – did you take note of the Reports button on the Form View above? If not scroll back up and take a look… When I click on that button one of the new features of FileMaker13 kicks into action. PopOvers – something we are very used to having on iOS devices but now they are available in FileMaker Databases too! Here’s what pops up… Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 1.38.36 AM This is where the real fun happens…. I can now, at the touch of the button, print some very useful information. For instance, I can quickly get a list of all the kids signed up sorted by their last name OR sorted by the instrument they want to play. When I sort by the instrument they want to play I even have it set up to have section headers like this…. 5th Database Report Try to do THAT in a spreadsheet! It’s really easy when it comes time for me to send a list to the scheduling secretaries and principals of who is signed up because I can hit that button that pulls up all 57 kids, out of 91, that signed up for band and then it will automatically be sorted by last name and have a heading and footer and will even have a count of how man kids are on the list! NOW… I will say that I do use spreadsheets frequently. Our school grade book system will export reports as excel files of students names, phone numbers, parents info and their address/phone info. It is so easy to take those spreadsheets and import them into FileMaker though that I don’t use those spreadsheets for very long! TO WRAP UP The current iOS version of FileMakerGo 13 Small IconFileMakerGo is free and works on iPad as well as on iPhone! – it used to cost but the fact that is free is one of the new features of FileMaker13! It is a very nice addition! The desktop version of FileMaker is for Mac or Windows even though FileMaker is actually owned by Apple. It is not the cheapest program but it is also one of my most used programs year after year! The app comes in two version the Pro version which is all most people would need and then the advanced version which is more for database designers who want to develop and sell their databases. Then there is even FileMaker Server software but that’s a whole different story there!

Creating Music with iPads

    

I was “One of Those” that said, “The iPad is more for consuming than creating.” Of course that was the first 6 months I ever owned my iPad (which was the first 6 months they were available – I bought the original iPad the day it came out. Go read my first blog post on this blog to find out my adventure THAT day!)

Now I would never even think that quote! Yes, I still use my iPad to consume plenty but I also use my iPad to do things my laptop used to take care of for me. In fact there are activities I don’t even consider touching my laptop for anymore!

One area that I don’t have time to explore very often during the school year is creating music on my iPad. It seems with all the day to day activities of teaching that I totally loose touch with musical explorations and composing. I’ve been taking more time lately to do this and I am floored at what I can do with an iPad and a few apps. I am not going to give you a history lesson here but I will say that at one time in my career I dreamed of creating a wonderful MIDI lab outfitted with computers, keyboards, speakers and mixers for my students to use. That dream never happened because of the crazy cost involved. My dream has been reshaped. Here is what I’ve found….

BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS
You have to have a multi-track recording app to start with in order to really have fun here. There are plenty of apps out there – the most obvious one is of GarageBand for the iPad, then the list goes on from there. On the cheaper end of things there is MultiTrack DAW from HarmonicDog, Meteor MultiTrack Recorder from 4 Pockets Audio, Music Studio from Xewton, and NanoStudio from Blip Interactive. If you really want to get serious then there are a couple of big players (read as expensive for one thing!) – Cubasis by Steinberg and Auria App by WaveMachine Labs.

Cubasis Logo1st Block – All of these apps will allow you to record multiple tracks of audio. You play, it records – simple! In fact, Auria was one of those apps that blew everyone away when it was first publicized because many could not fathom the iPad being able to record 48 tracks of digital audio! We all held our breath hoping this dream would come true and it finally did come true. It works very, very well too!

Many of these above apps will also allow you to use the synths built into the app in order to record multiple tracks alongside the audio (MultiTrackDAW and Auria strictly audio apps, no synths or drum machines built-in). You should be familiar with GarageBand, these other apps are much the same idea. Drums, Keyboards, Flutes, Bass, Synth… you name it they are all there!

I own and use both Cubasis and MultiTrack DAW. I finally bought Cubasis because of the added support for MIDI and AudioBus. AudioBus….. if you are not familiar with what AudioBus is you will be before you finish this post! It is the glue that takes the apps I just mentioned and intertwines those with other amazing apps. AudioBus is the 2nd Block

AudioBus2nd Block – AUDIOBUS
AudioBus is what brings apps together! Many of the above apps have synths and drum machines available along with the ability to record audio or MIDI but the real fun comes in when you can also take other stand alone apps and use them as inputs for the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Again, AudioBus was one of those apps that people could not believe would work when the press releases first came out. We held our breath and prayed that AudioBus would actually do what was being promised. I’m so glad to be able to say that it works wonderfully! In fact it works so well that Apple made and unprecedented move and built support for it into GarageBand. Apple doesn’t support 3rd party apps on a whim!

So if AudioBus is what brings our Apps together than why would we even need this capability? Well this brings us to the 3rd Block….

AnyTune Logo3rd BLOCK – STAND ALONE INSTRUMENT APPS
I use the word Instrument loosely here because I am talking about a wide variety of apps here. Synths, Drum Machines, Guitar simulators, Vocal apps, Looping apps, Arpeggiators, DJ Turntables apps and Sampling apps to name a few! Even apps that Band and Choir Directors should be using in rehearsals like AnyTune Pro+ from AnyStone Technologies and TonalEnergy Tuner from Sonosaurus – If you are a music teacher in anyway shape or form you really need those two apps by the way!

There are some $5, $10, $15 and $20 apps out there that are the equivalent of my Roland X8 keyboard that I payed $2,500 for!

This past couple of weeks has seen some outstanding apps released that have really raised the bar for what is possible on an iPad.
ThorThor is one and the other is Nave Nave. If you have not seen these two apps and watched some of the videos about what they are capable of you need to YouTube them, check out the companies websites and the tutorials listed there.

Here are some of the other outstanding apps that I use and enjoy.

Alchemy, AniMoog, Figure, Impactor, Magellan, Seline Ultimate, SunRizer, ThumbJam and DrumJam

One of the reasons I find these sort of apps so outstanding and fun is that they offer me ways to manipulate the music/sound that I have never had before. They also make working with different scales fun and easy! There are new ways to interface with the music too – no longer am I tied to a traditional keyboard! Impactor for instance lets me tap on my desk and have it turn into drum sounds!

NOW LET’S BUILD SOMETHING!
So with your multitrack app of your choice (I would start with GarageBand) and AudioBus and one of the Input apps (I would start with ThumbJam or AniMoog) get your creative hat on and start playing around! I would just start messing around with the different interfaces, like the smart instruments in GarageBand, until you found something “cool”. Use that as a starting block, record something! Then start adding to that until you have a song!

NOW SHARE
This we all learned in BEFORE kindergarten, Share with others! SoundCloud is a simple app and service that is free. In short, SoundCloud is your record company that will allow you to publish your work to the world! Their iOS app is wonderful! Below I have included the link to one of my songs that I uploaded onto SoundCloud which would give you a chance to try out and explore SoundCloud if you are not familiar with it. Listen to my song and leave me a comment! I use SoundCloud all the time with my High School Band…. we upload a recording of rehearsal and then they go evaluate the recording by leaving comments. The comments show up “in time” with the wave form as the audio plays, it is very slick! (This is an entire new blog post….)

ONE OF MY CREATIONS
This is one of my creations to give you an example of what is possible. I used Cubasis and AudioBus. I ended up with 13 tracks of recorded material – 2 of those were soft synths inside of Cubasis and the rest were all digital audio from another app. Here is the list of apps I used – Nave, Thor, ThumJam and SunRizer. I did all of this on my iPad2 sitting in my easy chair, my bed as I was getting ready to sleep, in the car on the way to town and in the public library! (why else would you go to the library right?)

I call it Sachabac because it is based off from the Sabach scale from Europe (of which I know nothing about so go Google it!)

FINAL NOTES (UPDATED)
One of the reasons I like Thor and Cubasis is that they also have desktop versions of their apps. That means you can start a project on your iPad and move to your regular computer later to finish it, change it and even transfer it back to your iPad! Versatility is wonderful.

I have had some issues with Cubasis – for it being the price that it is I don’t really expect to have issues like these. One of those issues showed up tonight for the first time ever – My melody line recording got moved ahead one measure in the mix down! It was only the last 3rd of the song that got moved ahead like that, very weird. The other issue I was having was that the app would crash when I would try using it with an external audio interface (an Griffin iMic). That is not listed on their web site as an interface that is actually supported so I cannot blame them BUT that interface worked just fine with Harmonic Dogs’ MultiTrack DAW! With that being said…. I am very glad I spent the money on Cubasis and have NOT asked for a refund!

One last warning – on my iPad2 the processor is taxed to it’s limits doing this stuff! 90% of the time it works fine. There are times though, with Nave especially, that the audio just stutters and I have to choose a different sound to use. When recording audio like this I wholeheartedly believe that you actually need to use the force quite function on your iPad! Quite every single app in your dock, in fact after doing that, re-boot your iPad! I never ever use the force quite capability any other time… go google it if you don’t believe me that it really is not neccesary usually.

Creating music with iPads

There have been some outstanding new developments in the world of music for iOS users this past few months!

First has been the actual release of AudioBus for iOS. As they say on the iTunes Store… This is a revolutionary new inter-app audio routing system allowing you to connect your AudioBus compatible apps together with virtual cables. In other words…. I can be playing a synth on my iPad, like Magellan, and record it into my MultiTrack DAW on the same iPad! This opens up very different possibilities of being able to record from a long list of currently compatable apps into other apps on one iPad instead of having to have two devices or using audio copy/paste. Check out their website for currently compatible apps as the list is changing almost daily!

In the late 80‘s I remember spending many hours programming keyboards for the ministry team at college that I was involved in. It was great fun to get inside of a synth patch and make all sorts of tweaks to it to come up with a new patch that was my own. Little did I imagine then, that I would be able to do this on an iPad with a color, touch screen! Check out the list of apps othe AudioBus page. I think there are some outstanding apps there that will make some outstanding music! Imagine if we could get these apps into the hands of our students in a non-traditional music class!

Audulus App

Audulus

Another major development is the development of apps that allow your creativity to fly to new heights! One of those apps that blew me away today is Audiolus. Audulud is a modular synthesis app that is available for the iPad as well as the Mac. This app allows you to create synth sounds from scratch, one step at a time! I can not begin to imagine the possibilities of this app in a music class combined with science concepts being integrated all in one mega fun unit! Your science teacher and you, the music teacher, could have a hay day with this app! You have got to watch the tutorials on their tutorial page! This tutorial in particular floored me when I started to get a grasp on what this app is capable of…. I love how it starts with a demonstration of the outcome and then it takes you back step by step to build the patch starting from absolutely nothing! (Wait…. isn't that the model for a great lesson plan?)

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of great examples of amazing performances from people who are truly creating amazing music using iOS and iPads/iPhones. Both of these groups have active YouTube channels that I would suggest you subscribing to

The first person is Rheyne – Rheyne uses live looping with analog keyboards, USB controllers and iOS devices. The videos on his channel are all performed live! The integration he has between all the apps and devices is stunning! His music is digital and does not attempt to re-create an acoustic instrument performance!

The second group is the DigiEnsemble Berlin – This is a group of professional musicians trying to turn mobile devices into instruments. This group has music of both the electronic nature as well as classical and everything in between. You can see them recreating a classical string ensmeble using iphones and ipads for instance or performing Starlight (from the alternative rock band Muse) and then performing a magical, musical interpretation of Silent Night.

This sort of musical creativity needs to be taught in our schools alongside the traditional Band, Choir and General Music classes. Of course that means new classes need to be created and staffed! The biggest reason we need these sort of classes is that our students would be forced to become the innovators, the ones creating and designing the final product. There are not many programs like these in place yet so the development of this type of course is going to muddy water and the learning process will be messy. Let's wade in and get dirty!

 

AirPlay and AirFoil

So the other day I was cleaning up around the Band Room trying to get everything packed up for the summer. The trouble was it was too quiet. I needed music! So I grabbed my iPad and hooked it up to the speakers, hit play and turned it up – I mean come on, there were no kids around and I needed inspiration! About five minutes later another teacher walked into the room. Of course I had to walk over to the iPad and turn it down so we could carry on a conversation without yelling at each other. That teacher left, I hit play and continued on to work. A half an album later and I thought about listening to The Brass Band of Battle Creek! So I trekked over to the iPad, did a few flicks of the finger and turned on some great Brass music!

After work I was sitting downstairs at my laptop and my Son, from across the room asked if I had heard the new 12 Stones album that he had just purchased. Of course he was way more up to date than I was and I had not heard it. So he hurriedly came over to share the new album with me since it was not loaded up on my computer.

After all that I got to thinking about how much easier it would have been while at school if I could have been controlling the music I was working to with my iPhone, it was right there in my pocket the entire day! I could have started, stopped, turned it down, picked new music and I’m sure it would have made a great impression on others who just happened to walk into my room! Or what if my Son could have just simply stayed where he was and hit play on his iPad and I could have heard the new music on my iPad/iPhone/Computer?

At first you might be thinking – Get an AirPort Express! Well, to an extent you would be offering a great solution. The problem is that at school an AirPort Express doesn’t work – I tried! Your next thought may be – Use the Reflection or AirServer Apps to play music through to your classroom computer which is hooked up to the sound system. I would have – but I had the computer and sound system tore apart to pack it all up for the summer.

Of course I wouldn’t be writing about all this if I had not found a solution. I have known about Airfoil and Airfoil Speakersfrom Rogue Amoeba for a while now. I like what it does… It allows you to play music from your computer to a number of different devices all around wherever you may be. But I have never really used the app because I just have not wanted to send audio FROM a computer to my iPad or iPhone. I do constantly want to send audio and other items the other direction though as mentioned in the scenario above. A while back the Airfoil Speakers App was updated in the iTunes Store and this time the update information caught my eyes. The update included the ability to transmit audio from any iOS device to another iOS device! The app did not stay in the store long though. Apple yanked the app because of that ability to play from iOS to iOS. Rogue Amoeba had a difficult time getting Apple to work with them though. Just the other day AirFoil Speakers app was admitted back to the Apple Store again, without the ability to play from iOS to iOS though. Read more about it here on CultofMac. Rogue Amoeba had to take that capability out of their app. Bummer!

Rogue Amoeba has an article on their website about one work around. Kind of what I wanted but not as easy as I hoped.

Then today I found a nice article from 9To5 Mac about how to get this functionality back, without having to jailbreak your device. It appears that, as of now, all you have to do is download iExplorer from MacroPlant. This free little utility lets you access your iOS device like a flash drive from your computer. After downloading that app you will then need to download a plist file into a specific spot on your iOS device (check the article from 9to5 – there is a tweet in there with a picture about where to put the plist file.) This was EASY, Fast and worked like a charm. It was a bit tricky getting the plist file into the right spot and I think I had to restart my iPad to make it take effect. But now I can start up the AirFoil App on my iPad, go to my iPhone Music App and hit play, select the iPad exactly as I would if I was selecting any other AirPlay device and I’m in business!

If this interests you at all, I would suggest that you go get the plist file, download the tweeted picture and get the AirFoil App form the App Store NOW! Who knows how much longer this will all stay available. Of course who knows if it will even still work after Apple makes all their announcements this next Monday at WWDC.

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