It has been a little while since Chris Russell and I have done a podcast- OK, maybe since last June – YIKES! So we finally figured it was time to talk about the latest in… More
This post is about how I use an iPad, the KeyStage app and a bunch of other apps to make my performances so much more dynamic and easier as a keyboardist! At the end I have a YouTube video to walk you through my performance setup. Here are some links to the apps you will see in the video.
So I am having a harder time these days using an iPad for simply just reading music from during a performance. Putting all my sheet music on an iPad is one of the reasons I purchased an iPad the day it first came out. It is still one of the biggest reasons I use an iPad. It helps me stay organized on a daily basis. I can not fathom having to go back to paper music.
With that being said though….
There are SO many amazing sounding music instrument apps available these days that now I REALLY want to use my iPad as an instrument! Thankfully I get a chance to do that because I play at church frequently. When I do I usually am not the main keyboardist so it allows me the freedom to provide backup sounds and to play with all these amazing apps!
There are several different stages of using your iPad as an instrument.
BASIC – The most basic is to simply use the screen of the iPad as the playing surface and to use one app as the sound source. Animoog, ThumbJam, GeoSynth, and GeoShred are some fine examples of great apps that go beyond simply offering a traditional keyboard to play on.
INTERMEDIATE – The second level would be to use an external controller combined with one app on your iPad. So for instance a MIDI keyboard connected through the camera connector kit to Korg Module. This would offer teachers amazing sounds played with a traditional keyboard.
Another example would be to use a Roli Seaboard Block and their Noise app. By the way…. the Noise app is a lot of fun to use as a basic performance instrument! IT offers greater flexibility and nuance to the sound you produce then using a traditional keyboard. Of course if you use the external SeaBoard Blocks you get even greater nuance to your sounds! But that is an entirely different post!
ADVANCED – I think there is a more advanced level which is even more satisfying! (which by the way does NOT mean difficult to pull off!)
This is what I am doing Sunday mornings at church right now. I am using several different methods to play with the worship team…
1)Using the AUM-Audio Mixer app with two external MIDI keyboard controllers, one for playing and the other for mixing the sounds coming from multiple apps.
but the next method provides even greater flexibility…
2)I’ve started using the KeyStage app by Ali Gokturk. This app is mainly for keyboard players who want a master controller app to control multiple hardware and software instruments.
The benefits of using KeyStage are that I can now load up all the apps I want to use for a particular setlist, plugin multiple hardware controllers and set up all my sounds in/on each app/instrument so that I can quickly switch between songs!
Using AUM I had about 15-20 seconds where I had dead time on my part if I want to use the same app but different sounds. So if I want to use an electric piano for the first song and then switch to strings in the second song it took me a few seconds to jump into the Korg Module app to switch sounds.
Using KeyStage I now have NO downtime between changing sounds in multiple apps! In fact I can have my sounds change while going from the verse into the chorus! It is that easy and fast! Using KeyStage I can even setup layers and splits with ease. So if I want to have a pad sound being played with my left hand and a bell sound being played with my right hand it is SO easy to do do!
Another super nice feature is that Ali has a Performance Mode in the app. This screen has nice big buttons at the bottom of the screen for jumping between sections of the songs. Here is the blurb from the App Store about the live Performance Mode….
“The live console of KeyStage is optimized for live performances. For each section, you can view one of the five live units in the live console:
1. Info Unit, which show an overview of the section including the keyboard ranges, volumes and pitch translations of each instrument
2. XY Touch Surface, where you can assign control change or pitch bend parameters to x and y axis
3. Lyrics Unit, where you can show the lyrics for the section
4. Media Unit, where you can view PDF and JPG files
5. Piano Unit, which is a virtual MIDI piano with a pitch bend”
There are now so many opportunities to get a sound out of my iPad that I never could have gotten before I found KeyStage!
THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF MUSIC ON iOS
Now… I do have to warn that the music scene on iOS is chaining in big ways, growing fast and yet is still in it’s infantile state.
In order to connect apps together to make music in the beginning there was AudioBus. Then the developers (or was it Apple?) developed Inter-App Audio. But NOW There are AudioUnits! Sound confusing? Well, join the club!
The short explanation of the three is that AudioUnits simply rock! For one, you can use multiple instances the same app plus AU’s save their state! That means that everything is exactly as you used it the next time you load that AU back up!
BUT since not all apps are AudioUnit’s yet you do need to be able to tell these apps which sound you want to use for each section in KeyStage. Thankfully there are a good number of apps that use program changes to make this easy. The good news is that Ali has put in an editor in KeyStage to accomplish the magic here. Some apps, like the ones from AudioKit, make it super easy to figure out the program changes. Ali has made it super easy for us to setup the patches for each app once you figure out the correct program change and bank select messages! (and before anyone asks – I misspelled iProphet below and NO it does NOT support program changes – none fo the Arturia apps do)
In testing KeyStage with the apps I have I have found several that just don’t work – Like SynthMaster One – BUMMER! The good news is Ali knows that developer and they are working on fixing this issue.
In speaking with Ali I asked which apps he has personally used with KeyStage. His response was…
“Jordantron, Sampletank. Geoshred, Sunrizer, iSymphonic Orchestra, Galileo, SampleWiz, SynthMaster Player, Korg Module, ThumbJam, iGrand Piano, Digital D1, LayR, Magellan, Animoog”
I will start a separate page soon with a list of apps that I have found that work well.
In order to make it all easier for you to get an idea of how I am using KeyStage I’ve created a YouTube video because you know what they say…. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million! (Do they say that?)
I’m forever seeing students swiping away and force quitting the apps on their iPhones. When I ask why they state, “It saves the battery!”
My research has shown that unless you are dealing with audio apps this force quitting is not needed.
Is if you are using audio apps then it is ALWAYS a good idea to force quit your apps upon finishing with them. Even I forget this though. Today on my way out of the theater from seeing the new Robin Hood movie, which I throughly suggest, I looked at my phone battery and it was pretty near dead! Couldn’t believe it as I’ve hardly used it today!
Upon arriving home and digging into the battery report I realized I had been messing around with Korg Module and left it running. Oops….. 66% of my battery gone just because I had a music app on with background audio turned on. Background audio is pretty much a necessary feature but you do need to keep the realities of its use in mind!
If you have never done this force quitting apps it is easy on an iPhoneX running iOS12, simply swipe up from the bottom and then swipe those apps away! If you are using an iPhone with a button then double tap the home button and swipe up on the apps.
Performing live with your iPad is quite an amazing journey these days as we now have a plethora of apps and hardware to choose from.
There are no excuses accepted for NOT using your iOS device to perform with! From simply using it to display your sheet music to running AUM to control six different apps all connected to your MIDI keyboard to simply using one app and the interactive glass surface of your iPad to perform solo or along with a band…. its a whole new world. This weekend and Christmas time will be the best chances you have to grab some apps and hardware at prices you won’t see the rest of the year!
Here are some ideas of what you can use….
Start with AUM from Kymatica. This is the essential app currently for combining several apps, several controllers and being able to mix it all in real time.
AUM allows us to work with whatever apps we would like alongside whatever hardware we want to integrate. It will give us the possibility to mute, solo, and control volume of each app.
MIDI learn is easy to setup to your hardware in order to control the volume, mute and solo for each app as well.
This app is Ableton Link enabled talks to AUv3 apps, has InterApp Audio and AudioBus connections as well.
You can also use effects on each mixer channel. So If I have Korg Module on the first channel I can have a piano sound pulled up in Module and then add in an effects app to sweeten up the reverb along with putting a compressor on the channel as well. After setting up each app with it’s own mixer channel I can then route what ever hardware I have to whichever app. So my Launchkey can control Korg Module as well as being the external controller I use to adjust volume, mute and solo for each app. Then my main MIDI controller keyboard can then be connected to all the channels allowing me to use heavy layered sounds or to simply hit the solo button on any app I’d like to use by itself. I can also have my QuNexus keyboard setup to be the only hardware that is connected to the app that is running an arpeggiator for that one tune.
The possibilities are endless! and Exciting!
Here are some great apps to start plugging into those Mixer slots in AUM:
I would be very remiss is I did not start with Apples GarageBand – Free and outstanding. GarageBand stands out as a great way to record and create music but also as a an instrument to perform with. GarageBand has some wonderful sounds inside of the app as well as some very innovative ways in which to perform. There are the Smart Instruments which allow for easy and quick ways to get some sounds rolling without even knowing technical details, like music theory, of how it is happening! Smart Strings, Guitar, Bass, and Piano. The drummers inside of GarageBand are so very fun as well. GarageBand also contains one of the most loved synth apps ever created for iPad – Alchemy. Of course it is no longer available on the App Store as a stand alone app because Apple wrapped it up inside of GarageBand. Once you find the synth instrument look for Alchemy and you will find 8 variations of each sound that you can morph between. It is pretty cool, this level of interaction and control of the sounds coming from your iPad!
Korg Module ($20 currently) is an astonishing collection of sounds all wrapped up in one app. Some of the best piano sounds are available as part of your original purchase. If you want to step up your collection of piano sounds purchasing the Ivory Piano or Ivory American D will only set you back $10 currently. The Orchestral Dreams sounds pack is another $10 that contains some of the best string sounds I’ve played. Especially coming from an iPad/iPhone. The Dreamy Synths or Triton collections will give you even more synth pads and synth sounds to perform with.
Korg iM1 ($15 currently) is essentially a Korg M1 synth stuffed into your iOS device! I was so mad in the early 90’s when the Korg M1 I had access to use in college got stolen! Now I can relive those days and once again have access to the outstanding sounds from that keyboard!
AudioKits Digital D1 Synth is chock full of synth sounds to astound you and inspire you! It is fairly new and currently $8
Reason Compact is a free synth that currently is $5 to unlock the full potential of. All the sound sets inside are $1 and they are all worth it! This synth is simply inspiring and so much fun to play! Go ahead… download the free version but again… for $5 it is worth it to unlock the full version! I’m not even a Reason person but this synth…. it will be used often on Sunday morning worship team!
If you need a sequencer that is straight forward and powerful then Xequence | The MIDI Workstation is your app for only $4 it is a no brainer. This app produces no sound on its own but is the sequencer you use to push MIDI info out to other apps. It also offers a playing surface of it’s own allowing you to use it as a performance tool that controls other apps by simply playing. Or you can use that builtin keyboard to record your parts with freeing you to not have to carry an external keyboard!
If you want a more powerful DAW that you can use to play backing tracks alongside sequenced accompaniments then Cubasis is half price currently and $25 nets you the top choice for many iOS musicians.
Want an alternative interface to use on your iPad screen as the performance surface? Clawtar – The Adaptaive MIDI Controller is outstanding and a totally new way to interact with other apps!
Want a keyboard on your iPad screen to perform with? KB-1 by Kai Aras is a $5 new app that gives you five unique layouts to use as the performance surface. This will be a standard must have app for anyone to use if they want to use the iPad screen to perform from.
SynthMaster One – Powerful Wavetable Synth is currently $10 and is practically the same app as the company makes for the desktop computer. An app full of 500 sounds sure to fit any style and genre. This app also supports micro-tuning so exploring those sounds are easy with SynthMaster One. Just make sure to buy SynthMaster One and not SynthMaster Player.
If modular sound is your thing, and honestly… who can resist it, Moog apps are on sale now as well. AniMoog is one of the first apps to iPad that gave us fabulous modular sounds along with new and exciting interactions with those sounds. AniMoog allows for far more control of the sound then simply pressing a key on and off. Moog’s keyboard allows for you to get exciting sounds as you run your finger up and down the keys – that will alter anything from the filter to the effects. In fact, I do believe, Moog was the first to give us a keyboard that was DIFFERENT then the simple piano sort of looking thing.
Need electronic wurli’s and such then NeoSoul Keys Studio from Gospel Musician is only $10 this weekend
GuitarCapo+ is $2 currently and if you want an app for guitar sounds this one will more then for the bill!
Audio Mastering $7 currently is the app you want to use if you are working with creating mixdowns of your performances. It takes your recording to a new level – literally!
Of course if you do not have an app for your digital sheet music then OnSong $15, which is half price, is the choice if your are reading chord charts. OnSong is powerfully connected for anyone doing Praise and Worship. It’s dead simple integration with Planning Center, and other services, makes it a snap to download chord charts for the upcoming services. You can control you projector and lights with OnSong even! This app also works with your PDF sheetMusic of course.
If you want to be able to go even a step further and use music XML files along with PDF’s and even video then Newzik might be your beat choice. You can pull in an entire score as an XML file and then quickly view that notation in whatever size you want and even select which lines you want to see. So I can see my entire band score or just the flute part for instance.
Don’t forget the hardware that can help make your life easier onstage…
AirTurn is running an amazing sale currently. They have iPad holders, stands that fold and store inside your backpack and best of all… pedals to control your page turning and you can even program the foot pedal buttons to control your metronome, lights and so much more! I just ordered the 6 button version of their foot pedal and can’t wait to put it to use. The guys that run AirTurn are stand up dudes! (And I’d assume some dudettes are employed there as well)
Bluetooth MIDI hardware has changed our reliance on having to hardwire our external controllers to our iOS devices. ROLI is at the top of the game giving us new and exciting ways to perform. Their SongMaker kit has a SeaBoard Block along with a LightPad M Block and a control pad as well. Their are two versions out. I’m not really sure what he difference between the two other then I know the one has tight integration with GarageBand. They also just released better integration with Apples LogicProX. Check their YouTube. Of course ROLI is also running some great Black Friday sales currently. If you’ve never experienced their 5D Touch I would highly suggest visiting an Apple Store and trying it out! I don’t think I’d be able to use their 49 key or bigger keyboard to replace my normal MIDI keyboard to play lead keys with. But for building songs inside of Cubasis or to play backup keys the SeaBoard Blocks are a lot of fun!
I’ve got several suggestions every time someone asks me what I would suggest as being the best choice for music educators who want to record a concert and then edit that recording. Maybe they want to add some EQ, Reverb, trim excess noise and push out each individual song. Here are what I consider the top four players in this world of apps for recording audio.
Cubasis – Full blown DAW (Currently on sale the week of Black Friday for half price!) $24.99
Cubasis does all the audio editing you’ve ever dreamed of on an iPad! It also allows you to insert effects. There are some that are available inside of Cubasis as part of the original purchase and then you can expand on the capabilities with IAP’s or other apps from other developers. Cubasis also allows you to record and edit MIDI tracks which is amazing for when you need to create accompaniment tracks for your choir or solo kids or anything.
Auria Pro (or Auria LE) – Full blown DAW (Currently on sale the week of Black Friday for half price!) $24.99
Auria, I believe, was one of the first apps that was advertised as being able to record multitrack audio on an iPad before that was even thought of as being possible! It really was an eye opener to watch that video back then and read about the upcoming possibilities. We simply held our breath hoping that all they promised would come true. It did. In fact this app has simply gotten better over the years.
MultiTrack DAW – simple and straight forward. Also works on iPhone
When you just want to open an app on whichever device you might have with you at the time, add a track and hit the record button this is the app for you. Simple and straightforward. I like that MultiTrack DAW offers the ability to transfer it’s recordings via wi-fi from inside the app. I mean…. at some point in time you are going to want to do more with your recordings and this allows for easy and quick transfer to a laptop.
Ferrite – free – has IAP’s to unlock more than 3 tracks and an hour of music. This app was really created for making Podcasting easier but has such amazing potential for recording audio for anything.
Oh man…so many apps and music things on sale this week!
AirTurn Pedals, iPad Holders, and Stands are all 20% off!
PreSonus Notion is 50% off as is StudioOne for the desktop. No iOS sale yet.
Below is a collection of apps that I have found to be amazing music performance apps/music education apps. All high quality and now is a great time to purchase!
- SynthMaster One
(Plus the IAP’s!)
- Grand Finale
- Neo-Soul Keys Studio
- Model 15
- Model D
- Zeeon Synth
- Patterning 2
- Wizibel – Add some sweet effects to music videos.
- VirSyn Apps
If you are even possibly considering performing, recording, creating or just simply playing around with making music on your iPad then this app has so much to offer you!
The best news is that it is on sale until December 1st for only $9.99! (70% off)
Released in 2017 and heralded as one of the years best synths this is chock full of synth sounds that will make the hair on your neck stand up in excitement! 500 factory sounds to be precise. Features galore will keep you connected with other iOS apps to your hearts content… AUv3, InterApp Audio and AudioBus connectivity means it’s all there!
This is almost the same app as their desktop version in fact! On iOS you only get 16 voices vs 32 on the desktop and only 500 vs 800 sounds. Otherwise it is a full blown synth app worthy of anyone’s music making abilities! Along with a 16 step Arpeggiator/Sequencer it also has Microtuning capabilities. It will even support the MPE controllers like ROLI’s Seabord Blocks.
You will need an iPad Air or higher if you really want to take full advantage of what it offers though.
Of course what good is reading about music without actually hearing It? Listen to these demos on SoundCloud….
If you are a music educator who has drums in your classroom then you need this app!
Plus it’s free for a hot minute!
A bit annoying that on iPad we have to use the app in Portrait mode but that’s minor compared to the doors this opens!
This video is what happens when you eat an Angry Who-Roast Beast Omelette and then have the next day off from school. You play in your sandbox and create using technology.
Ok, Ok…. maybe this is just what happens to ME!
What if our kids could do this on a daily basis though – use technology to create? Oh how I wish………
Tunable is an amazing tuner along with several other features!
GO DOWNLOAD IT!!!!
So while working with OnSong and ForScore this past week it hit me how different each approaches navigation in your music. Not sure which is “right”. I’d like to see both apps be able to show portions of two pages as OnSong does when scrolling up and down. I’d like for both apps to have the ability to add hotspots as ForScore does to deal with repeats.
I do know that if you are working with Chord charts I’d choose OnSong in a heartbeat as it has the ability to transpose those charts with a simple and quick change of the key.
Anyways… here is the Video –