New Music Possibilities on the iPad!

Wow, the school year has started with a bang this year! There are so many different ideas that are floating around my band room in comparison to previous years. I am finding a ton of different ways to create and interact with music. My students eyes are being slowly opened to the idea that there is a whole new exciting world of possibilities that they want to be a part of.

For this post I will focus on two apps for the iPad and one other app for the Mac that I have been playing around with in the past week. In my “free time”, which means everyone else has gone to bed in the family and I have time to explore.

The first app is called Mugician by Rob Felding. I found this app because I had started searching through YouTube for Musc Tech Ensembles. One search led to another and I found Jordan Rudess, again, playing Mugician on his iPad. I went to this website, http://rrr00bb.blogspot.com/2010/08/mugician-heiroglyphics.html, did a LOT of reading. I bit the bullet and bought it. I couldn’t resist, it was such an interesting new innovative way to create and interact with creating music. It seemed to be way too much fun! Turns out that is exactly what it is, fun! The concepts are all explained on Rob’s website and in videos on the web. Watch them and read the directions because this app is not one of those immediately easy to use apps. The layout makes sense but you have to think about it for a bit first. The controls at the bottom are a bugger at first to figure out how to use! But man have I enjoyed playing on this app. It is a fresh approach and different from let’s say piano. I love the sound it generates, although every now and then the reverb/delay gets out of control. We WILL be using this app in our schools new electric/acoustic ensemble we’ve got going.

Since I mentioned piano, I will admit that the next app was purchased because I am a piano player. I also use a keyboard to create music notation files in Sibelius ALL THE TIME! I’ve been looking at purchasing a small 25 key keyboard or a Korg NanoKey so that I can have keyboard easily accessible to do that work. I have several full size keyboards but it always seems a bit of a hassle to get the laptop and those hooked up to do notation. I have not actually made that purchase yet though because I had tried an app a year  ago on my iPod Touch that almost worked through wi-fi. There were a few issues with it though in that it kept dropping notes. Of course, me being so used to using a regular keyboard that is physically wired to the laptop probably meant that I was expecting a LOT from a wireless MIDI keyboard! Tonight I was reading http://techinmusiced.wordpress.com/ and noticed that “ChoirGuy” had Moo Cow Pianist Pro for his iPad and really liked it. I think that was exactly the sort of review I was looking for in a product like this. So I went to the app store on the iPad and clicked purchase. This is not a plug and play app so again I would suggest that you dig into the instructions and READ! (You know funny thing, reading and writing is what we were discussing tonight in our staff meeting at school!) After getting everything configured and played around with the program for about 30-45 minutes. I used the program by itself as well as hooking up through wi-fi to Garage Band, Logic Studio and Sibelius. There are some good possibilities here. I like the arpeggio generator, the scales section is great (some scales in there I had never heard of before – not that I’m a scale guru though!) and I like the effect/delay. I was disappointed in the selection of available sounds though. I have free music programs that have more sounds in them that are just as good of quality! The wi-fi is what I played with the most though. I have to say that it does connect, it does work. The problem is that it is not smooth enough and consistent enough to use it to play live piano parts. I had issues with it not playing EVERY note and there is a lag time that is annoying some times. I do plan on getting a hold of their tech support and reading on their forums to see if those issues can be fixed. I ABSOLUTELY plan on using the iPad and Pianist Pro with Sibelius ALL THE TIME NOW! The wi-fi works good enough for that step entry of notes. I really like not having to work in a contorted position with one arm way over on my keyboard and the other on my laptop!

If the dropping of notes gets fixed and the lag time can be fixed there are some sweet possibilities for this program!

One other program that I have been messing around with is Samchillian. It’s a weird name but do a google search for it and you will see that it is a weird looking instrument as well! Actually it is a controller. A MIDI controller. The interface is extremely different as well. It will take some time to get used to how to work this program but the person that does take the time to figure it out will be playing things not possible on a piano for instance! This program is free, you simply have to email the author, who is friends with Rob Felding who did the Mugician  app.

When I bought the iPad I knew I wanted to use it for my scores. I was pretty sure I would not be carrying around folders and books full of music anymore. Turns out the iPad does that job very well. I am using it this fall for High School Marching Band scores and it works wonderfully for that. BUT in my conversations with everyone I have time and time again used one line to describe my iPad that has bugged me. I keep telling people that the iPad IS NOT the best tool for CREATION of my music. I have wanted my LAPTOP for that job. BUT with these programs mentioned in this post and earlier posts I am starting to find apps that are GREAT for the CREATION of music AND these apps are not ones that I would have the same experience with on my laptop. The touch interactivity of the iPad is SWEET!

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One thought on “New Music Possibilities on the iPad!

  1. Oh hey! I don’t know if this is the very first time I saw your post. I don’t think there’s anything that makes me feel better than to hear that people are using my instruments to *teach* music. I have had a few people tell me that they use Mugician for teaching because of how is blends piano and guitar concepts, while admitting microtonality.

    My daughter is 5. She actually learned her letters on Xstrument (my Samchillian clone), playing tunes out of little words that she knew. She was a big part of keeping Mugician simple as well. There were features that I had removed when she could not figure them out even after a few days.

    Samchillian (and therefore Xstrument) have learning curves that are no joke. But they do turn the skill curve upside-down making crazy-fast playing easy, and simple melodies devilishly hard. I learned a lot from practicing at both extremes.

    I think multi-touch computers mark the end of the mechanical age. A lot of ergonomic constraints are going to be lifted as soon as surface-area, performance and pressure-sense issues are worked out.

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