I have often looked at KickStarter and all of its outstanding projects that are offered but never have I actually supported one of those projects. That is until last fall.
Last fall I discovered a project that I was extremely interested in as it had to do with one of the emerging technologies that I feel will have a long lasting effect in the world of music technology. The emerging technology that I am referring to is BlueTooth MIDI capabilities. BlueTooth has been around for quite some time now and I am sure that many of you are well aware of Bluetooth headsets/headphones or Bluetooth keyboard to type on (as I am doing currently by the way).
BUT, using Bluetooth for MIDI is new. BlueTooth LE has now enabled us to invent devices that are very low on the battery drain of the device that is sending signal (keyboard or headset for instance) as well as the device that is receiving it (iPad or iPhone for instance). The other feature of Bluetooth LE is that the latency is very low for transmitting time sensitive signals back and forth like when we are performing music live. AirPlay does NOT allow for this because there is still too much latency involved – I very much wish I could display my iPad screen over the Apple TV and boot the audio out to my sound board. This would allow the audience to see on the big screen what we are doing with our iPad devices (just for you Chris).
SO what does this mean for us, the musician? Well now we have had several BT musical devices available:
Zivix I think started the BlueTooth exploration with it’s BT MIDI Puc – a wireless BT MIDI interface (Read about it here on TechInMusicEd written by my friend Chris)
Mi.1 is another MIDI interface along with a couple from Yamah.
More recently we now have:
Korg has the microKEY Air series – a very affordable set of 25, 37, 49, or 61 key controllers.
Korg also has the nanoKEY Studio and nanoKONTROL Studio
CME X-Key Air – a very thin controller with 25 or 37 keys that still isn’t shipping. (Beware that this keyboard sounds very noisy in the demo videos)
Roland has its FP-30 Keyboard with 88 keys, onboard speakers and has their SUPERNATURAL Piano sounds built in.
SeaBoard Rise has 25 or 49 keys and is a totally alternative controller which at first glance seems to be keyboard related but is obviously different!
IK MultiMedia has the iRig BlueTurn (with two buttons on it) and BlueBoard (with four buttons on it)
And just this past couple of weeks we now have:
LividInstruments Minim which has 8 velocity sensitive pads, 15 buttons and 1 slider. The Minim also has 3D control which allows for the gyroscope to alter the sound as you tilt the instrument. The Minim works with Max OS and iOS. – oh…. It also has a bunch of RGB LED’s that let things get color coordinated!
MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE MINIM from LIVID INSTRUMENTS:
I just received my Minim this past Friday. So I have been messing around with it a little and have a few thoughts to share with you….
First of all the device itself seems pretty sturdy and well put together. I had two gripes with the devices I received tough – My son and I both ordered one so I now have two. My unit came with a brass plate engraved with my name on the bottom – the plate was NOT put on well though. It was sticking up and causing the Minim to rock while I was playing it so I peeled the plate off. I was able to reapply the plate CORRECTLY this time and now it seems to be stuck there fairly well. My sons Minim does have one of the keys that seems to be sticking. We will see if this wears in over the next week or so and if it doesn’t I’m sure LividInstruments will replace it. Of course they are heavy in the mode of trying to get all the KickStarters devices shipped so I know they are very busy.
One more nit picky thing
The initial packaging does NOT want to stay closed which makes no difference to me other than first impressions because I took the Minim’s out of the package and the Minim will now live in my backpack when not in use. But, as a heavy Apple device user, I am used to some amazing unboxing experiences. Plus the Minim had no charge in it at all so before I could use it I had to wait for it to charge up. The good news here was that it really didn’t take more than ten minutes and there was enough charge for me to get a little fix of toying around with it at mid-night. (Good think I had my headphones on!)
OK – on to the good stuff….
Once I figured out which button was actually the power button (which the included instructions were absolutely NO HELP with at all!) …. The device light up like a Christmas tree and we were in business! The connection is drop dead simple to do – opened the app on my iPad and tapped the rather obvious Bluetooth connection and we were connected.
The Minim app gives you four tracks to mess around with and a collection of limited but fun sounds to create with. The button on the left bottom serves as a shift button and allows for double meaning in many case. For instance by using the shift button the slider changes from a delay control to a volume control. By using the shift button the buttons to select which track you are controlling switch to an on/off button for each track.
It was quick and easy to create some beats/melodies/bass lines and save them. Each beat your create has a secondary “b” style so you have two beats available at a time basically. There is a quantize function which helped make sure every fit into the grid of perfect rhythms because as responsive as the pads are I still need help! I rather appreciated the speed and accuracy of the pads when playing them. Even though you are limited to 8 notes at a time there are octave up/down buttons and an easy way to change the scale and Tonic Note you are playing/recording.
Now that I have been playing with the Minim and app for a few days I’ve got quite the little collection of beats I have created. It’s quite a bit of fun to mess around with the patterns after you have recorded them by changing the delay on each track or turning tracks on and off and providing your self with different arraignments of the four instruments along with changing from the A versions to the B version. The two buttons on the top side of the Minim allow for a High/Low Pass filter effect and a rather out of control reverb effect. I liked the High/Low Pass filters but the reverb was not very satisfying.
I’m not sure why having the buttons to smash on gives me a different satisfaction than just using the touchscreen of the iPad but it does. Of course in my head I am envisioning the possibilities in classrooms and live performance settings – I would WAY rather had someone a Minim that is sturdy and extremely durable than my iPad or iPhone that they could drop and break.
I am also very excited about the fact that wires are disappearing from my life!
WHAT TO IMPROVE:
1)MUST BE ABLE TO SHARE AND USE OUR CREATIONS – Incomprehensable:
The Minim app is lacking in ways to share all those great beats/patterns I have created. There is no AudioBus or InterApp Audio or AudioUnit support. In fact there isn’t even an export function. I’m am at a loss for words as to why in the world they would ship the Minim with such an incomplete app. With out the capability to share our creations this app and instrument becomes an expensive toy.
2)CONTROL OF OTHER APPS –
Livid Instruments HAS assured me that through the use of the MIDI output I can control other apps which now opens other doors. Of course that means one more step to the learning curve. Livid Instruments has done a pretty darned good job of giving the end user a instrument and app that is pretty straightforward to use but for anyone who wants to take it to the next leve it will require a bit more thinking and planning. (By the way…. I can NOT imagine for the life of me who WOULDN’T want to take this to the next level!) in fact it’s even part of their marketing…..
IN CONCLUSION (FOR NOW)
1)The backers are a bit upset too that we did not get the fancy light up cable promised by the way Livid!
2)If Livid can get their act in gear and figure a way to allow us to use the Minim with other apps easily then this holds promise. Otherwise I’m afraid that the Minim is an overpriced toy for now. In the marketing video online it does indeed show the Minim being used with ease to control several different types of apps and devices. Once I figure out how the heck to do THAT without pulling my hair out I’m not going to feel like I got sold an overpriced toy with a VERY short selection of useable sounds that are built into it’s own app.
3)I am looking forward to using BlueTooth Instruments and controllers more and more in the future. This IS one of the MOST important tech advancements in the past 20 years for musicians!
Here is the introduction video from the KickStarter Campaign…