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?)