Music Apps, Battery Life and the never ending “kill app” discussion on iOS

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.

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SynthMaster One for iOS – Oh My!

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!

SynthMaster One for iOS – $9.99

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….

https://soundcloud.com/kv331synthmaster/sets/synthmaster-one-factory

Gestrument Pro – Performing on iOS with alternative interfaces

If you have followed this blog at all for any length of time you will know that one of the quests I’ve been on is using iOS to perform in ways never before possible.

Gestrument Pro is going to be released on Sept. 25 and is currently available for pre-order at like half price. $8.99 vs. $16.99!

PerplexOn has access and has posted a wonderful video of him jamming out by the fire! This is the video that convinced me to pre-order.

https://mobile.twitter.com/PerplexOn/status/1043936739142881281

The developers, Jesper Nordin and leading iOS developer Jonatan Liljedahl (Kymatica), are amazing musicians and outstanding developers. So I am holding high hopes for a very useful alternative that will allow for some interesting music making. I am not holding my breath for an instrument that is one of those “pick-it-up and understand it now” sort of instruments.

Here is their description off their website…

Gestrument Pro takes everything we loved about Gestrument and improves on its original functionality while introducing a host of new features such as multi-touch, recordable automations, advanced scale editing and our unique system of highly tweakable modular generators that define the pitches and rhythms.

With Gestrument Pro you can Play, Improvise and Compose music with deeper levels of personal expression than ever before.

To wet your appetite even more, before you go hit the pre-order button, here is a YouTube video…

Creating Music Where Ever You Are

So this weekend we went camping. While my wife enjoyed her time floating on her tube with her nieces in the lake, watching the little kids play on the big blow up lake toys…. I enjoyed a bit of toying around making music. It’s a ton of fun making music by the campfire sitting at the picnic table.

I used my ROLI SeaBoard Blocks and Roli’s Noise app. I am not comfortable with the whole loop based recording scene so I made myself use it.

I love the expressiveness and response you get from both the Blocks – the keyboard looking one and the new square Block. I like the touch and the feel of the little square Block but the lights need to be brighter!

Once done I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to share my creativity…. the Noise app doesn’t play well with others. No way to create a song besides tapping individual loops and “performing” the whole song live. I can not preset a sequence of the loops and then export and audio file. I could export all the loops into another app as individual recordings but I wanted one final mixdown of “The Song”. I couldn’t even use Noise in conjunction with another app to accomplish this. I ended up using the headphone out jack and my handheld recorder. That meant I had to wait until I got home to do anything else with the final recording because iOS doesn’t let you import audio from an SD card!

At home I opened the card on my laptop, imported the file, then AirDropped it back to the iPad. It felt like cheating… APPLE – you need to fix this issue!

Then I used Wizbel to dump some photos and effects on top of the audio. The photos are all from our summer trips. I wish I could put more photos in. The song is kind of long so the exporting from Wizbel takes a LONG time! In fact I typed all of this post up to here, on my iPhone while waiting for the export and it STILL was only part way done as you can see below….

In the Noise App you get a ton of different sounds that are created for the Blocks. You only get to use four per project though so that’s a bit of a bummer.

The other issue ROLI needs to fix is there is no way to edit your mistakes after recording. I KNOW the MIDI is there so how hard can it be ROLI to simply add a piano roll editor?

But… hey that fits my motto… play, create, share. Too many people worry about getting EVERY single detail right. Too clinical and too much time. I want to explore and I want to be realistic about what my students would end up doing too. Get them creating and then encourage them to share. Even if the final song is a “bit rough around the edges”.

I did discover that the Noise app is synced between your devices! So when I opened my iPhone up I had to download a sound or two before my project would open but there it was! Allowing me to work with either my iPad OR my iPhone! Nice touch ROLI!

So anyways… the final version of the song is both on my YouTube as well as on my SoundCloud. (Or it WILL BE once Wizibel gets done exporting!)

Here’s where the export process is at now….

Don’t expect to use this app in a classroom setting at the end of a class period. That should be understood for the processing of any video file though! Video takes awhile! I’m even using the first gen iPadPro 12.? Inch iPad so it’s a pretty decent processor!

So let’s talk about sharing your content…. did I mention that this entire blog post is being created and shared from my iPhone…. for free? Your students can do the same! Of course the final recording and video are NOT get hosted here on WordPress but instead I am using YouTube and SoundCloud for those items. So if you are not willing to mash up a few services then you would have to pay.

Here ya go….

SoundCloud – Rainy Lake of Dreams

YouTube Link –

Creating Music and Exploring Music Technology

Just had to play in the musical sandbox tonight for a bit

Playing and creating with ROLI’s SeaBoard Block and using Logic to record. No iPads were used in this creation so far. My Roli SeaBoard Block, Equator (the sound software Roli bundles with the Blocks), Logic ProX and my MacBook along with the iConnect Audio4+

What did I find out?

1)I found out that I play in some absurd time signatures!

2)I also figured out the it is nice to be able to record the part as MIDI, tweak the missed notes and then turn it into audio. This also gives a visual clue as to what I played and when as this is all original creation. The piano roll comes in super handy! Good thing Logic allows for time signature changes.

I don’t think there is a DAW on iOS that allows for multiple time signatures. Please leave me a note below if you know of one that does.

3)I also used Logics Drummer feature and it followed the different time signatures flawlessly. Very cool!

4)I had to turn Equator sounds DOWN so they wouldn’t distort. Equator was just simply overloading it’s own output. I’m not sure why when I’m dealing with stock sounds.

5)The level of control and nuance available when playing the SeaBoard Blocks is insane! It really is awesome!

6)I also found out that SoundCloud really has issues with it’s iOS app. You are further ahead just to use Safari and access the website.

Anyways… if you are inclined to listen… it’s a work in progress and is super short.

New iPad Synth App

cs_iconVirSynth has released their latest synth for the iPad called CubeSynth for iPad. Notice that it is named CubeSynth FOR IPAD – that’s because there is a desktop version of this app as well! Currently the app is on sale for half price – soon it will be selling at it’s normal price of $19.99 so purchase now if you are interested at all.

CubeSynth is another great example of what can be accomplished on an iPad in the world of music creation! Here is the intro paragraph from their website….

“Cube Synth is a groundbreaking new iPad synthesizer giving you the power and flexibility of
additive synthesis together with easy editing and morphing capabilities. Macro parameters
allow you to control this beast with unequalled ease.”

CubeSynth allows us to easily allow control of the app through things like breath controllers! So hook an EWI up to your iPad, put it in the hands of a capable woodwind player and all sorts of fun can be had! This is one of those “living sound” sort of apps – you know, the kind where the sounds are not static. The sound from this synth morph, change, and evolve in ways not possible with a traditional wind instrument! There is a built in arpeggiator as well as a pair of dice! The dice are great because they create endless variations of sounds at the push of a button – allowing for quick and easy custom sounds, arpeggio’s and effects! That means your students can quickly create their “own” sounds as they explore the app. Which in turn may lead them to start digging in and exploring what is actually changing so they can better understand synthesis.

CubeSynth fully supports AudioBus and Virtual MIDI – meaning that this app plays well with others. You can also publish to SoundCloud right from within CubeSynth. SoundCloud is a wonderful way for your students to create and share those creations! It is free so if you are not using it currently you should!

VirSynth is also the developers behind other amazing iOS app’s – Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 12.04.44 PMAddictive Synth (an aptly named synth app that will cause you to loose several hours as you play with it!) and Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 12.05.38 PMHarmonyVoice (For you singers – or maybe those who can’t sing so well – HarmonyVoice turns your voice into four!) to name several.

I will say that the videos VirSynth has posted on thier YouTube channel are not giving me sound – so as of today, if you want to see what CubeSynth sounds and works like simply do a search on YouTube for other’s videos.

 

(Disclosure  – I have started using the iTunes affiliate program. That means the links contained in this blog give me a small percentage back to help support this blog. It doesn’t cost you anything at all – you pay the same price for the apps but Apple gives back to those of us that take part in the program if you purchase the app by using the link contained in this blog post. Thank you for reading and supporting this blog!)

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!

 

iPad Apps used on a daily basis in teaching Music

 

What apps do you use on a daily basis while teaching music? I teach Band every day to five different groups from 5th grade through High School. We also have one experimental group that is exploring the Pop, Rock, Electronic side of music creation and arranging.

I use a group of apps everyday in almost every class. Then I use another set of apps when not in class but still doing teaching related activities. There is of course a group of apps I use when I am creating and exploring music as well and one more group of apps that I use when I am not doing musical activities.

Here is my list of apps I use constantly while teaching;

unRealBook, ForScore, Avid Scorch, Tempo, ClearTune, Fingerings, SL-Remote, Filemaker Go, DropBox, AirSketch, PlanBook, YouTube, Music (the app) and of course YouTube and Safari. I wish our school had an instant messenger app for GroupWise. Why we are still using archaic technology like GroupWise I will never know! If we had an Instant Messenger app all teachers could use I would have WAY fewer phone interruptions!

My list of other apps I use for my job but not while I am teaching… (in addition to those listed above – because some of those listed above I still use while NOT teaching);

PlanBook, Pages, Keynote, MagicalPad, SmartMusic Inbox, AnyTune, Capo, Hokusai, Mail, Contacts, PDF Expert, Calendar, WunderList, Notability, NoteShelf, Skitch, Evernote, Hello, GMusic, AirSharing, SilverWiz, Photos, Videos, Camera, iMovie and PhotoSender. My newest find is iCam.

My list of Apps I love to use while creating, exploring, and playing music are;

MorphWiz, Mugician, GeoSynth, Seline, ThumbJam, Sunrizer, SampleWiz, CrystalSynthXT, GarageBand, Magic Fiddle and Piano, PianistPro, ProKeys, and my latest SampleTank and MelodyMaker.

The list of Apps I use when I am not making music, working on music classes or enjoying music…. in other words the rest of my free time;

ByLine (RSS News Feeds), Pulse News, Flud News, River of News (I can’t decide which I like the best but I did list these in the order I use them the most), Twitter, Flipboard, Showyou, Music, GMusic, WeatherBug or AccuWeather, Alarm Clock HD by the Alarm Clock Company, PackTheBag, AirVideo, Screens, Fandango, Flixster, What’s On?HD, Launch Points and Maps, and of course Safari, Mail, Contacts and Calendar.

What apps do you use constantly? I would love to discover new ideas and find out who else is using the same apps as I do on a constant basis. Leave a comment below.