Monday, 31 October 2011

My first video - Monotron loves iPhone

Wow, that was stressful! Much respect to anyone who creates videos with externally recorded audio!

Anyway, my original title was going to be "Korgs and Moogs and autotune - oh my!"

So I had some crazy ideas of how to have fun with my Monotron and a few iOS apps and here is the result. It would be cool to see people take these ideas and show what happens if you add talent to the mix :o) Let me know if you post a video.

Enjoy! Video on Youtube


Saturday, 15 October 2011


Dear Korg,

iKaossilator is a blast! Love it to bits and have lost hours of my life over the last day or so just jamming. Any chance of:

* Manually set tempo to 2 decimal places - I find the tap tempo a bit hit and miss
* Arpeggiator patterns like on the Kaossilator
* Real time global loop length or loop retrigger
* Audio rendering of loops then audio copy/paste with iCloud support


Saturday, 13 August 2011

New toys

My latest purchases. Modded the Kaossilator on day 1 to include the superb overlay from Pat here: To keep its touch sensitivity I used an extremely thin screen protector instead of a piece of clear acetate and it works a dream. Despite my worries about lining it up properly all is perfect, which is no mean feat given those little squares are less than 2mm across! With a stylus and scale set to chromatic I can play each note perfectly. Shame I can't actually play anything properly :o)

The Monotron came with me on holiday. Hooked up to Filtatron running on my iPhone I was in noise nirvana.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Happy birthday to meeeeee...

A few weeks ago it was my birthday and I received Rock Band 3 and the Squier Strat guitar/controller. One of the first things I did was to hook it up to my iPad via the CCK and a midi cable. Worked a treat! Tried it with Garageband, Nlog Pro and BS-16i. Latency is surprisingly low, and definitely playable without compensation. Bending strings has no effect, neither does tremolo, so your expression is limited to how hard you pluck the strings, and that can be a little quirky too. Fretboard tracking is just about spot on (once I'd set the guitar pickup and fretboard how I wanted them) and chords work just dandy. In essence the guitar works like a keyboard - the strings (from the "mute" bar forward) are simply there to make contact with the frets to tell the controller where your finger is. It is the part from the pickup to the mute bar that tells the controller which string is being plucked and how hard.

One interesting feature (a bit annoying really) is that plucking an open string never sends a midi off, so open string notes sound forever until you mute the string manually. Obviously with a synth patch that releases itself this is not a problem, but most of the patches I used were a pain and had too be muted by hand. Ironically most of the guitar sound patches I used suffered from this. You could probably do somethihng clever with Midi filtering on a PC I suppose.

Overall as a "bonus" feature I think it makes a reasonable midi guitar at a pretty decent price. In the game itself (Xbox 360) it is fantastic and will definitely raise my (currently poor) playing skills, especially picking (which I tend too avoid normally).

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Windows 7 Slate/Table - one week of use

Had a busy week but managed to get some time in using the Win 7 slate for music.

First, and foremost, I cannot stress how incredible it is to have full music software running on something so thin and portable with a touch interface. In one instant it shows just how far behind mobile "studio" software is. I've been running Ableton Live Lite 8 and Virtual DJ Pro and almost re-falling on love with them as they are available to use within seconds of pressing the power button on a quiet, slim device that is always to hand.

It's not all sweetness and light though. These apps were never designed for use on a touch screen and all too often I get frustrated by clicking on something that I didn't mean to, or wishing for a mouse. Coupled with my Keysonic 540RF wireless keyboard it all makes so much more sense. Obviously that reduces the portability so I tried my tiny bluetooth keyboard (not much bigger than an iPhone and weighs almost nothing) and was just as pleased when moving through Ableton's interface.

Performance isn't up to the level of a non-Atom powered laptop, and battery life isn't iPad-bothering at about 4 hours, but it is perfectly happy running two tracks in Virtual DJ with effects and some attempts at turntablism. I haven't hooked up a turntable yet to try it with virtual vinyl so I can't comment on performance there. In Ableton recording audio was solid and using a few virtual instruments and VSTs was also great. Again, the improvement over iOS virtual synths (Nlog aside!) is phenomenal.

What really brings the device alive though is hooking up my Behringer UMA25s. It's not a great keyboard in terms of key action (my Novation Remotes are miles better) but it has a good onboard audio interface with ASIO drivers and is amazingly portable. The performance of mic and guitar input is much better than the built-in soundcard on the slate. Of course it also works happily for both MIDI and sound duties without complaint, unlike my iPad with CCK that only works with MIDI unless I provide mains power as well.

So far then I love the portability much more than the touch aspects of it. Touch is great for web surfing etc but Win 7 is about as far removed from the touch friendliness of iOS as you can get.

Friday, 11 March 2011

iPad GarageBand with MIDI gear

There's lots of opinions about GarageBand hitting the net so I'm not planning to rant about missing features or whatever. I just want to talk about my experiences of hooking up some MIDI gear to it.

I have tested my Behringer UMA25s keyboard over USB via the Camera Connection Kit and my Novation Remote 49 via a cheapo USB MIDI interface into the CCK. The Novation also has sustain and expression pedals plugged in.

First up, both were recognised perfectly and proceeded to play notes on GB's virtual synths and even the drumsets. Velocity sensitivity was transmitted properly (anyone else find the accelerometer "velocity" really hit and miss?). I really like many of the built-in patches, and playing them via a real keyboard is a joy.

As you'd expect, pitch wheel and mod wheel both worked just fine, their effect being dependent on the particular patch. Knobs and rotaries were more hit and miss. With a General MIDI setup loaded into each keyboard, the only rotaries that changed anything were the pan control and volume. I was hoping filters, chorus, reverb and ADSR would match the GM spec. Not sure if there is a MIDI mapping table anywhere on the web.

A less successful test was the arpeggiator. When switched on, incoming MIDI notes do not go to the arpeggiator. I like to use arpeggiators a lot (due to a lack of playing talent and a tendency to twiddle controls during playing) so this was a disappointment.

A big surprise, however, was the recognition of the expression pedal from the Novation (and the sustain pedal - less surprisingly) and seemingly the channel aftertouch, which had me squealing filters using the key pressure.

Overall, despite many criticisms from people, I am very happy with Garage Band for keyboard and MIDI. Oh, ok, it could use a piano roll :o)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Using a Windows 7 Slate/Tablet - woohooo!

About a year ago I agonised over whether to get a Windows touch screen device or the iPad. In the end the iPad won, and I love it.

However, I have just been handed the allegedly "best Windows 7 tablet" to test for a while (thanks!) - it is the variously branded Pegatron-made tablet most notably branded as the ExoPC. I could write my own review of it as a tablet, but there's a great review here at Tech Radar instead.

In a nutshell it's got an 11.6" 1366x768 multi-touch capacitive screen, mini-HDMI, 2GB RAM, a 32GB SSD, Atom 450 procesor, SD card slot, a couple of USB ports (yayyyy), a combined 3.5mm headset jack (booooo)and something like 4 hours battery life. Amazingly it is only about 1mm thicker than my iPad but it feels much bigger. So in essence a remarkably thin touch screen netbook without keyboard and with HD res screen.

I've only just got it, so will add to this as I go along (e.g. photos), but I am very keen to push it as a mobile music device. I've installed Ableton Live 8.2.1 and Virtual DJ thus far, along with a bunch of VSTis and VST fx. I installed ASIO4ALL but there may be a Realtek HD Asio driver somewhere. I can report thus far that all seem to work just fine, albeit tiny!

Hardware wise I plugged in my Behringer UMA25S and that worked straight away for MIDI and audio duties with no noticeable latency playing VSTis in Ableton. I have also tried my USB guitar cable and that works fine, but there's noticeable latency. Need to spend some time on that. Will be testing Hercules DJ console, UC33e, Korg Nanopad and my incredible Saitek P8000 (that needs a blog post all of its own one day.)

So far my few hours with it have been enjoyable, with a few Windows 7 frustrations due to the tiny on screen buttons coupled with my big hands. I do have a stylus somewhere so may try that. Interestingly the touch screen, although capacitive, supports 256 levels of pressure! How, exactly, I don't know.

The acid test, after a few weeks with it, will be "would I spend my own money on one?"

Thursday, 3 March 2011

DJ Player 3 submitted to Apple

I know this is not a news blog but I have had a chance to try this out and it is very professional and about the best non-scratching DJ app I have tried. Here's the rather extensive list of updates:

Universal app with native iPad and iPhone interfaces.
New interface design, new minimal look.
New workflow, new navigation. No more "which side is which" and "where am i".
No importing necessary: directly uses your iPod library, with playlist support. Mass analyzing of iPod library tracks, sort by BPM too. USB or WiFi upload is still available.
Serato and Traktor metadata support (BPM and cue points).
Much-much lower latency, reduced CPU usage. Feels faster.
Double-deck output mode for hardware mixer.
4 gapless cue points, play like a sampler.
Reverse play (tap before or after the pitch fader head).
Auto beatgrid and waveform display.
Automatic Vinyl Vision creation in background.
Better sounding flanger and echo.
Navigate between the screens using a gesture (iPad only, slide your finger from outside of the screen towards the center).
Swap play/cue button position.
Sharp echo/reverb release on/off.
iPad only: master output fader, master VU meter before or after.
Network BPM sync: if there is only one deck loaded, the app broadcasts and receives the current BPM value over the local WiFi network or Bluetooth, so you can sync between different devices. Very useful in Classic Club mode, or when you switch DJs in the booth.

So there you go. Definitely worth a try!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

All this, and iPad 2!

Just watched the Apple iPad 2 launch event. Nice to see it thinner and lighter and the addition of the cameras would be good for Skype assuming it works with Skype.

Garageband will be nice to see, and the boost in CPU is welcomed but other than that not much for musicians, especially no USB or SD.

Glad to see the screen res remained as devs are strugling with 3 resolutions as it is.

iOS 4.3 doesn't bring much for me. Just hope the USB power limit gets raised again for MIdI devices etc.

HDMI sounds fine and all that, but my current iPad boasted VGA output with the purchased cable. I have tried 4 monitors, 1 TV and a projector and not a single one works with my iPad.

Most impressive is the cute screen cover thing. Wonder how, exactly, the hinge attaches with magnets?

So generally a nice incremental update and not so much that I feel like selling a body part to upgrade. Of course if my bank balance ever supports it then it will be hard to resist!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

BS-16i now with CoreMIDI

I've tweeted about this, but I want to get some detail in.

I got BS-16i when it first came out with hardly any fanfare. Almost no-one mentioned it. But here was an iOS synth that uses soundfonts in SF2 format. I nearly wept! Also added along the way was the ability to load and play MIDI files. Fan-flipping-tastic!

So you load up a soundfont, choose a MIDI channel (e.g. 1-9 for instruments, 10 for drums etc.) and play away.

Now the new version supports Core MIDI on the iPad and I am blown away. I loaded up a 32mb GM soundfont and plugged my Novation Remote25 in and set it to the GM template.

I wasn't sure what to expect but literally EVERYTHING worked as it should from the keyboard:
  • Patch select
  • Pitch and Mod wheels
  • All mapped GM CC controls, including
  • Portamento on/off and time knob
  • Mono/poly switch
  • Filter cutoff and resonance
  • Chorus
  • Reverb
  • ADSR
  • Midi channel select
I didn't have to set up anything. It was just like someone had slapped a sound module into my keyboard. The only thing I couldn't use was the MMC controls (Play/Pause etc. ) so that would be cool to see.

Now there are a couple of bugs - the occasional note doesn't sound but the MIDI got through (the on-screen key moves) but it is rare - but for the price if you want a way of using your soundfont collection without your PC then this is it. There are loads of amazing free soundfonts out there, it's not just GM :o)

It is so good I am tempted to buy a Line 6 midi mobilizer so I can use it on my iPhone too!

I wonder how much it would be pushing it to allow display/edit/record of midi tracks? The sound engine is there and the MIDI playback is there...

Anyway, I reckon everyone should buy it and give this developer the credit they deserve for their mobile efforts.

Two quid iPhone tripod!

I decided to make a tripod for my iPhone for stop frame videos, time lapse, hands free etc.

1 X basic extending camera tripod from Poundland (everything costs a pound)
1 X iPhone 3GS hard case from Poundland
1 X nut (I found it in a box)
Small amount of glue (I used epoxy)

Simply glue the nut onto the back of the hard case and screw onto the Tripod when needed! Works fantastically and actually looks pretty nifty. Works in both portrait and landscape and tilts to most angles (using the adjustable legs if needed).

Also functions as a handy deskstand :o)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

My ideal DJ app

I have a vision of a "perfect" DJ app for iOS. Funny thing is, I think all of the features currently exist in various apps, but not altogether in one. What do you think?

* iPod library access (a must have - and many do!)
* Realistic turntable simulation (see Flare Scratch and Tap.DJ)
* Dual stereo audio out (Red Bull BPM has this through streaming to a second device)
* Useful multi-FX and filters with XY pad control (Looptastic has this)
* Access to DLNA/UPnP devices for tracks over WiFi (Plugplayer has this)
* Multiple cue/loop points saved with the song (Tap.DJ again)
* Adjustable crossfader curves (Red Bull BPM)
* EQ plus kills (Red Bull BPM)
* BPM control - syncing etc. (Quite a few, but Red Bull BPM stands out)
* Mix recording (DJay, Tap.DJ)
* Pitch bend (Djay, Red Bull BPM)

I know there's loads of other apps out there, and I know some of those mentioned do other things, but those are the features and apps that immediately came to mind.

As with Guitar FX apps, I am holding out for something near to my "ideal" before splashing out in a bigger way (cash is tight!). I've got Flare, Tap.DJ, Looptastic and Sonosaurus Rex as well as the free version of Red Bull BPM. I haven't tried DJay (no lite version to try) and haven't yet made the jump to the full Red Bull BPM Pro. At the moment Tap.DJ is sucking up most of my time.