The Molten drum machine meets MIDI and sync, via the Camera Connection Kit. It’s just one of a number of improvements that have made iOS tools more mature, more powerful – and easy to integrate with other, less Apple-y hardware and software. Image courtesy One Red Dog.

It’s nice to think software gets better, not worse, with age. And so it is that if you use an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad in the studio, your mobile gizmos are getting more powerful and useful. Expanded support for MIDI – using both wireless and wired connections to interface with gear of the last couple of decades – and other features make these tools more musically productive. Here’s just a quick refresher on what recent updates are adding.

TouchOSC adds MIDI, improves documentation, support, and community. TouchOSC has been popular as a control solution – it’s simple, makes whipping up custom layouts fairly quick, and interfaces wirelessly with lots of tools. You can even use it with Linux or free tools; the documentation starts out with instructions on translating its network messages to MIDI for free on any OS, using Pd. In fact, while I don’t think TouchOSC’s layout editing is perfect – I’d like to see other ideas, too – I find creating layouts much quicker than it ever was on the pricier, now-defunct Lemur. (That was a complaint I made in the first review I wrote of the Lemur years ago, for Keyboard.)

Adding MIDI support to TouchOSC means a lot more flexibility. You can now connect over a network using Apple’s wireless MIDI implementation (which, incidentally, is not Mac-specific – ports are available for Windows and Linux). You can connect USB MIDI interfaces using the iPad Camera Connection Kit. And the new release even includes support for the MIDI Mobilizer, which works not only on iPad but iPhone and iPod touch, too – ideal for pocket-friendly control.

Updated: I’ve read user reports about 1.7 with custom OSC names and compatibility with Missing Link hardware. You may want to wait for a fix before updating. Feel free to discuss here in comments. (Thanks, Josh!)

TouchOSC + CoreMIDI
TouchOSC + MIDI Mobilizer

This version also adds complete documentation and a forum. See blog post. Developer hexler also promises a library section for people to contribute their own layouts.

Speaking of layouts, I routinely see new ones in my inbox. Here’s a creative drum sequencer template; see video below:

http://stilllebend.blogspot.com/

Expanded MIDI Support for Molten Drum Machine Molten, the excellent drum machine tool for iPad, added MIDI support earlier. Version 1.1 seems to iron out some issues with it, however. Synthtopia gets the scoop here: MIDI clock sync and CoreMIDI configuration have all been improved. Clock alone is a reason to try out Molten, especially if you have computers or hardware you want to try syncing.

Virtual MIDI ports allow for the first time routing between iOS apps. Interestingly, with the combination of new background audio and virtual MIDI, you can use an iPad a bit like you would a desktop computer, with multiple apps working together. It’s not quite the main appeal of tablets to me, and you may max out the fairly lean computing powers of the iPad (especially the first-generation), but it’s compelling work.

Official site:
http://www.onereddog.com.au/products/molten/

The other cool thing about Molten is that some of these features have come from discussions with other developers, including on our own Noisepages group. Case in point: some cool network MIDI features, described in a blog post here — have at it, developers!

CoreMIDI Networking Setup [One Red Dog Blog]

A new wireframe OSC controller. TouchOSC isn’t the only game in town for iOS controllers. WireGUI is a new, palm-sized wireframe controller for iPhone and iPod touch. ( There’s no iPad-native version yet.) What it does that TouchOSC doesn’t is allow you to edit controls directly on the device. I also love its retro graphical style and unique widgets, and updates are already in store.

Chris Jeffs made the release from Berlin earlier this month. I don’t normally like copying and pasting, but he sends a very detailed description, so I will quote it:

WireGUI is a new OSC controller App for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It features easy customisation of controller setups, with all editing taking place on the device. Groups of objects may be added simply by dragging and dropping a chosen icon, and they can be arranged with custom colors, resized and even rotated. Underneath the distinctive aesthetic is an extensive OSC message specification with many options for outgoing data. In an update currently in review, any group which stores values may also act as a simple step sequencer.

Features:

▪ An OSC controller App for iPhone and iPod Touch.
▪ Includes groups of controls: Sliders, Slider Bars, Arrows, Buttons, Knobs, Drum Pads, a mixer and an X-Y Touchpad.
▪ All groups respond to multiple points of contact.
▪ Quickly arrange controller elements on the device itself – no need to spend hours using complicated desktop editing programs.
▪ Groups can be resized, automatically arranged and even rotated.
▪ Arrangements may be saved on the device for later use.
▪ (forthcoming in version 1.3) Simple sequencer function allows values to be stepped through with adjustable tempo and ppqn.
▪ Distinctive, minimalist looks with customisable color schemes.
▪ Extensive OSC spec.
▪ Only $4.99

Compatibility Information:

▪ iOS 4.0+ required, 4.2+ recommended.
▪ Use of 4th generation iPhone or iPod Touch is highly recommended. Testing has revealed problems with the display of bitmaps in some older generation devices. A fix has been identified and is planned for release in a future version.

On iTunes: http://itunes.com/apps/wiregui
Developer site: http://chrisjeffs.com/wiregui/

What can you Control with one free tool for iPad? (other platforms forthcoming) How about a giant wall of synths? Source: Pellegrini Synth Lab. I want to go to there.

New creations for the free and open source Control. I covered Control earlier this year. It’s a significant release: unlike other tools here, it makes use of Web rendering and HTML5 to build its layouts. That offers Web-style coding (JSON!) and far greater portability of layouts than native controls that use only Apple-specific tools. Developer Charlie Roberts has maintained a blog where you can keep track of development:

http://charlie-roberts.com/Control/

Check out, for instance, the nice sequencer module. And users have been doing cool things, too, like an insane Pelligrini Space-Time Keyboard Controller, or emulating the monome.

touchAble alongside Ableton Live – in a way that makes the visual relationship clear. Courtesy the developer.

Ableton Live controller touchAble makes full use of multi-touch. Last but certainly not least, multiple touch points (multiple dots or … if you can keep from snickering, multiple balls) now make full use of the iPad’s touch capabilities in a new update to touchAble. touchAble is Ableton-only, but as such tightly integrates with parameters in that tool.

Developer Sylvain Garcia from touchAble tells us:

This new module, up to 4 dots, can record, cut, loop & reverse motions of balls and play them back as automations in total sync to Ableton Live. You can create your own loops and save & restore them with just one tap. Each Ball has its own Gravity & bouncing settings – allowing for a variety of different movements and on the fly adjustments. The direction of gravity can be adjusted as well as gravity’s force. It also allows you to save snapshots + morphing….

We have worked very hard on this new update, and are very proud of the result.

It’s worth noting that, while Rana Sobhany has earned a lot of attention as an “iPad DJ,” many other artists are using devices like the iPad as remote controls for computers. I served on a panel with Rana at South by Southwest and got to talk to her a bit, and her technique focuses on making the iPads act like decks or looping samplers, with a crossfader in between. By contrast, acts like Andrew Andrew – who got started iPad launch week as did Rana – focus instead on using the device as a controller. At a recent party at New York’s Ace Hotel, that allowed them to freely wander the crowd. (They’re using TouchAble with Ableton Live.)

If the controller approach appeals more, here’s a look at touchAble’s official video:

I have to see, of all the controllers out there – for any application – touchAble is probably the most extensive in terms of the sheer variety of control layouts and the degree of integration. It’s worth a look, even if you find some friend with the combination to check out.

Here are images of the new X/Y functionality, courtesy the developers. Click for full-sized versions; you can see some of the assignment powers here. It’s not just as though they gave this a couple of balls and popped out for drinks.


Far-out Konkreet control. One of the most unusual tools to come out of the iPad software crop, in terms of design, has to be the stunning Konkreet Performer. It focuses on advanced parameter control via a multi-touch interface, but it really commits to that paradigm – no fake knobs or faders in sight. In the place of the virtual pots, you see gorgeous geometric eye candy that explodes around your finger touchpoints.

http://konkreetlabs.com/

A future update will let you project those visuals onscreen as you work. A couple of nice examples, among others:

Stephan Bodzin vs Marc Romboy are using the rig live onstage in their LUNA tour, with both the Visualizer and Performer modules. Extensive documentation below:

On the same lines, Reaktor house Twisted Tools has a series of custom layouts for their soundmakers. The first of these uses Konkreet; the others use TouchOSC and an original template, respectively.

Also, our friend Peter Dines has put out a mind-bending “ultra-Theremin” instrument for Konkreet. You can use TouchOSC, to be sure – but for a “freakish playing experience,” as Peter puts it, it has to be Konkreet.

Behold the Arcturan UltraTheremin – free download for Reaktor and Konkreet Performer [modulations @ noisepages]

Arcturan UltraTheremin improv by peterdines

And there you have it – real polyphonic Theremin, not a joke after all. I’ll leave it there, but let us know which controller apps you’re using in the studio and how they’re working for you. And I’ll keep saving up my pennies for a Xoom to see if I can’t give Android lovers some choices, too (both OSC and bluetooth MIDI are possible there – or sync to an iPad for a cross-platform, let’s-all-get-along lovefest).

  • http://twistedtools.com josh

    Great article. Worth mentioning the following controllable Reaktor devices as well by Twisted Tools:

    Scapes for Konkreet Performer 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWw7uH8Ogfg

    MP16 with TouchOSC
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwNv8eWyh3E

    Antonio Blanca's Lemur for Scapes:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR_IkERSkck&fe

  • danny s

    i've been running into some sucky bugs and oversights in the lemur software regarding scripting (arraytostring doesn't work, for example, and thusly there's no method for concatenating strings/variables.).  now that the jazzeditor is in stasis, and not likely to be turned over to open source due to stanton's ownership, i really hope touchOSC can pick up this slack and add the scripting powers that the lemur *almost* had (plus all the nice physics sim stuff!).

  • http://www.charlie-roberts.com charlie roberts

    Along the line of developer resources I've been teaching a class on using iOS to create art / music applications this quarter. If anyone is interested in getting started with CoreMIDI there's a complete example project (that I like to think I've made really, really simple) at the course website: http://www.mat.ucsb.edu/594CR/
    There are also simple OSC, Bonjour, audiounit / audiounit graph and waveform drawing examples. 

    - Charlie (developer of Control)

  • http://www.synthtopia.com/ James Lewin

    Peter –

    Great roundup!.

    One thing readers really should do, though, is click on the image of the Pellegrini Synth Lab to fully comprehend The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership, complete with Oblique Strategy racks.

  • DJHombre

    …don't forget, this year we'll see DJay app support USB Class Compliant MIDI DJ controller (at the start it will probably be Numark's iDJ Live…possibly extending this further later on).  Also Quixpin has promised similar functionality with Vestax Spin….maybe other DJ apps will follow suit?

  • Peter Kirn

    @josh: Oops, had actually meant to include your Twisted Tools stuff — added!

    And yes, the Pellegrini Synth Lab sort of overshadows everything else here. ;) Amazing.

  • http://twistedtools.com josh

    thanks peter! by the way, there is some bad news about TouchOSC though. TouchOSC 1.7 update has a bug that breaks custom OSC message names.  i'm told a fix is done already and on the way very soon…you may want to warn folks about that in the article. 

  • andrew zero

    besides touchAble and Konkreet ive been using Touch Midi:

  • andrew zero

    http://iosmidi.com/apps/midi-touch/
    Sorry for the double Peter :)

    I really like this one as well.

  • danny s

    thanks charlie!  and great roundup overall — i have an ipad 2 on the way soon (it's only for development.  yessir, totally justified.).

    so exciting to see all these advanced control apps waiting for me.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    midi touch is really great. I am a total ableton noob but I was able to create a control and map it to the ableton in about 10 minutes.

  • KNS

    For Reason & Record

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q64tG5hnpeA&fe

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfA3OAT7Th0&fe

    Cant go wrong if you own an iPad

  • Peter Kirn

    @KNS: First I'd seen of those. Direct link, folks - 
    http://www.retouchcontrol.com/

    Of course, for other TouchOSC layouts, you'll find a pretty comprehensive list on the TouchOSC site, too.

  • Daniel Meyer

    Really great article!!! Thank you so much. 

  • KNS

    @Peter: Cool I always wondered why stuff like this having to do with Reason never got much attention around here. They are cool templates must have been a lot of work but thank god they did it.

  • Roger Pellegrini

    Thanks for the kind words about the app and the wall of synths!  You're all invited over.  I'll assume that between the gps files on the iPad and the Playstation network info out on the web, you know where to find me!

    Best regards,

    Roger

    PS:  Gold star for spotting the oblique strategy signage!

  • http://www.warriorbob.com Warrior Bob

    I need to get a day off of work to check this stuff out.  Thanks for the excellent roundup!

  • 23fx

    @danny S

    check usine, you can make arrays to strings, concat arrays  or whatever you want.

    it's much more powerful than lemur editor or any existing  ios app. it got a full scripting and insane wireless internal message engine.

    and don't repeat ,but soon it will be open source ;)

  • Darm

    Will TouchAble only be available for the Ipad?

  • Steve Elbows

    MidiMe is a nice simple set of 4 xy midi pads with record and bounce modes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW1zCb1B5P4

  • http://www.touch-able.com Sylvain Garcia/ touc

    @Darn

    TouchAble Mini for iPhone/iPod is in development, we can't give you a date but we hope to get it ready before this summer.

    Then, we don't  have a roadmap yet for a different platform  …We would like to port touchAble on a different platform, Androïd or Windows tablet, we are not sure yet, Asus ee pad might push us in the Androïd way….For the next months though iOS will be the only platform running touchAble.

    Btw Peter, my Partner Christian Blomert is the smart man behind the code of the iPad version.

  • http://noisepages.com/members/gunboatdiplomacy/ justin johnson

    damn.  i just bought a licence for OSCulator last week to sync touchOCS with Record.  Still, even with the extra layer, they make a great combo.

  • http://leisuresonic.com/ Christopher Penrose

    Great article Peter!  Btw, MoDrum also has the inter-app sync abilities that Molten now has. 

  • http://www.matthewadams.de Matthew Adams

    @charlie: thanks a lot for making that public. i'm diving in to iOS development myself right now (with the help of stanford's cs193p on itunes U) and your course materials will be a great addition for when i've finished cs193p since it's basically covering what i wanted to do/learn in the first place :-)

  • http://www.fizzmatik.com Fizzmatik

    Wow , so much stuff to check , my head is exploding… Great roundup Peter !!

  • Oliver Sumpton

    It's pretty epic that Griid is strangly not mentioned in thi list, especially since it was u

  • Oliver Sumpton

    It's pretty odd not to see Griid mentioned in this list, especially as it just updated to include Miixer, now alongside Cliip and Griid in Griid Pro. Plus Stuart Fisher, aka ST8, creator of LiveControl, has joined the Liine, so… what's the deal? 

  • loopstationzebra

    Nice article. However, credit should be given where credit is due: The creators of MoDrum and BassLine were the first to successfully implement full feature CoreMIDI aka reliable sync across a number of connection methods.

    Prior to these guys, sync was WRETCHED – if implemented at all. I lobbied hard on various sites and blogs for those guys to post their code and tips (sent them a nice email and got a nice reply); which they did. Huge props for that.

    They were also the first to implement music app multitasking; allowing one app to keep playing in the background whilst you switch over to another. They also led the way in FANTASTIC app routing options. Oh, and let's not forget that as a result of all the above, they were the first to get two apps talking to one another on one iDevice.

    Just sayin….

  • http://bubblescum.com Vaihe

    "damn. i just bought a licence for OSCulator last week to sync touchOCS with Record. Still, even with the extra layer, they make a great combo."

    For me OSCulator adds features that are not possible with just TouchOSC. For plain OSC-MIDI you don't need it but for anything more advanced OSCulator is very handy and the support forum is great!

  • http://www.theabletoncookbook.com Anthony Arroyo

    Wow, Peter! Konkreet looks really interesting. I really was waiting for something like this that wouldn't just try to emulate what real knobs and buttons can do better. The iPad purchase is getting more and more inevitable, they should start paying you commission…

  • http://mrbook.org mrbook

    This article justified purchasing TouchOSC for me

  • http://www.spacetravelmadeeasy.com spacetravelmadeeasy

    You missed out iOS Midi from your article!
    http://iosmidi.com/apps/midi-touch/

    I think this App is MUCH better than TouchOSC for the reason that you can create new midi control templates "on the fly" on the ipad. Whereas with TouchOSC you have to create the template on your computer then sync up to the iPad.

    If you are playing a live gig you can create new knobs and sliders as you play.

    The guy who created has written an update which will allow it's use via wireless connection (rather than midi via camera connector) WITH feedback from Ableton Live or other software. I'm really looking forward to that update.

    Touch-Able is also an amazing app that is improving all the time. With the addition of the X-Y (which i've still to really try out) it's amazing. And the developers say that "custom template" creation will be coming in a future update.

    This is definitely one to watch for the future. With lots of updates coming I think it'll reign over a lot of other apps.

    Griid Pro is nice, I like the sequencer within that, but touch-able also plans a sequencer too. 

    The only drawback of Touch-Able is the crude design. They could learn something from the minimal look of Griid Pro.

    Another app not mentioned it Kapture Pad by the guys who make Griid. It allows you to "grab" ALL settings at a precise moment in time as you play a live gig, then if you start to mess up your sound by tweaking too many things, you are just one click away from reverting back to those settings you'd previously captured. It's genius!

    Was initially developed for Plastikman I believe for his live performances.

    The X-Y pad feature in Kapture Pad is also brilliant.

  • http://www.wifimidi.com armatronix

    Today's TouchOSC v1.71 update has fixed the problem with the Missing Link.

  • sex robot

    Hi, what is the usb to midi cable brand used in the pic at the top? Anyone tried using a USB to midi cable via the camera connection kit instead of something like midi mobiliser? If so have any issues or latency?