The tablet – or at least the iPad – is beginning to look like a terrific accessory for lovers of MIDI and hardware. With its compact form factor, it coexists nicely with your MIDI gear and lets you focus on sequencing, perhaps moving to the traditional computer to finish up your track, mixing, and the like.

And it’s spawning MIDI sequencer apps that imaginatively explore ideas for how to create sequencing, all with an immediate touchable interface.

The latest entry: Genome MIDI Sequencer claims to be the “first true pattern-based MIDI sequencer for iPad.” The word “true” might be debateable, but it looks thoroughly full-featured, with clock sync, MIDI import / export (ideal for working with your desktop Mac or PC), and other must-have portable sequencing features:

  • Hard-line MIDI support: Core MIDI, Camera Connection Kit, Line 6 Mobilizer Mk I and Mk II compatibility
  • Wireless MIDI: Network MIDI support (works with Mac and, via other support, Linux and Windows)
  • MIDI Clock: Start, stop / send, receive
  • Lots o’ messages: Note On, Note Off, Pitch Bend, Aftertouch, Channel Pressure and CC’s
  • Pattern-based; pattern changes occur on bar boundaries so song stays in sync Ed., oh, come on, where’s the fun in that? ;)
  • 16 simultaneous tracks, unlimited patterns

There’s also an on-screen keyboard interface (in case you don’t have a MIDI keyboard handy), song and live modes, incoming CC and note recording, and undo/redo for “most” actions.

Having the multichannel capability alone is a must for people with big studios.

Developer Dave Wallin says he’s been working on this for some time. An experienced dev with tools like bleep!BOX and bleep!Synth under his belt for iOS (as well as Additive and Zero Vector for desktop), he’s got a good perspective on the bigger picture.

Since Dave is a user as well as a developer (as is often the case with music tech), I asked him to tell us a bit more about the app, his thoughts on development, and how you might use this.

He even has some good thoughts, in case you’re wondering, about how this compares with and fits in with desktop studios.

CDM: This looks to me to be the most full-featured MIDI sequencer we’ve seen yet, more than just a pattern or step sequencer (though I like those sorts of things, too). That said, what other applications do you like in terms of MIDI control?

Dave: There are a couple other apps that look close in terms of functionality like Step Poly Arp, Polychord and Brainwave Sequencer. The first two are more focused on ‘performance’ imo with Brainwave being the closer. I wanted to provide some of the functionality you’d expect from a desktop sequencing app but redesign the core interface around touch and just make it simple and fun to use. My inspirations for how the piano roll works are 50% monome / [Yamaha] Tenori-on (in terms of a familiar grid and easy one-tap note entry) and 50% iPad paint application (in terms of using gestures to navigate). It also takes some inspiration from [Nintendo] Game Boy tracking apps in that I keep the octave / bar navigation locked to a grid. GMS isn’t locked into 16 step patterns and you can adjust the grid and bar length more freely than some other apps.

Ed.: Of course, at iPad app prices, you can easily pick up all the apps above, and they all have some appeal – yes, I know it’s time for another iPad app round-up. A MIDI-specific one could be fun; I’ll work on it! -PK

How are you using this in your studio – what gear are you using?

Right now I am using it with my [Access] Virus b (desktop [synth]) and a drum machine primarily. It’s great with the Virus since it can do up to 16 parts and I can save these setups and easily recall them later without having to worry about program changes or anything like that. The drum machine saves me from having to waste Virus parts on drums. With just those two pieces of gear and not much else I can make some pretty decent sounding songs. My current work flow is to jam around a bit with Genome and the gear and when I come up with something good, record some loops or tracks it and bring it over to the desktop for additional processing and arrangement. My actual studio doesn’t even have a computer in it at the moment – it’s in a totally seperate room.

At what point do you imagine people would use the iPad sequencer versus, say, the sequencer on their desktop machine?

What I have learned from my own experience and from talking to other people is that the iPad is not a total replacement for the desktop or even for a laptop, unless you’re doing some very minimal stuff. The iPad is more of a convenience and leisure device at this point. I have limited time to relax and if I can spend 30 minutes chilling on the couch, making a tune on my iPad, it’s a win for me. It doesn’t have to be a whole song – it could be some musical ideas, sounds or loops that I end up using later on the desktop or in another app.

With Genome, I think the big wins are portability and ease of use. If I want to jam with a friend, I can throw my iPad in a bag and bring it with me. Sometimes I don’t want to have to deal with all the overhead that comes with a desktop sequencing application like hardware setup, configuring plugin directories, or GUI’s that are packed to the brim with controls. GMS is very easy to plug in and get started within a few seconds.

I’m curious about your reaction to the Open Music App Collaboration Manifesto posted recently. [See Synthtopia coverage.] Any of these issues relevant to your work? What would you like to see in terms of inter-app integration?

I actually just posted some thoughts on this to their Google Group this morning. My response is here:

http://groups.google.com/group/open-music-app-collaboration/browse_thread/thread/75cdd385048fa3ce

Communicating with other apps on the same device is something that I think Genome will be very good for (after some minor updates). Right now, not a lot of apps support Network MIDI, let alone regular CoreMIDI. How well this works will depend on a lot of factors and we’ll just have to wait and see how extensively it’s adopted, both by developers and by users. I could imagine an ecosystem where you can string a bunch of apps together and make songs. The first step right now is to come up with a spec for developers to implement and maybe a way to certify that apps have implemented it properly. If done well, I think there could be some good cross-promotion opportunities to entice developers to do it and it could catch on, much like with Audio Copy did.

Had you evaluated Android at all, or other platforms?

Some work is being done to port libNUI [C++ framework] (which I use for all my apps currently) to Android, however it seems the state of MIDI on Android is nowhere near what it is on iOS. If some well known hardware makers make an accessory or if a good SDK becomes available, I would definitely look into it. GMS is being ported to a Mac desktop app and will be available in the Mac App Store at some point. The desktop version will be almost identical, except for some changes made to adapt it to work with a mouse, instead of multitouch. I think a simple, cheap MIDI sequencer will be attractive to some people and the amount of time to port it is minimal for me.

Ed.: Hopefully more to say about the state of Android MIDI soon; while wired accessories may not be as convenient, wireless MIDI, especially via Bluetooth, holds some promise. I can certainly make a good argument *against* a developer immediately rushing to support Android, but it remains something we’re watching. I also hear these computer things can do MIDI. -PK

US$12.99 in the iTunes App Store, for iPad (iOS 4.2+)

http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/apps/genome-midi-sequencer/

http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/

  • http://www.authenticfilms.com Charles

    Awesome, saw some.

    The day when I finally feel like I *have* to have an iPad is fast approaching. (I'd feel better about Apple's commitment to the iPad as a MIDI controller if the hardware link wasn't called "Camera Connection Kit", which makes any other use feel like hack and prone to "update breakage"… I mean, Grandma doesn't use MIDI!)

    Look forward to checking this out in detail.

  • Leslie

    Fantastic App and works very well with MO Drum and Bassline already.

  • DBM

    Looks like exactly what I have been waiting for . In a live set up centered around hardware synths this can now replace a laptop and be more interactive. Exciting !  

  • lbeing789

    Bought this, good app but slightly disappointed because it's not working well over coremidi, I don't qutie understand it though because it seems to lose entire bars rather consistently rather than intermitentantly like you'd expect from midi dropouts… I'm gonna try it with the mobilizer soon… other than that I really need triplets or even arbritary divisions… overall quite impressed need to get this working before I can use it properly yet….

  • http://www.bloomingtonelectronic.com Mark Kunoff

    I think it's a good start. Unfortunately this hasn't really knocked my socks of yet.

    For example, editing midi notes is painful. In the article, the dev indicated he was inspired by the Monome and Tenori-on for navigating the editing space, but I find it to be a bit counter intuitive. Why be inspired by the afore mentioned hardware, when you have a very capable gesture-driven touch surface native to the iPad?

    Some other disappointments:

    No program changes.

    Chunky graphical automation curves.

    Editing automation curves is even more painful than notes.

    The good stuff:

    Beautiful interface!

    Song and pattern sequencing (16 simultaneous tracks, unlimited patterns)

    Wireless MIDI: Network MIDI support

    support for extra midi messages: Pitch Bend, Aftertouch, Channel Pressure and CC’s,

    MIDI Clock: Start, stop / send, receive

    I realize the dev wants to keep this program simple, so this may never turn into the performance sequencer of my dreams. But it feels like a slight tease when this is so close to being a very capable sequencer for electronic musicians. Many of us have been waiting a long time for something like this!

    Add program changes and a sysex file manager/librarian and then you really have a very respectable midi sequencer which will undoubtedly generate a lot of buzz.

    Other than the unintuitive midi editing and navigation, this has terrific potential!

  • http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com WhiteNoise

    Program change messages will be added soon.

    @ibeing789: Can you contact me with some more details about your setup? I'd be happy to help troubleshoot.

    This is version 1.0 – we will continue to add and improve. Send us your comments.

    Thanks!

  • brian stevens

    nice work !

    seamless midi connection from ipad with midimobilizer to blofeld ! Great minimal setup.

  • empolo

    "Bought this, good app but slightly disappointed because it’s not working well over coremidi, I don’t qutie understand it though because it seems to lose entire bars rather consistently rather than intermitentantly like you’d expect from midi dropouts…"

    ^This.

    For example, when I delete notes, it will take two bars to actually stop playing the notes. And on occasion, entire notes are skipped. My wireless router is less than .5 feet away from my iPad.

  • empolo

    "Wireless MIDI: Network MIDI support (works with Mac and, via other support, Linux and Windows)"

    How this work w/ Linux? With pd-extended or something?

  • empolo

    *does*

  • http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/ WhiteNoise

    Some of these questions are answered in the FAQ -&nbsp ;http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/apps/genome-midi-sequencer/faq/
    While looping, you will have to wait until the pattern finishes before hearing your changes; this could take a bar. We are going to work on lowering this delay however.

    Network MIDI (between the iPad and the Mac) is unfortunately not as great as one might hope. It runs a lot better on the iPad 2 than the iPad 1. it seems to be affected by a number of factors like your network connection and OS resources. A device restart may help.

  • http://www.emusicproductioncourses.com/ grant

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  • http://www.bloomingtonelectronic.com Mark Kunoff

    I dont want to discourage the dev here, as I think this app really has amazing potential. However, the navigation scheme needs a serious reevaluation.

    Lack of pinch zoom is so disappointing. The use of a + and – button for zoom is simply baffling to me. Also, in Genome you swipe *toward* the area of the grid you want navigate to? Most apps do the complete opposite. Seriously, I don't know what the thought process was here and I hope you make a drastic change to the navigation, otherwise it's a deal breaker for me. Editing notes which cross the octave boundaries is also too cumbersome.

    Perhaps for some inspiration, take a look at Nano Studio's editing window. It's not perfect either, but imho the best touch surface paradigm for editing midi in an IOS app so far.

  • jon doe

    glad i didnt buy this a i only have a ipad 1.

  • lbeing789

    whitenoise, I really hope you can work out some of these issues, especially the dropped bars and more realtime update part changes like griidm or monome, lemur, etc… it doesn't feel right at the moment… and its annoying because i do like the way the grid selects, I think the select gesture is genius but I think maybe there should be scroll bars instead of movement gestures….or at least smooth it out so that is doesn't jump pages… again triplets are a must for me….. the cc cubes are very disappointing and cumbersome.    I don't like the idea that it works better on ipad2 than ipad1, becuase it doesn't really work properly at all on ipad1… I tried restarting also. No joy…

  • lbeing789

    If it doesn't work properly on ipad1,there should be refund offered because it's pretty useless for me at the moment and it wasn't a cheap app.

  • empolo

    I have to agree with Ibeing789's sentiment regarding the iPad1. For the price, it needs to "feel" better than what it does. And not to be mean but I don't really buy the "performance sucks because it's an iPad 1" argument as I use Touchable just fine on the same hardware.

     If the hardware mattered that much, that fact should have been highlighted in big bright lights. 

  • http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/ WhiteNoise

    Ibeing789, empolo, please contact me off the thread if you'd like to discuss your feedback further. 

  • Lbeing789

    Hi white noise, I've emailed you guys would be happy to he'lp.  I still haven't been able to get it working reliably, it's hard to reproduce any bugs, it just seems to work intermitently  or even not at all, it's been hard to work with

  • http://robotcowboy.com Dan Wilcox

    hrmm I can't find where to import a song. I've uploaded the midi file via iTunes but cannot find an Import option.

    Also, two things regarding dialog boxes:

    1. The cancel/ok buttons are inconsistent. It's a bit confusing when some dialogs (Song Info for instance) don't have a cancel button and you have to press ok to exit while others (MIDI COnfig) just have a cancel button and no OK. Also, IMO it's be easier to just allow tapping out of the dialog as a cancel button.

    2. The dialog forced screen redraw is distracting

    I know these are just teething issues, but they'd make the app flow more nicely. Looking forward to any updates, it;s just what I've been looking for (never really found a replacement for seq24 on Mac OSX.) 

  • http://robotcowboy.com Dan Wilcox

    Ah ok, midi import is only for individual patterns. That's a shame … I was hoping you could import multi track MIDI files.

  • http://robotcowboy.com Dan Wilcox

    … also, I'd say that MIDI import is not really complete until you could import entire songs and I'd make a note of this more prominently on the App Store info.

  • wax

    man you guys are sounding really whiny here. We're at the forefront of an evolution… what's great about this is you finally have a way to sequence a bunch of hardware machines together and bang out live shows. for those complaining about automation, forget it and start twisting the knobs on the synths – that's what they're there for.

  • http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/ WhiteNoise

    A bunch of fixes coming in the next version; lower CPU usage, Network MIDI should be much improved and live editing will be more responsive. More info coming soon.

  • http://robotcowboy.com danomatika

    Great, looking forward to further developments. Finally, I can start using the iPad for what I bought it for.

  • http://www.whitenoiseaudio.com/ WhiteNoise

    Update is out now, should fix many of the concerns listed here.

  • lbeing789

    WhiteNoise, the update did not fix any of my concerns, in fact it's even worse than before…. it's more intermittent now, the midi sync doesn't work at all, and I'm still have usage issues. The sync does not send to Ableton, it does not receive it from Ableton either, [no other issues with other coremidis].. no tempo changes occur. The bars still drop out all the time, now more than before, it's unusable, and I also really dislike how adding a new clip seems to add a clip you've already moved on from, I want it to be a new clip, not the clip I had tried to discard previously. I think I'm done experimenting/testing this product, I don't think it's ready for release and I'm disappointed. I'm not prepared to try it on an ipad2 because it was sold for the ipad1.

  • lbeing789

    update: WhiteNoise have been very helpful with responses, hopefully we'll get to the bottom of these sync problems soon….

  • Clive

    I’ve just bought this app but I can only change bar length from 2,4,8,16 & 32 notes, but what if I want one pattern to be 16 and the next to be 11. In other words, creating patterns as you can on a TB303 where time signature is arbitrary, and you can chain any length of pattern one after the other?