For most music producers, managing media involves scattered files on hard drives and the occasional file transfer service. There are now three fresh big players vying to convince you to start uploading, managing, and collaborating on music production online.

Unlike most music technology products, traditional bootstrapped affairs involving selling software or hardware, these companies have the Internet – and startup culture and funding – in their DNA. And they’re fundamentally services. is a Dropbox-powered tool that focuses primarily on collaboration, and began its life in Manhattan incubator betaworks. On the two coasts, two other companies have millions of dollars in venture money behind each of them. New York’s Splice emphasizes the collaborative process and deep integration with DAWs. LA-based Gobbler pitches collaboration, too, but also easier file management and backup.

Brainless backup or easier collaboration outside the studio are already good reasons to consider these services. (I’m working on some hands-on reviews now, as I do, believe it or not, sometimes create digital music myself.) But Blend last week suggested another reason: you could earn money on remixes or samples once they’re uploaded. The offering is something called the Blend market:

In an announcement published to Medium, Blend makes a two-pronged case for why you ought to do this. Continue reading »


They may not be as powerful as their desktop counterparts. But by going with you, mobile apps can help you find inspiration and creativity in moments that would otherwise be lost. And mobile drum machine app iMaschine adds two subtle features that mean a lot more possibility – or at least takes a step in the right direction.

iMaschine 1.2, released at the end of last week, adds integration for both Audiobus and Apple’s own Inter App Audio (the latter less-widely implemented, but used in popular apps like GarageBand). The upshot: you can now combine Native Instruments’ mobile drum machine workstation with other apps.

Also, iMaschine added a long-overdue feature: you can now non-destructively set sample start and stop positions. I’ve been griping about this since the very first release (loop points came first).

Inter-app support is also useful. What you can do with this: stream audio from iMaschine to other apps, add custom effects on output, and record output into other tools (like a mobile DAW). You can also control the transport and sync from another app (transport sync only on iPhone).

We recently updated WretchUp by Mouse on Mars to incorporate full Audiobus support, and that effect sounds really wild on percussion parts, so I’m already playing around.

Continue reading »

Because it’s packed with digital models rather than analog circuits, Roland’s AIRA TR-8 can be more than just a drum machine. It’s a platform for expansion.

And today, as expected, Roland has gone further into their back catalog of genre-shaping drum sounds to expand on its hit TR-8. The 7X7-TR8 Drum Machine Expansion brings TR-707 and TR-727 sounds to the AIRA box and even builds on the 808 and 909 models included so far. The only bad news here is that it’s a paid update.

What’s new:

  • 30 original sounds from the TR-707 and TR-727 (by original, that means the sounds themselves are identical – these were digital waveforms on the 707 and 727, so they’re included verbatim)
  • Tune and Decay controls for all the new 707, 727 sounds
  • New TR-808 “noise” sounds, finger snaps
  • Modified TR-909 kick and snare with “enhanced attack characteristics

At top, you can listen in on the new sounds. The TR-727 are, of course, a bit more varied, adding some Latin spice. It makes for more fun, no question. If you want a value-priced drum machine, if you want to buy someone a drum machine for Christmas, the TR-8 is the obvious top choice. Continue reading »

Getting “open” still scares many music manufacturers. Maybe they should double-check those fears.

See, if you add simple jacks (MIDI, audio), if you add driver-less operation (via USB and the like), let alone if you design simple APIs or create open source interfaces, you open the door to people making things that work with your creation, for free. They have to want to be there – but we make music. We love music gadgets. If your gadget is worth using in the first place, it’s worth opening up to other things.

You know. “If you build it … people will come.” The one constant is baseb– um, music, sorry.

At least, the magic is working for KORG. Just days – seriously, days – after getting hold of an open API for the KORG volca sample, there’s a cross-platform sample loading tool for this inexpensive sound gizmo. The volca sample is barely even shipping yet, and someone has created a free utility that works with it for free.

That’s no minor development, either, because one thing that has held at least some readers back from buying a volca sample is that it requires a KORG iPhone/iPod touch utility for loading samples. KORG’s app is cute and clever, but maybe you don’t have an iPhone – or don’t want to be dependent on one.

The Caustic Editor runs on Android. It runs on Mac OS X. It runs on Linux and Windows.

On iOS, it performs tricks even the stock KORG app can’t – like functionality with Audiobus, meaning you can open up sound design possibilities with other iOS apps.

Otherwise, it’s able to do everything you would need to do with samples on the volca sample because KORG wrote a simple SDK that makes it so. (And, honestly, KORG didn’t do that much – they released a simple library for handling samples covering just the basics.)

WAV Continue reading »

“But I don’t have enough time.”

So, get a camera crew from FACT to loom behind you and watch while you produce, all with a clever ten-minute clock ticking away for their series Against The Clock.

Actually, no. Two problems. One, the pressure might make you completely freeze up. Two, yes, you might not have FACT around.

But you could imagine a timer. Deft, the aptly-named Croydon, UK artist whose work ranges from cinematic and ambient straight through to footwork, here goes a bit modern drum and bass in a perfectly passable track that he assembles under the clock. Got to hand it to him for that.

And his tool of choice is one that gets far too little attention around these parts: ancient-in-computer-years Windows stalwart FL Studio aka “Fruity Loops.” FL gets extra points here for putting useful samplers and other instruments right front and center, building in a step sequencer, and generally getting you making music right away. Even doing it all with a mouse doesn’t look so awkward. FL users, maybe you can spot something clever in here, but mostly I think it’ll warm your hearts. Continue reading »

Now, your iPad can go from sweet-sounding pads to hordes of angry bees and back again, all by modeling physical behaviors of flocking. It’s called the Photophore, and it’s a “flock synthesis” instrument.

You may have seen synths that produce lush sounds by combining oscillators – the eight-oscillator Swarmatron springs to mind. Well, this synth puts the “swarm” in “Swarmatron.” With up to one hundred oscillators per patch, it uses physical modeling to transform sound by simulating flocking behaviors.


I’ve seen experiments that have done things like this with flocking algorithms and particle systems, but this must be the first serious attempt I’ve seen to make a dedicated iOS instrument. For a previous incarnation of the concept on desktop, check out AnarchySoundSoftware’s SwarmSynth – which is still available as a free Windows VST. (Just enter a serial. That app has particles flocking through an “envelope-constrained 5 dimensional parametric hyperspace.”)

And it’s not just a toy – inter-app audio and full MIDI support are built in, so this can fit nicely into your production workflow. (And, oh yeah, I’m keen to combine these sounds with our WretchUp app, which now boasts expanded Audiobus support.)

Full feature list: Continue reading »

This Novation hardware just got a lot more powerful and usable.

This Novation hardware just got a lot more powerful and usable.

You want to improvise with Ableton Live. You want to reach out and turn a knob, and know what it’ll do. You want to be able to grab controls that have something to do with clips that are playing.

Yeah, so Merry Christmas to us. Permit me being a little excited, as I am immensely grateful to the developers. It’s a rare case where you say “wow, I wish that this –” and then suddenly get what you asked for nearly before finishing the sentence.

Just last month, we saw a way to get grids in order using LaunchSync, a tool designed to make it easier to synchronize multiple controllers. Combine them for more control; synchronize them so that, for instance, the faders on a Novation LaunchControl XL can correspond to the clips on Ableton Push.

But we asked for more.

We asked for more hardware compatibility. Well, the creators gave it to us – for free.

We asked for more controllers. That’s available in LaunchSync PRO, which adds four pages of controls that follow the “Red Box” so you have more hands-on parameters with whatever you’re playing.

But, wait, wouldn’t it be great if your iPad could also sync up with your hardware. So, for instance, you look at touchAble, the most extensive iPad app for controlling Ableton Live, and have it stay in sync with whatever your hardware was doing. (That’s doubly useful, because the iPad can easily show more parameters and reveal clip names all at once.)

This iPad app (touchAble 3) just got a lot more powerful and usable, too. It now follows whatever you're doing with your hardware. So you can actually play, rather than squint at your gear and get confused.

This iPad app (touchAble 3) just got a lot more powerful and usable, too. It now follows whatever you’re doing with your hardware. So you can actually play, rather than squint at your gear and get confused.

I asked the developers at Isotonik and the one developer of touchAble to make it so, and… well, they did. It’s amazing. They did this in their free time, as independent developers, on their own. (I actually stuck them on a shared Facebook chat and watched as they buzzed back and forth.) So, please, go buy stuff from them, so they do this more often. (That script is only 5 pounds; touchAble is easily worth the App Store cash.) Here’s how it all works: Continue reading »