05 Pyramid zoom

Maybe it’s because people have started collecting lots of gear. Maybe it’s a shift in how people play live. Maybe it’s just that we’re getting more than enough mileage out of our laptop as the machine for mixing and tracking and recording and mastering and managing our tour and our social network.

Whatever the reason, boy, are we seeing a lot of focus on dedicated hardware – especially for live performance.

The Pyramid, from oddly-named Squarp (Squarepusher + arpeggio?), looks like what would happen if Elektron decided to make its own standalone step sequencer without the drum machine. Or at least what would happen if they gave us every wish we’d have for such a standalone box.

02 Pyramid performance Continue reading »

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What if any iOS app could talk to any gear, and any gear could talk to any app – none of this stumbling around with wireless, but over good, stable wires and plugs?

What if, from your Mac, you could see any app or connected hardware on your iPad or iPhone? And what if on your iPad or iPhone, you could see any MIDI device connected to your computer? (Mmm… remember when Apple talked about “hubs of your digital life”? Well, for MIDI now.)

I bet if you could do that, if you could make any instrument talk to any other instrument, you might be what we call in the business reasonably happy. Instead of apps being things you open up, mess about with, and then close, forgetting the original intention, you might actually spin melodies and rhythms into actual tracks.

Let’s be blunt: part of the reason we keep talking about the iPad is that it has some catching up to do. It’s a computer, but it doesn’t always do things we take for granted on conventional computers. And so a lot of the saga of the device has been following as it’s trained, slowly, to be as good as your laptop – or even better.

This feels like one of those moments. It’s a simple tool, but it really opens up the device to connecting to the other things you use. And in doing so, it could change the way you think about the iPad in your music making.

So, in addition to today being the first to get to reveal Modstep, touchAble creator Christian Blomert’s step sequencer app (with Benjamin Weiss), we also get to see the MIDI-connecting offspring of that project. It’s also coming very soon. Continue reading »

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Your iPad could be a perfect step sequencer. Could be, anyway.

It’s portable. It’s easy to prop alongside other equipment – the digital equivalent of a music manuscript notebook. It has a long battery life. It can connect to MIDI. And above all, its interface means you can touch the interface directly, which is ideally suited to software that provides an interface to various musical parameters.

And surely you have stuff that needs sequencing. With loads of apps and loads of hardware, a sequencer might be as necessary to your instruments as a conductor and score are to an orchestra.

But burdened by history, a lot of iPad step sequencers aren’t as good as they could be. Some follow the model of hardware, with knobs and faders and analog step sequencing capabilities. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it restricts what you can do – and it’ll always be worse than the hardware it models, because it lacks tangible feedback. Other apps cram a computer software interface for editing onto the iPad’s screen – powerful, but still worse when it comes to usability.

ModStep breaks from the pack. We got a world-exclusive first look at this app this week at the semi-monthly app meetup I host in Berlin (with Electric Drums creator Oliver Greschke). The app isn’t available yet, but I bet we’ll make you impatient for it to arrive. And it has quite a pedigree: the coder is the creator of touchAble, working together with Benjamin Weiss.

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ModStep is deep – layers of sequences, rich options for melodies and rhythms. But it builds a workflow around touch. Instead of borrowing superficial features of software or hardware, it includes the actual functionality in drum machines like the MPC and Maschine, then makes them touchable. (Pardon the reference to the developer’s other app. By the way – don’t ever Google that.) Continue reading »

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From a design standpoint, it was beautiful. Auxy already demonstrated that a stripped-down app could provide an elegant way to simply produce musical patterns. Using a clean, piano roll-style graphical interface, it was finally a demonstration that you could make a music app for editing notes that felt native to a touch environment.

There was just one problem, a big one: you were limited to the very basic built-in sounds. So, Auxy was a bit of a conundrum. It was the perfect app for making patterns for other apps and hardware, but it didn’t have the ability to connect to them. It seemed a perfect way to sketch musical patterns on the go, but it didn’t have MIDI export so you could use those sketches with other tools. An overly-simple island, it was something beautiful … that you might never use.

That changes with the release this week of MIDI functionality. Now, Auxy is an island no more.

First, you can use it to send MIDI. You can route patterns to other apps. Or, using a hardware interface, you can connect to outboard hardware.

Second, you can export patterns. I can imagine using this on the go to sketch quick ideas, then to drop them as clips in an Ableton Live session for later use. (I should note, this is MIDI file export – not native Ableton Live ALS files, which would be an obvious next step for Auxy, following in the footsteps of KORG. On the other hand, MIDI files can be imported into Live – and into tools like Maschine or Renoise, as well.) Continue reading »

autosampler

Hidden in last month’s update to Logic and MainStage is a feature a lot of sampler lovers have been missing. You need the latest MainStage to access it, but it allows you to easily create sampled software versions of external instruments.

Italian developer Redmatica had a host of technologies for transforming hardware instruments into software samples, all built around Apple’s EXS24 sampler. Anyone who’s ever built samples of hardware knows the process can be fairly time-consuming: you trigger notes one at a time, record audio from them, and map that audio to the keyboard. Redmatica’s tools made all of that happen more or less automatically. In the form of the products Keymap Pro, AutoSample, ProManager, and GBSammpleManager, they sucked in sounds of outboard gear directly to sample instruments you can use.

All that ended when Apple bought the developer in 2012 and it immediately closed shop, leaving users in the cold. (See reporting from the time.) You could continue to use existing versions, of course, but without further support. It was unclear just what Apple intended to do with the tech.

Now, with Logic Pro X 10.1, that changes. The accompanying MainStage 3.1 adds Redmatica’s tech for automatically making sample instruments. Apple didn’t focus on that new feature – you would have missed it apart from the release notes – but it has quickly become buzzed about in forums among enthusiasts, so it obviously matters to someone. Continue reading »

modular

The renaissance in modular synthesis has sent a strong message. Open-ended sound design, made by connecting sonic capabilities, can inspire musicians’ imagination.

Now, part of the joy of racks of modular gear is the chance to feel these connections in your hand – plugging cables, turning knobs. But that doesn’t mean that the required hardware is always the most convenient or accessible way to work. Why not have the same sorts of powers in your laptop, too? And why not work in an environment that is itself already modular? And why not choose between using just software or connecting your software to hardware?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, OSCiLLOT might be for you. From the lovely Max development house Max for Cats, OSCiLLOT is a toybox full of useful sound-making modules.

This isn’t a faux hardware modular – think of it more like a toolset of Ableton-ish soundmakers (from drum machines to convolution reverbs to synths) that build on their digital construction – but that you can use in the sorts of ways you might use hardware.

Running software alone has some benefits. You only need a hundred bucks, assuming you’ve got Live Suite (Max for Live is required). You don’t run out of cables. You don’t run out of space.

But this software will also play with hardware if you’ve got it. With compatible audio interfaces, you can route signal in and out of your computer to analog modular hardware, too, taking advantage of all the Eurorack goodness we saw at NAMM. (CDM has a round-up to make sense of all that coming soon, by the way – we figured you already had seen the news, but could use a handy field guide that brings it together.)

There’s a lot in this package:
Oscillators
Filters
Mixers
Modulators
Amplifiers
Sequencers Continue reading »

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´┐╝MIDI is a magical lingua franca between, well, sort of everything. But that’s only if you get it connected. And then once you do have it connected, you might want to tame its messages so they accomplish what you want.

Now, the buzz is wearing off following last week’s avalanche of new music gear announcements. You might realize you don’t have $30,000 for a modular. But then, in the wake of that gear, comes one that flew under the radar – and it’s one of the most powerful-looking bits of kit we’ve seen recently.

For years, Bome’s Midi Translator has been the secret sauce used by drummers and beatboxers and other performers to make their MIDI gear perform amazing tricks. The software’s approach is simple – get messages in, do something to them, send messages out. But by providing an insanely powerful set of rule-based operations on those messages, it has been the one piece of software that solves your needs when others can’t.

And now it’s hardware.

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Yes, the Bome Box is a device that loads up MIDI Translator Pro project files and does all these MIDI-mangling tricks without a computer required.

And more than that, it’s hardware that connects MIDI via whatever you want. In and out, of course, low latency, of course. But there’s also a USB host – necessary for all these USB devices that lack MIDI DIN ports. And there are two Ethernet ports, for long-distance network cabling of MIDI.

And there’s WiFi, too.

BomeBox is also the first hardware I’ve seen to advertise itself as HD-ready. No, we’re not talking televisions – we’re talking the next generation of MIDI. The MIDI makers are near to releasing the HD version of their protocol, which will happily make use of the added bandwidth of these connections with higher-resolution data (among other new features – more on that soon).

BomeBox is due in spring. No pricing yet.

I love boxes that solve problems – even if not terribly sexy problems. And BomeBox looks very intriguing, indeed. We’ll have an eye on this box.

http://www.bome.com/products/bomebox