Orphion is an instrument, merging ideas from percussion and strings into something you can play on the iPad. And now you can create your own layouts and tunings. Images courtesy the developer.

Freehand Playable Circles, in Any Tuning, on iPad: New Orphion Editor

Design is the art of compromise. And so, as the touch tablet asks you to sacrifice some things – velocity sensitivity, physical separation, tactile feedback – it gives back the ability to produce freeform interfaces. The iPad’s downside is that it is a piece of undifferentiated glass; its upside is that that glass can transform into anything you like. That makes it a bit puzzling when it is reduced to a set of fake knobs and faders, which has the advantages of neither physical hardware nor the iPad’s open-ended possibilities. When it was first produced, I praised Orphion as an …

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Touch iOS Music in a New Way: Hands-on with Cantor for Users, Inside Details for Developers

Don’t fret. An iPad can open up new ways of touching musical ideas. What if you could touch sound more directly, using sophisticated sensing to play between most common notes – even with hundreds of levels of microtonal pitch? Cantor lets you do just that – and it’s here now, proving that Apple will indeed allow the use of a little-known API for sensing finger area. (Hey, Apple: please, please keep this around, as it’s essential to making the iPad more expressive.) It’s an important development, and it’s real and something you can use right now, today. So, we provide …

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Free Utility Makes Endless Oscillators for Ableton Live Simpler, Sampler

slicedbread, on behalf of The Covert Operators, has released a free Windows utility that generates “endless harmonic oscillators” for Ableton Live’s Simpler and Sampler instruments. (Since this was a released, a Mac build has been made available, as well; see link below.) Even if you don’t intend to use the utility directly, pay attention – The Covert Ops already have a sample pack up full of oscillators, and you can bet the presence of this utility means more will come. (Even Robert Henke was impressed on the forums.) Live 6 introduced the file format for “Ableton Meta Sounds.” Bjorn Vayner …

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Gibson to Launch Self-Tuning “Robot” Guitar

Don’t get too excited. Gibson Guitar is not, in fact, introducing a fully robotic guitar. Or a creepy robot doll that plays a guitar. Nor are they shipping you a handsome (male/female/your choice) robot assistant who will follow you around and tune your guitar for you. Too bad. But they are launching a robotic, self-tuning guitar on December 7. And most importantly, it comes in a limited-edition frost blue paint retro-robotic job, which even as a non-guitarist, I have to admit is super hot. So, what’s robotic about it? Its tuning system: In addition to its automated tuning and alternate/open …

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Great Musical Mysteries: Van Halen Mishap Remains Unsolved

What exactly went wrong at this botched Van Halen performance of Jump? The discussion continues, though the current running consensus is that a guitar tuning was screwed up, not the sample rate on a performance. (It’s not clear why Van Halen transposed the track from the album version, but that’s near-certainty.) Even the creator of a video supporting the sample rate theory has backed down. Christopher shares his explanation below. Pray that one day your onstage train wrecks will get this much analysis. Mine tend to involve only free produce — not always fresh, sadly.

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Jumpgate Resolved: Van Halen Guitar Sorta Absolved, Keyboard Detuned

Ah, YouTubers. While the rest of us pontificate endlessly, the unfairly-maligned YouTube community painstakingly assembles evidence to prove their point. Lonely girls need outing? YouTube is there. Can’t tell what’s wildly out of tune in a botched Van Halen “Jump” performance? Let’s just listen, shall we? (Too bad, as I had just worked out a really great theory about sun spots, Greensboro’s atmospheric pressure and relative humidity, and a freak wormhole.) Thanks, Wilfred Fumbly. (video’s gone now … more in a moment) So, the original theory holds: most likely a sample rate issue. Well, unless Van Halen is really old …

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Zillion-Keyed Keyboards, New Musical Layouts, and Microtonal Gadgets

My God … it’s full of keys! While the black-and-white piano-style keyboard layout remains the standard, designers still look for ways of reinventing pitch in music controllers. Sometimes the aim is to make it easier to play harmonies (top) … and sometimes it’s 211 keys-per-octave microtonal mayhem.

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AutoTune 5: Graphical Input, Microtonal Tunings, Pen Tablet Input, Beat Sync

Yes, now not only will Jessica Simpson be able to sing in tune, she’ll be able to be tuned to an Indonesian pelog scale! AutoTune, the ubiquitous and now pretty ridiculously powerful tuning software, has some major new improvements in AutoTune 5. Central to the upgrade is a graphical mode that lets you draw pitch envelopes over a representation of the detected pitch. Here’s where things start to get interesting: the developers at AutoTune have added pen tablet input, so you can hook up your Wacom tablet, polish off your drawing skills, and perform either subtle tweaks or expressive, experimental …

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