I started to think about this again after a long time and also following a brief discussion on twitter to do with interfaces that were innovative. Let’s face it, mobile music has moved a long way from the early days when Palm Sounds started in 2006. A lot has changed and there has been a huge amount of innovation. But even so I don’t think that we should let the debate end there.
More recently I’ve seen lots of new iPad synth apps with some great sound design capabilities, but increasingly, with a common theme in terms of the interface. What’s the theme? I’m sure you can guess. Lots of synth apps now have a very similar look and feel with the keyboard occupying the bottom third of the screen and the controls occupying the rest of the screen real estate. Now I’m not saying that this is a bad design. It works, and the reason it works is because users can relate to it very easily. It looks like hardware synths look. That’s fine, I understand that, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the only design for a tablet synth, not does it mean that it’s the best.
There are of course many synth apps that don’t have this design, like TC-11, Jasuto, Audulus, Reactable etc. These apps and many besides have taken a range of different design styles that suit their own purposes. All of them different, all of them requiring the user to understand how to interact with the UI as well as the controls for the synth itself.
So what am I saying? Well, my point is this, the tablet and the phone are not synth hardware. They lend themselves to mobile use by design and so interfaces that take advantage of this very fact should be where mobile music creation apps are heading. That’s my opinion. If I look back to the innovative work that RJDJ did with interfaces and gesture based apps I wonder where this has gone.
So, I’d like to see more interfaces that are suited to being mobile and making music whilst mobile, and also interfaces that are more playful and that encourage exploration and experimentation too.
You may agree with me, you may not. Either way, I’d like to see more debate on this, and I’d like to think that within the overall mobile music community we have the ability to take different approaches.
So, what do you think?