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So, Modular is huge right now, but is it right for mobile music?

I was prompted to think about this because of two app initially, Patterning, Olympia Noise Co’s new drum machine for iPad, and AnalogKit, a new modular app, again for your iPad. In addition, I think that what tipped me over in writing this piece was the latest update to zMors Modular (see last post below).

For ages now I’ve seen mobile music as having a number of really important elements that in many ways differentiate it from other types of music making, especially electronic music making. These are:

  1. Immediacy – The app is obvious, you can see how to use it and understand it. You’re able to get up and running really quickly.
  2. Accessibility – And I’m not just talking about accessibility from a disability perspective. I’m talking about music software that’s easy to get to and once you’re there it’s easy to make use of.

There are other elements, but for now these two will do.

If you look at Olympia Noise Co’s Patterning app, that fits the bill really well. You can work out what’s going on very quickly, it’s pretty obvious how to use it and how to create patterns. Sure, there’s more depth to it, but you can get to that later, and if you don’t want to go there you don’t have to at all. But in terms of immediacy and accessibility I think it does very well.

Then we have a whole different type of app, the modulars. In this I’ll include zMors, Jasuto, Audulus and Modular. I haven’t actually tried out AnalogKit so far, so I’ll mention it, but not go into any depth with it.

Arguably non of these apps fulfills either of the two elements above. In terms of immediacy they all fail. In fact with a lot of the modular apps on iOS (as there are precious few on Android) you’d be hard pressed to know what to do without a fairly advanced idea of how synthesizers work. You’d probably also need to know how modular synths operate, and then also have a clear idea of some of the specifics of how all of that is implemented in the app in question. So, immediate, no, not really, in fact, not at all.

In terms of accessibility all of these types of apps also fail. There’s no real question of that at all.

It isn’t to say for one minute that I’m not a fan of either these types of apps, or indeed some of the specific apps themselves. I am. However, the point I’m trying to make or explore is how these hugely complex apps, within which users can create some totally awesome patches, can be made more immediate and accessible.

That might sound like a huge and overwhelmingly difficult task, but I think that it can be done and at the very least should be attempted. It isn’t impossible either. If you look at what Korg did with the DS-10 interface for the DS-lite you can see that they managed to make that easy to use (or at least easier anyway), and in some ways almost gamelike.

So what am I trying to say and why?

Well, if you’ve got this far it’s only fair to say thanks for reading this somewhat rambling post. I’ll get to the point though. I like the idea of modular and I like the idea of mobile music, but I think if we’re to get more people interested in and using modular apps on mobile we need to make these apps more accessible. That doesn’t mean dumbed down, not at all, it means more accessible and easier to get up and running with, and that won’t be easy at all.

However, that, I think, is exactly the challenge that’s needed.

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Well done Artiphon!

Announced today, Artiphon is a finalist in the @FastCompany Innovation by Design awards.

A post shared by Artiphon (@artiphon) on

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This is just so cool

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Important note about Lemur

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Cubasis gets a maintenance update

Here’s what’s new in Cubasis 1.9.6:

Features

  • Full iOS 9 compatibility
  • New Audiobus SDK 2.2.1
  • Audio device information has been added to setup

Bugfixes

  • CB-2448 Fixes a problem where resizing of the keyboard was not possible
  • CB-2453 Solves an issue where the audio and automation editor action list icons appeared greyed out

You’ve got to wonder what version 2.0 will bring to Cubasis …

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Yonac begins updates for its apps with Magellan

Yonac’s Magellan gets updated to version 3.2. Here’s what’s new:

  • Expanded and improved SPAWN – use AI to magically create new and better presets at the touch of one button
  • Free preset bank from New Wave Presets (NWP Lab30)
  • iOS9 compatability
  • Check out the Magellan Store – more preset packs coming soon

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In case you missed it … PMA 5 on eBay

I posted this yesterday, but I thought I’d put out a reminder in case you missed it …

ROLAND PMA-5 PERSONAL MUSIC ASSISTANT – HANDHELD TOUCHSCREEN MIDI WORKSTATION on eBay