Why I think I’m going to be a big fan of Skram for the foreseeable


I’m sure you’ll remember that Skram (iTunes link) arrived a few of weeks ago. It’s arrival was on the same day as Blocs Wave (iTunes link), which is in itself an interesting thing, but more of that another day.

Skram comes from an already well established developer, Liine (makers of the excellent Lemur app, relied on in shows by professionals like Björk, Daft Punk and Deadmau5 for more than a decade, Lemur famously appeared in Daft Punk’s pyramid in their surprise cameo during Kanye West’s performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards), so it might seem as a bit of a departure for them given that Lemur is really aimed at users who want to create their own bespoke controllers.

So why did they make Skram?

Well according to Liine’s CEO Gareth Williams, “We realised there was a need for an accessible platform, something to enable fans to make the music they like without feeling patronised. We felt that we could build something that inspires existing musicians too, for whom simplicity stimulates creativity, freedom and fun.”.

These are pretty good aims to start to build any app (or as they say, platform), but definitely not easy to achieve. So how have they approached it?

Well, Skram includes some quite different approaches to iOS music making than we’ve perhaps seen before. To start with it has:

  • DEVICES: Four expressive synth and drums Devices included. Users will soon be able to choose from a wide range covering many genres

This is an interesting take on what you might think of as a modular set up, but without the possibly steep learning curve that is usually associated with modular apps such as Jasuto, zMors Modular or Audulus.

Skram has a much simpler version of this with its devices and I think that this will be immediately obvious to new users.

The second thing that Skram has is:

  • WIDGETS: Skram offers three different ways to create musical patterns. More available soon
In addition to this Skram has:
  • GLOBAL FEATURES: Users can manipulate the whole performance, from recording and bpm control to stunning key changes (with no need to know a single bit of music theory).
The makers of the app state that they have future plans to bring new widgets and devices, and according to their site https://skramapp.com their are some fun things in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
So what do I think?
But the question is, does it make creating electronic music making simple? My answer, yes, it certainly does. I say this simply from personal experience with using it myself.
Why? Well, when I opened it up it had me making something straight away. I didn’t personally find it in any way non-intuitive. Now you might be thinking that I’m not the best person to give that kind of opinion. That would be a reasonable assumption. However, as I spend a lot of time working with artists with learning disabilities and working through the kinds of apps and devices that work for them I think I have a rather unique perspective on immediacy in music making apps. From that perspective I can say that Skram really does fit the bill. In fact, I’m looking forward to trying it out with some artists in the near future. When I do I’ll let you know how that goes.
Will it work for non-musicians?
Well, I think that it is a resounding yes to this question, partly because of the reasons I cited above, but also because Skram has quite a few things going for it. Here’s my list:
  1. Skram is immediate – You can get up and running very quickly and be making a track or just noodling about and having fun (which is just as important in my opinion)
  2. Skram uses concepts that general iOS users are already familiar with – Ideas like widgets and devices are things that are already in users heads. They understand them and can work with them. Skram just works with those ideas and as such it’s making itself fit into an already familiar set of concepts.
  3. Everything works – It may sound like an obvious thing to say, but everything in Skram works well together. Navigating around the app and making changes are obvious and intuitive.
  4. It looks good – Visually this is an appealing app and you shouldn’t ignore the fact that a poorly designed and visually unappealing app can really put people off
  5. Finally, it doesn’t look very much like a musical instrument. Skram’s interface doesn’t look musical even though it is, and that is incredibly important. Getting an interface that almost tricks people into not thinking that they’re making music is a huge win. I’ve experienced this first had in workshops and events. Skram looks more like a game or something totally different and that’s a big plus.
Will it be useful for seasoned mobile musicians?
This is perhaps a little more difficult. If you’re looking for Skram in your Audiobus set up then you’ll be disappointed. It isn’t there. Are they going to add it? I’ve no idea. Its export options are also limited at this point too, but it’s a start, and a promising one at that, and I think it’s all too easy for long standing iOS music types to criticise an app for not having all the features you might want on day one.
So, following on from that, what would I like to see next in Skram?
  • Audiobus, I’d like it to be there, and I know you all would too
  • Sampling would be fun, so long as you could record your own, and possibly import samples too
  • AudioShare / AudioCopy support
  • Link support would make the app easier to integrate in workshop environment
  • SoundCloud integration, that would be nice
  • Obviously more widgets and devices as the developer has promised
  • Finally, I’d like to see an iPhone version too, or ideally for it to be universal
I’m sure that others will have views too, if you do, please share them
If you haven’t seen what Skram’s like then take a look at this video that they released when the app launched.
Skram is available on the App Store and is designed for iPad and requires OS 9.0 or newer. It costs $4.99 (£3.99)

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