What’s next for NotePad?

In version 1.5 I think we’ll see even more goodies turn up for NotePad. For me the most exciting will be a range of export formats. If this is implemented it effectively means that you’ll be able to create sounds in SoundPad and by using NotePad’s export facility to export as a wav file you can use that sound in another application, like Bhajis Loops. I think this starts to make the whole experience of mobile music quite interesting.

It means you get synthesised sounds from SoundPad into a different environment altogether, and the applications start to be able to work together in a really interesting way.

I’m not sure about the option to add lyrics. I can on the one hand see myself using this, and on the other not bothering. I’ll have to wait and see.

As for dynamics, I think that it will be interesting to see how this is implemented.

Overall, can’t wait.

Swivel Systems are no more?


I tried to find the site for Swivel Systems to have a look on the offchance that they were making something new? Sadly the site is no longer there. I think they may have disappeared completely, which is a shame really.

The SG20 was the very first module I got. It fitten onto the base of my palm IIIx and was slightly smaller than a packet of cigarettes. It was a GM module that had a midi in/out box that you could attach to it, although I never used this.

The quality of the sounds was excellent, and I always enjoyed using it, but as with all these things you get to a point where you say, actually it is too big / cumbersome / too many bits of kit to lug about, and that’s what happened. In a way I wish I’d kept it, but I know I wouldn’t use it at all.

The SG20 tone module clips on to a Palmâ„¢ III type handheld computer or a Palm V or Vx with an adapter, creating a compact mobile music platform. Coupled with software from miniMusicâ„¢, it gave musicians portable real-time control over their music.

In addition to the SG20, Swivel Systems were working on a Springboard Module for Springboard compatible handhelds, such as the Handspring Visor handheld computer. Similar to the SG20, this module would have provided Visor handhelds with a General MIDI synthesizer for extremely portable music creation. Of course there was the beatplus module for Visor, but it was very hard to get hold of indeed.

Here’s the original feature list for the SG20:

Features:

  • stereo mini headphone jack for private use
  • volume control knob and bass boost switch
  • connector for detachable MIDI/Audio expander cable which provides full-size standard MIDI in and out ports in addition to left and right phono jacks to hook your SG20 into your studio
  • compatible with MIDI software from miniMusic including BeatPad and NotePad
  • import and play back standard MIDI files (SMF) using third party software
  • up to 24 simultaneous 16 bit 44.1 kHz CD quality wavetable voices (16 pitched instrument voices and 8 percussion voices)
  • choose from 128 different instrument sounds
  • 140 different percussion sounds organized in 8 drum kits
    built-in chorus and reverb
  • weeks of regular use on one pair of AAA batteries (included)
  • directly compatible with all Palm III and VII series handhelds (also works Palm V/Vx using a Palmdock V from Solvepoint Corporation), IBM Workpads, and HandEra’s 330 and TRGpro

It is a real shame thet they are no more. I like to think what it might have been like if they had made a new module for the T series PDAs, but I doubt that will ever happen.

If you ever had one or indeed still do, please let me know what you think of this very original piece of hardware.

BeatPad 1.5 coming Spring 2007

BeatPad was one of the first pieces of musical software I purchased for the palm. BeatPad is a sequencer for the palm. It has a single monophonic music sequence and a drum pattern editor. It arranges patterns into four banks, A through D, and each bank has 8 patterns in it.

In version 1.1 you can tell the app to move from one pattern to the next, but you can’t give it specific instructions like “A1 four times, then A2 etc”. I’m sure that this sort of thing will come in a later version.

In version 1.5 the new low latency synth that’s being used with MixPad will be incorporated into the app.

On of the things I’ve always loved about this app is the interface, although that is something you can say about all of the miniMusic software. The BeatPad interface is very user friendly, but also beautifully designed. Try it out, you’ll like it.

MixPad 1.0 from miniMusic

Right on time. MiniMusic releases their MIDI mixing application. Fantastic! Yet another part of the miniMusic integrated suite of applications.

Having been involved in the beta test I can say that I think the app is in great shape and really worth a look.

Read the press release:

PRESS RELEASE

MINIMUSIC MAKES MOBILE MIDI MUSIC MIXER!
MixPad plays and remixes MIDI files on any Palm handheld or phone.

San Francisco, Calif., March 19th, 2007 – The new MixPad application from miniMusic plays standard MIDI files on any Palm Powered handheld or phone and can remix the songs as they play. Songs can be played on most modern devices using miniMusic’s Krikit Audio Engine for rich polyphonic audio. Some handhelds can be connected to external music hardware like synthesizers, samplers or tone modules and MixPad can control those. Handheld computers with dedicated sound cards are also supported, including models from Sony, Tapwave and Handspring. The mixing board inside the software can adjust the volume and panning of individual instruments while a song plays, or solo or mute tracks.

Although MIDI files are not usually used for passive listening, they remain a primary tool for music studios and live performances; they provide backing tracks, control instruments remotely and quickly configure music hardware. MixPad lets professional musicians carry all of these tracks and settings in their pockets at all times. Also, music students can rehearse pieces by muting out a part they want to play themselves, or soloing a part they want to listen to more carefully. MixPad is a powerful tool for performers, DJs, songwriters and music hobbyists.

“This has been a major missing piece in our journey to bring desktop music tools to handheld computers,” says Chad Mealey, chief developer at miniMusic. “Musicians ask all the time if they can put their whole MIDI library on a Palm or use the Palm to play backing tracks in live performances. With the release of MixPad the answer is finally ‘yes you can’.”

MIDI files are an industry standard format for music that predates MP3. Containing no actual recorded sound, MIDI files instead contain detailed instructions for performing the music (details like how hard a piano key is struck, or the subtle bending of a guitar string). Although MIDI files cannot include vocals, the instrumental songs are MUCH smaller than MP3s and much more flexible. MixPad’s ability to change levels or panning of individual instruments would be impossible with a standard MP3 file. A MIDI file is easily 1000th the size of an MP3! Due to their small size they are still used widely on the internet, in computer games, and for ring tones.

This first version of MixPad only plays and mixes MIDI files and requires a handheld or phone running Palm OS version 3.5 or higher (Palm OS 5.0 or higher is needed to use the Krikit Audio Engine). A Pro version of MixPad will be offered later this Spring adding recording and editing capabilities — a complete portable MIDI studio. Since MixPad uses the Krikit Synth, you can use sounds designed with miniMusic’s SoundPad to play songs in MixPad.

Pricing, Availability, and Distribution
MixPad is available now for $29.95 US. However an introductory sale at miniMusic.com brings the price down to only $19.95 US. MixPad is also included in the miniMusic Pro Suite, bundled with the NotePad, BeatPad, AxisPad, and SoundPad applications; the suite retails for $89.95 US. A free demo of MixPad is currently available for download from the miniMusic web-site at http://www.miniMusic.com.

About miniMusic
Based in San Francisco since 1999, miniMusic creates handheld computer software for music composition, education, performance, and entertainment so that musical ideas can be explored anywhere and anytime, giving individuals the freedom of musical expression on their own terms. Shipping applications include NotePad, BeatPad, SoundPad, MixPad, AxisPad, EarTrain and BugBand. Upcoming products will tackle multi-track editing and innovative new musical interfaces.

What’s next for AxisPad?

According to the miniMusic development calendar we can expect record and export functions to be added. So you can make your own AxisPad performances and then export them out, but it what format? Out to NotePad, MIDI? .WAV? Who knows as yet, either way it will be a great new extension to AxisPad, an already excellent music application.

SpinPad Soon?

According to the miniMusic development calendar SpinPad will be out soon, this spring in fact!

If you read about this app from miniMusic it has been in development for a very long time, originally intended to be released in 2002. SpinPad is a graphic pattern sequencer which has been designed as a much more intuitive and flexible interface than BeatPad. SpinPad offers flexibility and ease-of-use.

Instead of every pattern being 16 steps long (like many sequencers), SpinPad lets you freely scatter notes anywhere you like–up to two hundred of them! Right on the beat, way off the beat, or anywhere in-between.

Instead of a “bouncing ball” indicating which note is playing, you can clearly see what note is playing as it is hit by a spinning arm. Notes (or “bells” as we think of them) can be moved by simply grabbing them with the pen and dragging them, and an edit window lets you design each bell just the way you like; you can even choose what the distance from the center of the circle means for each bell (distance can determine pitch, volume, duration or MIDI channel).

So, what will it look like when it is finished? I’m not sure, all I know is that I’m looking forward to it.

MixPad from miniMusic: Beta test

I’ve just got beta 2.2 of MixPad and have been playing with it. It is a fantastic little application. The Krikit settings are all working now and type 1 MIDI files are now supported.

From what I can see and the speed at which MiniMusic are turning things around I think we should expect a full release by the end of the month, and I’m really looking forward to that.

But there is one downside. The cool reel to reel icon has gone. Replaced with a mixing board icon which is still cool, but ….

MixPad from miniMusic: More info and pictures…

Here’s some more information on the current MixPad beta. So far I think the app shows real promise. It needs some of the functions to be switched on, but it works well in terms of what is expected in the beta so far. So, here’s to MixPad and its impending release in March.

Here’s the details.

MixPad Beta Test 2
MixPad has now had many of the issues solved with the Krikit Synth and is going into a new round of testing.The beta is due to expire at the end of March.

USING MIXPAD – LIBRARY
When you lauch MixPad it will open in the library with a listing of all MIDI files on the memory card. The beta only opens the first card it finds. In the top right corner are icons for the memory card, and the internal RAM. You can drag a MIDI file onto the RAM icon to copy the file into RAM. You can tap on the RAM icon to show MIDI files in the internal RAM. You can drag a MIDI file onto the trash to delete it. Tap on the MIDI file name to open it.

USING MIXPAD – SONG
When you open a song, the notes are drawn as lines. In the tabs at the bottom you can see the velocity values for each note under the “vel.” tab, and pitch bends under the “ctrl.” tab. The Info, slider and piano tabs are not functional yet. You can zoom in and out with the icons on the right side, or you can scroll through the song (up/down, left/right scroll bars).
The play and stop buttons can be found at the top of the screen, or you can also use the application buttons (hardware buttons found on either side of the directional controls).

The “mix” tab will take you to the mixing board. This can be used to change channel volumes and panning in “Serial Port” or “Sound Card” playback modes, but the channel controls are not yet functional for playback with the Krikit Synth. The master volume control on the right side will affect Krikit Synth playback.

Choose “Close Song” from the Options menu to return to the file listings. Choose “Preferences” to change playback mode (SerialPort, SoundCard, KrikitSynth) or serial baud rate. Playback using “Basic Sound” is not yet supported.

KRIKIT SYNTH
Choose “Preferences” from the Options menu and “Play To: Krikit Synth” to play the song using our software synthesizer. With Krikit you can get rich polyphonic sound without any additional hardware. This requires an OS 5 handheld like a Tungsten, Zire 31, 71, or 72, or a Treo 600, 650, or 680, Tapwave Zodiac, or some Sony Clies.
Choose “Krikit Settings” to change the polyphony (or the sound bank if you own SoundPad). The other settings are not yet supported. If your handheld has a CPU faster than 200mhz, it should be able to run the maximum 32 oscillators. Slower handhelds (like Tungsten T or Zire 71) may need to be set as low as 16 oscillators. Most instrument sounds use more than one oscillator, so this number does not equate directly to note polyphony.

Krikit playback only supports NoteOn, NoteOff, Program Change and Tempo events. Pitch bends, channel volume and other control changes are not yet implemented, but they will simply be ignored if present in your MIDI file and should not cause an error. SerialPort or SoundCard playback support more control changes and other events.

SOUND CARD
Choose “Preferences” from the Options menu and “Play To: Sound Card” to play the song using the sound card built into some hadhelds. Sound Card playback should be available on these Sony Clies: T415, T425, T615c, T625c, T655, T665, T675c, NR70, NR70v, NX60, NX70, NX73, NX80, NZ90, TG50.

SERIAL PORT
Choose “Preferences” from the Options menu and “Play To: Serial Port” to play the song using external MIDI hardware connected with a serial interface. This is especially easy to set up on older handhelds (Tungsten T or earlier models like the m125, 130, 500, 505, 515, etc.). Some newer models can be used for serial over MIDI but can only send data at the PC-2 baud rate (38,400 bps) which can be set in the preferences window. Your serial MIDI interface or serial “host” port on you MIDI hardware will need to be set to match (Mac or PC-2.

So you can see that whilst there are bits missing from the current beta it has got a lot of the final functionality available. Let’s see how things develop over the next few months.

MixPad from miniMusic

Well, the long awaited next delivery from miniMusic is well on the way to being available. Now in beta test MixPad is a fully featured MIDI file player/recorder/editor. It will let you take any raw MIDI file with you on your Palm and play it with using the miniMusic Krikit audio engine, on connected MIDI hardware, or on a sound card if your handheld has one (such as the Sony Clie NX series, or a Zodiac).

MixPad differs from any other MIDI file applications for the PalmOS; it includes powerful graphic support for simple viewing, mixing and quick editing.

Usable for real performance situations, or music practice, MixPad gives you a powerful real-time mixer interface to control channel volumes, panning, and solos and mutes for every track during playback. The main display gives smooth scrolling of all MIDI data (including velocities and controller data) and zooming. Unlike other MIDI file players that use hundreds of kilobytes (or even megabytes) of memory for sound samples, our software synthesizer generates audio without any recorded sound; it’s only 10k! Unlike MP3 players, there is no recorded audio, so song files are also very small (usually under 100k).

MixPad currently works only as a song player/viewer. MixPad Pro will offer real time recording and MIDI file editing features.

According to the miniMusic site the software should be available in March which is really encouraging.

Coupled with this is a re-working of the Krikit audio engine synth to remove the latency issues that previously existed.

Finally I have to say that I love the icon for this application. it is superb!

My initial response to the app has been good so far. The interface works well although it has a lot going on, and files are easy to navigate to and open. The no latency synth is working well too. I’m going to have some more time to play with this soon and then I’ll write more about how it all works. Back soon.

MiniMusic in Education



Here’s a great article about the use of palm music software in education, and some nice pictures including one of Chad!

I’ve used minimusic applications with my children for a while now. They’ve always found them lots of fun, and have learnt a lot from using them, which I suppose is the main point.

I hope that projects like this take off in more places. I know that in the UK pilot studies in the use of PDAs in schools have proved very successful.

Let’s hope more people use minimusic in education.

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