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I don’t know what your favourite apps of the year were, but here are the ones that matter to me

I always think it’s difficult to tell you which were the best apps in any year, and 2016 is no different at all. What works for me as a great app won’t work for other people and vice-versa, so it all seems a little pointless. However, what I can tell you is which apps were important to me this year. I think that might be more interesting (or maybe not), and it’s certainly easier to do from my perspective.

So without further messing around, here are the apps that I used a lot, or found intriguing, or for whatever other reason, mattered.

1. Auxy

Without a doubt Auxy is an app that I can’t do without, at least not currently anyway. I really love it. It works for me and just fits with how I think and work right now. I’m not saying that this will always be the case, but for now me and Auxy, we’re good. I also really like the sound packs that they’ve been releasing. I got them both and love them.

2. Model 15

Moog’s Model 15 is on my list for a totally different reason than Auxy is. Model 15 is here because it’s one of those apps that I keep fiddling with and getting into and then leaving for a bit, then coming back to. I don’t know if you do that, but I certainly do. I like Model 15 and I’d really like to do something useful with it, but so far I haven’t. Who knows, maybe in 2017 I will.

3. NOIZ (and KRFT)

NOIZ you’ll know from Studio Amplify. It’s a great app for making stuff even if you’ve no idea how to make stuff, and I’m all for that. Of course the nice chaps from Studio Amplify now have KRFT in beta and I’ve been playing with that recently. It is going to be awesome. I mentioned it not so long ago here, and I’m hoping to be able to tell you lots more soon enough.

I think that these apps are going to have a really bright future and are going to help users to make things in ways that they hadn’t thought about before.

4. frekvens

I’m a fan of Mr HumbleTune’s apps, music, and design style. I think it’s great, and for good reason. His apps are amazing, and, pretty much everywhere too. I really like two of them though, nils, and frekvens. They really let you mangle sound, but in a good way, in a way that doesn’t hurt. I’m sure that other people find themselves coming back to the same FX apps over and over, and frekvens is one of those for me.

5. All things Korg

I can’t help myself but say that I do love Korg’s apps. They’ve done well this year. We’ve had good updates and new apps like ODYSSEi and iWAVESTATION. My personal favs are Gadget and iDS-10 though. Again I find myself coming back to these time and time again. I bet some of you do too.

6. AC Sabre

I think that Sabre has been a bit overlooked and that’s a shame. The AC Sabre is an amazing gestural performance tool for the iPhone and hasn’t really had the attention it should have had. I’d like to do a bit more with it myself next year as I think I’ve only barely scratched the surface of what it can do for me.

7. ROTOR

I posted on ROTOR and the tangible controllers yesterday, but it also deserves a mention here. I like modular apps but ROTOR (and Reactable mobile before it) seem to provide a more accessible route into modular than a lot of other apps in that genre. Now that ROTOR has the tangible controllers with it I’m hoping to get a bit more time to devote to it soon.

8. Fluxpad

Unusual apps and alternative interfaces are very important to me. So Fluxpad is assured a place in my list. It gives you a different way to interface with sound and that in itself is important. I like that Fluxpad is playful and easy to use and yet at the same time a highly capable and flexible app for manipulating samples.

9. Cubasis

There had to be a DAW in the list and it’s Cubasis 2.0. It’s been a big help to me on a project that I’m working on so it’s in my list. However, there was stiff competition from n-Track Studio 8 which arrived quite recently. It will be interesting to see how some of the big, and one or two little, DAWs survive in 2017.

10. Patterning

I love drum apps. Patterning is another app that just fits with my workflow. It’s just intuitive and fluid and it makes perfect sense to me. I can’t say that about all drum apps I’m afraid, but Patterning is probably one of the few go to drum apps that stays on my iPad. I’d love there to be an iPhone version too.

11. Wotja

You might find this one a little strange, but more will become apparent soon. For now I’ll tell you that I love Wotja’s ability to create an ambient soundscape from a few words. It’s simple to tailor and tweak to do exactly what you want too.

I’ve also found myself coming back to Mixtikl recently and really getting into that app again. I think that these generative technologies are so deep that it can be easy to get lost. However, I think it’s worth it to dive in and explore and I’d like to do more of that in 2017 with all of Intermorphic’s tools.

12. Skram

Last and by no means least is Skram from Liine. I’m a fan of apps that make the process of creating music simpler and more immediate. To me that’s really important. I thought Skram was great when it first came out and the latest update has made it even more usable. I hope that it keeps going and brings more and more people into making music, and I’d also really like to see an iPhone version of it too.

So that’s 12 apps (more if I’m honest) that mattered to me and continue to do so. I hope you found that interesting. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

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Skram 1.2.2 has arrived!

I’ve been wondering when Liine would bring us a new version of Skram, and today they’ve kindly answered my question. Version 1.2.2 is here and brings with it a bunch of goodies that everyone will love like Link support, new devices, and more besides.

Here’s the full list …

  • New device pack as in-app purchase (free for a limited time)
  • Ableton Link support
  • Inter-App Audio support
  • AudioCopy support
  • More export options for recordings
  • Stability and performance improvements
  • New visual cue when Pitch Sequencer length is zero
  • Help copy tweaks
  • Various bug fixes

If you’re wondering what exactly it is that all the fuss is about then have a read of my previous post about Skram and why I consider it to be a really important app in a very important category of music making. Hopefully after that it’ll all become clear.

For now I’m off to take a look and grab the (currently free) IAP while I can!

If you don’t know Skramm, then either check out the post I mentioned above, or take a look on the app store (button below). I think you’ll be impressed. I was, and I expect to continue to be.

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

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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.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
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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Video: Introducing Skram…

Video description:

“Skram has everything you need to make electronic music on your iPad and quickly get great sounding results. Create killer sounds, riffs and grooves. Record the result.”

Video published by Skram App.

Skram on the app store:

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Skram has arrived from Liine

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What a day for new apps! So here’s Skram from Liine …

Skram is the result of years developing music tech for pro musicians while immersed in Berlin’s music microcosm where artists, tech providers, club owners and fans rub shoulders every weekend.

“We realised there was a need for an accessible platform, something to enable fans to make the music they like without feeling patronised” says Liine’s CEO Gareth Williams.

“We felt that we could build something that inspires existing musicians too, for whom simplicity stimulates creativity, freedom and fun.”

Liine’s approach is inspired by the custom setups used by experienced electronic musicians to streamline their music production and performance. The best of these setups are simple, often hiding complexity below the surface, and give artists their unique voice.

Skram promises to deliver a wide range of simple Devices and Widgets to allow people to explore different musical styles, irrespective of experience. While other apps focus on solutions for “UI problems”, they still require users to have fully formed musical ideas. Liine, however, have their sights set on solving “musical problems”. Different Widgets can help people compose in different genres, for example.

Skram has everything you need to make electronic music on your iPad and quickly get great sounding results. Create killer sounds, riffs and grooves. Record the result.

// MUSIC MAKING WITH A BITE

DEVICES

Four expressive synth and drums Devices are included. We’re going to be creating more of these, lots more – covering a wide-range of styles and genres. You’ll be able to build your own personalized collection that matches your tastes. We promise you’ll be getting more for free too.

WIDGETS

Skram contains three Widgets which allow you to create different kinds of musical patterns, and you’ll soon be able to get your hands on more. Some are inspired by real music machines, others are completely fresh for the world of software. They’re all simple, playful and inspiring.

FEATURES

Skram has the features you need to manipulate the whole performance. You can adjust levels, alter the speed of your music and carry out stunning key changes (with no need to know a single bit of music theory). Naturally, it’s easy to record your music and send it to a friend.

Many more new features will be rolled out this year too. Our Content Library will have great patterns you can use straight out of the box, or tweak to make your own. Gesture Automation will add life to your grooves, playing back your finger movements in realtime. Snapshots will let you store and recall those special musical moments without stopping the flow. The synthesis and sampling engine is going to expand, allowing for a wider range of sound textures and musical genres.

// SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Requires iOS 9.0 or higher.

// LIINE

Skram is made by a team of experts and artists connected to Berlin – the world capital of electronic music. Our other product, Lemur, is a professional music tool used on stage by the likes of Bjork, Daft Punk and Deadmau5. Our vision for Skram is to supply the freshest, most complete and totally accessible tool for playing with music. Use it for making tracks, performing a live jam, jotting down ideas, experimenting or just plain having fun.

Skram is on the app store now and costs $4.99 / £3.99 / €4.99