The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek
24Jul/150

After the Book Came Out: Audiobus Remote

Audiobus Remote on my iPhone

This app caused a little commotion before it even came out because devs working to make their apps compatible worked under some non-disclosure secrecy. So what was all the commotion about? Audiobus took their groundbreaking audio routing app and paired it with a remote app that lets you control Audiobus (and any loaded apps) via a second iDevice.

So that said, if you don't have multiple iOS device running iOS 8, don't bother. But if you're running with said devices, this app gives you a handy extension to your screen. As shown in the screenshot, the app shows an abbreviated control screen that lets you control aspects of the apps running within Audiobus on the other device. The types of controls vary from app to app - in the screenshot, you can switch patches in FLUX:FX, and you get pretty comprehensive control over looping and transport controls over Loopy HD. All of these controls depend on the developers of the apps themselves. As shown by Launchpad, not everybody is on board yet. But give it time, and this app could render some great possibilities.

The devices link via Bluetooth, which is way more secure than WiFi for live applications. But you also have a little more limited range, and I ran into a couple drop-outs here and there. I also had to deal with some restarts due to app errors. But it overall, response was snappy and useful.

Overall, the app isn't a game changer for musicians, but it does provide a handy extension when necessary.

10Jun/150

After the Book Came Out: Bias FX

Screenshot of Bias FX on iPad

I used Positive Grid's JamUp amp and FX simulator for quite a few gigs as a pedalboard replacement (mainly for the Bass Muff simulator and a combination of a chorus and envelope filter) - slap my iPad into an iTrack dock, hook up a SoftStep for the foot control, andI was ready to go. Much lighter than my pedalboard, and the sounds were good. So I didn't really have much of a reason to look into Bias FX aside from the promise of better tone. I'd purchased Bias Amp as an amp simulator to check out, but never really used it. I was more interested in effects pedals (which JamUp provided easily, including the bass packs through in-app purchase). But why not try a new app, especially when it promises better sound?

The sound is indeed good, but I'm a little tweaked by the user experience. I found it a little easier to start pedal configurations in JamUp than in Bias FX, where I have to start with an existing preset and modify it from there. And speaking strictly from a bassist standpoint, there's only one bass model in the app - a GK 800 clone. That said, the integration with Bias Amp allows you to import a bunch of different bass amps, and I don't really use the amp simulators all that much. I'd rather run the pedals into my existing amp and go from there.

The effects in Bias FX do sound good, but the choices are limited at this point. The inclusion of several different compressor varieties helped, but other than that I couldn't find any bass-specific effects. I didn't lose too much tone using the standard effects, though. And the preset setup does map perfectly to an existing toggle patch on my SoftStep. But Bias FX carries over an existing gripe of mine from JamUp - you can turn pedals on and off in types (such as reverb or modulation) but not single instances. I don't often need multiple drive pedals on at the same time, so this requires me to create separate presets with separate types of pedals.

Screenshot of Preset Layout in Bias FX

Preset Layout in Bias FX

I'm sure more updates are on the way, and the sound is good. There's just a long way to go to please bassists' usage here.

19Mar/150

After the Book Came Out – ScoreCloud

Screenshot of my ScoreCloud dashboard

So this particular app requires some linkage with a computer to use, but the gist of ScoreCloud's functionality revolves around taking your playing (via MIDI or audio conversion) and creating sheet music from the results. The desktop/laptop can handle a little more full-featured editing capabilities (similar but not up to par with Sibelius or Finale). However, the iPhone/iPad app handle only recording and basic viewing and editing.

ScoreCloud presents an easy way into making sheet music - just sing or play into the mobile device, and the app takes what you do and tries to convert it into standard notation. This process includes interpreting a key signature, tones, and duration - everything you'd expect out of standard notation. The conversion process isn't too bad, but you should plan on making some edits post-recording. ScoreCloud won't get everything right the first time, although it will give you some helpful hints if it notices something is wrong (like my television in the background). And those edits will probably take place on the desktop/laptop component of ScoreCloud, where you can move notes around, put in chords, and changes voices for the instruments you're scoring out.

And, because everything requires cloud support these days, you can access your files either at home or while mobile using the app. ScoreCloud's cloud storage seems free for now, but that could obviously change. The access remains a handy feature, though, and all changes sync fairly quickly.

ScoreCloud won't replace full-featured notation editors right now, but you do get handy sync and note-taking options. And the singing function is a nice feature.

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2Mar/152

After The Book Came Out – FLUX:FX

The finality of print media keeps me from going back and updating the text as much as I'd want to when new apps come out. Luckily, this blog lets me carry on those updates as much as necessary. So let's get started with the audio processing app FLUX:FX, a collaboration with elephantcandy, MOBGEN, and guitarist/noise wizard Adrian Belew.

Despite Belew's stringed leanings, you can route more than guitars through FLUX:FX. a The app accepts audio from other apps via Audiobus, connected instruments via whichever jack and interface you wish to choose, and any connected mics (although it does mute the internal mic to prevent feedback). From there, you see the performance screen of FLUX:FX:

FLUX:FX Performance Screen

FLUX:FX Performance Screen

This screen accepts up to five effects (divided into different categories by function, like modulation, delays, and so on). Just drag the effects you want to use into the slots to activate them. You can also connect the effects to the x/y pad for live manipulation. The x/y implementation is handy - you can choose to only enable the effect when you touch the pad, or let the pad modify the sound continuously wherever you leave the control. A built-in 16-step sequencer automates the pad movement to give you hands-free manipulation while you play.

From this screen, you can also determine the amount of wet and dry signal you mix in, which can be handy for bassists who need to maintain some foundation in the tone without going too crazy. However, should you need some more precise control, tap over to the Edit screen to fine-tune the effects. The user interface does a great job of shifting around to accommodate whatever view you might need to use at the time, and the controls give you a full range of options to tweak to your heart's content. FLUX:FX also includes a bunch of presents to try out and modify, including a few from Belew.

The manual includes MIDI information you can use to send messages for control, such as tap tempo for the sequencer and effects shifts. I had no problem syncing FLUX:FX with a drum machine app's clock out to get the effects at the same tempo as the drumbeat, although the sequencer did not return to the first step on starts and stops. Keep that in mind as you plot your recording or live manipulations.

Overall, this app gives you a solid audio processing experience. FLUX:FX regularly topped 60% CPU usage and did give me the occasional dropout, so I wouldn't recommend running too many high-demand apps at the same time. I did not disable the animation that goes along with the app, though, and the option to do so will give your processor a little more breathing room. As weird at he sounds get, though, the glitch may just fit right in. FLUX:FX gets deep into sound manipulation for just about any source you can throw at it, and the real-time controls make it a unique and valuable tool.

26Feb/151

iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies – The Book Is Here!

Ryan holding the newest book - iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies!

So proud to announce my new book iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies is available now at Amazon, Google, and finer book retailers near you. Hard copy? It's right there in the picture! Digital version? You bet! Should you obtain a copy? Of course!

Seriously, though, I couldn't be more pleased with the way this whole project turned out, and that I managed to tackle the vast majority of apps that I wanted to. Some apps that I'm enthused about either came out or received major updates between the time I finished the book and when it published, so I'll include some app reviews and updates in this blog as time goes on. In the meantime, though, musicians looking to include their iOS device in their musical activities should jump on this book as soon as possible.

Because really, this device made my gigging and musical life so much easier. In a single device, I can carry my instantly reconfigurable pedalboard and sheet music source, plus any number of synths and drum machines and loopers I want to carry around. It's almost like a new brain, and I get to fascinate/annoy my fellow musicians at the same time with all the new noise. Everybody wins!

3Feb/150

The Cassingle Makes a Triumphant Return (to Carnival)

Yep, I helped produce a small-batch, artisanal cassingle for the Krewe of Spank (as part of the 2015 Krewe Du Vieux parade that took place 1/31/2015).

The Cassingle!

The Cassingle!

The krewe captured the entire theme at the 504 Not Found app site (probably NSFW, just a heads-up), and you can see reviews of the parade itself (including pictures of the spectacular float) in a few different locations:

For this throw, I took the stellar graphics and script from some of the other krewe members and a preferred-to-stay-unnamed vocal talent and put it to music. Since we had to face the fact that most folks don't own cassette players anymore (although the good folks at National Audio Company and Cassetro came through like champs to produce the cassettes for said players), the krewe also made the audio part of the app, and I've posted it on my SoundCloud. Enjoy.