The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek
8Sep/160

After the Book Came Out: iPhone 7

Yes, it was terribly kept secret. Apple telegraphed an iPhone arriving without a standard headphone jack for years (I mentioned it myself two years ago), and there are enough Bluetooth headphones out there to satisfy the casual music listener without issue. Folks totally attached to the wired experience even get an adapter to mitigate the transitional period.

However, this change does adversely affect the iPhone-based music makers. Bluetooth simply introduces too much latency into the workflow to make wireless headphones effective. Doesn't matter if you buy the new AirBuds or use your favorite third-party model (and you should, 'cause Apple doesn't have a great history with headphones). If I notice the noise of a bone-crunching Madden hit well after the play occurred visually, the response of my Minim pad will definitely not cut it. And if you use the adapter to connect your favorite headphones, you have to hope your battery is fully charged. The headphones just took your power jack! The music apps I've used don't seem to drain power the same way the aforementioned bone-crunching hits do, but it's still going to impact power usage. At this point, I'm obliged to remind you to put your phone in airplane mode for more intensive musical pursuits.

To be fair, the iPhone probably isn't your primary music platform, and if it is, grab an iPhone 6S+ while you can. The headphone jack removal isn't too big of a deal, but it will make mobile music creation a little more inconvenient. iOS remains the best option for mobile music making, though, so it's an inevitable inconvenience.

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31May/160

After the Book Came Out: Minim

Midim in the hands of the ultimate stress test

Proper background on this - I participated in the Minim Kickstarter for Livid Instruments because I liked my previous Guitar Wing purchase and I needed a relatively inexpensive pad-based MIDI controller. Because of the huge demand for the device, delivery went a little past their promised time, but so it goes. The unit arrived fully charged and in perfect condition (and with the requested personalization), so no worries there.

IMG_0409

IMG_0410

Although Minim arrives with a USB cord, you can only use it for charging. For actually connecting with devices, you must use Bluetooth LE. I encountered no issues with pairing Minim to my iPad or iPhone, but this requirement left my older Mac out in the cold. No worries, though, as I found that my Guitar Wing dongle also takes signal from the Minim. It seems that whichever devices shows up first claims the dongle, and I couldn't get both to work at the same time. This functionality doesn't appear "official" based on what I can dig up from Livid's site, but it's a handy backup if you're using older tech.

Once you connect to your choice of app (Minim arrives with a fairly basic app, but you'll want to connect to a more full-fledged app like Korg Gadget for maximum usage), Minim functions exactly as you'd expect it to. Tap the pads, play your beats or notes, and you're good to go. I did need to use the Minim app to make the pads a little more responsive to my style, but this need will obviously vary from person to person. Opening the editor and making the changes went smoothly enough. In the future, I'd really like to see editor apps for iOS devices to bypass the need for a computer entirely - on-the-go changes would be much easier. Until then, though, this editor functioned well enough.

For a pretty decent price, Midim delivers a good product that you can take anywhere and interface with almost all newer tech. Honor the boundaries and vagaries of Bluetooth, and this controller should help you make excellent music.

25Jan/160

After the Book Came Out: Ableton Link

Ableton Link doesn't arrive on your iOS device as a separate app, and the list of supported apps seems rather small at the moment. But it functions where others (I'm looking at you, WIST - it says something that Korg apps prominently display in the Ableton Link-supported section) have failed. It just syncs the enabled apps without issue. Tempo remains locked no matter what, and no matter whether you're interacting with iOS-only apps on your device, on multiple devices, or even with Ableton Live on your computer. App developers have to put this functionality in the apps themselves, but activating it on enabled apps just involves flipping a switch in the app. After that, you can start and sync compatible apps easily. Great job, Ableton!

22Jan/160

After the Book Came Out: iMaschine 2

iMaschine 2

Native Instrument's iMaschine 2 mimics the computer-based version of the app, which in turn brings MPC-based sampling to the computer (not to be confused with the iMPC Pro app, which does the same thing, but I digress...). The recently updated version adds scene-based recording and playback, step-recording, and a ton of sounds (including the previous iMaschine sound libraries). Just pick your pads, sound samples, and tap away - you're ready to go.

iMaschine 2

Well, kind of. When I first bought the app, the sound wouldn't come out of my iTrack dock without routing it through Audiobus. An update added this capability, but it didn't support background audio. Again, the addition to Audiobus solved the issue, but it's still introducing the possibility of latency that I shouldn't have to deal with. And the update didn't add MIDI support either, so I'd recommend using the step recording feature because tapping the screen isn't always the easiest way to play along with recordings. So while iMaschine 2 makes a handy app for programming full tracks, it still deals with some hampered functionality and a lack of basic MIDI functionality

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21Jan/160

After the Book Came Out: More GarageBand

GarageBand Intro

Apple sprung a fairly significant update to GarageBand on users Wednesday, and the included changes should appeal to both home recording enthusiasts and more dance-music-oriented fans.

As shown in the feature image for this article, the update adds multi-track recording to the app. While this feature may not appeal to those who just play a single instrument at a time (or those who only use software instruments), the possibilities for using GarageBand as anything more than a sketchpad for Logic or the Mac-based GarageBand become a little more clear:

GarageBand Multitrack

The bass amps that came with it make the app a little more appealing to me as well. Before, GarageBand's simulated amps left quite a lot to be desired. They're still not up to the standards of more fully featured simulators like Bias FX (no real bass-specific effects, either), but they're better. They're also more inline with offerings from Logic Pro.

The really fun part comes in the Live Loops section, which brings basic Ableton Live functionality to GarageBand. Things like individual loops, synced start and stop, and scene-like capability all come standard in this update:

GarageBand Live Loops

Again, not as full-featured as the Mac-based counterparts you could take advantage of, but the fact that this comes standard as part of the app makes it particularly compelling. Apple offers the standard loops you'd expect and parcels them out in genre-specific packages like EDM and Hip-Hop, but you can also record or load your own loops, samples, and even songs (obviously targeting budding DJs). An included FX window inserts common dance-oriented effects like filter sweeps, stutters, repeats, and scratching as live touch options. Just swipe across the effect to activate it. These effects work with the loops or any other recorded audio, so I had stutters, reverses, and other effects working on my bass playing in real-time at a touch of the iPad screen. The only thing I miss is immediate MIDI access to these controls (still researching at this point, but I'd love to get my Guitar Wing working with this).

The Virtual Drummer addition (one of my favorite Logic Pro features) also brings a ton of value to GarageBand - use similar settings to the Mac-based counterpart to add drum tracks that range from simple to intricate rock, trap, hip-hop, EDM, and more types of beats. You don't get a ton of flexibility and sample control, but you get a decent start to demo or write songs.

These changes obviously bring the GarageBand app more in line with the features offered by the computer-based Logic Pro and GarageBand apps, but the iOS part of the family just became a more independent member of the group. GarageBand moves from a simple recording sketchpad to a decent live performance tool for instrumentalists, DJs, and all manner of musicians in-between. Not bad for a free app.