The Bass Geek - Words about Music, Circuitry, and New Orleans
The Bass Geek

My Apps Are Gone?!

Lots of great music apps (I'm looking at you, FLUX:FX) took a hit with the new iOS 11 update. Simply put, these apps don't handle the new 64-bit-only architecture, so your assorted iDevices won't load or run them. If you're anything like me, you have a few useless icons littering your screens, waiting for deletion. And, until the developers update the apps, they'll stay that way. Between the iOS 11 update and the iTunes update to remove apps from the desktop program, these apps will remain consigned to limbo forever, barring said update.

So what can you do?

If the apps are mission-critical, just don't update to iOS 11. Look at the developer's site and social media to see if a change is expected.

If you don't care, you might still wait to upgrade your older devices. Upgrades can sometimes play havoc with older hardware. Wait for others to either give the all-clear or serve as a cautionary example.

The future plods on inexorably, but you can at least be ready for the consequences. Good luck!

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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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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!


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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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.


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.


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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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.


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!


My New Book!

Cover for iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies

Yes, I just turned in the first draft of my new book (also featuring the contributions of author and all-around electronic music guru Mike Levine) iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies to the good folks at Wiley Publishing.

Like most For Dummies books, the title pretty much tells it all - this books shows musicians how to integrate their iPhone or iPad into their music-making process (beyond taking a bunch of on-gig selfies - why am I seeing so many of these recently?). Using your iOS device as a virtual synthesizer, guitar rig, recording studio, far-out freaky noise-making machine - it's all in there.

And the best part was playing with these toys as I was writing it. So many apps making so many beautiful noises!

So now I'm waiting for the author review process, where we go back over all the copy Mike and I contributed and make sure it actually makes sense, then send it off for the magic printing/e-book process. Look for the final publishing date early next year (pre-order for the holiday season, maybe?).

I'll talk more about the book as it gets closer to the publishing date. Quite frankly, I'm a little done with extended writing for a bit (the book tops out just over 400 pages).

In the most pressing update, though, I once again discovered the #sitarfunkfail hashtag, thanks to some Twitter policy changes. That, my friends, is a modern miracle.