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The Bass Geek

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.


Connecting Your Headphones

Apple buying Beats and looking into new headphone connections shouldn't be a big deal. Apple bought Beats for the music streaming and personnel as much as the headphones (which are NOT GOOD AT ALL PLEASE LOOK INTO KLIPSCH OR AKG OR SENNHEISER OR SOMETHING ELSE), and the 3.5mm connection was never an audiophile choice for headphones. The jack works because it's small, portable, and easily implemented. Why not look into new technologies or connections (using something besides Beats headphones, of course)? And remember, of course, that connection types don't necessarily help audio quality (remember when the Playstation was the audiophile choice because of . . . RCA connectors?!). Let the new technology happen, and remember that source material, good headphones, and the signal chain mean just as much as the connector.


Beware of Upgrades!

Most studios know enough to test their systems and read up on issues before upgrading the OS on their recording computers, but it's important to remember that applies to all devices in this post-PC world - even your phone. Such as the tuning app that suddenly displayed everything a half-step sharp last night after the iPhone iOS 5.1 upgrade. And I was wondering why everything seemed a little off during the warm-ups. Luckily, there's always a backup:

  • Another tuning app
  • A hardware tuner

Gotta be prepared . . . test and backup. It applies to every digital device.

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Hands Off The Volume, iPhone

A quick little blurb in the latest issue of Tape Op caught my eye and finally brought some things together for me. The writer was having problems with Pro Tools meters being dragged down, and it turns out the culprit is the iPhone. Transmissions from the device were pulling down the meters, causing the mixes to go off. This isn't some app gone wrong - it's the normal functioning of the device that's doing it.

As I'm not an avid (bad pun, sorry) Pro Tools user, I didn't notice the effects there. Where I did encounter this phenomenon was on my older iPod. If the two were in close proximity (say, my pocket) and the older iPod was playing while the iPhone was connected to a network (it wouldn't happen while in airplane mode), the volume on my older iPod would jump around erratically. I can't remember if the data transmissions from my old phone did that as well, but it's definitely happening here.

Add that to the lovely interference AT&T's EDGE network can add to audio (I've had at least one video's audio track ruined by a rogue Blackberry), and it makes sense to leave phones off when you're recording anything, either remotely or in the studio. They're just to unpredictable, whether they're turning down audio or adding unwanted noise.


Shortening The Road

Google's new Android system means Amazon's mp3 store has a direct link to new phones. The iPhone already has that link to iTunes. It's not just physical media that's becoming obsolete - now you don't even need a personal computer if the craving gets to be too much.

Theoretically speaking, of course. For God's sakes, please back up your media purchases on a home computer. One lost phone and you're out for the whole thing.

I'd still love to see the DRM go away on iTunes (Amazon can do it, you can too) and the fidelity of the files to increase (can't fit the whole collection, but it still sounds better), but this sure beats an SD card.


Random Weekend Summary Notes

  • The Genius function on my iPhone failed to create any playlists off of any songs currently loaded.  I'm chalking it up to the fact that my entire library isn't on the phone (far too much memory), so I only sync unhead podcasts and songs to it.
  • Apple's refusal to stock the Podcaster app in the Apps store is a bit disconcerting, to say the least.  Getting podcast subscriptions on the go would be a helpful tool, and the answer as to why they refused it doesn't seem quite logical.  Given the amount of blogosphere outcry on the situation, I'm not sure how long this app stays off the market.
  • Best Buy purchasing the now-DRM-free Napster and MySpace readying an ad-driven portion of their music service hopefully signals a quicker end to DRM in all services.
  • Steelers start 2-0.  This makes me happy.
  • So does "Evil Dead: The Musical."

Fun Happy Music Gadget Stuff

SimplifyMedia has put together a little package that allows music to be streamed from a home base computer to other devices, including the iPhone and other machines. My brief tests have encountered no problems, and it's a pretty cool thought that I can access music on the handset and not have to worry about filling up the hard drive (my 60GB iPod is currently bloated and staggering under its full conditions). My only worry is the portable battery life - heavy 3G usage would no doubt shrink my listening window. But it's a handy idea for work or scooting about town.

I'm a little less enamored with BeatMaker's potential, enough that I can't see purchasing it based on reviews that claim there's latency in the pads. Devices and programs like this are made or broken on their ability to provide real-time response to a musician's playing. It was the most frustrating part of working with older sound cards and MIDI devices for me, and I've got no desire to go back to square one.

To be fair, a lot of these programs seem like a land rush for prospectors, with the reasoning that it's better to get the apps out there and the name made familiar and then work on the finer points. And it's unfair to expect high performance from a handheld device right now. Hell, ProTools is just getting around to debuting on OS X Leopard, and that's on a full-fledged computer and operating system. So it's possible these things will get better - that's why software always seems to have new releases and updates. I'm just not panning these waters yet.


“Band” on iPhone

The idea of a phone-based sequencer is nothing new - an old Sony Ericsson phone of mine had a simple program that allowed you to move "blocks" of music around to make your own MIDI songs or ringtones.  Pair it with the touch-screen on the iPhone, though (and put it front and center at an Apple product debut), and suddenly the whole things takes life.  There's video of Band already posted at their homepage, and the controls look simple enough.  I doubt it'll be much help to high-power sequencers, but I also thought the same thing about Garageband when it first came out (and it evolved into a nicely usable program).

The thing that disturbs me is the Blues screen.  You can automatically generate your own 12-bar blues song, picking just the right key and structure for your blooze tune.

On one hand, does an iPhone have any business playing the blues?  On the other hand, is it any less deserving than "The Blues King," subject of a story from a sax-playing friend of mine?  Said "Blues King" (identified as such by the embroidery on his leather guitar strap ) showed up at an open-jam night, resplendent in his SRV-inspired finery.  Cowboy hat with feather?  Check.  Fringe-laden leather jacket?  Of course.  Turquoise belt buckle and fine cowboy boots?  Indeed.  And, of course, he wanted to play some SRV tune or another.  Once called to the stage for his scintillating performance, he promptly pulled out a music stand.  And some guitar tab.  And butchered whatever song he intended like it was the finest veal ever.

This isn't Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, here.  I'm just wondering which one hurts just a little bit more.

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