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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Inspired Magazine

Inspired Magazine

Let’s Make Some Beautiful Music – 4 Apps That Transform iPhone to Instrument

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 06:05 AM PDT

This series is supported by Appboy – the most popular social outlet for mobile app lovers. Catch up with previous editions here.

MultiTouch devices can be powerful tools and toys, there are now over 200,000 apps in the iTunes store that allow you to use the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch for everything from productivity tasks to spending countless hours playing games. In the last couple of weeks I’ve put together a couple of lists that have hopefully proven to be useful to the Inspired readers, the first was a list of 10 iPad apps for designers and last week 14 iPhone apps for social media use.

This week I thought we’d change it up a little and bring you just few apps with a little more detail around each. Before we dive into the apps, let me just state that these apps are for making music. Effectively, we’re turning the iPhone into an instrument that anyone can learn to play and enjoy in a very short amount of time. I should also state, for your enjoyment (the sound is much better) and for the sake of those around you (they probably won’t want to hear you, at least not at first), I’d recommend using headphones with both of these apps.

So without any further ado, let’s make some music.

Bebot – $1.99

On first glance, Bebot is a fairly innocuous looking app, it has a nicely designed retro look to it and when you open up the app, the front screen looks like a page out of a 50s magazine. The robot character as you enter the synth screen is great (looks like he could be the grandfather to our own Appboy Robot), a Sinatra-esque vibe with the spotlight shining welcomes you in.

Right of the start, the synth is active, you can touch the screen anywhere and get sound. Drag your finger across or up and down and the pitch and timbre change, you could probably have loads of fun just with that, but there is so much more to the app. The magic of Bebot is all in the controls, now I will not claim to have mastered this app, but the basics are fairly simple and you’ll be enjoying the app right off the start.

Double tap the small arrow on the bottom right side of the screen and your control panel opens. Here your options begin.

Bebot allows you to change the sound of the Synth by selecting from the built in presets or by creating your own sound through manipulation of the various options including different effects and synth controls.

The scale options are perhaps what make this app most usable, allowing you to select specific notes that can be included for play and giving visibility to where those notes are on the screen using the grid. The Autotune feature ensures that you can play the note exactly where it’s meant to be, which is particularly important if you want to use Bebot and play it along with anything else.

Not convinced that this app can really be usable as an instrument? Jordan Rudess, keyboardist for Dream Theater, has used Bebot on an iPod touch both for live performances as well as in the studio.

Flourish – $2.99

Flourish is another music creation app that uses the touch screen in an interesting manner. Unlike Bebot, this app is not about playing the music as you would on a keyboard or other instrument, it’s more like composing than playing.

When you first open up the app, you’re taken to an existing composition. Push the + button in the bottom right corner and you’re taken to the menu, which includes several options. The best way to learn to use the app is to go through the “How to Flourish” tutorial.

The basic concept of Flourish is that you have a Stage (the black background) on which you are going to create various loops. Each loop will use one instrument to create the sounds within that loop. Available instruments range from keyboard and synth sounds, to bass and rhythm options.

Once you’ve got a loop with your instrument selected, you can start adding individual notes. The loops run on a fixed meter, with 1/8 notes around the circumference of the circle. This is how you will layout your sounds in order to create a pattern that works well. The position in the circle also determines the volume of a particular note, the closer to the center, the more quiet the note.

Now you’ve created one loop, you can proceed and create more, either using the same instrument, or new ones. Loops that are connected on the stage will play in series, which allows the creation of a loop that is longer. You can layer the sounds by choosing which loops are playing and which are paused.

Once you’ve gone through the tutorial, check out some of the existing compositions that come with the app for an idea of what’s possible. Then put your creativity to work and Flourish.

Here are a couple of videos that go through the ins and outs of each of these apps.

Theremin – $0.99

If you’ve ever watched an old horror flick, you’ve probably heard a Theremin. The original instrument was patented in 1928 by Léon Theremin. The instrument produces an eerie sound that gives an ethereal aire, and now you can get it on your iPhone.

Theremin (the app) allows you to control the sound of a Theremin with simple controls that involve the use of the accelerometer. For a higher pitch, turn the phone clockwise, or go counter-clockwise for a lower pitch. You can also control the vibrato by tilting the phone towards or away from you.

A complete control panel allows adjustments to the volume, pitch, and vibrato along with several other settings that allow the app to perform just the way you want it to.

This app is really simple, sounds great and with a little practice could actually be useful, particularly with the Chromatic Scale turned on.

Inkstrumental – $2.99

Alright, this one’s just for fun. Some great animation, some interesting sounds and some crazy creatures. Inkstrumental is a music making app that has an element of pure entertainment value.

The premise is simple, there are 31 different animated monsters, each of which has it’s own sound. In addition, you can record your own sounds using an extra recordable character. Select your stage and start your monsterpiece. Once you’re done, record your work and export it directly to YouTube from your phone and share it with the growing Inkstrumental community.

Sure, this app might not have quite the same serious music making capabilities as the others, but music is also about having fun. With Inkstrumental, you’ll be sure to be entertained and be able to entertain others, at least for a little while.

Here are a couple of videos that go through the ins and outs of each of these apps.





Hope you enjoy these apps. I’d love to hear what you think, and even more so, I’d love to hear what you come up with using these.

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