Ipad, Animoog, Filtatron, and Garageband. An Odyssey Into The Unknown.

OK, it’s no secret that yes, I love technology, always and forever.

Recently I purchased an iPhone, and left my average intelligence flip phone alone in the dust.  While fantastic for communication, photos, maps, and other silly things, for music creation, it leaves a little to be desired.  The interface is just too small.   Its a phone, surprise.

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If you are a fan of Parks and Rec, perhaps you have heard of Entertainment 720.  A company that has no clients, and gives out fabulous swag to all who dare to mention its name.  Well, lets just say my girlfriend recommended someone to work there, and received an iPad2.  Somehow, she couldn’t introduce me to Aziz though, wtf.

Anyhoo, the ipad arrived yesterday, coincidentally on the same day Moog released their ipad only synth “Animoog” and the rest of their apps for $1.  Well, if thats not a sign from the great mysterious octopus in the sky with powers of telepathy and time travel, THEN WHAT IS!?  Immediately upon receiving the Moog news, i purchased the Filtatron iPhone app, and had about an hour of fun.  Later in the evening, once the ipad was unboxed, it was massive app time.

It might have been the best $7 ever spent.  Animoog, Filtatron, and Garageband.  We’ve discussed the potential of the iPad before, as has the entire internet and 90% of people alive.  But this was my first tactical interaction on a musical level.  I’ve seen it done, but never experienced it first hand for more than a few minutes.  Lets start with the good.

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I hooked it up to the absolutely fantastic Jambox.  A badass little speaker that all electronic based musicians should know about. (full disclosure – the aforementioned girlfriend works with Jawbone, but it does not diminish the product’s greatness) I went through the many presets Animoog provides, and the sounds themselves are versatile and usable.  There are of course the crazy noise producing and freakout modulations, but there are also some classic leads/lovely synth brass/emotional pads meant for the coldest of 80’s revival ballads.  It has a fun interactive component – Each key modulates as you change from the bottom to top, and there is an XY axis that manipulates other parameters as well.  This is the kind of thing that could not really take place on an analog keyboard, without spending thousands of dollars.

The downside is I guess what any computer interaction is.  It just doesn’t feel real.  There is a slight delay when hitting a few keys, its not as instant as the real thing.  I own a Moog Lil Phatty, and love it to death, so I won’t be selling it just yet in exchange for an iPad based setup.  Manipulating the controls in real time also leaves a bit to be desired, it’s just learning a new interface and how you have to touch it exactly right to get the desired results (yes, i know, thats what she said, now lets move on.)

Lets discuss Garageband, something I have had a full fledged freakout about on the pages of this blog in the past.  I initially imagined it could replace many synths and drum machines, becoming the all in one home recording god we have all been waiting for.  Well kids, let me be the first to tell you, The Singularity is a little bit of a ways away.  The sounds themselves are pretty good.  Pret-tay, pret-tay, good.  But, they’re not the best.  Again, I will not be selling my Elektron Machinedrum in place of this anytime soon.  It has the standard stuff, again, none of it is bad, much of it is highly usable, but its not amazingly stellar.

Same as with the Animoog, the real challenge is the interaction.  You kind of do need some type of Midi keyboard to go with it.  I know, I know, this should not be a surprise to me or anyone, but I guess I expected it to be pure magic, and an instant universe changer, leaving me free to show up wherever I wanted with just an iPad and some headphones.  Sadly, not the case.  Apogee makes some good looking guitar/microphone interfaces, Alesis has the “IO Dock” which many musicians seem to be turning to, but I’ll bet other manufacturers come out with a similar and possibly more high end interface in the near future.  (At least according to Analog Industries)

This did not stop me from creating some fun little tunes, but I will wait until I have mastered all things ipad before I post some jams.  Lets just say, the Quantize feature is very nice, the Sampler can be hours of fun, and I really do enjoy the internal garageband synth sounds – they’re very simple, don’t have a billion controls, and have a lovely visual aspect, as all things Apple tend to.  (except logic, which we’ve also discussed before)

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Those are the thoughts for now.  More on technology in the developing world in the next episode.