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.

The Ipad, Dinosaurs, and the coming of the Techpacolypse

Lets talk about technology, as we often do here at iblogwhatihear.  Usually, when people across America have questions or concerns about technology, they turn to one specific person; Me.

I’m going to make some speculations and voice some concerns, because that’s what you do when you have a forum to digitally convert your ideas into text.

Jesus, holding baby Obama
Jesus, holding baby Obama

A few months back I went to Tekserve, the greatest unofficial Apple store in the world, for a “future of music” type event, focused on the ipad.  Going into it, I was excited, but not overjoyed by the idea of a tablet based music creation device.  I left ready to throw out every other piece of technology I owned.  Yes, I have still not purchased an ipad, that’s in the works, as we will discuss in a minute.

The synth apps look badass.  Korg has their IMS20 synth with a drum machine, Moog has their Filtatron, there is even a Rebirth thing happening, all under $30.  And Garageband for $5. GARAGEBAND!  I had the chance to play with it for a second, and it was unstoppable.  This is the greatest composition sketch tool since the pen and staff paper.  Really, is that stuff gonna be around in 10 years?  Will paper at all?  Anyway, none of this is news.  But stop tweeting about Dancing With The Stars for a fucking second and think about whats happening.

This motherfucker is self contained, and nearly gets rid of the problem many old school musicians have with computer based technology.  A mouse sucks.  Do you feel at all musical when clicking a little oval shaped plastic thingy to create some sonic destruction?  No, you feel like a bitch.  In movies, when someone presses the big red button to blow up a competing nation, why do you think it’s a BIG RED BUTTON?  Cause buttons are fucking awesome, and you want to have the interaction with it.  This is not quite the Big Red Button Effect ™  but its getting there.

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Why have there not been a rush of control surface apps?  There are a few out there, but they’re over $100, and not officially endorsed by the manufacturers.  Apple fucking owns logic!  Where is the controller app guys?  Come on!  That would almost be worth the price of admission alone.  Why do we have to search for some back alley drug deal of a controller do make a few devices work together?  Shit man.

This brings me to the point of securing an ipad for myself.  For a while, I was all in at the bare minimum device, $500 for 16gb.  But after some careful consideration, that’s not going to cut it.  My iPod Touch is 16gb, and I constantly have to shift things on and off to make it all fit.  And the 3g situation, is it worth it?  Who knows, I’m gonna say no for the moment, I’m around wifi and work and home, thats sufficient for now.

So, life in NY is expensive.  I know, everyone is incredibly surprised by this, and I was even invited to write a NY Times Oped about it, but it got pulled at the last minute because they suddenly realized that print was dead, started their subscription model, overpriced it, and had to go take a phone call from Rupert Murdoch.  Anyway….yeah.  So my plan is to acquire an iPad strictly by selling other musical equipment which I already own, through the mediums of Ebay and Craigslist, mostly the latter since no fees are involved.

You mah buttafly, sugah baby
You mah buttafly, sugah baby

This opens up a new set of doors, mostly leading to Crazytown, population 90% of the people who respond to postings.  People offer you 5% of your asking price.  They want you to bring a $50 effect pedal to Long Island so they can “check it out”, standard Nigerian scams, and harassment by a Christian Fundamentalist because I was selling a synth which he did not approve of.  It’s only gonna get weirder from here, dudes.