Posts Tagged ‘Music sequencer’
February 6th, 2013
Cubsasis is a new iPad DAW from Steinberg. I used to use Cubase as my main DAW on PC before I was converted to Ableton live. It was quite a full featured DAW, and while I have not been keeping up with every version, I have seen that it has been definitely keeping up with the times. It is quite exciting that Steinberg decided to make a version of their DAW for iPad.
The first thing that you will notice when firing Cubasis up is how polished, responsive and intuitive all of the controls feel. It launches and is ready to play in about 5-8 seconds on my iPad 2 (This is very important to me when inspiration strikes). Selecting instruments is done quite easily, and loading them up is very quick and easy. You can really tell Steinberg put a lot of work into making a really great user experience.
Everything looks great, but how does it sound you ask? Cubasis comes packed with a lot of instruments, these are sample based Halion instruments, and they do sound great. When adding tracks to the current sequence you can decide if it will be a MIDI (Instrument) track or Audio track. If you add an instrument track, the last chosen instrument will automatically be loaded, and is very easy to change. Tapping on it’s icon brings up a comprehensive list of instruments, sorted by categories represented by icons of the instrument type. I really do wish that Cubasis had a synthesizer also, this would round out the sonic possibilities. Also you can easily change instruments from the track inspector with the plus and minus sounds. Also included in the track inspector are some basic sound shaping controls that let you change the attack and release of the sound.
Each track can have 3 assignable insert effects and can send a signal to 2 global send effects. The effects in Cubasis sound quite nice, and held up quite well with most of the things I threw at them. They are optimized for little CPU use so there is a little bit of a trade off for quality, but definitely work well for most applications.One of the glaring omissions was that you cannot automate the effects in the mixer. The included effects are Reverb, Chorus, Delay, Phaser, Flanger, Filter, Limiter, Compressor, Amp Sim, Overdrive, EQ. As you can see it gives you quite an arsenal to work with. I have a few more complaints about the effects. You cannot reorder the insert effects, so if you decide you want one of your effects earlier in the chain you have to remove them and re-add them, which brings me to another complaint. I don’t see a way to save effects presets, so in this scenario, there can be quite a bit of reprogramming. One more nit-pick about the effects, some of them just have perentages, for example the attack and release on the compressor isn’t in miliseconds, so it is a bit strange to use, also the ratio seems backwards from most compressors.
A nice touch is how the editor screens pop up from the bottom of the screen, allowing you to still keep sight of your sequence when editing. The media browser, MIDI editor, keyboard / drum pads, audio editor, and the mixer all do this. If you have used Cubase in the past, then the mixer should look very familiar. All of the channels are well laid out and they have very intuitive controls for pan, mute, solo, insert effects, gain, and arming the track for recording. Another large omission is a lack of flexible routing, I was hoping to be able to create subgroups for different mixes, and to do some more complex effect routing like side chain compression.
The sequencer is well thought out, and contains nice tools like split, glue, copy, paste, etc. This makes it really easy to work with both MIDI parts and Audio parts. You can snap to a grid that you set. It definitely gets the job done and gets out of your way. If I had any wishes they would be to jump forward in the timeline to the end of what you just copied so you could quickly paste, and to be able to set a loop on the current MIDI or Audio part to be able to drag it out and keep looping it like Ableton live does. It is nice to have a pop out tool bar with all the useful functions, and keeps things nice and clean. The major issue I have with the sequencer is no automation lane of any kind. There are a lot of iOS sequencers now, and almost all of them have automation, this seems like such a glaring omission.
Cubasis also comes with quite a few audio loops to help you get some ideas, although did this bring out another point, that there is no BPM detection or time stretching in the software.
The MIDI editor feels just like it’s big brother and the touch version of it works very well. The only thing that feels slightly clumsy is when step editing you have to switch between select and draw quite a bit, seems like it would be more intuitive if you could select in draw mode when you touch a note, to change it’s position.
The Audio editor is quite slick, and comes with some basic editing functions including fades and normalize. One thing I want to note is how smooth drawing of the waveform and performance is throughout the app. It really has been optimized quite well.
Cubasis has two methods of playing the instruments, with a keyboard view, and drum pads, both work very well and are extremely responsive. The keyboard has 10 chord preset locations that makes it great to program some chords and jam with, again the slick interface shows in this implementation, and it just feels great. If you have non drum instrument you are greeted by 16 pads that play these chords as well. If you have a drum kit selected you get 16 pads that feel great, and you also get a mod wheel that pitches the samples slightly too.
Cubasis supports virtual MIDI, and allows you to sequence other apps, external instruments, this is all accomplished per instrument track in the MIDI Connections section of the inspector. One thing I did not see, and is especially important to the next section is the ability to send or receive a MIDI clock and sync to it.
The new version of Cubasis supports Audiobus, and it does so with a really great implementation of it. If you open Audiobus and launch Cubasis, any apps that are inputs automatically get Audio tracks assigned for quick recording into a project. I even added an insert effect and took it out, and it dynamically reassigned and named the tracks for me. You can also use Cubasis as an output, but it doesn’t look and it looks like it can be an output and input at the same time.
The one thing that makes the Audiobus experience bittersweet though is the fact that there doesn’t appear to be clock sync in Cubasis, meaning that if you are going to be sequencing other synthesizers, drum machines, or playing them into Cubasis that you will probably be editing the Audio to remove unwanted space, where if clock sync was there it would sync on start for you, and make sure that all of your clock based parameters on the other apps were correct.
Import / Export options
Cubasis comes with a nice set of import and export options. In the media browser you can use the share button to export your project view email, dropbox, or zip. Audio files can be emailed, dropboxed, opened with other apps, audio copied, or sent to SoundCloud. Wow. You can also export your projects and import them in Cubase on the desktop, which I didn’t get to try out since I don’t own the latest version of Cubase. You can import audio via Audiocopy and Paste or iTunes library import. Steinberg really covered all their bases in this department!
Overall Cubasis is a really nicely polished product, but is missing some essential features. It could be so great, and the best all around sequencer on iPad if Steinberg decides to implement these.
June 5th, 2012
Triqtraq- Jam Sequencer is a new app from Zaplin Music for iPhone and iPod Touch. Just as it’s name describes it is a sequencer that blurs the lines of instrument and sequencer. It is a 4 track sequencer that is set up like 4 individual drum machine tracks. The beauty of the app is the simplicity that it offers, enticing you to start jamming and experimenting to make the patterns.
On the main screen you are greeted by 4 colored circles with the letters A,B,C, and D in them, these are the tracks, and a grid of your 16 pattern slots in the center. If you touch one of the letters the view changes to 8 drum machine like pads to touch, and a sequencer on the top that shows you 1 bar at a time. The app is automatically armed for recording, and tapping the play button and touching the pads will start placing note events in the sequencer.
You can also use step edit mode to manually place notes on the sequencer, one extremely nice feature with this is, if you drag on the sequencer you get a grey selection area, if you place a note, it will jump ahead one 8th note past the selection, this makes for really quick editing for repetitive patterns.
Each track has 2 effects on it, Filter and Delay, which you can edit quickly on the fly as well, and it picks up the automation and shows it well in the sequencer. The delay is set up like a send effect, with settings for the delay being global. Each track also has Pan, Pitch, Level, and Decay settings.
You can string the patterns together in what is called a Queue, to put together a song.
One of the most exciting features in triqtraq is the Loop Range feature, I didn’t quite understand it at first, (all of this review was done through exploration) but once you touch the Loop Range button you are presented with a Loop Speed dialog, initially I thought that was it, which this is a handy way of speeding that particular sequence and automation up or down, but if you tap and drag on the sequence above you are setting loop points. What is really cool about this is that you can set them up per effect, or for the sequence itself. This feature makes for some really cool syncopation options, and can all be done while playing and on the fly jamming since you can have the sequence different lengths and speeds from the other sounds, and each can have different lengths of filter, delay sends, level, decay, pan, pitch, letting your track really breathe. Super powerful!
Also included is a tool for setting the bpm, which surprisingly can also be automated. You can set the BPM by tapping also, which is a nice feature.
The way that you change pitch on the instruments is a little less intuitive than the rest of the app though, it seems that it is screaming for a little keyboard for note input. You change the pitch with a slider, which can be constrained with a keyboard next to it.
I really wish that it had more import options, it would be great with audiocopy and paste, now that Apple has broken the tether between it’s devices and iTunes, it feels a bit archaic to have to connect the iPhone to my mac in order to import sounds. Also currently there aren’t any export options other than just recording the audio output of your device.
Overall triqtraq provides a simple way to quickly jam out some new sounds, it is fun to pull out to make a quick beat with some one shot bass and synth samples, and gives you quite a bit of control. With the awesome experimentation that is possible with loop range, this app is on the top of my list of go to apps to make a new sound. I really wish those export features were in there now, I am sure the developer is getting lots of people asking for them, let’s hope they make it in soon.
April 3rd, 2012
Grain Science is a new granular synthesizer from Wooji Juice. If you are not familiar with granular synthesis, it differs from traditional additive or subtractive synthesis, instead of playing a typical waveform, with granular synthesis that waveform is broken up into tiny little pieces of audio called grains. Parameters of the grains are manipulated to alter the sound, letting you create vast intricate soundscapes or pinpoint laser strike leads from the same sound just by adjusting the speed and size of the grains.
Grain Science brings these concepts to iOS with a very intuitive, beautiful, and fluid interface. Making it easy to load in new waveforms or samples, easily adjust the parameters, apply effects, shape the waveforms, arpeggiate the sounds, record them, and manipulate a wide array of performance parameters.
Grain Units and Envelope
You are greeted by an initial screen with a Default Instrument selected (init sound), and some parameters for voice control, glide, and a keyboard. swiping left reveals that the controls are a large string of different screens that are well laid out. Next between the Grain Units (2 of them) is an Envelope control page, which lets you set the envelope ADSR controls plus a preamp gain control give you control of the sound mixed in different ways with a blend setting, setting the amount of the blend and the mode affects how the 2 grain units are mixed. I love this sort of concept, and the layout feels very natural.
The arpeggiator has 2 modes, chord and step. Chord functions like your typical arpeggiators on most synths, with different directions of the arps and octave and retrigger options to change the arps a bit. The step mode acts as a full 32 step sequencer, with a slick UI. There is a button to allow you to go full screen and create sequences, not only can you control the pitch but also the velocity, 2 custom controls. My only complaint was that I didn’t see a way to save the sequences independently of the presets.
Grain Science comes with a good amount of effects ranging from 6 different types of distortion, from bit crusher to waveshaper, 5 types of frequency effects including Low Pass / High Pass Filters, Chorus, Flange, Phaser, and some digital echo, and a tube resonance effect. The effects can be configured to sit in a chain of 4 slots, so 4 running at once. What I found great about them was tucked away beneath most of the effects controls are modulation options, for LFO sync, with tons of options to change the duration, and what it does over the duration of the LFO, and in each modulation panel, a visual representation of that LFO is shown. I can’t stress enough the wild modulation, you can do with this to make living breathing sounds. My favorite effect has to be the new G-1000 Shapeinator, coupled with the modulated LFO’s and you can really change the sound of your sounds over time.
The reverb unit which is a separate effect page is stunning. It has to be played with to believe the quality of reverb that Wooji Juice is achieving, it is hard to believe it is coming from an iOS app. Also the controls on this unit offer the same LFO, and modulation options, which makes the entire environment very customize-able.
This section gives you a nice overview of what you have connected to various performance controls, and also what you have LFO’s applied to. I would love to see this as a graphical representation, but maybe I am asking too much, with the stunning UI in the rest of the app, I can envision a diagram with showing parameters, and the different units full screen, to get a really good visualization of the modulation matrix.
Grain Science has a wealth of performance controls 4 different sections that are customize-able as 4 wheels per section, or XY pads in any combination that you would like, so if you really wanted to jam on 16 mod wheels you can. or 4 XY Pads, or 8 wheels and 2 pads etc.
Overall the sound that you can achieve with Grain Science is incredible and rivals any soft synth or hardware out there. It is definitely a fantastic addition to your electronic music tool box, and with the vast amount of customization with such a great intuitive interface, a purchase is a no-brainer. If you don’t already own a copy, go get one now! And since it is now universal on both iPad and iPhone, you have no excuse.