Wednesday, May 29, 2013

PalmSounds Pt 2

So what happened next?
Well, the plan was to grab a beer or two and grab a bite to eat. The plan went well for the first part but the second was somehow overlooked. I usually gauge a friendship on how much you get on, be that interest or conversation or just a feeling that you've known that person like any other friend.
Over the hours the conversation flowed. Not so much like friends who hadn't seen each other for years but like friends on any other Saturday night. We moved from bar to bar talking, laughing and learning the kind of stuff that doesn't get posted online. The stuff that rounds out the online persona. Everyone has has public side and a private side. No secrets, nothing weird, just the stuff that's not for public consumption. The kind of thing you know about your mates that strangers don't.
The conversation flowed freely like I'd know this man for years, it never stopped. No awkward silences, no checking your phone for messages or the time. Just a damn good night out. And all this with a person I'd never met before. I'll explain a little more.
It sounds like I'm being sycophantic here but I'm not. Some people I like, some I hate, some annoy the (insert word here) out of me and some I just get on with with no effort. PalmSounds falls into the latter category. I mean, this is my blog and I get to decide what to write, no one else. No influence, no sponsorship. When I'm annoyed you know about it and the same when I'm happy.
Moving on. We never did get to eat apart from a selection of crisps and chocolate when we finally arrived at the hotel I was booked into, again arranged by my meatspace stranger friend. To make PalmSounds blush further I'd like to point out a small and insignificant thing to you, wonderful to me. I smoke. Period. Get over it. But for a non smoker to consider this and find one of the last hotels in the world where there are smoking rooms is no small achievement. I told you he was a nice guy.
If you ever get to meet PalmSounds keep some change in your pocket for a take-away burger or chips or something. On the way to the station or the bus or car grab a quick bite. It's good advice because for the rest of the time you'll be getting on like a house on fire and time will diminish into something so insignificant that you'll wonder where the hours went.
In the PalmSounds Lottery you can win a small amount each and every day. Occasionally it's possible to win the jackpot. Last Saturday was my day to win. I can only advise you all keep playing.
I know I will.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PalmSounds Pt 1

Next to the Pantone silk scarf and General Cat there are a few new additions to the notice board.
It literally took years to organise but the remnants of last weekend speak volumes for persevering with an online friendship.
I first found PalmSounds years ago, too long ago to remember. When I found out on Saturday that the blog had only been going for seven years I was actually shocked. Why? Simply because where I am now has been influenced so much by the PalmSounds blog and that time feels like at least a decade or more. I've learned so much, bought so much and created with so much that every piece of mobile music that's out there on the web that I've created should in reality carry an acknowledgement that PalmSounds had a hand in the final production.
We finally met in person last Saturday and PalmSounds had organised some activities for us. It was a revelation that someone who only knew an online persona could gauge those activities so well. We went to the Man Ray exhibition first. It was an education for me. I'd heard of Man Ray but was by no means an expert, I'm not now but I know that I'm glad I went and that I like some of his work, not all but some and that's enough.
We walked and talked and got to know each other a little better, I talked a lot, I do. We ended up sitting outside Tate Modern, not that I noticed because I was and still am in awe of the company. Eventually PalmSounds said that the next stop was inside the gallery.
Just pause.
I knew the name and the art but my head didn't match the two. It was still a surprise to walk inside the Tate and see his prints and books in the shop and feel the penny drop. You really couldn't take me anywhere better. It was an exhibition that PalmSounds wanted to see too but the fact that we both knew that this was something special despite being meatspace strangers made the whole experience more magical.
Really, how many times has that happened to you? Don't answer, but that's a first for me.
The rest of the the day is for my next post and another story altogether.
Stay tuned.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Berlin seems a long time ago.
That was my last holiday not counting bank holidays and here I am now with a full seven days to relax in. Yeah, some hope there. There are jobs aplenty to keep me occupied for the next two days at least and that includes ferrying people to the airport, giving the house a spring clean and catching up on all those little jobs that just get pushed to the maƱana pile.
Thursday will be my Flaneur's day off and even then I have to squeeze in grabbing my train tickets from the station for a trip to London at the weekend. After a couple of days in the smoke it'll be back home and collecting those that I dropped off at the airport. Following that it's back to work next Tuesday.
I'm just wondering if I'll notice my "week off", probably not. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Nothing bores me more than the idea of sitting in the sun doing nothing. I like activity, it's full of opportunity, and London in particular is looking like it'll be very exciting. That's due to the fact that its not me organising things.
When I organise things like my Flaneur's day out it always involves me starting with a greasy spoon breakfast and endless traulling of second hand bookshops, a fine lunch, more traulling then six o'clock cocktails followed by booze. It never changes. Never.
So here we go. Off into the known and unknown.
I'll try my best to give you a day by day summary.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

iOS Arranger

Previous to my last post I've been thinking.
Why hasn't the iPad got an app that emulates the workings of an arranger keyboard? What I mean by that is an app that consists of musical styles, a sound bank and a sequencer. With Chordbot and Yamaha MMS you have the basic setup but there isn't a complete app that works in the same way as an arranger keyboard.
You may well ask yourself why we would need such an app with so many good music apps with different capabilities, not to mention Audiobus to bolt the majority of them together. After all, arranger keyboards are a bit of a niche market, they're for people who "don't really play" right? To answer that last point I usually respond "who does really play?". I for one used to play a lot but my sequencing is about 90% of my music making. And a niche market? Well maybe, sort of, but just look at the videos on YouTube and you'll find all sorts of people from all over the world using arranger keyboards.
The reason they sound a bit duff sometimes no matter the technology inside is that songs are arranged and songbooks are shared over the net so there always seem to be more players than writers where the output is concerned. Having said that the online community is vast so they're doing something right.
The one thing that these keyboards have onboard is a style editor. This is where you can get creative. It's what's needed inside the iOS app along with the above mentioned attributes that would make a difference. Styles like most other types of musical inspiration are just a starting point. They're there to get you going in the right direction with the right feel, it's down to you to make the changes that make your composition unique.
I imagine that the reason the big names haven't dipped their toes into the iOS arranger pool is one of price. They'd find it difficult to shift many £500+ music apps and they're not about to undercut themselves in the hardware market. That just leaves individuals or groups of devs to come up with the goods. There's a hole in the market and someone could make a killing if they had the inclination. It'd be a big task but with the software side in place the iOS music community could provide the content. I for one would support that.
The big question is will it happen? I think it will but I couldn't give you a timeframe. My hope is that as fast as iOS music has plugged so many gaps thus far that the day of an arranger app can't be too far away.
I'm looking forward to the future.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Method Of Control


It's been said here before but I'll say it again.

Yamaha's Mobile Music Sequencer (MMS) app is a brilliant bit of mobile music making software. I'll give you today's scenario to point out why.

I decided to construct a bass sound as the basis for a new track. I opened Magellan and messed around until I was happy with the sound and that sound lead me to write a riff. To get that riff into Cubasis I opened Genome and wrote in the MIDI part. Then through Audiobus I recorded the MIDI with Magellan into Cubasis and then set about finding a chord sequence to fit with Chordbot. That done I copy/pasted the chords into a new track in Cubasis.

This is all very well but I have a reservation and that is that at this stage in the song writing process I really don't want to be messing about with a whole load of apps. What I want to do is get a chord sequence and track structure down as quick as possible. While Chordbot is genius at this I use it more on my phone to grab the inspiration while I'm on the go. I email the files to myself and use the iPad version for any final touches.

This is where the Yamaha MMS comes into its own. I can create a new pattern from scratch using a C major chord to get some rhythmic feel into the pattern. It's the same for bass and melodies. The structure of the track flies together so fast that the whole track is done in minutes not hours. The chords are simplicity itself to insert in the right places and once a pattern has a chord sequence the melody and bass follow that sequence. I'll often just put in a basic drum pattern because the remix options can change something very simple and with the addition of two remix options per pattern even more complex rhythms are now achievable. I'm not overly keen on the included sounds but they're certainly good enough to give you an idea of what the song will sound like.

The best part of MMS is that each track is a separate MIDI channel and can be assigned to individual tracks in Cubasis. It's easy enough to use the included sounds in Cubasis and then use it as an input and output in Audiobus at the same time to use other synth apps to change a sound where needed.

What all this means is that the track gets written first and fast and the messing around trying to find the right sound comes later. This for me is an efficient way of working as opposed to today's efforts of mine which resulted in some nice sounds but only 4 bars of music which for a couple of hours work wasn't very productive.

It took me a further hour to see if MMS was up to the task of building the rest of the track, which it was. The MMS manual is easy to read and I can recommend doing just that before giving the app a go. Once you know your way around you'll see why it's so easy to use.

It's my preferred sequencer for good reason. I've made the comparison between MMS and the Yamaha QY100 and with each new update the former becomes more like the latter. The song writing process is almost identical. I love my QY because of its ability to inspire then get the idea down while it's fresh and immediate. I suppose between Chordbot and MMS I have something close and in the the early stages of song creation both apps have their place.

For me it's a winning combination.