As the iPad hits Europe and the world generally gets more time with the tablet, it continues to play host to new music software. I still have to wonder when some of its software design patterns – touch interfaces, big displays, and simplified, task-specific user experiences – will begin to influence other platforms. That is, it’s never been clear why arrays of tiny knobs were the best solution for conventional computers, either. But for those of you who have picked up an iPad and are curious what you can do with it, here are some ideas, all now “natively” optimized for the iPad’s screen resolution.

This week’s latest rash of developments includes the brilliant, generative Brian Eno / Peter Chilvers software Bloom, a new creation intended to help manage live setlists, software for displaying (though not editing) music notation, and for those of you who still prefer your more-powerful Mac soft synths and workflow, a demonstration of the iPad as a touch controller for the Mac.

Bloom is an immersive musical experience as much as a musical tool, using touches to allow the user to compose musical patterns visually, then optionally generating its own textures and tunes if left alone. Its release in 2008 heralded some of what the new generation of mobile music software would hold. On the iPad, it’s basically the same app on a bigger screen, though that alloaws for a nice solution for displaying parameters (top). Bloom HD is US$3.99. (Thanks, Peter!)

Etude is another app that’s made the leap from iPhone to iPad; the software displays a selection of pre-made scores on the device, with support for audio playback, display, and even visual feedback for those learning notation. (Image above from the iPhone; no iPad image yet.) The rendering looks lovely, but it is pre-rendered – you can’t edit notation with Etude, and you’re limited to viewing one of a few hundred free scores available. At US$4.99, it’s still well worth a look, but that leaves a big gap open for a more fully-featured tool. I’m curious to hear if anyone tries one of the browser notation tools mentioned here previously in Mobile Safari, which would enable editing and sharing. Check out Etude and scores available for it on the developer site.

Setlists is a free application for organizing sets, lyrics, and the likes for a gig – a feature previously seen in tools like the Mac app Rax, but welcome on the iPad, and a compelling bridge to non-electronic bands, too. Creator Jeff tells us:

It’s a Setlist app that lets musicians manage their sets and songs. You can even email the setlists to your bandmates. I have plans to soon include the ability to record the audio from the set, organize recordings, and do some other clever stuff. Most importantly it’s totally free 🙂

Full details on the developer site; Jeff tells us there’s more to come.

Audio Palette by interactive audio whiz Kent Jolly (EA’s game Spore, with Brian Eno) is a fantastic, visual loop app which is now available for botouh iPhone and iPad. If you love Brian Eno’s sounds in Bloom, you get even more custom Eno samples in this tool, among others, but with greater interactive control. Via a graphical array of circles, you can trigger loop playback and perform a live mix. The new release now allows you to upload samples wirelessly via the Web, and the iPad brings greater sample capacity along with the greater UI real estate. This tool actually deserves some separate time on its own; check out the demo above, visit the developer’s site, and let us know if you create some interesting mixes of your own.

Lastly, in an example that’s only really practical on the iPad, watch what happens when familiar soft synths get touch-enabled using the iPad’s screen. It stilwel makes me long for more competent touch laptops and full-blown tablets, but in the meantime, the solution works pretty well. Not only does it mean the iPad does touc shh for the UI, but you can easily place the interface of a soft synth atop a music stand by your keyboard, instead of having to hunch over your computer. And the one takeaway above all others should be: developers, design UIs that are scalable and that can support touch.

That’s all for now, but let us know if you’ve found applications that make you productive. I’m also interested to hear reactions on the design of software for iPad versus iPhone. To me, just as there are certain clear examples that work better on larger screen real estate, there’s also a particular pleasure to something you can hold in the palm of your hand, which is not the case with iPad. Whatever your platform of choice, though, scale and interaction design matter – the iPad ought to be an excellent reminder of that.

  • Can't wait to get my hands on an iPad. Am enjoying BleepBox, Jasuto Pro, Aurora, and SunVox on my iPod Touch but the bigger screen on the iPad will make things so much more… comfortable.

    It seems to me that we are with iPad where we were 10 years ago with music making programmes on home computers. I can't wait to see how this new 'mobile' technology develops as new generations of iPads – and other touchscreen devices – get more powerful.

    I know a lot of people hate the iPad, seemingly becuase they hate Apple on principle. But I'm starting to think this is just snobbery. There are some apps out there that are deceptively capable apps out there – like any musical device, it's how you use them that counts.

  • oh shhhhhiiiii …. good lord. That last one is a game changer

  • SJ

    Check this website out for free gadgets or iPad –

  • Jeff Brown

    I just ordered a 32 GB iPad with 3G, a case and a keyboard dock. It ran me $887. I'm hoping to sell it without taking much of a loss once other companies put out more open platforms. I could almost see spending $500 for the last function alone. But not $900. Yeesh.

  • Josh

    TouchOSC with live control (Available from is amazing for ableton live. You covered touchOSC with your last app roundup, but I think live control would really let people see what you can do with it.

  • "I know a lot of people hate the iPad, seemingly becuase they hate Apple on principle. But I’m starting to think this is just snobbery."

    Pot meet Kettle.

  • Josh

    http://live for a URL without that end parenthasis in it.

  • @ Aaron – I should have explained better what I mean. Because I get that Apple fanboys are snobby too.

    What I meant was that a lot of people are dismissing iPad music apps as 'toys' and nothing that can rival their 'pro', mega-expensive, mega-multi-core Mac/PC studio set-ups.

    I know the iPad will never completely replace – say – Ableton Live or Logic etc. But what I meant by snobbery, in this context, is people are dismissing the iPad for making music as the apps are 'simple', compared to DAWs and plug-ins etc.

  • lematt

    i'm fond of the big technological jump the ipad is starting.
    i love apple products, and since i've started to use apple stuff, i wouldn't go back on another environment.
    but still, nothing will make an Ipad based performance look less boring than a laptop one… 🙂

    that's the point.

    it's still a cool toy to use, and a nice controller, but it doesn't have enough power in its guts to do anything serious (i prefer a Machinedrum, but it's personnal)

  • martin wheeler

    > Leon Tricker
    "I know the iPad will never completely replace – say – Ableton Live or Logic etc"

    Never is a long time.

    An iPad won't ever replace Ableton because the iPad is a device, and Ableton is software that runs on devices, but I would be less surprised to see Ableton 12 (or something similar) running on iPadPro XL (or something similar) than i would NOT to see it.

    Multitouch is jjust MADE for controlling devices like softsynths, faders etc … when the tablet CPUs get fast enough to run a Logic or a Live (and thats not anytime soon, but still inevitable) and the latency gets low enough and touch accuracy gets god enough (very probably much sooner) then IMHO mixing/ tweaking / soundsculpting with a mouse is going to get very old very fast …

    I imagine virtual studios becoming collections of multiple multitouch devices of different sizes and shapes for different gesture types, all throwing OSC & audio around on a very fast network.
    after a point, where the CPUs are, and where the media that is being recorded onto i,s become just details, its all about the software, the GUIs and the degree of playabilty that they provide …

    but i like guitars too 😉

  • Actually, the reasons an iPad (or Android, or iPhone, or WebOS, or some other device) isn't equivalent to a laptop I think are subtle but non-trivial.

    Throw out the obvious performance difference — even with a $500 laptop as the comparison. You still don't get:
    * A full range of hardware I/O support
    * Real-time-style timing features
    * Low-latency audio capability
    * File management

    The thing is, even when the end user isn't aware of these things, they can be really, really important. The fact that we take them for granted only proves the rule.

    Interesting side note, however: because Android (and Symbian, and generically Linux) are open-source operating systems, it could be possible to do a custom distro of one of those systems that restores these features, thus making it easier to develop for this kind of hardware when you do want "pro"-style apps.

    This isn't to say you can't make music on the iPad; you absolutely can. But it's a subset of what the desktop apps provide. In fact, I think it's the fact that it is a subset of those capabilities, and that it's giving developers fresh perspectives on everything from UI design to what app they should make (setlists!) that's cool.

    Oh, and I don't think the iPad control feature is a "game changer" yet because to make this really work, you'd want a) better touch-ready UIs in software and b) touch right on your laptop.

  • Audio palette seems nice, reminds me of Audiomulch's Metasurface. Think I'll check that one out, been awhile since I picked up a new app..

  • you can just see from the cramped hand of the guy in the last video that the current gui's are made for mouse, not for touch. it's all too small to be really comfortable.

    an ideal version of the last app would be where any plugin you select turns up immediately on your tablet in a special, touch-ready gui. (although that means developers would need to make 2 gui's for every plugin.)

  • Jeff Brown

    I'm assuming/hoping strenuously that, if it's not in the current version, future versions of that last app will soon let you zoom in on the image.

  • Machines

    I'm still waiting for Midipad. Thought it was coming end of May but nothing yet. There site shows the new color scheme, but not even a hint of a release date.

  • josh

    @machines livecontrol is a pretty good filler for it, but I'm having a bit of trouble with it.

  • Maybe it's just me, and maybe iPod apps (and an iPad when I get one) just fit my current approach to making music. But I don't see the lack of audio I/O or the lack of 'power' etc as issues – and even if they are for you, I reckon these will be addressed in the coming months and years.

    But then I don't need to record a full band, and I'm not writing club or chart tunes. Horses for courses and all that.

    I have a laptop stuffed to the gills with software and various MIDI controllers lying around. But what have I used more than anything over the last year? That's right – the Korg DS-10!

    > martin wheeler
    "I would be less surprised to see Ableton 12 (or something similar) running on iPadPro XL (or something similar) than i would NOT to see it."

    I agree, and I would welcome this. Because a version of Live geared towards the iPad would probably be a stable, focussed, applictaion rather than the bloated, trying-to-be-all-things-to-all-people, software it has become in recent years.

  • Favomodo

    Using Air Display for controlling the Record SSL mixer seems pretty awesome. It's better than the app AC-7 Pro Control Surface, because it shows the exact Record SSL interface, including easy scrolling on the iPad… sounds to good to be true. Probably the performance of Air Display (seems lagging a lot) is the major drawback.

    Oh well, I hope Propellerhead is delivering a Remote app for Record soon (now that they jumped the App Store boat, this is a small step).

  • Using the iPad as a highly interactive thin client makes a lot of sense. To complement this someone could make a thin peripheral box, a headless rack mount that just lets you plug in your favorite legacy MIDI and firewire and USB (and SCSI.. etc) devices with some kind of standardized control language like OSC directing the data streams. Then the superfast brainy computer – probably a cluster of them floating around in "The Cloud" – can do the real processing. This would be a kind of hardware implementation of the "MVC" pattern often used for organizing object functions in software.
    It's astoundingly liberating to NOT have to have a keyboard and mouse around, and in the case of the iPad, size makes a big difference.

  • @Peter
    I think it's a "game changer" because:

    A) you can extend your desktop to the iPad (sort of "meh", right?)

    B) the iPad implements touch on the extended desktop (whaaa??)

    right. THAT's the game changer. You can now control your more powerful desktop from the iPad, and you don't even have to code anything new for the iPad, or get it in the app store or any of that jazz.

    This has implications far beyond just music software. But in terms of music software, it's JUST what I've been waiting for.

    @lematt says there's nothing about an iPad based performance that would be better than a laptop based one, but I disagree. Not having the screen erected as a barrier between you and the audience is really huge, both physically and psychologically.

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  • btw… is it just me or are people forgetting about the USB/Touch MIMO monitors that came out last year? They are actual desktop extensions and not remote desktop. Also, they suffer from the same issues that the iPad would when used in this context, VST UIs are not (for the most part) designed for Touch.

  • Jeff Brown

    I like that Ableton tries to cover everything. And the fact that it appeals to so many different user types means they can afford to hire more programmers — it's not clear to me that the program would be any better at the things it focused on, if it ditched a lot of features.

  • Let's not get carried away here. I'm a big fan of what these mobile devices provide, and of the kinds of software that can result from their very challenges. But let's be clear — if you're using a remote desktop to control a desktop, it's a step backwards in refresh rate and latency, period. And I think the issue with software like Ableton Live is that user expectations in terms of performance and breadth are part of what have led to their complexity. It isn't simply a matter of waiting for a bigger, better iPad, because the iPad – and all these mobile systems – make sacrifices when it comes to some of the obscure system hooks that allow for real-time performance. For instance, it's possible to get low-latency priorities on desktop operating systems in ways that are simply missing on mobile devices by design. Yes, simpler software is better for some use cases. Yes, people may find that they don't *need* all that complexity. Yes, software that costs $10 or $2 might well be more productive, partly because the developer doesn't feel motivated to stuff it with features to justify a $300 price.

    But I think people are grossly underestimating some of the requirements of your desktop software – especially given how often I hear the phrase "low latency."

    Also, I'm sorry, but the phrase for having to buy an iPad with remote desktop software just to use Mac software that isn't designed for touch is "kludge." It's a cool kludge, but it's a kludge. (Cool kludge == "hack"?) No one is shipping a computer screen with the quality of an iPad right now for multi-touch, but the moment someone does, that could count as new — and even then, only if people make software to take advantage of it.

  • dyscode

    …within the next 12 months the TouchBook will be due anyway and will make todays working techniques REALLY look OLD.

    …And lot of new dhermal-injuries will pop up.
    Mouse-Finger and Handset-Thumb are just the beginning 😉

  • With this Air Display it is possible to use three monitors? Principal ,air display (left per example) vga (right)?

    That will be nice for vj-ing

  • @ Peter Kirn

    I'm not underestimating the requirements of desktop software, I'm saying that I don't need the 'power' that everyone else thinks they need.

    Give me something that can generate square/sine/saw waves; some filters; an EQ; and a delay… and I'll make you some music.

  • @Leon: Oh, yeah, no argument there — I think that it's very possible that some of the details I mention above and the kinds of functionality in those apps *aren't* actually things you need all the time. For the same reason, I wonder if we won't see apps that start to target narrower areas of interest on desktops, too, whether commercial or free/DIY projects.

  • martin wheeler

    There is no doubt that, – right now – the iPad and other 'mobile devices' are some way away from having the capabilities that desktop and laptop computers have for making music.

    But equally, – right now – , given that desktop & laptop computers currently don't have multitouch touchscreens, they are also at this point some way away from having the capability of a V 1.0 iPad for making music …

    so, to say that iPad apps are capable of a "subset" of what desktop apps can do is without a doubt true, but if you consider, as I do, the user interface / playing surface of software instruments to be crucial to their 'worth' , then desktop apps are at present clearly capable of only a subset of what multitouch based apps are capable of.

    So, yes, lets not get carried away here, it is just one of the first steps down a fairly new road, and I think we can all agree that desktop software that was built for a mouse, then ported / kludged to an iPad, is unlikely to be the ultimate expression of that interface's power for music making …

    but I find it hard to believe that anyone who has experienced multitouch control of softsynths, FX etc, even in its current latency riddled, kludgy, half-hearted form can really imagine that in the future they will want to use a damn mouse for this sort of thing … ????

  • @Martin: right, exactly. That's why I'm still surprised that in nearly six years of CDM, only Usine and FAW's Circle synth seem to have considered touch input in their design, of the major products (readers have been more far-sighted).

    It also seems inevitable that, if these things are proving desirable, the PC architecture will naturally want to make use of them. Why shouldn't these lessons be applied to PCs? One of the things I said when I reviewed the Lemur a few years ago for Keyboard was that I thought it'd be more natural for the display to converge with touch. I'm surprised, honestly, that it continues to take so long. The few offerings this year have been few and far between, most are limited to two touches, and a disturbing number don't even respond accurately. I think it'll get fixed, and I think the inspiration of the iPad will help enormously. Unfortunately, I think musicians are also much more sensitive to how this should work than the hardware folks.

    Of course, that's just one issue. I still like tactile control – so it's time for tactile control to evolve, just as one example. I'd hope we see, generally, good ideas spread and evolve regardless of platform.

  • josh

    Great suggestion on audio palette by the way. I originally just heard a bunch of really loud annoying synths and didn't really get what was going on, but after I loaded a few of my own (crudely cut) samples I can definitely see this going into a live set.


    Imagine where this technology could be in 5 years…

  • Esol Esek

    $900 for an ipad when you get a V2 Lemur for twice that with a billion times more functionality? No comparison.

  • HEXnibble

    @Esol Esek: Sorry to burst your bubble but the iPad is $500 whereas a Lemur costs four times more. And it's the iPad that has "billion times more functionality".

  • I’d be inclined to acknowledge with you here. Which is not something I typically do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!



    Building Inspector

  • Bymnmine

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