For centuries, music has had scores as visual representation. Now it has visual interfaces in software, too. I know from our in-progress platform survey that most of you don’t own an iPad. (At the moment, I’m with you.) But that makes me doubly hopeful that what we get in music software design in general is a renewed interest in visual culture and interface design.

Loopseque is a new, US$4.99 circular-sequencing music app, and it conveys what happens when you really build an interface entirely around touch. It’s also a gorgeous example of why doing a good job of documenting your software can help convey its significance. (The photos this crew has assembled are beautiful. And why not? We have plenty of photos fetishizing analog gear. It’s about time software got its turn. Ask a photography stylist why it’s important some time.)

Even in its first release, Loopseque looks like a usable app. It’s a 32-step circle sequencer at its heart (note how efficient the circle is versus the rectangle). In the demo video seen here, this is kept pretty simple, but each of the four “channels” can have 9 wheels. (There’s an expandable “matrix” of wheels in which you can swap between them, in addition to the simple 4-channel swapping you see in the video.) The first release comes with a variety of sound sets for different genres.

The developers are a group of musicians and artists whose past work goes well beyond apps, into, they say, everything from events to ceramics to Yorkshire terrier breeding.

It’s actually the coming versions that I think may be most useful musically; an upcoming release promises user sample sets and track recording, so you can really make this your own. (They also tease something called “master classes.”)

For now, you can save and manage projects, mute and enable channels, and play around with the variety of included sample sets. And… does anyone else hear the words “Death Star Approaching” when you look at this interface, or is that just me?

I have a fascination with circles; I’ve personally even played around with various circular sequencer prototypes as Processing sketches, including a couple that looked a bit like this. So I was very interested to see how this team solved some of those design problems, and how they felt about circular sequencing in general. Loopseque replies to CDM:

An early conceptual sketch for the app. The developers appear to have moved from paper and pen to Mac visualization and experimentation to the finished software.

Many genres of electronic music are based on loops, repeating sequences of sounds. The basic idea behind Loopseque is to visualize loops with circles, because a circle perfectly reflects the repeating structure of loop music. After we realized this simple thing, we spent many months experimenting with form and code.

Soon we realized that this visualization opens up really powerful perception of music patterns, and enables immensely deep connection between the musician and the structure of the music. In fact, this simple interface makes it so easy to create rhythm patterns that you can do real-time while music plays and that gives you many abilities for improvisation.

Another concept behind Loopseque is the ability to quickly change between patterns, which is implemented with innovative interface that we call “Wheel Matrix”. It’s also easy: First you prepare several patterns for each instrument and then, in Wheel Matrix mode, you can switch quickly between them.

Wheel Matrix opens up another new dimension for improvisation, because patterns are changed immediately, and that gives you an ability to combine different parts of patterns in many ways. And of course, you can change patterns on different channels simultaneously, since Loopseque is a very multi-touch friendly app!

I will say – back to the fact that this isn’t just about the iPad – there are a couple of lessons here. With more touch platforms approaching from various vendors, designing around touch is essential. And if you are creating new software, going to the time to document it is more than good PR. It’s a way to reflect on the aesthetic of the object you’ve created. For the same reason that a piano or violin is a beautiful object, sometimes in ways that aren’t directly acoustical, why shouldn’t we make the visual representation of our music evocative?
iTunes link

All images courtesy Casual Underground.

  • nue

    looks nice,but no put your own samples 🙁 well i hope in the next upgrade.

  • Daryl

    I'm definitely buying this. It looks awesome, easy to use, simple to demonstrate, and really shows off iPad's touch interface as an interesting platform for future development. $5? That's a steal!

  • mat

    I always liked the idea of circuit sequencing. And they have done a really stylish and ergonomic interface…
    Well, I ask myself what do they mean with "sync" on their page. Sync with another Ipad? Or can it send or receive a Midiclock?? (which is really rare on all that Ipad apps)

  • Machines

    I've got my iPad loaded up with great music apps and this will get added to the collection. The issue still remains of an elegant way to get any of this stuff into my DAW of choice (Logic). Maybe there is a way and I'm just to dense to figure it out. Working with a MOTU Ultralite as my interface. I hear the camera kit does cool things for audio folks, but don't know the first thing about it.

  • this looks so awesome!!

    I'm not getting an iPad anytime soon, but this is the first thing I've seen that induces any desire in me for one.

    Also, the circle-based UI for loops seems to work reallly well with touch. Imagining that UI in a mouse environment is a totally different beast, and not nearly as appealing.

    These guys seem to have some great stuff going on…their aesthetic choices seem not only pretty, but meaningful.

  • Pier

    The developpers just confirmed me that OSC support is coming soon!

  • Installing now… at first on the iPhone the music apps were a novelty. Cool but not fun/useful enough. Each day I'm using my iPad plugged into Ableton more and more. I wonder how long until I stop needing to plug-it in at all…

  • resist

    looks interesting.if they added sample import id be sold

  • Does this work on the iPhone?

  • Michael

    Definitely one of the cooler apps I seen so far, if this continues I may get an iPad sooner than I imagined. Sample support would rally make this rock, I love the interface.

  • YETI

    personaly, i'd like mto be able to see more off the sequences, like maybe have the screen cut into 4ths and have all of them show up there to be chosen, or just some other way to not have to scroll to get to any far reaching sequences.

    otherwise, this looks like a good reason to buy an iPad. :O

  • YETI

    i just read the words you wrote, and i see my request is already there. D:

  • Glad to see your interest and endorsement, friends.

    mat, "sync" function resets cursor, and music starts playing from the beginning of loop, which is located on top of wheel. Just press it several times and watch what happens to cursor.

    You can press "sync" simultaneously on 2 iPads (assuming that you have set the same bpm) to make them play together, or you can sync with up beat if you want to accompany to your music tracks.

    We're working on more support articles on this topic.

    Nick B, iPhone version is under development.

  • mat

    Hey Casual Team,

    thanks for your response.
    Well, I guess what you describe is normally called "reset". And pressing it manually parallel on 2 Ipads does not mean sync…I mean, in that case it is me who syncs, not the machine.

    Anyway – your app seems great.

    And that sync problem is a common Ipad-problem.
    (I think it is technically based on the poor/slow bidirectional communication of the Ipad…hey, this tool was never ment this way…and I wonder that this is not a topic in all that music blogs, full of Ipad apps these days)

  • Martin

    This is the beginning of a very nice app. ive been playing around with it for a few hours now, can't seem to see anyway of balancing volume levels between the four tracks … Am i missing something there ?

    For the moment it is a very pretty and very entertaining little toy, but with a seperate app to prepare samplesets and an intelligently implemented bar/cycle based record capability, it would become a really useful application. looking forward to how it develops.

    There are many very promising iPad Apps coming out …. Soundthngie is wonderful. Be interesting to see how that develos too …
    > Peter : it might soon be time to do another iPad round up, things are heating up fast in CDM-iPad land ….

  • Martin

    Sorry, I meant SoundyThingie …well with a name like that …!!!!

  • Nice GUI! But function-wise the demo leaves out a lot. For example; what about using different lengths on the four sequencers? That's fundamental for any rhythm oriented music.

  • lots of potential. Add importing and exporting samples plus different sequencer lengths and this will be a must buy for iPad musicians.

  • Bart

    Making electronic music is what wanted to do for a long time. I tried many setups but it is really difficult. Loopseque is not only a great example how to do a touch interface, it also teaches you how to create a good groove. That alone is worth a ton.

    This app will make some noise in the dance music scene