StepPolyArp for iPad controlling an Oberheim FVS from Logan Mannstrane on Vimeo.

Logan Mannstrane sends in this lovely video combining an iPad MIDI step sequencer — with an Oberheim FVS. It’s a striking intersection of analog and digital technology. But I wanted to ask Logan to explain why he’d use the iPad in this case instead of other MIDI tools — why crossing this generational gap mattered. He responds:

That fact that I can interface a synth from the 70’s to new device in 2010 is pretty amazing by iteself. I can have the sequencer in my hands and pull a chair up the window while laying back with my feet up it is very inspiring and a comfortable workflow. Also, for people that have multiple analogue synths scattered around, it is very nice to sequence the synth when you are right next to it. In a world full of DJ applications, rompler sequence programs, it sure does feel
good to have something fun and musical to try out. For a version 1 of the software, it is very neat. I heard more Midi apps are coming to the iPad in the future so this is a great beginning to wireless MIDI.

While TouchOSC is great, there are many people that want to start making music without having to spend a week of building an interface to talk with hardware and software alike. The StepPolyArp software was well thought-out and cleanly executed with a elegant interface. With Analogue synths you have instant control and feedback for designing the sound, and now you can step away from the mouse and chair to sequence. It doesn’t get better than that.

If you like the looks of this software and have an iPad, here it is:

It uses the free DS MIDI WiFi, a project born – as the name implies – on Nintendo DS. Viva open source.

There’s no question in my mind that MIDI remains lingua franca for interconnecting devices across the previous decades. Of course, that to me also suggests we need to make more progress on standardizing the way network MIDI protocols work.

Through the grapevine, I’m hearing the iOS SDK will incorporate network MIDI capabilities, but I think there are still some challenges there. Apple’s protoco,l while thoroughly standards-based and still essentially MIDI, is nonetheless for now specific to them. I’d also like to see some solid numbers on performance. New gear may want to investigate Bluetooth and not just WiFi, as Bluetooth could work nicely for embedded hardware, DIY synths, and the like. But it’s certainly an interesting time.

As a counterpoint, here’s Logan with a Pro One – no iPad in sight, just physical knobs. I think there’s something to be learned from the interaction design of each, and something unmistakably wonderful about the connection of hardware like this to sound and experience.

The infamous white faced Pro One from Logan Mannstrane on Vimeo.

For more Oberheim goodness, gaze into the glossy ads the company produced in 1981 and 1982 for Keyboard, and dream of the day when we enjoy electronic music ads again: Retro Synth Ads: Oberheim, at one of my new favorite sites.

  • Apple’s protocol is specific to them, and I’d like to see some solid numbers on performance.

    Has anyone tried to reverse-engineer the network midi protocol in Mac OS X? It might be pretty straight-forward. Maybe one of the DIY crowd could build an arduino (or equivalent) based receiver…

    New gear may want to investigate Bluetooth and not just WiFi.

    I haven't tested it myself, but I think you'll run into latency problems with bluetooth, I have vague memories of delays upwards of 50ms? I could be dead-wrong about this though.

  • Sorry, just to be clear — Apple is doing exactly what you should do. If there's no standard, make one up. What I mean is, I think additional work would need to be done for others to implement it. There's nothing particularly "closed," just as far as I know it's something someone there just kinda went and did. But that is usually how standards start. With some refinement or investigation, there may indeed be something to learn there.

    I've played with it, but beyond that, I'm ignorant — so I do bring this up just because I hope it's something we'll investigate more. (Happen to be hanging with some people in the next few days with whom I should be able to talk about it — stay tuned!)

  • Rich-o

    "MIDI over wired and wireless LANs. RTP MIDI may be used to send real-time MIDI streams over wired and wireless Local Area Networks (LANs). For example, Apple Computer uses RTP MIDI as the transport layer for the MIDI Network Driver that is included in the Mac OS X operating system."

    which also links to the spec document.

    Not sure if that's all you need or not..

  • Ah, yes, I now even remember looking at that document. Time to revisit it; thanks! I think they had to add some stuff to that — not least implementing the network MIDI driver — but it's still an interesting direction.

    Cables also have their uses, of course. 😉

  • Rich-o

    Ah yes, subsequent digging shows it's not actually all you need in order to work with the apple driver, see

    Although if you go up that thread a bit there is a chap you can contact apparently.

    Isn't there a defined standard somewhere for sending MIDI over OSC? I seem to remember reading that somewhere, but that somewhere didn't actually specify what the standard was.

  • moni

    StepPolyArp looks pretty interesting, but that patch just plain hurts my ears!

  • Ken

    I tried this at work a few minutes ago, and it seemed like the App wasn't sending all of the midi data it shows on screen, also latency seemed to be an issue. Was testing with Ableton hosting Massive and B4II (BUT) i believe this is because there is too much other wifi interference. During my next break im going to try it on a different channel, in addition to trying it at home where there is less wifi noise.

    @ Bodhi, @ Rich-o :
    We do not need to worry much longer about using Wifi OR bluetooth with our midi devices (from iphone/ipod/ipad). A look into the iOS 4.2 SDK shows that Apple will be implementing CoreMIDI (the same MIDI framework from OSX) into iOS – MEANING, class compliant USB MIDI devices should be working through the Camera Connector for the dock port, in addition to the Line6 Midi mobilizer, and iConnectivity's iConnectMIDI device ( Hopefully, we'll see USB MIDI through the dock connector cable as well.

    The awesome part about this, is developers can just implement CoreMIDI into their apps, and not have to rely on programming for specific interfaces!

    Unfortunately, I cant really live with midi over wifi, so until iOS 4.2 is out on iPad, these are all just toys 😀

  • Lochnessy

    I emailed the author two weeks back about midi mobilizer support and pointed him toasted the sdk. He eventually replied saying that this would make it into an update. You can contact him through the app store form to verify.

  • poopoo

    I can't wait for the "almost everything out of focus" trend in photography to finish. Bokeh-shmokeh

  • Mannstrane

    Rich-o: Yeah, you can send Midi over OSC, but it requires a lot of work in Logic. Apple's 9.1.2 update of Logic Pro today just added OSC support.

    "Supports iOS control surface apps that utilize the OSC protocol."

  • doodoo

    I can’t wait for the “almost everything out of focus” trend in photography to finish. Bokeh-shmokeh

    I came to post how most of the pics of videos on CDM are that same exact angel. ok, we get it, youre hipster,but surely you can use a camera to clearly display everything in the frame.

    also, whats up with the stuff thats being played? i would think, at least, if i make some sort of badass video(supposed badass) i would make a song or melody or whatever that sounds alot better that what was played. maybe it wasnt to their ability, i dunno, who knows, but goodness that stuff was just so noodly and didnt really show me much about whatever was going on in them.

    anywho, sorry about the rant, but its just silly how some of these articles come out!

  • That Pro-One is gorgeous! What a sound. Beautiful piece too.

  • The protocol Apple uses for MIDI-communication over the network on OS X and iOS 4.2 is based on the RTP-MIDI-specification mentioned before.

    My Windows-driver ( is compatible to both OS X and iOS – so apps written to use the Core MIDI api on iOS will also be able to connect to Windows based PCs.