The most valuable tech is tech that lasts. And so, combining MIDI (I love the 80s!) with the iPad can make it useful as part of a “studio” setup, not just a replacement for other gear. Here’s the iPad step sequencing our MeeBlip open source synth – no need to give up knobs and tangible gear.

Music making requires going beyond novelty or shiny gear lust and getting into how to make a technology expressive. Whether a camera or a synthesizer, you have to find a way to make a tool your own, and how to make it live with the other objects with which you create.

Working with Tekserve, the landmark independent Apple sales and service shop in Manhattan, CDM is co-hosting an event to dive into just that question. It’s called the “Future of Music,” because Tekserve has been running that series for a while. But it’s really about the present of music – perhaps your own musical future. It’s not about the iPad as the solution to everything; on the contrary, it’s about figuring out what an iPad really is, and how you can combine it with other music tools.

We’ve assembled a handful of people to play live and discuss, and I’m curious to meet some of the Tekserve audience. Since the vast majority of you can’t make it to Manhattan, we’ll of course follow up with video and more resources here on CDM.

The lineup:

Harry Allen is moderating; Harry’s a veteran of Public Enemy, a journalist (The Village Voice, The Source), hip-hop activist and Media Assassin, Chuck D collaborator and WBAI host. He’s been a voice on everything from video game architectural design to hip-hop history, and I’m sure he’ll ask us some challenging questions.

Oliver Chesler, a really accomplished musician as “The Horrorist,” and writer of the excellent Wire to the Ear, perhaps best represents the app lifestyle. Oliver embraces the simplicity of iOS apps as quick ways of experimenting with sound and ideas, and he’ll use a variety of apps – from sound generation to sketchpad recording – in his working method.

Steve Horelick has been a prolific film, TV, and game composer on everything from Reading Rainbow to HBO, but he also plays live, algorithmic soundscapes. Steve works with the iPad as part of a larger workflow, still heavily relying on his computer and extensive, wild customization of the Logic Environment for generative musical structures. He’s a collaborator with Jordan Rudess and tells us he’ll be playing with Morphwiz and iPad touch control, and we’ll even get a ZenDrum.

Joshue Ott, developer of Thicket, has made the iPad (and iPhone) art platforms, hanging them in galleries, making interactive apps (with Morgan Packard), and using them with his existing computer (and computer GPU) sets in SuperDraw. He also represents the latest generation of audiovisual digital work, owing roots to the early demo scene and experiments in generative audiovisuals that now span several decades. (See our previous interview.)

For my part, I’ll be talking about ways in which the iPad can coexist with traditional hardware. To me, touchscreens don’t work for everything, but the iPad can act as a slim, touchable computer, interconnected via MIDI and wireless with conventional gear. It can, ironically, get you closer to using hardware by getting you away from the computer. I’ll show some solutions for MIDI, even via wired MIDI.

We’re not looking to advertise anything. (Good thing, too, as none of us is getting paid!) Tekserve is not Apple; they’re an independent-minded mecca for Apple tech that’s been in the city since the late 80s, and they’ve seen plenty of trends come and go. And we’re not iPad advocates – we’re musicians first. So, if you want a glimpse into the future, the best way to talk about it is to see how people are actually making music, and to focus on the practical and pragmatic solutions to expressing the music in our imagination.

Just as no synth, no drum machine, no laptop is for everyone, neither is the iPad. But I look forward to sharing ways in which you can make expressive use of this new tech with these other folks, and hope we can offer some information that will help make those interested more productive.

When: Thursday, February 3
Where: Tekserve, 119 23rd St. at 6th Ave. NYC (and here on the Web shortly after for everyone else)
How much: Free, including refreshments.

Register in advance for the NYC event, or stay tuned into CDM!

  • loopstationzebra


    I wonder if this group will address the appalling lack of full MIDI functionality in all iPad instrument apps except for one – Molten?

    And the app shown in the photo?  It doesn't even have MIDI clock sync, lol.  Let's recap, shall we?

    Number of synth apps that incorporate clock sync = 0

    Number of sequencer apps that incorporate clock sync = 0

    Number of noise generators (like MorphWiz) that incorporate clock sync = 0

    Number of non keyboard instrument apps that have tempo based FX that incorporate clock sync = 0

    Number of drum machine apps that incorporate clock sync = 1


    But by all means let's get a panel together to talk about how awesome the state of tablet music making is…  

    Chances of the panel being critical in any way of developers and the lack of full MIDI functionality = 0

  • We developed the Kore Series at to accessible on any hand held device. We have many students on campus using the i-Pad in their music learning process – accessing our material, listening to the musical examples and opening printed music via finale-reader. When Mac gets the flash non-sense ironed out, they will also be able to run the quizzes and videos – all from the iPad on a music stand – great stuff!

  • Derek D

    Awesome, I'm going to be in NYC next week while my fiancée is on business, I should be able to come to this. Looking forward to it!

  • Peter Kirn

    @loopstationzebra: Well, I've never seen anyone troll about MIDI clock, so you get to be the first. 😉

    Transmitting clock events is easy. So you're right, there's no reason not to do it. Receiving is a bit trickier, but it makes sense for a sequencer to transmit.

    Chances we'll be critical? 100%. It's not a sales event. There are things the iPad does well, and things it doesn't. There are things it could do better. I've certainly been critical of shortcomings in both iOS and Android on this site, so you might want to work on your odds-making skills. 😉

  • @loopsation

    Yeah. Molten is great! I too am Appalled. But I've decided to take matters into my own hands. Can anyone suggest a book or online resources for learning iOS app development for someone who has no experience with C?

  • Peter Kirn

    @eugene: We wound up focusing on performance, but I remain interested in notation as an application. That Fake Book alone could sure be handy to have. And it makes sense to me that we should see new browser notation applications, with lots more tablets running different OSes coming out but all with capable mobile browsers. It's really practical for the first time to have a browser on your music stand. (Boy, that does mean you want fullscreen mode, though, cough, Apple.)

  • Peter Kirn

    The author of Molten, by the way, is on the Noisepages forums.

    Here's how to ask for a feature:
    1. Ask nicely.
    2. Be very explicit about *why* you want a feature. Don't assume it's self-evident. Give a use case scenario.
    3. If you know others with the same need, encourage them to do the same, following steps 1, 2, and 3.

  • loopstationzebra

    I've had numerous emails with developers and have been on their forums. Peter at One Red Dog is but one example.

    I've been courteous and polite for the most part, but then I just got pissed, lol.

  • loopstationzebra

    And I AM the only IDIOT that seems to rant about this continuously, lol.

    The point of all this, really, is that you've got the iPad and it's viability as a real instrument. But you've got ALL synth apps, ALL sequencer apps, ALL drum machine apps, and quite a few instrument apps that are tempo dependent. It's not difficult to understand the absolute need for clock sync implementation.

    If you want to incorporate one of those apps into a live or studio situation and have it working with your DAW, you are out of luck. If you even want to connect 2 or more iPads via a hub or network connection, and you are using anything that relies on tempo, you are out of luck. Many of these apps don't even have a tap tempo feature.

    To those that want to make excuses as to why developers haven't incorporated full MIDI – including sync: From what I understand the coding implementation is rather straightforward and not very time consuming at all. If ONE guy at One Red Dog can do it for Molten, what's the issue here? The issue is one of understanding on the part of developers. They are still very much in the mindset of "the iPad and iPhone and Android is a great little sketch tool and my app will be a lot of fun". THEY aren't even aware of the potential, lol. One only needs look at the sheer power of an app like the iMS-20 to realize – holy shit! This thing has real potential to replace the time honoured hardware and plugin market.

    Incidently, Korg only offers MIDI recieve for the iMS-20.

    Jesus Wept.

    As I just posted over at Let me close with this: If we were talking about hardware or plugins, there would be absolutely NO QUESTION that there would be fulll MIDI support – regardless of how long it would take to implement or the cost. It's VITAL. Why in the world, if this is to be a legitimate and serious platform to create music, would apps be any different?

  • loopstationzebra

    And thanks, Peter. I know I give you a lot of grief but I do value your site and what you do. I only wish you'd do a story on this….maybe as a follow up to the conference?

  • Miguel Marcos

    I hope the session will be recorded on video and made available for those of us geographically displaced from the Center of the Universe which NYC is! In all seriousness, it would be cool to be able to see the video of the event online.

  • @loopstation

    It's not impossible to use the iPad with a daw. Here's a track I made using iElectribe for the drums:

    You just have to record the iPad part first then set the click to it. All the other instruments were played live. Of course without midi sync there are still lots of limitations…especially in a live setting. But things are possible.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, two big possibilities on the MIDI sync thing:

    1. Developers don't see it as a priority, which is often a lack of clear communication from users (see above). Remember, developers invariably lack the amount of time they need to implement features *they* want or think something needs.

    2. They don't know how. Also possible. 

    On both, maybe we can post some MIDI clock code snippets, actually.

    But I'd stress, I think iOS has probably been overrated as a money-making platform for music developers. As with computers, plug-ins, and hardware, it's more of a labor of love. I'm sure someone out there is making money, but most of them are getting a pretty small chunk of change for the time investment. It's the nature of doing niche music software. That's the impression I get as I talk to developers, at least, and it wouldn't be news given the history of the field.

  • If we were into making lots of money we wouldn't be musicians.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, *business* in general tends to be a labor of love; that's what no one tells you. 😉 Doesn't mean it isn't a real business, or that you don't see income.

    But I think this does temper the amount of time developers have. The more they make, the more they're likely to invest that as time and resources back into a project. And so music developers are constantly running up against limited resources.

  • "Developers don’t see it as a priority, which is often a lack of clear communication from users"

    I've also been surprised it has taken this long for MIDI implementation trickle into iOS apps.  I guess now that full CoreMIDI is built in, we'll start to see more devs getting on board, including clock sync. I really think though that many app developers are not fully aware of what iOS devices will be capable of with full MIDI implementation. 

  • Ivan

    There is a thing I really like about the iPad and all the buzz around it : the fact that developers begin to have fun developing music software with innovative interfaces. And musicians have fun using them too.

  • Well, I'm the dev who made that Little MIDI Machine sequencer. It doesn't have clock sync because the Line 6 Mobilizer SDK didn't support clock sync when I released the app, and Core MIDI wasn't released yet. I'll be adding clock sync to new apps, and updating older ones, but Core MIDI only came out a couple months ago. Line 6 just started supporting clock sync for their API this week.

    I released that sequencer app for free, by the way, because I couldn't get it to support clock sync.

    Anyway, MIDI clock sync will be coming from devs, there are currently no code examples about how to do it, Core MIDI is new and it's only been out a couple months.

  • @Ivan: I'm also a fan of the fact it's popularised the tablet and multitouch. I'm hoping it's not just confined to mobile OSes in the next couple of years.

  • loopstationzebra

    At this point it would be great to hear from Peter at One Red Dog – the creator of Molten. He clearly had no trouble implementing clock sync, and actually did it very soon after IOS4 was released.
    He was also, I believe, the first dev to implement wifi CoreMIDI – which an astounding number of devs still don't support.

    Look, I get that some devs just don't have the time or whatever. But KORG? F#$king KORG???? WTF?

    I dunno. Maybe I wouldn't be so pissed if several app developers hadn't used the word PROFESSIONAL in their app descriptions a dozen times over. PROFESSIONAL GRADE!*

    *midi support not included.


  • loopstationzebra

    @Charlie, cool track.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, *again*:
    * limited time
    * unclear market need
    * Core MIDI features just announced – without documentation
    * big backlog of stuff you might want to do

    Not sure why this is so incredible. The issue is, mobile platforms are these big, moving targets, as opposed to the predictable known quantities and development requirements of Windows and Mac.

    I'm sure we'll see it with time. But I can also tell you, you have to ask gently if you don't want developers to get defensive and this is something you want!

  • loopstationzebra

    @Peter. The difference here is that you find it acceptable, even understandable, that MIDI implemention isn't nearly up to snuff.

    And you keep putting the responsibility on my shoulders (or other app users) to ask for these most basic of features. wtf? YOU have a website in which you PROFESS to care about all things DIGITAL.

    You have story after story about iDevices and apps and whatnot, but yet you utterly REFUSE to openly and publically even address this issue? You're the journalist. How's about YOU asking some hard questions of the developers. I don't want to read your unsubstantiated claims and suppositions in these comment areas. I want to see you actually interviewing 3 or 4 people and getting it straight from the horse's mouth – on record.

    What bothers me as much as you not diving into this issue is the fact that YOU don't even want to acknowledge the need, lol. Jesus. I mean, you kind of come across as this impartial 3rd party but EVERYTHING about your site indicates that you are a CHEERLEADER for all things digital in music making.

    BE THAT CHEERLEADER, Peter. Be. That. Cheerleader.

    WTF? The iPad and tablets in general are the absolute biggest thing to hit the music industry in forever and a day. What? You think some goofy new ribbon controller or monome device is more newsworthy than why – nearly 3 months after launch – MIDI has barely been implemented in iDevice or Droid apps?

    Be. That. Cheerleader. For me. For you. For the Children of Tomorrow.

  • loopstationzebra

    Oh hell. That's it. I'm going to BUY and every story is going to be about the iPad and apps and MIDI, lol.

  • mat

    @ loopstationzebra… I "troll" with you… as I mentioned the lack of bidirectional communication in most iPad apps in other articels…especially sync.
    @ peter (and all) I do not think that developers arent aware of the need of sync. It is just a question which users you have in mind… for getting "music fun" with little apps you do not need sync. And this customer group is much bigger than professionals. Unfortunately – IMHO – CDM and other blogs failed to make even the difference clear between those "music fun" apps and serious controllers. And users are not always aware. (so again loopstation: strike!)
    Well, as I build StepSequencers for the Lemur (see my page), I also have to state that sync is not always easy. Especially if you want perfect sync. E.g. Abletons clock (used as master) is really bad, Cubase clock is better, but in the end I had to build my own clock in max using that as master and Ableton as slave to get a usefull result. Furthermore with clock settings there comes a potential hazard into game that need more support for users: Now you have your app, your DAW, maybe hardware and midiports …this is not plug and play! Is this something that apple will allow in their appstore? And if support is needed, will it work to sell apps for 10$? And I still rise the question if the Ipad is fast enough for bidirectional communication? (The last version of my sequencomat has about 1500values each pattern, handled in realtime, max lag: 2 msec)
    Dont get me wrong – the Ipad is great. But there is still a long way to go. All the best for your meeting, wish I could be there 🙂

  • Jon

    I'll be there!
    Hopefully there won't be a bunch of people bitching at the panelists about MIDI.

  • loopstationzebra

    @Jon, why WOULDN"T people bitch about MIDI?

    I totally and completely fail to see how you can have ANY sort of meaningful discussion about the iPad or the tablet's current state of affairs as it relates to music WITHOUT discussing the crap state of MIDI. And here's a Revelation: How about not only addressing the issue, but offering ways or suggestions about how to IMPROVE the situation. lol.

    To that end, I've invited Peter from One Red Dog – creator of Molten – to visit this thread (or respond in the thread I've started at his forum). Again, so far he remains the ONLY dev who's implemented full MIDI – and very quickly after IOS4 was released.

    I've posted a request at his forum. You can read it here:…

  • @Peter – wow…you guys are hashing out some serious stuff here. It's great to witness everyone being as passionate about this as we are about using this technology in music education. Peter – you are spot on in saying "It’s really practical for the first time to have a browser on your music stand". More and more learners are expecting this to occur and I imagine that developers will figure it all out in the near future…much to the chagrin of print music publishers everywhere as well as the makers of that old/new and cumbersome war-horse the MusicPad Pro…ugh

  • Peter Kirn

    @loopstationzebra: I'm your cheerleader, already, man, don't worry! I'm all for clock sync! Had a separate contact with one of the devs above and they're working about it. Just, like … uh … chill. Breathe. I believe we had you ranting and raving about this on Noisepages, and now the comment thread. 

    Literally — MIDI Mobilizer only recently supported it, and Core MIDI only came out in October and it seems a lot of these devs *don't know how to use it yet*. 

    I'm sympathetic because I've written enough code to know what they're going through, and because I find that being sympathetic to that is the best way to get what you want. 😉

    I'm going to try to do a follow up post on the state of MIDI and what is and isn't there shortly, and ideally with some actual code shortly to point devs at so they have an easy time implementing it. We want some of the same things; just a matter of patience.

  • Peter Kirn

    And yes, let me say this, for the record —

    I'm glad we gave someone for whom *clock sync* generates heated comments on CDM. That's more like it. That's why I love this job. 🙂

  • martin wheeler

    And that's why I love this site ;-).
    And what's more I agree with loopy : there are just so many really brilliant little iPad music apps that do this and that and the other and for 'fun' that is all you need .. And the 'fun' is good … And the 'fun' apps are inevitably leading to new ways of thinking about electronc  devices of all sorts as instruments and building blocks etc …and now it seems that many of us want to keep the 'fun' happening but also start the process of bringing these things into a more manageable ongoing creative process … And synchronisation in general and, yes sir,  midi clock in particular is most definitely a big, big part of that …

  • I can't speak for all devs, but I'm very aware of and very excited about the possibility of MIDI and sync. As Peter has alluded to repeatedly, it just takes time to fit features in a development schedule and release them.

    I made this video in early December, as far as I know it was the first demo anywhere of MIDI sync working with CoreMIDI on an iOS device:&nbsp ;

    I had MIDI sync working then but I still haven't released the update that includes it. Partially that's because Molten released the feature a week or two later, so I figured since it was already out there in an app, there was no rush for me to be the first. And it was also partially because I was in the middle of a major update, and I would have had to stop everything else and release a special version just with this one currently niche (though completely awesome) feature.

    Like I said, I'm am super excited about the possibilities. Both when I was sequencing hardware synths with my Little MIDI sequencer, and syncing up and MIDI controlling my drum machine app with my hardware studio gear, I got a big smile on my face and kept repeating to myself in my head… "wow, I'm actually making real musical instruments here". That's probably silly, but it was and is a big deal to me, since I've always been on the musician side of things.

    But you have to have some patience. It's awesome that Molten got the feature out super fast, I was personally very impressed when he did (and jealous!), but why hate on everyone else for being a little slower? I can only speak for myself but my app's next update does have this feature and yes, I do appreciate its importance. I've been working on that update for a couple months, and if I could release it any quicker and be happy with it, trust me I would have, because I've got more ideas than time to implement them. But for me at least, these and many other things take a lot of time to get right.

    Give it some time… this next year should be pretty cool.

  • loopstationzebra

    @syntheticbits, yeah I've seen that video. It was posted over at Ableton and was the best thing we'd seen in forever, lol.

    One of the things that is a mystery to me is the apparent lack of some kind of CoreMIDI forum for you guys? I've asked Peter at One Red Dog about this as well. IS there some kind of forum for you guys to share info? I mean, someone who figures it out might not want to share for proprietary reasons, but…..? Do you have a forum for learning?

    @PeterKirn, thanks for the replies and the site and putting up with my shit and everything else. lol.

  • loopstationzebra

    @syntheticbits, lemme ask you a CoreMIDI question: Is CoreMIDI on an iDevice capable of sending out more than one kind of MIDI message at once?

    For instance, with a controller app like MidiPadz Lite for the iPad, could the dev program more than 1 CC message to be sent when you hit a single pad? Could the dev program more than 1 kind of message to be sent? 1 CC. 1 MIDI note. etc? Tnx

  • Hi, so I'm the developer of Molten.

    I'm surprised that I'm the only one with MIDI sync. I'm not across all the iPad music apps, there are hundreds of them some are fantastic, so that news is new to me. In my case sync was suggested on my blog by a user called "Rolto" soon after Molten was released. I thought it would be cool to add – I'm an old school MIDI nerd – LOL

    IMHO, there's a few factors happening here. PeterK has suggested a few, and I tend to agree: unknown market, CoreMIDI is new to iOS and people don't know how to use it, and priority over other features. I would suggest that unknown market and priority are probably the most overriding of reasons. 

    Thanks. Don't be jealous, I had a head start as I'd already done quite a lot of CoreMIDI coding in OS X so knew my way around the API…..

  • @syntheticbits btw, I'm jealous, you're app charts a lot higher than mine!

  • @syntheticbits Actually, I've been having an issue with slaving Molten to other devices over USB MIDI. I think this might be a deeper bug as it works fine over Wi-Fi. Just wondering if you've come across that?

  • loopstationzebra

    @PeterJohnson, Tnx for coming on to this comments section and giving your insight. The interesting thing to me is the 'unknown market' bit. I mean, you've got folks creating balls-to-the-wall amazing synth apps like NLogSynthPro or the Korg iMS-20. Both of those things are as powerful as any VST/AU synth for a DAW. Super cool. To even develop something like those you MUST have knowledge of synths. So with those and many other examples it's a bizarre anomoly that MIDI isn't a front and center priority.

    Re: Molten USB sync issues. Yeah, I think I posted about this on your forum. WiFi sync, however, is flawless.

    For those that want Peter's in-depth thoughts, he's posted some great replies on his forum to my questions:…

    I would also be remiss if I didn't give his app a plug. It's a fantastic bit of virtual beat machine that's got a ton of great features. Worth every penny. You should buy it for no other reason than the dude remains the only dev to offer sync. lol.

  • @loopstationzebra
    I think Peter J probably answered all your questions with the forum posts you linked to. I will note that Core Audio discussion is spread out between the Apple forums, the Apple Core Audio mailing list, and random other places. There is no "go to" spot, and the Core Audio list in particular can be intimidating for those new to it, which many iOS devs (like me) are. The lack of official documentation doesn't help either.

    One other factor is that a lot of audio apps are built with cross platform audio tools/libraries, those libraries don't include MIDI support yet and the devs might not be super familiar with Cocoa/CoreAudio themselves or it might just be harder to integrate into that environment.

    If you want to thank anybody for most of the MIDI that currently exists on iOS, thank Pete Goodliffe of Akai, who posted the only example iOS project I've come across and whose code is likely running in modified form in 90% of the iOS MIDI apps you see on the store. Can't thank him enough.

    @Peter Johnson
    I actually couldn't get MIDI slave sync working at all when I was working on it. Not even as a user with your app or MIDI monitor apps. After banging my head against the wall for a while, it turned out my M-Audio UNO hardware does not process MIDI clock in, I have no idea why, it doesn't even work with my Mac. Notes in, notes out, clock out, all work but not clock in. I've since gotten another interface to try it with, but have been working on other features in the mean time. I'll give it another try this week and let you know, the jitter you mentioned in the Apple forum doesn't surprise me, will require some smoothing I guess. I've also seen larger lag spikes with both Line 6 and Core MIDI, really noticeable for sequencers in particular, you can buffer things up on the send side to account for them but the receive side it is definitely tougher to deal with. Will let you know how things go.

  • Re-reading that, I mentioned a lack of official documentation for Core MIDI, which isn't true. There is documentation, but for me at least it was hard to use it to figure out where to start. It was good reference material if you wanted to know how something specific worked, but for just trying to get past the initial "how do I do anything at all" hurdle it was confusing. Pete Goodliffe's example project made things a lot clearer, so you had something that worked and could play with the pieces to figure them out one at a time.

  • @syntheticbits
    There is a problem in Molten with slaving USB MIDI clocks. I have an update in the queue which tightens up sending clocks but it doesn't yet fix receiving. This is version 1.0.6.

    I came on to Pete Goodliffe's example late but it is a very handy piece of code to cross-reference against. He did a fantastic job of explaining it as well.

  • loopstationzebra


    Any further word on the M-Audio UNO MIDI clock In test? You mentioned you were going to try another interface. Gotta say I've searched high and low for any complaints on the UNO for this issue, but didn't come up with anything. Though that may not mean much because what you'd normally connect to the UNO prolly wouldn't rely on sync anyway. 🙁


    Considerably well executed blog.