Normally, you hear my voice in words on the screen, so here instead – courtesy the talented video crews at Toronto’s NXNE – is me communicating on camera, prior to a talk on tablets, music, and design.

The conversation is one I find myself having with a lot of people these days offline, away from the Web. It goes something like this: “sure, the iPad has been a big thing, and you can obviously do music with it, but what does that mean? Is it going to stay around? Does this change what we’re doing?”

For my talk, rather than examine a device like Apple’s iPad as an isolated phenomenon, I chose to look at the bigger picture, and consider what it can mean for design. Those design lessons could be applied anywhere. I’ll try to finally turn that presentation into an article next week, but as a teaser, here’s the video interview I did at NXNE. And perhaps that’ll start some conversation (or even disagreement) prior to the article. Discuss.

Side note: North by Northeast is a brilliant festival. It has the cross-media notions of South by Southwest, as well as the rich musical lineup, but it’s small enough that you can actually get around and see stuff. There’s a different content mix than you get in Texas, and Toronto doesn’t get overwhelmed by the festival in the way that Austin does. SXSW is great, too, but NXNE is like a more livable version.

Other side note: I think my head looks huge in this video. Part conehead / all egghead?

  • Wow, and we can even watch your enormous head in 1080p. 😀

    As much as I like, for example, the Variety of Sound plugins (, the emulation of classic hardware interfaces still keeps me from wanting to use some of them (but I do because they sound so damned good). I understand the idea of wanting things to be familiar to people transitioning from old hardware studios, but surely we're past that stage by now, right?

    I think the Reaper plugins (the ones that come with Reaper) are a good example of UI design for a computer, without any emulation of look and function of old hardware UIs.

  • Peter Kirn

    You might need 1080p just to fit it. 😉

    The "fake knobs / fake faders" thing I know I keep repeating. Of course, I should also acknowledge that, sometimes, it is an efficient solution to a problem. It's just good to broaden your options beyond that.

  • Armando C

    yeah dude but on a side note you sound like a bad ass!

  • On a similar note:

    When I demoed an Ipad it didn't feel as though I were playing a computer touch screen so much.  I was amaized at the touch interface behavior.  It is a well thought out implementation that was much more seamless than I had imagined.  What I mean is that it did a fine job minimizing the latency between my touch and the behavior that of the software behind the screen.  The ipad touch gui is typically apple in it's excellence.  This is a performance feature which I would like to see on all-non apple type products.  However, thus far, all I have seen, aside for maybe Sony computer products, is a tendency toward poorer, get it out the door quick, inferior, copy cat design.

    I'm no apple user yet, but they sure seem to pay attention to excellence in design, both in hardware and in software.

  • Electronic Face

    I wish you had a CDM podcast, or video blog (as if the site isn't enough work already). This is why I recommend CDM to all my friends, I tell 'em, "Look, Peter Kirn knows what he's talking about, he's on the bleeding edge of music tech, and he's got a huge cranium." (Just kiddin')

    As for tablets, I'm probably in the minority here, but I just really dislike touchscreens. I still prefer the clicking of a mouse over the smudging of my finger across a screen, and better yet, real controls that I can feel, ofcourse. For the cost of an iPad (or Android device) and its nice & affordable app selection, I can't complain. But If I do decide to get onboard the tablet train, you'd better believe the korg nano controllers or similar wouldn't leave its side. I'm looking forward to the tactile holographic projections of the future.

  • Peter Kirn

    Thanks for the kind words, guys!

    @Brian: I don't know that touch latency is any different, but what I can tell you is that the stock animations on iOS run consistently at 60 fps. Android's stock animations are clocked lower (I think 20 fps, if I remember), and garbage collection can cause them to drop frames. That isn't to say that you can't get 60 fps animations on Android, just that some of the stock animations will therefore be perceived slower. 

    Of course, you can sometimes make things feel snappier in user interface design by *removing transitions* and just making things happen more quickly.

    The devil's very often in the details.

  • brian stevens

    Mr Kirn,
    The delivery of your voice, the rising and falling pitch, the modulated sensuality of your tone, make me think youv got a "Voice" and should use it in your own music productions… 

    You don't have to sing about love etc, just talk about the future of electronics, whispered in to the mike, with a crackling back beat… 

  • Hi Peter,

    just wondering if you have done, or are planning on, any kind of head-to-head comparison of tablet hardware with musician/programmers in mind. The all important question, as touched on in this thread: who's got the best hardware for live music performance, meaning any of the following: lowest-latency, most accurate touch sensitivity, response that won't fail when you're sweating in a club. I'm looking to buy a tablet (preferably Android) and can't find much info on this. 

  • Roald Baudoux

    +1 for Ollie Bown's request for comparison.

  • I've been using Notion for the ipad. It's a great app for composing. You get an entire orchestra at your fingertips so there are many options for quality audio sounds. I'm not only learning a lot about writing notation but I am now composing scores. Love this app!