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Jamming: the idea is to make music by connecting directly to gestures so you make something spontaneous. And if music technology is jam session friendly, this finally means you can do it together – not just alone.

Part of the reason we’ve remained focused on the MeeBlip project is to get into the process of how to make that kind of jam as accessible as possible. It’s not just limited to that – I spoke with Morton Subotnick about how he used voice input on modulars to make Silver Apples on the Moon as immediate as singing.

When Novation made starting music the theme of a recent campaign, echoing the way Ableton first described Push, a number of people I talked to confessed that finishing music was more of a challenge than starting it. But I think if the initial spark has some character, finishing is far easier.

I recently stopped by the home of Oliver Greschke, developer of Elastic Drums for iOS, to play with a mobile jamming rig. Our jam session isn’t necessarily great music – something about cameras rolling drains any creative impulse out of my brain. But we did get to experiment with the way the setup is working.

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Arturia’s BeatStep Pro is fantastic in that it immediately offers three handy layers (for melodies, drums, etc.), and both step-by-step programming (with display) and live programming (with the pads).

Elastic Drums here serves as the clock source. Now, the absence of MIDI thru on our gear means a thru box would be a good idea – makers like Kenton have you covered there if you don’t have a multi-port MIDI box (that’ll do, too). And Elastic Drums is a perfect companion to the MeeBlip basslines, jumping in on drums.

It’s a bit bigger (so maybe “mobile” isn’t right), but we added an Arturia MiniBrute, too.

Now, to be fair, none of these sorts of instruments gives you open-ended sound possibilities. But then, it can be a lot of fun to push against those limitations, too.

The BeatStep Pro and Novation’s just-released Circuit are clear rivals to doing the job (though you could even use both). Circuit does built-in sounds, and BeatStep Pro doesn’t, but the Arturia piece is also a more advanced dedicated sequencer than Novation has built, accordingly. (MIDI is more flexible from the Arturia, and it adds CV.) I’m waiting on some more details of Circuit’s implementation, but we’ll get to look at this.

You can see how it all works together. Oli also shot this video for more clarification:

iPads can themselves become more sociable jamming instruments. Oliver joined other key iOS developers for a 4-iPad jam at the Apple Store Berlin, flanked by the makers of Zmors Modular, Studiomux (formerly Midimux and Audiomux), and touchAble, with an assist from Ableton Live. (That’s all Berlin-made code, right there.)

Details:

“Elastic Drums and zMors Modular were synced via Midimux to the Laptop, which was the tempo host. zMors Modular went directly into the laptop via Audiomux VST Plugin. 2 other iPads were controlling Ableton DAW and Ableton instruments with Touchable. All connections were made with standard lightning cables, no special soundcards or connectors have been used.”

What’s been nice about working on the MeeBlip is watching all the jam videos come in, unsolicited, from users. That now includes our soon-to-run-out-forever limited edition model.

Here’s a jam session with KORG’s electribe2, created by Atsushi Nakayama:

And here’s the wonderful Perplex On from Munich, playing for the first time:

Some details there: you’ll spot the Audiobus connection panel on the iPad, running quite a few apps. (From our MeeBlip Facebook page, he reports “If I remember correctly there were some Aufx apps involved (Space, EQ and Push for sidechaining the Meeblip to the PO), Arpeggionome for sequencing and Tonestack to roughen the Meeblip a bit and probably some more apps i didn’t use in this snippet smile emoticon.” Whoa.

Also, talk about mobile: a 9V battery block can battery-power the MeeBlip so it’s entirely mobile.

And the Roland UA-22 audio interface can also be powered by 3 AA’s – handy. So no tricks: this really is running out in some nice patch of grass. (Hey, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere and warmer climes like California can look forward to doing this all winter whilst some of the rest of us hide in a basement and try not to get depressed. Or, at least, get a lot more iOS code written in Berlin.)

Check out Perplex On’s whole video series for more jam sessions. (probably worth a whole separate post)

Lastly, for perhaps better sound quality than the tracks above, here’s what happens when Nerk and I play with the anode limited edition (for our weirdo techno NERKKIRN project):

And you can grab our MeeBlip while there’s still time, before the limited edition runs out and we’re back in black. Free shipping worldwide through October 12:

http://meeblip.com/products/meeblip-anode-limited-edition-synthesizer

http://meeblip.com

What does your mobile rig look like, if you’ve got one? What do you like to play with when playing with friends? Let us know in comments.

  • Chris Stack

    That’s a great compact and powerful performance setup. Add something like an Eventide H9 synced to the master clock for some synth processing and it’d be perfect.

    • Oh, yeah, seeing lots of those Eventides around!

  • Chris Stack

    That’s a great compact and powerful performance setup. Add something like an Eventide H9 synced to the master clock for some synth processing and it’d be perfect.

    • Oh, yeah, seeing lots of those Eventides around!

  • Chris Stack

    That’s a great compact and powerful performance setup. Add something like an Eventide H9 synced to the master clock for some synth processing and it’d be perfect.

    • Oh, yeah, seeing lots of those Eventides around!

  • Psychic Kicks

    I’m really curious to see how the Circuit holds up against the BeatStep Pro. There are some major trade offs but pattern chaining and polyphony almost give the Circuit an unfair advantage..(maybe I’m a jaded Analog head but I don’t see people getting excited about the sound engine) The BeatStep Pro user community is being really vocal about dealing with one of the device’s only major short comings so if Arturia can manage to find a way to chain patterns or at least wait till the end of a sequence to switch patterns BeatStep Pro will retain it’s place at the top of the modern hardware sequencing hill. In any case it looks like we will all be lugging around less stands and tables if the hardware form factor trend persists!

  • Psychic Kicks

    I’m really curious to see how the Circuit holds up against the BeatStep Pro. There are some major trade offs but pattern chaining and polyphony almost give the Circuit an unfair advantage..(maybe I’m a jaded Analog head but I don’t see people getting excited about the sound engine) The BeatStep Pro user community is being really vocal about dealing with one of the device’s only major short comings so if Arturia can manage to find a way to chain patterns or at least wait till the end of a sequence to switch patterns BeatStep Pro will retain it’s place at the top of the modern hardware sequencing hill. In any case it looks like we will all be lugging around less stands and tables if the hardware form factor trend persists!

  • Psychic Kicks

    I’m really curious to see how the Circuit holds up against the BeatStep Pro. There are some major trade offs but pattern chaining and polyphony almost give the Circuit an unfair advantage..(maybe I’m a jaded Analog head but I don’t see people getting excited about the sound engine) The BeatStep Pro user community is being really vocal about dealing with one of the device’s only major short comings so if Arturia can manage to find a way to chain patterns or at least wait till the end of a sequence to switch patterns BeatStep Pro will retain it’s place at the top of the modern hardware sequencing hill. In any case it looks like we will all be lugging around less stands and tables if the hardware form factor trend persists!

  • newmiracle

    Even better? A ‘performance’ or generally dj-oriented mobile mixer to tie it all together.

    I remember seeing rumors that Korg might release something like that for the Volcas, but it hasn’t panned out yet.
    Small, 4 stereo-channel mixer with EQ and effects sends that can be battery powered? Let me know if I’m missing something that might fill that void.

  • newmiracle

    Even better? A ‘performance’ or generally dj-oriented mobile mixer to tie it all together.

    I remember seeing rumors that Korg might release something like that for the Volcas, but it hasn’t panned out yet.
    Small, 4 stereo-channel mixer with EQ and effects sends that can be battery powered? Let me know if I’m missing something that might fill that void.

  • newmiracle

    Even better? A ‘performance’ or generally dj-oriented mobile mixer to tie it all together.

    I remember seeing rumors that Korg might release something like that for the Volcas, but it hasn’t panned out yet.
    Small, 4 stereo-channel mixer with EQ and effects sends that can be battery powered? Let me know if I’m missing something that might fill that void.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Nice minimalistic setup..have you ever tried Waldorf Attack instead of Elastic Drums? I think it might even sound a bit better.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Nice minimalistic setup..have you ever tried Waldorf Attack instead of Elastic Drums? I think it might even sound a bit better.

  • heinrich zwahlen

    Nice minimalistic setup..have you ever tried Waldorf Attack instead of Elastic Drums? I think it might even sound a bit better.

  • Will

    I liked the jam with Oliver. I propose “Attack of the Refresh Rates” as a title.

  • Will

    I liked the jam with Oliver. I propose “Attack of the Refresh Rates” as a title.

  • Will

    I liked the jam with Oliver. I propose “Attack of the Refresh Rates” as a title.

  • Marco Trovatello

    Peter, Oliver, I’ve been trying to figure out how iPad/elastic drums sends MIDI to the Beatstep Pro … is it via a Lightning to USB adapter to a (not visible in vid/photos) MIDI interface and from there to Beatstep, so that meeblip is via Beatstep MIDI out and Minibrute via CV Gate? Any hint would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance — Marco