iPhone users today started downloading the new iPhone OS, 3.0. One interesting feature of the new mobile software is peer-to-peer communication for collaborating in person. If you’re looking for an app that takes advantage of that, and can embarrass you in front of friends / workmates, Smule Trombone could be your answer. The touch-and-breath-controlled social music app/game from synthesis wizard Dr. Ge Wang has a special 3.0-only version. It uses the new iPhone push notification for achievements, but more importantly, features peer-to-peer Bluetooth for in-person “Duet Mode.”

I think these sort of networked features will increasingly become not only a game gimmick, but a necessity in music making. Why shouldn’t music devices instantly recognize the proximity of other music devices, automatically connect, and sync and share data, recordings, clock, and control messages? (One answer why not: because they’re reliving 1980s flashbacks by running MIDI. But that’s no reason software and DIY devices can’t lead the way.)

Meanwhile, whether you care about iPhone ocarinas or not, Smule are on a roll. The Leaf Trombone collaboration features have been racking up stats, with nearly a million sessions judged by other users in six weeks. They aren’t all covers of Nintendo game songs, fun as those may be: over 4,000 original songs from the composer mode have been contributed to the community. There’s cash involved in game achievements, too; you can win US$500 for being “loved” in a new contest.

I also find it interesting that “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is the top melody with nearly 20,000 performances. It’s proof that some of the innocent joys of music may sometimes get overrated. (Although, let’s see, I still have an hour left to try to bang out a Stravinsky cover on his birthday.)

Go check out the Smule apps here – and here’s hoping we see smart networking in more music apps in general. (Ableton’s Share is one feature we’ll be looking at soon, though open communication standards would be great, too.)


By the way, on the Android side, it appears Google is planning to re-release the Bluetooth API, so we could get features there, too – and perhaps even Androids talking to iPhones. More on that soon, now that I have some time to get back to coding.

Updated – Bonus Video: Inside the “mind of Smule,” a duet from Legend of Zelda’s Underworld. Can your Computer Music teacher do this? Dr. Ge Wang can: