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Monday, December 27, 2010

Mugician Used On Gorillaz "The Fall"!

It's definitely in "Revolving Doors" (track 2). I suspect it's in track 3 and 10 as well. Somebody with better ears or inside knowlege could fill me in better. Many of the apps in the list aren't even instruments, and most of the other instruments are classic piano-style synths. So, I feel really good about this development. Validated.


I'm sticking to my story that the layout is the keyboard layout of the future. I'm pretty sure of it. Most musicians are guitarists, but all current electronic instruments are written for pianists. This layout is chromatically and microtonally "isomorphic", which means that it has as much symmetry as you could ask for to simplify the instrument. It also gives a very wide octave range for the very tiny iPad surface without creating other problems as a side effect.


  1. Heh, I like the layout and I'm not a guitarist (I do have some guitars of course...) Piano layout feels very limited and restrictive on iPad. This doesn't.

  2. I actually find it curious that 1 year later, most instruments try piano. In my mind, it seems beyond argument that the form is wrong for ipad; though the recent ability to use external kb helps if you are trying to use ios as a cheap brain rather than an instrument.

    When Roger Linn's Linnstrument video came out, I expected a flood of ipad instruments to come out looking like it.

  3. (Same Anon as above here)

    I don't find it so curious. How many Eigenharp apps exist on the app store? How many of the Continuum apps aren't toys? How many of the Tenori-On inspired apps are more than just imitations of a concept that *came* from music software running on computers, but is more limited in its dedicated hardware form? Which app is better known: ITM pad, the Kaoss-pad like MIDI controller, or Bebot or Morphwiz, that use a similar input scheme but also look relatively cute and/or approachable and can be used on their own without even knowing that real 2D input instruments exist?

    Relatively, these instruments are widely unknown, and I'm probably not entirely wrong when I blame that on their steep price for non-professional musicians. The Linnstrument doesn't even exist as a real instrument except that one prototype. How many Linnstrument MIDI controller apps at $5 or so could you sell? Not too many, probably. Nicely rendered guitars, pianos and accordions? Tons, likely. And history has shown that even if your accordion only has ten or so bass buttons and its keys are too small because it insists on running in landscape mode so it can display an artistically rendered bellows, Steve Jobs will promote it because it looks cute ;-)

    As for Mugician: My guess is the reasons for the one star reviews without text are quite similar. You can't download it, show it to your friends who will instantly recognize it, and quickly play a few tunes on it. I think I saw a comment from you on an article on synthtopia.com that also had a comment from someone else who asked "where's the middle C?" What a strange question to ask. My piano doesn't even have labels on the keys. Other - still trivial - questions like "How to play major chords?" have a much simpler answer for Mugician than for a piano. But I haven't seen that question anywhere yet. Compare that to a guitar app like Six Strings that lets you select a chord with a button and all you have to do is strum. That's not a musical instrument, but it's certainly commercially viable in a market where you have to sell below $10 and thus need to appeal to a large audience, most of which will not be musicians, and with most of the musicians being content with their traditional instruments. People seem to prefer videos like that quartet that's struggling with Magic Fiddle (another interface that doesn't really work without haptic feedback); while videos like the one in the article I mentioned above, showing someone playing reasonably well on a strange looking instrument, get comments like "where's the middle C?".

    I think if the idea of using a generic touch device like the iPad as a musical instrument was as obvious to anyone as you think it is after seeing what's possible, there would certainly be a Linnstrument app, made by Roger Linn. How much more obvious can it get? His prototype is almost the same size as an iPad, he actually saw the possibility for this kind of instrument, and he already has Apple hardware. But as it is, people are only slowly realizing that, just maybe, piano keyboards aren't an ideal fit for the iPad, and happily buying apps that look remotely different from existing instruments like Seline HD and claim to make it easy to play. Or add some sort of game to the instrument like the various games that Smule makes.

  4. one small thing that will dramatically improve music apps: when appreview happens, there should be a pro instruments category. latency should be displayed in description. you should be able to enumerate who actually uses the instrument. why? because such instruments would tie in to itunes albums.

    a five star instrument that is not used in the real world should fall out of the pro instruments category.

    that way, rather than paying off celebrities to promote stuff, you can make stuff that doesnt suck! the music will connect to the instruments as a matter of course.

  5. btw... though i think that the posture that Smule recommend to play Magic Fiddle is ergonomically absurd, I *love* that they let it be fretless and hard to play. I play Magic Fiddle with all ten fingers on top as you might imagine. Now, if they would have their next instrument just add a crazy number of strings and minimize or eliminate the area taken by the bowing part...

  6. ...and change the tuning to fourths...

    My beef with Magic Fiddle is that it insists on imitating the layout of a fiddle, making some notes harder to play and some easier... and then there's that bowing thingie that's utterly useless. But it's all forgiven because a game is allowed to be hard for no good reason. At least it's reasonably fast and it's not trying to correct my mistakes, sound is good as well. It's just not a very good example of an instrument that makes good use of the iPad's touch interface.