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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

expressionpad - an alternate path down reality

I just discovered this app, which is basically what everyone is asking me to turn Mugician into:


Other than some touch handling subtleties, it's pretty much what I would end up with if I listened carefully to what people ask for and changed Mugician. I am sure that I will find MIDI useful for the more ordinary stuff that I do, in spite of its stability issues in MIDI mode. So, this demonstrates that I am doing the right thing and sticking to my microtonal guns, and not worrying too much about the cries for MIDI; as this is almost the same instrument minus the subtle microtonal story - it has good latency too! Here is a video of me pushing it around, to show low latency, not stuck in any particular scale, etc. The sound engine isn't fantastic, but much of the sound of an instrument actually comes from its ergonomics; unless you don't actually know how to really *play* it.


This developer also charged what I am often told that Mugician could command for a price. But I haven't heard about this app, and it has existed since JUNE. That's hard to believe, as I have obsessed over Mugician and played almost everything in the store that's worth playing.

I have my doubts that he sold enough for this obscurity to be worth the trouble. I have made a lot of very cool friends, and have some major label artists on my permanent record.

Oh, and the day after I made a video for it, it shot up in the rankings from #1700 something to #60! (it maxed at #13) (You are welcome sir!) :-) Pretty good considering that it's not being maintained right now.


  1. JB / Army of the hollowJanuary 26, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    I have played Mugician since the iPad was released, or rather since the first version of Mugician.

    As a serious musician raised in both equal-tempered and maqam worlds, I can't conceive a world without intervals smaller than a semitone.

    Fifths on a piano are all 1/12th of a cent lower than the 21-note harmonics suite (against the law of physics? Horrible!) to keep them all exactly the same. I don't abide this, at all.

    Folks in the XVIIth century made incredible experimentations on keyboards.

    Ever heard of the "Valotti" temperament? No semitone has the same size as the other and major thirds are "quite" all pure...and it sounds insanely great.

    Why? Because each tonality has a "mood", like each maqam.

    I'm not ranting. Just speaking my musical mind.

    -Your faithful friend and microtonal freak
    (You know who I am!)

  2. It is nice to have the midi I suppose and my friends who are string players will like the ability to lay it out in fifths. I am a mediocre musician at best with no other sorts of aspirations about that. I have trained as a brass player and opera singer in various conservatories here and there and occasionally make something of living that way, though not usually. I have also been doing overtone singing of various sorts for decades.

    I will say simply that I am currently obsessed with your gadget. I play it at little gigs here and there. I spend hours playing with the microtones and generating overtones with those. Just amazing and a wonderful idea. It has an entirely different feel to it than the midi thing, though you just sold a bunch of those for him as you pointed out.

    I also like the look and feel of mugician better and the sound variation (without the midi). i do like the attack option on the other thing, but can't imagine you cramming something else onto yours without reducing button size or losing notes, neither of which seem good to me...

    Anyway, as a life long musician of great mediocrity I wanted to write and thank you. I have not only just been playing up a storm on your thing (i could not put it down for several days, working out the scales and chords), but also learning, which i value greatly.

    I do notice that even listening through Shure E5's i can get it to clip a bit once a I get a bunch of fingers on it, though I have not figured out what exactly triggers that.

  3. Hi Roger!

    The CPU budget for reverb was computed on iOS 3.2, and the multi-tasking for iOS 4.2 is not free. The simple answer is that the work that Mugician does is proportional to the number of fingers down, and it sometimes misses deadlines on iOS 4.2 and you get a click sound occasionally.

    There are a few workarounds:

    1) The reverb rich-ness was computed for iOS 3.2. So, it was made as rich as 3.2 could handle with 10 fingers down. iOS 4.2 isn't exactly the same performance-wise. So, if you are playing live then you might want to slide reverb and echo completely off, and use an external effect. You will probably never hear any skips with the reverb turned off, because it's the reverb that uses almost all of the CPU.

    2) kill off all background processes. i think it was a horrible mistake to silently turn the home button into one that doesn't actually exit applications, as it leaves every process you ever used open in the background for no good reason. what apple should have done was have it be an *opt-in* option to stay in the background when home button is pressed, so that all apps not updated since 3.2 run exactly how they were tested, and if they need to be updated then they should opt-in to that behavior.

    3) I was told by somebody that really stresses Mugician to play it with the home button to the right (or on the bottom), as for some reason 'upside-down' has more latency! I haven't measured it, but I can imagine how this could be true. We are talking about shaving off a few milliseconds when dealing with instruments, and this could definitely matter.

  4. Roger: As a side note, I do eat my own dogfood. I have played Mugician obsessively as well ... since last summer, and record videos as often as reasonable. I play Mugician one to two hours a day.

    The microtonal aspect of it is what keeps me hooked, as I usually play with frets disabled now. I was in a GuitarCenter in the piano section for a few hours a few days ago while a friend was trying to purchase something, and I experienced something I never experienced before.

    I was in a room full of the most expensive piano-style keyboards, and I can't find any that support an alternate intonation. I went through every keyboard in the room playing them. The fine and expensive(!) sound engines meant nothing to me, as I could not hit any of the quarter-tones that have become central to my playing.

    It was like being in a room full of $3000 pentatonic harmonicas. Neat! High Quality! Still useless! The experience was frustrating. I can't go back now.

  5. Hi - thanks for the tips. Mugician was exactly in my budget, but when next paid I am likely to get a a jam man and use it with that, which will allow me to turn off the effects. I not only love the overtone generation, but also like 'detuning' and am using it in a sort of ambient way doing both of those things... A little 'Boards of Canada' feel if you know them. I do not actually like midi since i am used to horn and voice, but your thing feels very alive to me. I don't think i will ever get my hands or mind wrapped around even the six finger speed the things is capable of, but I like moving within the large complex sound it can accomplish. So thank you for all that. I may use it a bit on a little cd project a friend of mine is doing. If so I will send you something from it... Oh, yes i always clear the memory before i play. Didn't know about the orientation of the pad though. Interesting.

  6. Hi Roger: as I tell everyone, the most useful thing that anybody can do is VIDEO. More specifically Multi-tracked VIDEO. I need to get FinalCutExpress so that I can do multi-track, but I already produce a lot of single-track video. A few of them are having the right effect; spreading the word about how this layout allows practical microtonality.