When You Want To Make Music

I am sitting at home in front of my computer, a hacker. Hmm, didn’t I make it clear I’m not a hacker? Oh, I meant, I’m a hacker because I’m coughing up little pieces of my lung on Day 12 of a cold threatening to convert into a lovely and familiar friend, Mr. Bronchitis [Eww].  One of the great things about the digital age we live in is that we don’t have to be in the best of health — or even well in the head! — to create some really cool tunes. Music creation in the digital age does not require my perfection. It doesn’t even require my voice for at least parts of the creation process, until my voice is good and ready to show up again. Until that day comes, I have a number of tools in my tech tool belt to keep this musician and artist both busy and happy!

The great news to you about music and sound creation is that you do not need to be any of the following to use the tools:  EXPERT, PROFESSIONAL, ACCOMPLISHED, RICH. Many of the tools I use allow me to polish and edit recordings, capture ideas before they are lost, experiment without being in a studio, and are affordable. Even better than these features is the concept of accessibility: you do not need to be an accomplished musician to acquire great sound on these devices and applications, and they are all easily portable in a medium-sized gig bag.  When I want to make music, I turn to the family of IK Multimedia products for iPhone and iPad I’ve had the delight in using, and I hope as I introduce the newest in their line of apps and hardware, you will also see how easy it is to make great music using these same tools.

If you’re new to IK Multimedia, let me run down a short list of some of the items I’ve written about in the past:

Amplitube — app that you use with the iRig to access sounds through digital pedals

Fender Amplitube – expansion of Amplitube app with the exclusive showcase of the Fender amplifier sound

iRig — hardware that connects your iDevice to a guitar, allowing you to have a studio on the go. Includes a 4-track recorder.

VocaLive – app for singers, vocalists, and speakers that enhances sound using a variety of filters, sound effects, and modification. Has a “karaoke-like” mode that removes mid-range sound so you can sing along with most popular music. 

iRig Mic — a microphone useful with VocaLive, which allows you to use your iDevices headphone output (and includes an extra output for listening through headphones). 

iKlip and iKlip mini — allows you to secure your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to any stand with a minimum 3/4 inch diameter, and expands with a strong screw for larger objects (i.e. the edge of a table, for example). I’ve attached my iPhone4S to a hula hoop using the iKlip mini and filmed while it was running, as well as attached it to my bicycle for a spin around the neighborhood. 

At Macworld|iWorld2012 in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, I had the opportunity to chat with Starr Ackerman of IK Multimedia and document some of the latest items from November 2011 forward that going to make music creation even more simple, fun, and accessible to the non-musician as well as the professional.


iRig Midi

Connect your iDevice to any MIDI compatible instrument, and use it alone or paired with SampleTank, a software app that contains banks of fresh sounds and beats to create all kinds of music. If you’ve ever tried to create something on the virtual keys of an iPhone, you know it’s pretty hard because the strike surface is limited. Not anymore.

My notes: iRig MIDI has 3 MIDI ports: IN/OUT/THRU, which connect to any standard MIDI jacks using the included 2 x 1.6m/5.2’ cables.iRig MIDI also exclusively provides a micro USB port – with included cable – that connects to any standard USB power supply source so that the iOS device can stay fully powered during long sessions. They know musicians don’t want to be bothered with batteries or a clunky charger and plug. The price is listed as $69.99, but remember, you’re not just buying a cable. You’re also purchasing access to a software application IK Multimedia has a commitment to continue expanding and improving. Whether you access the app with a drum pad or a keyboard, you’ll get more than enough sounds without unloading stack after stack (believe me, I hated doing this for live shows)!



iRig Mix and DJ Rig

Many of you have seen me play with Looptastic on two iPads. IK MultiMedia has created a stylish and portable system that allows me to more easily incorporate my iTunes library favs (like my Middle Eastern music collection) into DJ Rig, an app (free version is available, and an expanded version will be on sale in the Apple App store soon), while synching the second song seemlessly. If you have ZERO experience as a DJ, you’re going to love how easy this piece of hardware and application pair to become your dynamic duo at your next party.  You can use two iPads or two iPhones/iPods, and the iRig Mix is much smaller, lighter, and thus more portable than any  quality portable DJ mixer I’ve seen. At present, I have a very decent mixer I purchased for just under $100, but it weighs about three times as much and takes up four times the room in my gig bag. Guess who might end up in the island of misfit toys now [oh Gazelle.com!]? At $99.oo [pre-orders can be made on the website for a late February 2012 ship date], this is one piece of equipment I am salivating to get my hands on. Now. [OK, there’s other equipment I’d like to handle, but it’s kind of attached to some body…].

Take a peak at the DJ Rig app, and feel free to compare it to other apps available. What I love about the IK Multimedia family of apps and hardware is that they were all made to work with each other. No square pegs in round holes [OK, I’m a therapist, and I am aware that these little entendres keep creeping into my blog post, dagnabit].

iRig Stomp

After watching Atomic Tom perform on their instruments instead of their iDevices, I reflected on what musicians in general tend to like. It’s clear that for guitarists, it’s going to be awhile before we walk away from the stomp box. While there are glimpses of what’s to come — guitars with an iPad imbeded in it — it will be some time before we conceive of a way for live performance guitarists (not studio musicians) to control their sounds without using the stomp box. The iRig Stomp may end up being the piece of hardware representing the “missing link” between all hardware stomp pedals linked together (or mounted into one piece), and the stomp controller that links to an iDevice running into your electric guitar.

The iRig Stomp is slated to release in Q2 2012. At $59.99, it can be a nice addition to your present stomp box collection, or if you’re a newbie musician, it’s affordable enough to invest in it as well as a few standard stomps you easily find on sites like Craigslist or Ebay. Mix and match, baby. Stomp away, kitties and puppies.



At a podcasting seminar, Brian Crouch (Behringer)  and Heidi Miller  explained to the small group gathered around a plethora of devices that our home recordings of podcasts would need a preamp to incorporate our lovely iDevices. Why, you might ask? Because you can’t plug in any old microphone — or even any new one for that matter! — into an iDevice, since the output is actually made for headphones or earphones with a mini jack plug. Even with the right plug, you’re fancy schmancy microphone won’t record through your iDevice (note: I used the iRig Mic for the video recordings, thus bypassing the need for a converter cable).

The iRigPre is a microphone interface (translation: pre-amplifier) solution, allowing you to use your existing microphones with your iDevice. It is lightweight, portable, and transmits a stable fairly loss-less sound quality. Like most pre-amps, it does need to be powered, but at least the batteries are standard.  The battery life is approximately 40 hours with dynamic microphones and 15 hours with phantom powered condenser studio microphones.  I picked up the item, and once again, IK Multimedia’s standards are reflected in the design: lightweight but sturdy. There is a headphone jack on the box, so you can listen in on your live recordings. You also get a couple of freebies: iRig Recorder and VocaLive, to get your home recording off to a good start.  I’d be careful how you store or wrap cords, since there are not bend points into the box.

The price point is $39.00, and will likely be available sometime in Q2 2012.

Are your music creation nerves all a-quiver? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Next post: Imei gets her voice back after antibiotics and attempts to write a little love song (OK, more like a hate song, inspired by real-life events).

Dance Artist, Psychotherapist, Triage Nurse. Gluten intolerant and recovered anorexic. Consumer geek and audophile. Slave to two adorable Applehead Siamese iKittehs with conductive paws. iPad DJ. Soon to be published author. Google Glass Explorer since July 1, 2013. Plays with the geeky toys and likes them. Marathon runner training for her first marathon May 4, 2014 and first Olympic Distance Triathlons in Summer 2014. Send offline comments to info at hips for hire dot com.

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2 Responses to “When You Want To Make Music”
  1. Larry

    On a related side-note, here’s an interesting report I heard on KUOW today:
    Learning To Play Music At Any Age With Gary Marcus

    • Imei

      I’ll have to take a listen when I’m all recovered from this cold! Thanks for sharing, and keep creating cool stuff.

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I created #SeattleWorldEats for Twtvite.com, so locals could find out where I'm dancing, producing world dance shows hosted in restaurants and venues serving exotic food, or catching Hips For Hire branded events around town featuring the delicious cuisine and wine.

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