Category Archives: iPad Accessories

iPad Accessories

MIDI via Bluetooth

Of all the features of iOS 8, the feature that holds the most promise for music and music education is MIDI over Bluetooth. There have been some apps that have allowed devices to communicate with MIDI over Bluetooth in the past, but with iOS, MIDI oveer Bluetooth is in the core code of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

 

If you have a Bluetooth MIDI device, it will communicate with your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Mac. You won’t need wires. And typically, all you have to do is turn on a toggle switch inside an app to enable the connection.

 

I remember a time when connecting a keyboard via MIDI was a troublesome thing. In particular, when I started working in 1997, my school had a keyboard that was very particular how it would connect via MIDI to a computer for use with an application like Finale. It was essential to make sure that the keyboard was both sending and receiving on the right channel, and that Finale was sending and receiving on the correct channels. It was a mess. Since then, the use of General MIDI seemed to solve a lot of problems.

 

I also remember loving Moo Cow Music’s Pianist Pro app, as it could be rigged to act as a MIDI keyboard for Finale (or any other notation app), but doing so required a lot of setup on both the app and on the Mac.

 

I also remember–rather recently–how Finale 2012 would not read MIDI from my new Casio PX350, which has HD MIDI. I had to install some kind of secondary application on my Mac to try to get Finale to speak to the keyboard…and never fully figured it out. Notion connected to the keyboard…HD MIDI or not…without any problem.

 

Most music educators aren’t looking for MIDI instruments to control advanced performances of multiple digital instruments. This is also true of most users of notation applications (Finale, Sibelius, Notion, MuseScore, etc.). We simply want a way to get input from an external device into a notation app or a performance app (e.g. using an iPad for a sythesized sound instead of the voices offered on a keyboard, but still playing on a keyboard). Bluetooth MIDI is perfect for both applications.

 

There is low latency with the new Apple Bluetooth MIDI standard (in some cases, less than with wires) [latency is the time between the initiation of an event and the actual occurence of the event], and it is simply easy to use. Better yet, Bluetooth MIDI uses Bluetooth LE (low energy), so even devices on batteries can last for long periods of time

 

No other operating system offers this feature, but I would be surprised if Microsoft didn’t get on board; and certainly Chromebook and Android could benefit from being more music-friendly. The caveat is that you need an iPad 3 or newer, but in truth, all iPads before the iPad Air are on a ticking clock. The 64-bit processing of the Air (and beyond) will eventually cause developers to only write updates on newer devices.

 

At the moment, the only app that I know of that utilizes Bluetooth MIDI is GarageBand, but apps can add the ability to utilize Bluetooth MIDI by enabling code in iOS 8 and Yosemite. We are going to see a lot of apps with this feature, and we are going to see a lot of external devices that offer Bluetooth MIDI in the days to come. In the event that your favorite app doesn’t run Bluetooth MIDI, in the meantime, hardware developers are offering apps that run in the background as a bridge between the external device and your favorite Core MIDI app.

 

Watch for additional offerings in the near future from Zivix (JamStik and Puc) and other hardware manufacturers. If your favorite hardware company doesn’t offer Bluetooth MIDI, it is time to ask, “Why not?”

 

The video below shows how Bluetooth MIDI functions between my 4th Generation iPad and the Miselu C. 24. As I mention in the video, I have never specifically paired my C.24s with my iPad in any way…they simply “show up.”

 

 

At any rate, I am thrilled about Bluetooth MIDI, and it is another feature that will make music making (and music notation) on the iPad an even better experience. This fall, my fellow blogger, colleague, and friend Paul Shimmons was urging MakeMusic to make Finale for the iPad. I agree. At this point, all the “computer” programs should be finding their way to the iPad, as Bluetooth MIDI makes your iPad into a legitimate device for composition. This also goes for apps such as Piano Maestro. Any app that an utilize an external MIDI device should be updated to allow for input over Bluetooth MIDI.

 

 

 

 

 

AirTurn PED Bluetooth Foot Pedal

Five years into this “thing” called iPad, there are certain apps and accessories which have become “the standard” in the market. These are apps that are on my home screen (first page), not in a folder, and accessories I have with me every time I use my iPad.

One of the standard items in my bag has been the AirTurn BT-105, a Bluetooth page turning pedal. Two years ago, I had a PageFlip page turner, and AirTurn arranged for me to have their device. The PageFlip was more affordable than the BT-105 and worked fine, but there is no question that the AirTurn was the higher quality device, in terms of build quality. Think ASUS versus Apple.

No device is perfect, and there are some elements of the AirTurn BT-105 that I didn't love. None of them are deal breakers, but they should be acknowledged. First, the wires on the top of the unit, which connect the BT-105 core unit to the pedals, were exposed out of necessity, and they criss-cross each other when plugged in. This is the least attractive element of the device. On more than one occasion, these would disconnect as I removed the device (they would get caught on something else in my bag), and I could see how some users could accidentally plug their pedals into the wrong plug. Second, the AirTurn BT-105 has one button for all of its programming. It is amazing what one button can do, but if you don't have the manual with you, you have to go to the Internet to figure out what to do. Finally, the BT-105 has a larger USB Port (I believe it is the mini version) while all my other USB charging devices are lightning or micro USB. I don't expect a lightning charger for any device other than an Apple device, but having to bring a special cable for the BT-105 was a bit of a disappointment. As a “bonus” complaint, you could make a case that the BT-105 (with 2 pedals) was expensive at $119.95; but then again, you get what you pay for (in quality), and you could often find “refurbished” units at AirTurn.com for under $100.

If you read through that paragraph again, that is really detailed and non-essential whining. The BT-105 has been rugged, reliable, and long-lasting for me over these two years.

AirTurn hasn't been dormant since creating the BT-105. They have released a series of devices, including a multi-function controller called the Digit, four-pedal devices, and AirTurn products that allow drummers to change pages with a drumstick hit. You can see the whole line-up of devices at AirTurn.com.

One of the music technology bloggers that I follow recently posted about the AirTurn PED, a device that starts shipping on February 17th. I immediately reached out to AirTurn and asked if I could get a demonstration model to work with. They were kind enough to send me a model to review.

So here's the big question: if you already have the best page turner, along with the biggest vareity of pedals and accessories, why would you come out with a whole new page tuner? After a couple of weeks with the device, here's why:

  1. A smaller and lighter device that is easier to bring around.
  2. A fully contained device with no exposed wires.
  3. Use of the latest low energy Bluetooth protocols, including being able to create functions that allow the device to easily connect to specific AirTurn enabled apps. (PED-App-Direct)
  4. New buttons and indicators that make the device easier to use.
  5. Due to new Bluetooth standards, to be able to use a CR2032 battery which gives months of use instead of having to recharge the device (and also provide a spare battery).
  6. I believe the PED has a longer warranty (up to a year)
  7. Oh…and come in at a price point of $69.95.

At the moment, none of my apps work with the PED's new PED-App-Direct function, but that will be changing after Tuesday. As a result, I can't talk about how easy it is to connect a PED to an app (such as forScore or unrealBook), because you still have to change the device to Mode 2 (normal up/down arrow communication). But I can attest that all of the six above items are true. As a note, the PED-App-Direct function will only work with Bluetooth Smart Ready devices, which means iPad 3 and newer.

 

The BT-105 allowed for a number of additional options for users, such as multiple pedals and external pedals. If you need those options (such as the drum pad), the BT-105 is still going to be your answer. But for the majority of users, a smaller, lighter, easier-to-use (because of the new buttons and indicators), and most importantly, less expensive page turner is going to be the answer. The price point under $75 makes this a super-accessible accessory.

 

If you have a BT-105, you certainly don't need to go out and buy a PED (although if you want to, go ahead). But if you have been wanting an AirTurn for a long time–this is the device to purchase. You can pre-order now at AirTurn.com.

 

I have included several photos below comparing the BT-105 to the PED. I have also included AirTurn's features page about the device.

The BT-105 is actually bigger than the PED's box.

The BT-105 with 2 Pedals vs. the PED

 

BT-105 vs. PED (Side View)

 

The BT-105 is wider than the PED.

The PED on top of the BT-105

 

 

Presentations from the 2015 Ohio MEA/Central TI:ME Conference

This past weekend I had the pleasure to present three sessions at the 2015 Ohio Music Educators Association and Central TI:ME conference.  The conference has a unique focus on technology in music education, as the state conference turns several rooms over to the Ohio TI:ME organization, which then schedules technology sessions for those rooms.

My first presentation was on scanning music…the first time I have presented this as a session.  Ins and Outs of Scanning Presentation (PDF) Ins and Outs of Scanning (Handwritten PDF Notes)

My second session was on iPads in Secondary Music Education.  iPads and Secondary Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) iPads in Secondary Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

And my final session was on Chromebooks in Music Education.  Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

**In the Chromebook session, someone asked if the Adobe Creative Suite could be used to edit video on Chromebooks; I replied that some parts of the Adobe suite worked, and others didn’t.  From my research this morning, it appears that (as of 2/2015), only PhotoShop is working as a web app on Chromebooks via the Adobe Creative Suite.

Thank you again to the Ohio TI:ME committee for approving my sessions, and to everyone that attended those sessions this past weekend!

Miselu C.24 Keyboard

The Miselu C.24 and its packaging.

The Miselu C.24 and its packaging.

I don’t get very excited about iPad accessories these days, and I have even held off the purchase of a new iPad as well as some of the new Bluetooth styluses (styli?) on the market.

Today something arrived in the mail, and I am simply thrilled to have it in my hands to show you. My two Miselu C.24 keyboards arrived in the mail, and I’m just thrilled with the potential of the device in my life–and perhaps yours.

The C.24 started as a Kickstarter campaign, originally intended to be a “flip-up” piano that would also serve as an iPad cover. That was back in 2013, and there was calendar setback after calendar setback. At the time, I debated whether to buy into the project…and did so with two units, as they were supposed to connect together to make a larger keyboard (I seldom need more than four octaves while working with any notation app). Additionally, the device would be Bluetooth–a decision made long before Apple introduced the concept of Bluetooth LE MIDI this past fall with iOS 8. They started shipping some keyboards this past November, and then production issues caused the device to be further delayed–and just a few weeks ago, the company that was building the C.24 in China had a warehouse fire that destroyed all of the C.24 parts (you can’t make it up, and I hope they have good insurance).

The delays did result in a noticeable loss of planned functionality with the C.24…newer iPads (specifically the iPad Air and iPad Air 2–although having the same screen size) are thinner and less wide, meaning the C.24 cannot act as a case for newer iPads. But the delay did result in one wonderful addition…the new Bluetooth LE MIDI standard found in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 is SHIPPED with the C. 24’s firmware, and is likely the first product to do so.

So, if your app recognizes the Bluetooth LE MIDI standard (I believe Yosemite does naturally, iOS apps require enabling of that standard by each individual app), you can use the C.24 without any background app (Miselu’s “Key” app) and no wires. If you are using your C.24 with non-updated apps for the MIDI standard, all you have to do is run Miselu’s Key App, and then select the “GarageBand” function, which is the Core MIDI Driver as well.

Two C.24s working together--no problems whatsoever.

Two C.24s working together–no problems whatsoever.

As you know, I speak at a number of music education conventions, and of course I blog about these things, so I have been bugging the company to send me one of the early units so that I could show music educators what is coming–and today these are in my hands, which means they will travel with me to Illinois, Ohio, Texas, and Utah in the coming weeks.

My first impression is incredibly favorable about the c.24. It flips up with ease, and the actual key presses, while light, work well. Miselu spent time studying historic keyboards and found that there have been other sizes of keyboards, settling on a key size that matched an earlier century’s keyboard for women. What I have found in comparison to my Akai LPK25 MIDI Keyboard is that the LPK key press (springs, not magnets like the C.24) is stiffer, but the shortened white keys of the LPK25 make it harder to play than the C.24. Miselu got the design right, even for my size L hands.  There is a groove in the keyboard where you to place your iPad, a feature similar to many iPad typing keyboards, such as the Zaggfolio keyboard that I still use today from time to time, even though it was purchased for an iPad 2. I need to add that the Miselu Key app easily discovers and links C.24 or C.24s to your iPad, making the process of connecting the device to your iPad a breeze.

The C.24 is a bit heavy, weighing in at 1 pound, 3.1 ounces, where my Akai LPK25 weighs just over 15 ounces. Then again, I don’t need to bring any adaptors or cables to use the C.24 as I do with my LPK25. I see the magnetic “clamp” of the C.24 (which makes it an iPad cover) disappearing in future models, and in truth, a greater than 1 pound iPad cover is a little unwieldy. I would simply recommend carrying the C.24 in its original fabric case that it ships with. My iPad 4 weighs 1.7 pounds…so together the C.24 and the iPad weigh in at over 3 pounds, which is still significantly lighter than my 2008 Unibody MacBook.

1 pound 3.1 ounces.  Heavy cover!

1 pound 3.1 ounces. Heavy cover!

The C.24 will eventually have multiple controllers/modules that simply plug magnetically into the keyboard (they have thought about future expansion in the design), and there are optical sensors on the left (octave) and right (sustain) of the C. 24. The octave optical sensor simply makes too much sense for someone wishing to use the C.24 for notation products (I love this feature). With this first batch of C.24s, the module is simply a dummy panel that hides a USB cable for charging, which you can also use to manually connect the keyboard to a computer or iPad.

[On a side note, my two year old loves piano keyboards and was instantly in my lap checking things out as I was working. He quickly learned how the optical sensor worked, and then proceeded to keep changing octaves on me while I was working).

Anyway–count me as impressed with this device. I have no buyer’s remorse (always a good thing), two keyboards that I can use to work on Notation on Mac or iOS, with the ability to link them for a larger keyboard experience. It is a keyboard I can take traveling that lies flat in my gear bag. And I’m excited to see what modules come out for the keyboard in the future.

The big point for most buyers will be price. You can preorder yours from www.miselu.com for $249. That might seem like a lot of money–but I would temper the price the same way I would with any good iPad keyboard…if you are planning on continuing to use an iPad, this keyboard can (and will) follow you from device to device, taking full advantage of no wires and new the Bluetooth LE MIDI standard. Furthermore, this is a true travel keyboard (as big as you want it, based on the number of units you purchase), and it will be expandable with future modules. No, it probably won’t be your iPad cover. That’s okay–the design resulted in a naturally more flexible tool, cover or not.

One other note…this device (when used with Bluetooth) is intended for the iPad 3 and newer, although you can connect it to an iPad 2 with the attached cable and the Apple USB Camera Connection Kit.

If you are at any of my sessions in Illinois, Ohio, Texas, or Utah, come check out the C.24. If not, check out my latest (hastily made) YouTube Video introducing the device.

mi.1 wireless Bluetooth MIDI interface on sale now!

I missed this news earlier in the month, but the Quicco Sound mi.1 wireless MIDI interface for iOS devices is on sale now through Amazon for $45.00. If you want to work wirelessly from your keyboard to your iPad, and you have a keyboard with traditional MIDI ports, you can use the mi.1 between your keyboard and your iPad for use with apps such as GarageBand, Notion, and more. A future firmware update will allow the iPad to simply connect to the mi.1 using Apple's new Bluetooth LE MIDI standard that came packed with iOS 8 (I don't know of any other devices that are currently using this standard–but I will admit that I have to do,more research on the matter).

So, if you have a keyboard and don't want to be bothered by a wired connection, or you have a keyboard that doesn't have Core MIDI functionality, this $45 accessory might be a wonderful tool to have in your iOS arsenal (I would also lo see the functionality with Mac OS).

 

 

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