Category Archives: iPad Accessories

iPad Accessories

JamStik+ Kickstarter Campaign Begins Today!

I will begin this post with a simple statement and a link. The JamStik+ began on KickStarter today, and met its goal in just over three hours. The promotion is still underway, and for the first 48 hours, you can buy a JamStik+ for $100 off retail. If you are interested, the link is: http://kck.st/18XReLB. Even if you miss the first 48 hours, you can still “buy in” at a lower cost during the campaign.

Now…for the interesting stuff. The JamStik was created in nearby (for me) Minneapolis, with a combined effort of guitar players and engineers (and some mixture of the two), and was funded, in part, by an earlier Indiegogo campaign (2013, which raised about $180,000). The goal from the start was to create a wireless, portable guitar that could act as both a instructional tool for guitar and as a MIDI controller. It was never meant to be a guitar replacement, and the device, which finally shipped in the fall of 2014, did everything that it said it would do. Along with the device, Zivix (the company behind JamStik) came up with new wireless protocols, developed a wireless MIDI device (Puc), and released three iOS apps, one needed to connect the JamStik (JamStik Connect), one as a instructional “game” (JamTutor), and one mixing app (JamMix).

If you bought a JamStik–via Indiegogo or afterwards–you were likely happy with the purchase. It met every promised characteristics. There were a few hard core guitarists that weren’t happy, but again, they were looking for the JamStik to be a guitar replacement, not a tool for instruction or a MIDI tool for guitarists.

A few music educators saw the JamStik and realized its potential for the classroom. It is safe to say that education has ALWAYS been a part of the JamStik, but the vision has been 1:1 versus a classroom setting. Through a combination of fundraising, some help from my school, and some help from Zivix, we have a set of nine JamStiks that I have been able to use with students this year–and although there have been some challenges, I am excited about the potential of the device. The devices are rugged (withstanding abuse), the batteries last for more than a week of use across various classes, and the software works well. Sure, I have some items on the “wish list,” but the updates to the JamStik firmware have been wonderful (changing a D-Pad function to a capo, for example) and the company continues to develop and refine its apps.

This is the part of the KickStarter that might be missed in the campaign…for every 15 JamStik+ units that are sold, 1 will be donated to education. Take a look:

How great is that? Not only can you purchase a JamStik+ at a discount, you can also be a part of a donation to an educational group (this could mean a school, or another educational setting).

Now that it is 2015, there are only 2 potential setbacks to the original JamStik (from ancient 2014), which of course still works perfectly. The first is that Apple released Bluetooth MIDI in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, which changes how you interface with a MIDI device. The JamStik+ is a low energy Bluetooth device, so it can connect to Bluetooth MIDI enabled apps (on iOS or Mac) without any background app (or cables). The original JamStik acted as a wireless router, and truthfully, the connection process (although simple) was the hardest part about using a JamStik (In other words, a pain point, but a very, very small one).

The other limitation of the original JamStik was criticism from “real” guitarists, who wanted the device to be able to handle pull-offs and some other guitar techniques. These are not techniques that we use in guitar classes–so they are not really a limitation for anything we do. Zivix answered that concern by adding a pickup to the JamStik, which will result in even greater accuracy and sensitivity, as well as allow for some advanced guitar techniques.

The addition for Bluetooth MIDI is the big point for me–it’s a game changer in simplicity, not only for the JamStik, but for ANY MIDI device. Yes, a Bluetooth MIDI Guitar controller for $199 (KickStarter 48 hour price) is worth the cost of an upgrade (and any price point is worth the investment, if you play guitar).

Do you play guitar and write your own music? Then you need this device and either Progression or Notion on your iPad. You won’t regret it. If you have been thinking about a JamStik–now is the time to buy one. If you believe in the product, how about sponsiring $5, or buying the JamStik “goodies” pack. Either way…act soon. The campaign lasts 42 more days, and although some offers will end, some discounts will be available until the end of the campaign.

 

 

 

 

Update on the mi.1 MIDI Interface

I have written about the mi.1 before, which is a small MIDI cable that acts as a wireless bridge between your iPad (or MacBook, or iPhone, or iPod Touch). No external power is needed, and you can buy the device for $45 from Amazon.

The device has been updated so that if an iOS app uses the new iOS 8 Bluetooth MIDI code, you can connect your keyboard to your device without wires or any background app (which is what was previously required). You can also connect it to a Mac running Yosemite.

This would be the second device that I know of that will utilize the Bluetooth MIDI interface in iOS 8 and Yosemite. I do know know of many apps, other than GarageBand, that are using the standard at this point . Expect more apps and external devices all the time!

I don’t have a horse in this race, and I don’t make any money from a referral. There are a few things you need to consider:

  1. Make sure your device can use Bluetooth MIDI. Quicco Sound (which makes the mi.1) reminds you that you can use iOS devices running iOS 8, specifically: the iPhone (6 Plus, 6, 5s, 5c, 5, 4s), iPad(Air 2, Air, 4th gen, 3rd gen, mini 3, mini 2, mini), iPod touch(5th gen), and Macs running OS 10.10 (Yosemite)
  2. Some keyboards do not have the space on the back of the keyboard to allow the mi.1 to plug into the keyboard (see this document)
  3. You can connect the mi.1 using just the MIDI Out port
  4. This is NOT for USB MIDI. This is for the traditional round MIDI ports, which are still in use even after 30 years of MIDI (can you think of any other computing port that is still in use after 30 years?)
  5. Finally, not all keyboard MIDI ports are powered. This is a requirement for the mi.1 which has no power of its own. We own a Casio Privia PX350, and the mi.1 works fine with it. Quicco has started a list of compatibile and incompatible devices, which you can check here. I’m tempted to go to a music store this summer and just test out compatibility!

If the mi.1 doesn’t work for you, don’t worry. You can also check out the Zivix Puc.

 

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!

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