Note: As of 9/24/2008, MooCow changed the pricing of this piano application to $1.99, which is a fantastic price. There are now several piano competitors which likely impacted the price drop, as well as strong sales (Pianist has long been in the top 50 paid applications)
The first review I will offer is for MooCow Music’s Pianist, which costs $5.99 at the AppStore. This application was actually created before the Apple AppStore came into existence, for “jailbroken” iPhones and iPod Touches. Ultimately, it turns your device into a small synthesizer, with up to five note polyphony.
When you load Pianist, you are greeted with MooCow’s splash screen:
I personally wish there was an option in the program to turn this off, and that you could immediately go to the keyboard (when you want the keyboard, that’s what you want to get to), but at the moment, there is no way to do so with the program.
After the splash screen, you enter a “main menu” which appears like this:
The piano is a fully functional, five note polyphonic synthesizer. You can change the settings as to what octave you wish to view, and whether or not to see the names of each white key on the piano. If you press SUST, all the notes you play will be sustained, likewise SOFT will make all your notes dampened. SETUP brings you to the setup screen (i.e. volume), and REC or > will record or play what you play on the piano. The synthesized sound is acceptable to me:
The setup screen gives you several options: Instrument settings, recorder settings, some application settings, and a metronome. The metronome may be the hidden “jewel” in this application which no one talks about:
The main aspect of instrument settings is the Global Volume feature. I wish this was available on the main piano screen; ultimately it is two clicks (or “touches” away). Or, I’d like the main piano screen to show the current volume.
In summary, MooCow’s Pianist is a very good application for music educators. If you have an iPhone or 2nd generation touch (both have external speakers) , the program will be useful anywhere, any time. You can use it on location to lead warm-ups for a choir, or ask your students to consider downloading it so they can practice music at home. If you have a 1st Generation iPod Touch, you’ll need headphones or an external amplifier of some type to make use of the program. The recorder could be more functional, such as allowing you to import (and export!) MIDI files, or even recorded songs from other users of the application. As I mentioned before, it would be fantastic if you could access the metronome or master volume with one “touch” rather than two, and it would be great to be able to turn off the main MooCow splash screen. Under the iPhone/Touch operating system 2.0, Pianist would crash occasionally, requiring a ful device power-up; I have experienced no crashes under the new 2.1 operating system. I would like to see future versions of this software have the ability to link with music notation software (through Bluetooth, perhaps) such as Finale or Sibelius. That is, perhaps, a long way off, but the concept has potential should a developer wish to examine the possibilities!
Ultimately, for use in music education, this is an application I would HIGHLY recommend for use by teachers and students. After all, you are buying a useful synthesizer for $5.99, whereas those old Casio dual-octave synthesizers (also without MIDI or the ability to record) cost five times as much, with worse sound!