Whether someone is musically inclined or not, there’s a good chance they’ve dabbled in its creation at least once in their lifetime. Of course it’s never easy to put something that sounds good together when you have zero experience, but Chillingo’s new freemium social music creation/sharing game, Zya is looking to change that. I had the pleasure of checking out a hands-off demo at EA’s recent Holiday Showcase, and I have to say I came away impressed despite my initial skepticism.
Each song you can create is made up of different parts – such as a guitar, drums, vocals, and background vocals for example. You can tweak each section to your liking by selecting various band members who each produce a unique sound, giving them different instruments which also produce unique sounds, then choosing to either use the default samples or create your own. If you decide to create your own you can tap out drum beats or even record your own vocals, then add effects until they sound just right. It’s worth noting that there are different characters for different musical genres, and it’s entirely possible (and even encouraged) to mix them all up to create some truly unique tunes. It’s all cloud-based too, so new game content such as extra songs and characters can be dropped in almost instantly.
You’ll have access to a single genre pack of your choosing (pop, rock, etc) from the start, and can purchase additional characters, instruments, microphones, and so on using points earned through creating songs and sharing your tracks with the world. It’s even possible to have Zya create and post a YouTube video of your performance. Licensed music is also available, and can be altered just as much as everything else, but require an in-app purchase to unlock. Not surprising given that it’s licensed music, really. Still, being able to remix popular songs and share them so easily is a pretty cool concept.
Posted by Jeff Scott on September 18th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Slacker has redesigned their iOS app to better fit with iOS 7. Included is a whole new design focused on making navigation of their millions of songs faster and more intuitive. A new feature called My Vibe allows users to find songs that fit any mood or event quickly and easily from a list of playlists hand-curated by Slacker Radio music programmers.
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s what George Hufnagl, a Chicago-based sound designer, did. In need of easy-to-use portable tools for audio and video editing, he set out to do just that. And the result? Pocket Audio Tools.
He partnered with Canada-based Christian Floisand, who is also a programmer but learned Objective-C specifically to make this app, to help bring Pocket Audio Tools to life. The app itself is a bit technical, and of use primarily to certain audiences, which George Hufnagl was glad to show me in this demo video running down the various features:
The app currently has four features: a tempo finder for finding the BPM based on a region’s duration, beats, and the type of notes being played. This relates to the Modulation section, where particular tempos can be modulated to different values when trying to slow down or speed up a piece for particular uses. The SMPTE section allows those who work with audio along with video to calculate particular frame values based on SMPTE (Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames) timing or frame timing, to help get audio down to the specific value they need it to be at, with the ability to save favorite values.
The scale frequency section is the only one that actually features sound output! This lets sound designers see the frequencies of certain notes, their MIDI key equivalents, and to output that frequency to test how it will sound. Different scales based in different notes can be chosen to help get the exact frequencies necessary.
But most importantly, this is an app that George says that he uses regularly, especially the tempo finder in the sound projects that he works on.
This is just the beginning for Pocket Audio Tools: the app is planned to be updated over the next year with additional features added in (the Feedback link will send an email to the programmer, Christian) as per users’ requests and with plans to bring the app to other platforms including desktops. This is a tool meant to be handy for audio professionals, and considering that the creators are audio professionals themselves, they don’t just have to live up to their users’ standards: they have to live up to their own.
Every single week, the 148Apps reviewers search through the new apps out there, find the good ones, and write about them in depth. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Want to see what we’ve been up to this week? Take a look below for a sampling of our latest reviews. And if you want more, be sure to hit our Reviews Archive.
It’s hard to imagine Double Fine producing something that isn’t a quirky adventure or contains more than a fair bit of bizarre humor. And yet produce Double Fine has, and now we have Dropchord. It’s definitely a departure from the norm, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Dropchord is a simple-ish rhythm game at its core. Players use two fingers, placed around the outside of a large circle in the center of the screen, to twist and turn a line around the middle. The goal is to grab all the good stuff (glowing orbs and such) while avoiding the bad stuff (bright red bolts of electricity that scream DO NOT TOUCH) by winding and whirling around everything. Hit the red stuff and lose some health, grab enough not red stuff and gain health at the end of the level. Every so often players will also have to forego the spinning as they tap away at various circles that appear on screen in what can best be described as a kind of bonus round. –Rob Rich
Burrito Bison creator Juicy Beast’s latest game, Knightmare Tower is based around offensive gameplay instead of pure survival like other similar vertical endless games. Players control a knight flying upward, and dash downward on top of enemies to hurt them and bounce back up in the air at a higher rate. Combos can accelerate the knight even faster, and powerups can help along the way. The enemies aren’t just there to take a beating: they’ll try to attack the knight and do enough damage to kill them. The other big hazard is lava, aka “Dear Knight, I suggest going faster if the plan is to not burn to death. Love, The Giant Rapidly-Rising Pool of Lava.” I suggest staying out of it. –Carter Dotson
Complexity can be a difficult thing to balance in a game, but so can simplicity. Distilling an idea or genre down to its more basic elements is no easy task, especially when trying to do it well, and for that reason alone I think rymdkapsel is worth celebrating. It’s a strategy/sim-lite without any of the typical blandness one would associate with so much fat trimming. Of course that’s not the only reason; it’s also a pretty great game all-around. rymdkapsel is about expanding a space station while simultaneously fighting off waves of hostile attackers. Players must construct various rooms – reactors, gardens, weapons, etc – in order to gather more resources so that they can expand their base, train additional workers, and construct even more rooms. However, the larger the base’s overall area the tougher it is to defend. It encourages planned expansion and interlocking the Tetris-like rooms together in order to keep the station from becoming too spread out. Of course there are also several obelisks scattered around the map that can be researched to enhance things like worker movement speed and weapon attack ranges. It’s a toss-up deciding between hastily crafting a path to a given obelisk, thus sacrificing defensibility, and rushing to acquire better tech early on. –Rob Rich
Other 148Apps Network Sites
If you are looking for the best reviews of kids’ apps and/or Android apps, just head right over to GiggleApps and AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews these sites served up this week:
Pango Playground for kids is a charming universal app for babies and toddlers which adults will enjoy a great deal as well. This app opens up to a very nice assortment of children’s toys such as train tracks or building blocks. Do choose a scene and tap on a number flag 1 to 4 to be taken to a new area. All of these scenes are variations on the same basic assortment of toys, different colorful building blocks, train tracks and chunky wood blocks crafted to look like familiar characters from the Pango series of applications. –Amy Solomon
Art Class with Dr. Panda is a charming new universal interactive app – part of a series of Dr. Panda role-playing apps for young children. As many readers may know, my family really enjoys these apps as they allow children to pretend to take part in many occupations and activities – be it a doctor’s duties or working in a restaurant, supermarket or farm. Here Dr. Panda is teaching an art class to animal children. I enjoy his costumes as he assists children who need help in six different crafts. –Amy Solomon
Color Zen is a cool cucumber. It seems to want to tease your brain while calming it. It’s a lofty idea, but thankfully, I love checking out lofty ideas. The game is definitely interesting. The best explanation is received from playing it and actually “feeling” the game. The object of the game is to solve the color-centric puzzles. In the game’s playing area, there is a frame color — a color that covers a thin area around the play grid, kind of like a picture frame. In the grid itself are any number of colored shapes. In general terms, touching any of the colors against another imbibes the second with the color of the first; in other words, the color is absorbed. For simplicity, one of the colors in the grid always matches the color of the outer rim. –Tre Lawrence
Remember playing the board game Risk back in the day? If so, I bet one of those memories is how long it took to play the game. In fact, it took almost as long if not longer as a good game of Monopoly. Well, the makers of Drisk came up with a game really similar to Risk but won’t take 6 months to play a full game. Starting out with Drisk, there will be the choice to play a local game or an online game. When playing a local game, the number pf players can be selected as well as if they are actual people or computer players. When playing online, the sign in is done through a Scoreloop account. This is mandatory to play online. To get the hang of the game, it’s a good idea to watch the tutorial. It goes pretty quick but it gives you a basic idea of how the controls work. If any questions arise, take a look at the help button on the main menu screen to hopefully answer them. –Trevor Dobrygoski
Ever imagined something like Dance Dance Revolution for the fingers? Yes! We all have, and Space Beats is just the game for folks with sturdy digits, keen eyes and wrists that move to the rhythm. Nimble fingers win the day. Simply put, you tap rapidly forming three-dimensional objects with the beat to keep the music going. The pieces to the orbs all come in from different angles, playing havoc on the eyes. Tapping on the orb scores points, but actually tapping on it to the beat scores even more. An arcade-type game is not worth its salt without multipliers, and in this aspect, this game is worth its salt; there are multipliers to be had, and they can be invoked by tapping. Additionally, the freestyle level is yet another change of pace, allowing players to tap on beat for even more points. –Tre Lawrence
Whitaker Trebella, now operating under the company name of Fixpoint Productions for his game and music work, is releasing his second full-fledged game, Pivvot. The development of the game was quite like how it plays: a long and winding path that was fraught with obstacles, but with success waiting at the end.
It makes sense because he definitely doesn’t take the easy path through life: he’s a music teacher who also does music for a wide variety of iOS games, becoming one of the most prominent composers on the platform. He was self-started, too – music submissions for Tilt to Live eventually turned into greater attention and more work to start making music for games. Then, he decided to learn how to program in order to make his own games, and he created Polymer, which didn’t make him rich but made significant income for him, was extremely successful for a first release, and was a critical success to boot. He even got married to the love of his life, changing his last name from Blackall to Trebella, a combination combined from his and his wife Dana’s last names. So, what comes next?
That was the one thing he just couldn’t figure out.
A screenshot from the final version of Pivvot. It took a while to get to this point, though.
Trebella says that “I struggled for quite awhile with what kind of game I would like to make next. I probably had at least 20 totally different ideas running around in my head, fighting for attention. I sketched out a bunch on paper, prototyped a few on the device, and showed various people a couple of the ideas I had. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time after releasing Polymer.”
There was one idea that he worked sporadically on at the time, he just never felt all that motivated to work on it because he was struggling to make it work. A talk that Rami Ismail gave, one that wound up influencing fellow Chicago developers such as Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromeil of Dog Sled Saga, only helped to sway him toward ditching his idea when he got up to ask about it. His question about whether he should keep pushing with his idea (one he still might pursue in the future) was long-winded, and not exuding much confidence that the idea had a future. “I thought it had potential but it just never struck me. I never had that drive to finish it that I had with Polymer. And because it was a complex idea, it wasn’t even fun to play in the early stages. Eventually, I just scrapped it altogether.”
So it was back to the drawing board. After scrapping his original idea for his second game, he says “I started making a bunch of prototypes. Out of the many prototypes, I decided on one that eventually led to the creation of Pivvot.”
A screen from an early version of the game.
Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon “very much so” influenced Pivvot during its creation. “I just really love the simplistic nature of Super Hexagon‘s gameplay. While it is a VERY hard game, it is VERY easy to understand what to do and how to do it. I wanted to get that same sort of feeling with Pivvot. Someone said to me recently that they enjoyed Pivvot because they knew what to do right away without even playing it. It’s back-to-basics gameplay. I was tempted a number of times to add bells and whistles but I kept thinking back to how awesome Super Hexagon is and how it focuses strictly on that one fun mechanic.” He even has talked to Terry Cavanagh and says “He seemed to think the idea was cool!” when he showed a version of the game to him a couple of months ago.
But curiously, it was also the core technology at work with Pivvot that helped convince him that this was the right idea.”I’m working in Unity with the Futile framework. It took me a long time to really understand how to make cool-looking shapes and objects in Futile. Once I figured that out though, it opened up a ton of options. I was able to create cool-looking obstacles, and maybe even more importantly, I was able to create the winding, pulsating path that is the centerpiece of Pivvot‘s gameplay. Once I had a winding path with some obstacles and some basic collision detection, I was able to play the game and actually have fun.”
“Once I was having fun with the prototype, I knew it had potential.”
He felt like he had nailed the core idea of pivoting around a point traveling along a winding path avoiding obstacles all the while, but making it fun was the biggest challenge. “It took an incredible amount of playtesting on my end. I would create an obstacle, then play the game over and over and over with just that obstacle until I either felt really happy with it or found something that annoyed me about it. For example, if I kept dying on one specific part of an obstacle and it started to feel unfair, I would make that part a bit easier; if a certain part of an obstacle pattern was just way too easy, I would tweak it to make it harder; if an obstacle played well but just didn’t look very cool, I would think about how to make it look better.”
Everything with the game’s art is actually generated through code. Pivvot has a very minimalistic look, consisting mostly of lines and geometric shapes. This wasn’t always the case, though: “the obstacles used to have outlines and other details on them. At first, I thought it looked very cool, but the more I played it, the more I realized the extra details really distracted from the minimalistic look of the game. Having said that, I needed to make sure it looked ‘artfully minimalistic’ rather than just ‘flat.’ ” Continue reading Whitaker Trebella’s Long Voyage to Completing His Second Game, Pivvot »
iOS’ devices volume settings are anything but straightforward, what with the different volume levels, switches, and inconsistent rules of what plays sound and what doesn’t when it should be silent. Hopefully this guide will make controlling the volume more clear, so as to understand why some things are loud, and some things are not!
There’s two different volume settings to be aware of: the ringer volume and the sound volume. The ringer volume controls phone ringtones and notification sounds. The sound volume controls the output of sound from games, videos, and music.
Now, it’s possible to control the ringer volume either manually or to have it set to a specific volume. The latter might be handy for those who don’t want to accidentally make their ringer quiet, or just like to have one set volume. Go to Settings->Sounds. Set Change with Buttons to off. Drag the volume slider to your desired setting. Disable Change with Buttons to make the volume buttons always control the sound volume.
Now, music and especially videos run into a fairly annoying problem: they don’t respect the iPhone’s mute switch for playing sounds. Sitting in a meeting, and suddenly that baseball game’s sound starts playing? Awkward! The prevailing thought on Apple’s side seems to be that by playing one of these despite having the silent switch on, that the user wants sound to play. For music, sure, makes sense. For videos, especially live streaming of sports? Nope. Be careful: ensure that the sound volume is muted as well as the ringer volume before starting.
If you want to ensure that you are lowering the sound volume and not just the ringer volume if you have the volume buttons set to control both, double-tap the home button and swipe to the left until you see the volume control. This takes two swipes on iPhone and iPod touch, one on iPad.
This all gets especially confusing considering that the iPod touch and iPad have a virtual mute switch that is all-encompassing, meaning it will quiet music and videos as well. This is available from the multitasking bar as well by double-tapping and swiping left. This is not available on the iPhone, and it will not display on the iPad if your side switch is set to mute. You can configure what the side switch does in Settings -> General.
Finally, the Music section of Settings has some additional olptions for the built-in music app and volume. Sound Check will attempt to level the volume of all songs. Volume Limit will set a maximum volume for listening to music so as to ensure that you don’t blow your ears out with your headphones!
This should hopefully demystify what the different sound settings do. Turn it up to 11! Or don’t.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on July 2nd, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The latest Spotify updates give you a different way to find new music to listen to with the new Discover option. Also, the updated iOS version features a brand-new Now Playing view that shows what’s up next in the queue. Spotify also improves and fixes a number of other things, like search tabs, menu button locations, editable playlists on your iPhone, and more.
Start rocking out with these awesome new features!
OneTrack is a great app for musicians who want to take their performance to the stage (review). Here’s a quick guide to help those bands get started.
First, bounce live versions of the songs down for play. The best way to do this is to mute the vocals and any other elements that will be performed live, such as guitars or synth parts. Drums are best left in, but much of that depends on the drummer’s skill level and how much control they want over their sound. For most drummers, it’s best to leave drums in as is, especially if the music relies heavily on loud 4/4 kick beats (at the very least, leave the kick drum in). This is all done in the DAW (digital audio workstation) and depends highly on the software the band uses to compose and record music.
It’s also nice to give the drummer a separate click track to help them stay on the beat. An off-beat drummer will completely ruin the show. This is done in the bounce stage within the DAW, and depends highly on the software the band uses to create music. The person responsible for bouncing the live tracks will have to hard pan the click to the left and the music to the right.
The right channel will feed directly to the PA. This is what the audience is supposed to hear. The left will feed to the drummer’s headphones. This helps them keep the beat and lead into each song.
After bouncing all live versions of the tracks, the next step is importing the songs to the iOS device. Add all the songs to iTunes and sync them to the iOS device as if adding any artist or playlist to the iPhone or iPod touch.
It’s best to add all of the band’s songs to the device. Once imported, the band can decide on a playlist for the show. It’s always cool do make a few playlists in the app.
The screen below shows the OneTrack playlists screen. The example below shows a sample playlist in progress. The top-right corner shows the total playtime so far, which is 12-minutes in this case.
The “Austin Show” was a special show, so it had its own playlist, but it’s good to make a few playlists. Perhaps two 30-minute variations, a 45-minute one and a one-hour set.
Hit the plus sign on the top-left corner and name the new playlist. I would likely go with “30-minute set – 1.”
Select a few great songs for the band to play (30 minutes isn’t a lot!) and tap the plus sign on the right column. Selected song titles will fade to grey:
There is room for several more songs. Do keep in mind that it’s worth adding a count-in to songs (below):
The count-in is basically the quiet space between songs (It’s most useful if the band doesn’t want to be tethered to the iOS device to queue up the show track-by-track). For instance, a five- to 15-second count-in time is ideal. Don’t go too long, or there will be a long, awkward silence between songs. On stage, a few seconds can feel like a long time. It can also add unnecessary dead air to and otherwise great live performance. It’s best to make count-ins just long enough for the band to introduce the song, “This next one is called …. ” and take a sip of water if needed.
When at the venue, and ready to set up, plug into the mixer. IK Multimedia has a couple of cool cables for this: RCA Output Adapter (right) and Mono Output Splitter (below). Anything similar should work. I carry both, because I never know what the venue will be equipped with.
The mono output splitter looks something like the one below.
Mono Output Splitter
A very basic setup should look something like this:
Turn on airplane mode if using an iPhone!
I prefer for the drummer to control the backing tracks, because they are sitting in one spot for the most part, and the drum set kind of covers them. This helps keep the iPhone or iPod touch out of view. It’s not a bad thing, but it kind of takes the audience out of the show for a second if they see the band queuing up the next song.
It’s important to keep in mind which channel is which as to not accidentally feed the click track to the PA system. Otherwise, the band’s epic show will kick off with “click – click – click – click.” Not a good first impression. Check, and double-check. Ask for a soundcheck if possible (before the crowd arrives) and leave things plugged in as is after soundcheck. Bands don’t always get to do this, but it’s nice to make sure things are running smoothly. I usually have a cheesy TV theme song intro, so that the front of house person can adjust levels before my music starts.
Once the music starts blaring through the PA, the show is on. Have fun, and don’t mess up too badly!
Most digital music nowadays sounds slightly worse than it does on CD, thanks to audio compression. This is great for quickly downloading music, but not best for audio quality. If you want to listen to music on your iOS device without that pesky compression, and are willing to give up some additional storage space to do so, we have just the guide to do so.
The easiest way to listen to lossless audio on your iOS device is to use the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. ALAC files can be played by the built-in Music app, providing the best support, and the format can be handled by iTunes.
Now, FLAC exists as another alternative. It’s the most popular lossless music distribution format on the internet largely thanks to its open source nature, though ALAC is now open source as well. Bandcamp artists frequently offer music in FLAC format, though ALAC is also an option.
Converters exist for going from FLAC to ALAC – as both codecs are lossless, there’s no degradation in quality in converting, but for using FLAC, a third-party app with iTunes file transfer must be used. The only real difference between the two is at a technical level. I’ll let the audiophile super-nerds fight this one out, but for iOS users’ convenience, ALAC is the better choice here.
Now, you’re going to want to start with your music in a lossless format. This means ripping from a CD, or finding FLAC/ALAC files. Converting from a compressed format to lossless is just pointless.
If you already have ALAC files, then just drop them in iTunes, and put them on your device. ALAC is natively supported.
If you have a CD (they still make those) that you want to make into ALAC files, just load the CD onto your computer and open it up in iTunes. Go to Preferences, and Import Settings on that first page. Set the Import Using dropdown to Apple Lossless Encoder. Now import the CD. It will be added to your library, which you can then add to your iOS device the same way that any other lossless audio file can be added.
If you have FLAC files that you want converted to ALAC, there are plenty of conversion software titles out there. Consider XLD for Mac, which has a drag-and-drop interface, and the cross-platform fre:ac.
If you just want to play the FLAC files on your device directly (such as if you have a large collection you don’t want to convert), then there are plenty of apps that will play FLAC files. Some free options: FLAC Player+, TuneShell, and MoliPlayer.
You should now be on your way to enjoying your music exactly how the creators intended it to be heard!
Today at the EA event, we got to see a slick new game that’s part music creation, part social free-to-play game, part music mashup engine. Called Zya, it lets you pick beats, bass lines, and sing melodies, choosing from a wide variety of professional sounds and performances from all different types of music, including a bunch that you’ve heard on the radio recently.