Composer’s Sketchpad update – quirky composition tool from Alexei Baboulevitch gets some tweaks

Download from iTunes App StoreComposers Sketchpad logo 1 copyOne of the things I enjoy most about running the Music App Blog is that it can expose me to a wide variety of iOS music apps. While some can be great, but perhaps conventional, others are based around a core idea that is interesting or innovative in some way. One such app is Alexei Baboulevitch’s Composer’s Sketchpad that I reviewed on the site a few months ago.

The app is iPad-only, requires iOS8.2 or later and is a 140MB download. The launch price is discounted at currently sits at just UK£2.99/US$3.99. As the title suggests, this is an app aimed at composers and, in essence, what you get here is the ability to create a multi-part (new projects default to 5-parts but you can add more) instrument compositions using a collection of internal instruments that span a typical range of GM-type instrumentation. So far, so conventional….

Composer's Sketchpad - a different take on the creation of sequenced music.

Composer’s Sketchpad – a somewhat different take on the creation of sequenced music.

However, what’s rather interesting about the app is the approach to creating the music; this is ‘drawn’ in using an interface that is, in part, like a familiar MIDI piano roll screen but, equally, takes something from drawing/illustration apps. On the flipside, on launch, the ‘not quite fully developed’ bit of the equation was that Composer’s Sketchpad is pretty much a closed box; there was no MIDI in/out or Audiobus/IAA or even audio export of your compositions. Given the app’s role, the key element of these – MIDI out – was added as a MIDI export feature in v.1.05 in February.

Anyway, I was intrigued by Composer’s Sketchpad. It is a quirky little app and, while I suspect it will not be one for every iOS musician, it is interesting none-the-less. The concept – while still perhaps requiring fleshing out with some additional features – is most certainly worth exploring.

Zoom out and you can get an overview of your project.

Zoom out and you can get an overview of your project. The different colour ‘note blobs’ belong to different instruments within the project.

The app received a further update over the week-end moving it to v.1.2. As you might expect, this update included a number of routine bug fixes but there were also some other changes. For example, there is an additional tool to make moving notes along the timeline much easier and an alternative drawing mode using a single finger has been added. These are both cool new features and certainly do speed up the workflow. It is also now easier to ‘clear’ an instrument layer within your arrangement if you want to start over. New export options have been added for AAC and ZIO file formats and, under the hood, the app has had some efficiency improvements.  All these changes are welcome and is it good to see Alexei moving what is a very interesting idea forward….

At just UK£2.99/US$3.99, the app is unlikely to break too many banks. If conventional MIDI sequencers leave you feeling a bit frustrated, then this asking price might be worth it just to explore something different. I’m not suggesting this will replace a Gadget, Cubasis or Auria Pro right now – it will not – but it might be an interesting insight into a different take on (sort of) MIDI-based sequencing and, as the name suggests, for some quick-fire musical ‘sketches’, it offers a refreshing take on the task.

Composer’s Sketchpad

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    1. Charlie Ernst says:

      Looks intriguing.

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