One of the real positives of the whole mobile music making revolution has been the way developers have exploited the touchscreen. This has involved virtual recreations of traditional instrument interfaces – piano keyboards and guitar strings, for example – but also providing us with totally new ways to trigger sounds or a music performance such as MIDI performance tools.
One relatively new app that falls closer to the ‘recreation’ of the playing experience of a real instrument (rather than the total reinvention) is FingerFiddle from Matthias Demoucron and which I reviewed back in April. That’s not to say that FingerFiddle is an exact recreation of the experience of playing a standard violin or cello but Matthias has created a touchscreen interface that will feel conceptually familiar to those who have experience on the real thing…. while also being fairly accessible to those who have never picked up a real string instrument in their lives.
As the name suggests, FingerFiddle is a virtual string instrument and includes Audiobus and IAA support. In that base app you get access to a full cello instrument. However, via IAPs, you can also add violin, viola and double bass in a couple of different forms. The app also provides you with an opportunity to try these various instruments before buying.
Anyway, as shown in the demo video embedded below, it is possible to coax some quite expressive performances from the app with a little practice and, while nobody is going to argue that a virtual cello/violin is more expressive than a real cello/violin (!), the app is most certainly easier than learning the real thing :-)
And my reason for mentioning all this today? Well, FingerFiddle has just received an update with v.1.2.0 arriving on the App Store. This brings a number of changes and refinements. First, it is now compatible with all iOS devices and not just the iPad. In addition, the algorithm behind the reverb effect has had some tweaks to improve the sound.
The Settings menu has had a redesign and now also includes some new items. One of these is the option to show a Scale Settings string within the main display and this, in turn, allows you to change the labelled notes within the upper portion of the display to highlight just those notes in your current key/scale combination. This is a very useful feature. The Settings menu now also includes a number of options for tweaking the main interface layout including zooming in/out on the fingerboard layout (great if you have sausages for fingers!).
I’ve got better sounding virtual string instruments on my desktop and, for pure sonics, iSymphonic Orchestra is, for a full-on string section sound, still the best that iOS currently has to offer. However, there is something rather pleasing about the tactile nature of FingerFiddle’s performance interface that gives the performance a sense of being ‘real’ and true to the nature of the instrument….. and I quite like that.
And since reviewing the app back in April, even with a modest amount of practice since then, my own ‘performance’ has improved considerably; this is an app that can create some very useable string parts. Anyway, at a very modest UK£2.29/US$2.99 for the base app that includes the very playable cello instrument, and a number of further sounds that can be added once you have decided whether the app is for you, FingerFiddle is hardly going to break the bank.
Check out the full review of the app here and, if you want a sense of (sort of) playing a real string instrument recreated as a virtual touchscreen instrument, then FingerFiddle is well worth giving a shot.