I reviewed midiSTEPs on the blog a couple of months ago just after it was released. There is some considerable iOS pedigree behind midiSTEPs as the developer is Art Kerns who will be well known to regular iOS musicians through apps such as midiLFOs and Funkbox, both of which I’ve reviewed here on the Music App Blog in the past.
MidiSTEPs, at one level, is a fairly conventional step-based pattern sequencer with patterns featuring up to 64 steps (with control over step-length relative to the musical grid) and you can create 16 patterns in a project. However, the first less conventional element is that you can do all this four times; midiSTEPs actually offers you four separate, but linked, MIDI sequencers (each accessed via the different colour-coded tabs at the base of the main screen).
There are all sorts of interesting details tucked away under what is a beautifully designed and very accessible user-interface… and the app is just a brilliant example of why iOS can be such a creative place to work as a musician.
Anyway, midiSTEPs has received a further update over the week-end – v.1.1 is now available for download. The update brings a number of bug fixes (always welcome) but there are also some interesting tweaks and one – albeit experimental – significant new feature. In terms of the more minor tweaks, there are some extra randomisation options for triggering notes and for note velocity/length. These are very welcome as it means you can control a degree of pattern randomisation (therefore adding performance variety) as a pattern loops. Changes to the keyboard have also been applied; it can now go up to 2 octaves lower and can be limited to either a minor or major scale. The Audiobus support has also been tweaked.
However, perhaps the most interesting change is that midiSteps can now act as an AU instrument host. We do, of course, currently only have one iOS synth app that is available as an AU plugin; Arturia’s excellent iSEM synth. Art is keen to point out that this new feature is still at the ‘experimental’ stage (so there may be some wrinkles to iron out) but it is rather cool to have multiple instances of iSEM loaded into midiSteps and used for playback of its four sequencers.
Having given this a try on my iPad Pro under iOS9.2 this morning, I didn’t face any particular difficulties but Art has sensible warned users that there might be some ongoing issues as he fine-tunes the performance of this new feature. It is, however, brilliant to see another developer willing to take on AU and, in particular, to offer it in a different sort of AU host.
Step-based sequencing is, of course, perhaps more suited to some musical styles than others so, unless you are just into dance, electronic or perhaps ambient styles, then midiSTEPs is perhaps not going to be the only MIDI sequencer that you might need to have installed on your iPad. However, at UK£7.99, it offers a heck of a lot of features, a beautiful design and plenty of creative possibilities. It is also a pleasure to use providing , of course, you are comfortable with the a step-based approach. Check out the original review here but midiSTEPs is another top-notch example of iOS music making tools at their best.