Regular iOS music makers will be familiar with AppBC as the developer behind the Studiomux app which was updated recently. Like Music IO, Studiomux provides a mean of streaming both MIDI and audio data between your desktop music system and your iOS music system using nothing more than your standard iOS USB/charging cable. While this technology is still relatively new, it works pretty well once you have got your head around what’s required within your desktop DAW/sequencer to get the best out of it… perhaps not quite ‘painless’ but certainly a very useable solution to integration of the two different systems.
AppBC do like to keep themselves busy though and, back in December we saw the launch of a new app – Modstep – that includes some of the Studiomux technology but also offers a fully-blown MIDI sequencer with both step sequencing and piano roll editing environments. You can use unlimited MIDI tracks and there is support for multiple MIDI continuous controllers on each MIDI track so you can modulate your sound sources to keep your sounds changing, etc.
The app includes both a built-in drum sampler and a synth but is also offers support for IAA virtual instruments and effects with an including mixing environment. The MIDI editing features are easy to use and there are some pretty deep MIDI routing options available… Modstep could, therefore, become the hub of your MIDI composition workflow.
I did a full review of Modstep back in March but a further update – v.22.214.171.124 – appeared on the App Store while the blog was on its unscheduled ‘break’. This add a whole host of new features with improvements and additions to, for example, the MIDI file import/export options, some extra features within the arrangement tools (including ‘scene follow’ and ‘scene loop’ options) and a range of the usual bug fixes.
However, perhaps the highlight new feature is that, as well as IAA hosting, Modstep now also offers AU hosting (iPad 4 and newer) for both instruments and audio effects. And, as the app now also includes a ‘plugin chain’ on a per-track basis, you can build some very powerful chains of AU or IAA apps directly within your Modstep project (well, at least until your iPad hardware starts to go into melt-down). The new browser for inserting instruments and effects is very easy to use but also brings a slightly different workflow so do check out the latest version of the Modstep manual from the app’s website before getting stuff :-)
Having given all of this a bit of a spin over the last few days, I have to say that Modstep is rapidly evolving into a very powerful MIDI music creation environment and each update simply adds to the already impressive functionality. Modstep is now a hugely powerful MIDI sequencing environment. It is perhaps not for the faint-hearted as that power comes with a depth that does involve an initial learning curve but, as a stand-alone MIDI sequencer, it’s clip-based approach is both very flexible and very creative.
Don’t let the potential learning curve put you off though; updated manual aside, there are now also some excellent tutorial videos created by Jakob Haq for AppBC. I’ve embedded the first of these below so follow your nose to find the rest of these via YouTube…. They are particularly well worth a watch for new or potential users so you can better appreciate what Modstep has to offer…..
The app requires iOS8 or later if you want to use the audio and MIDI streaming to PC/OSX provided by the Studiomux technology but, as a stand-alone (iOS only) app, will work with iOS5.1.1. It requires an iPad, is a 35 MB download and is currently priced at UK£14.99/US$19.99.