I’ve mentioned my fondness for arpeggiators on the blog on a number of occasions – a fondness that stems from my less-than-stellar keyboard skills – which kind of makes it even more embarrassing that I’ve never got around to reviewing the excellent StepPolyPad app from Laurent Colson. Laurent is also the developer behind ChordPolyPad. That is an app I’ve featured here on the blog on a number of occasions and it is absolutely one of my favourite MIDI performance apps. It is very well featured and, while there is a bit of a learning curve, it provides a hugely flexible means of playing MIDI parts via the touchscreen for those without traditional keyboard skills (that’s me then).
There are some nice arpeggiators scattered amongst the world of iOS music apps – some dedicated apps such as StepPolyArp or Arpeggist and others built into specific synths – so this might make a good topic for a ‘round up‘ article at some stage. However, StepPolyArp is both fairly easy to use and well featured… so if you want an introduction to this kind of tool, it’s a good place to start.
The basic feature set is impressive; patterns up to 32 steps can be created and, as you then feed the app a chord via MIDI, that pattern is recreated in realtime using the notes that you are playing in. You can create presets with 16 patterns and easy movement between these patterns, transpose, play patterns via a number of internal sounds or (more usually) send the MIDI data out to your favourite iOS (or, with suitable MIDI connectivity, desktop/hardware) synths, sync to MIDI clock if linked to a DAW/sequencer, generate random patterns, add controller data to your patterns… and a whole bunch more. And this is all topped off with a very attractively designed interface that is pretty easy to use via the touchscreen.
Since v.2.5 appeared back in February, Laurent has released a number ‘point’ updates, all of which have focused on maintenance issues and bug fixes. The latest of these – v.2.5.6 – appeared on the App Store over the week-end. As you might expect, this update is focussed on tweaks to ensure smooth operation under iOS9 and includes an update to the Audiobus SDK.
If you have never explored the options provided by an arpeggiator, there are, of course, simpler places you can start than StepPolyArp including (if you own a few of the better iOS synths) some built into apps you already own. However, StepPolyArp will work with pretty much any iOS synth and offers a pretty sophisticated and flexible feature set. Once you have spent a little time with it, then the arp offerings in some synths are going to seem pretty limited by comparison.
StepPolyArp is well worth exploring and has a feature set also worthy of its UK£9.99 asking price. If your keyboard skills are as ‘average’ as mine, a combination of Laurent’s ChordPolyPad and StepPolyArp might be just what’s required to get some killer keyboard lines into your iOS music productions.