One of my favorite genres of iPad apps and one that gets very little love, all things considered, is music creation apps. The large touch screen has the potential to be very useful in the studio, as well as a platform for unique instruments and creation interfaces that can’t necessarily be recreated elsewhere.
If you’re interested in electronic music, you’ve no doubt heard the name Moog, one of the most prolific names in synthesizers. Today I’m going to talk about the new synthesizer app that they designed specifically for iPad: Animoog. Animoog is built on the company’s new Anisotropic Synth Engine, which is designed (in contrast to ‘isotropic’) to allow you to construct fluidly dynamic soundscapes in a highly customizable X/Y environment. I could go on, but unless you’ve studied synthesizers in detail, this is probably a bunch of gobbledegook. Hit the jump to check out more of the good stuff!
Interface & Interaction
The interface consists of an appropriate blend of the classic Moog aesthetics that users of their physical equipment are used to, and visual tweaks that make the app optimized for the iPad’s small touch screen. The app is divided into three sections: the keyboard, the X/Y controller (which adapts to a series of uses), and the control modules.
The interface is broken into 3 parts.
Most of the time you’ll be using a combination of the X/Y space and the sliding modules to control your sound. You can flip through a series of default settings (found in the bottom left of the X/Y screen) to see some of the different combinations of filters and paths that are possible with Animoog.
By using the Path module on the right, and enabling the “Edit” button, you can tap on the X/Y screen to create a new node to construct the path you want your sound to follow. Fine tune the settings with the Orbit module, and you’ll see something like this as you play:
Create complex paths through the X/Y space to shape your sound.
Since synthesis is mostly about filters, these will achieve the most dramatic changes to your sound. But sometimes you want a bit more control. The tabs at the top of the X/Y space give you access to envelope controls…
Adjust the envelop settings to get just the right sound.
…and timbre layering.
Layer timbres to achieve the perfect synth texture.
There are several other controls that you can tinker with, but those are the biggies. The execution here is almost flawless. I had no issues worth noting about the touch controls – the knobs are easy to turn accurately, and the keys even respond to aftertouch. Modulation and Pitch controls are able to be shown/hidden, allowing you to free up valuable keyboard space when needed.
The Most Incredible Feature
If keyboard/piano keys were replicated on the iPad screen to the proper scale, the device would fit about 9 keys, at most. As a result, most iPad apps that have a keyboard scale the keys down significantly. The problem with this is that the iPad lacks the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard, making it much more difficult to play accurately without looking at every key. The outcome of this is even the slightest bad aim when striking a key can result in striking the key next to it – which is usually a note that’s out-of-scale and sticks out of your melody like a sore thumb.
Display only notes in the scale in which you're working.
Animoog has a feature that allows you to custom select the keys (or choose from preset scales) that you want to display, which has two benefits.
The first, and most obvious, benefit is that of removing excess, out-of-scale keys from the screen, freeing up screen space so that you can display more (and larger) keys that you’ll actually use when playing a melody.
The second benefit, I found, is that if all of the keys on the screen are within the scale that you’re playing in, having a slip of the finger and accidentally hitting the wrong key won’t be as detrimental to your melody as if you accidentally played an out-of-scale note.
The obvious drawback to this feature is that with notes hidden, the instrument isn’t as versatile while playing, but let’s be honest: if you’re composing complicated and ornate symphonies, you’re probably using a physical keyboard.
Moog calls their new iPad app the “first professional synth for iPad.” This might be a little bit of a lofty claim, but the company does, as it always has, live up to its name. Animoog is one of the best synth apps I’ve used on my iPad to date, and I’ve used several.
The app appears to support MIDI input, although the logistics of that are something I haven’t quite figured out. One major drawback to the app is that the documentation (while readily available on the Moog website) is mildly helpful at best, and lacks a lot of the instruction necessary for most users to access what is clearly a wealth of power beyond the surface of this app.
The app was recently launched and has an introductory price of 99 cents. If you want it, you’d better hurry, because after the first month, regular price becomes $29.99.
Have you given Animoog a shot? How does it compare to other synth apps you’ve used? Feel free to leave us links to the music you’ve recorded with it!