I’m a few posts into this new blog, and I guess it couldn’t hurt at this point to talk about something that might be of interest to someone else other than myself. Yes, yes, I know, that would be a pretty big step for any blog to take, but rest assured I’ll soon be back to the sort of ordinary ramblings that the Internet is made of.
Before I do that, I’d like to talk about a great iPhone application that I’ve been using for a little while. To start, let me make the point that I am in no way connected with the authors of the app, nor am I being compensated in anyway. This is a totally unsolicited endorsement. (It’s not that I’m above pimping somebody’s product for money, it’s just that nobody asks.)
The app is called iLift, and it’s a great example of new tech replacing old. Before I get into what it does, a little background…
A few years ago, I learned of a great product from TASCAM called the “CD Guitar Trainer”. Put a CD in (ask your parents what a CD is) and this thing would slow down the music without changing the pitch. It’s been a while since I used it, but I believe you could also change the pitch without changing the tempo. If you’re playing covers, and have to learn a new song in some other key for someone, that’s priceless. If you’re trying to learn a specific solo or riff, it’s a total godsend to be able to do this. It works by taking a tiny sample of the music and simply playing it as long as necessary to fill the time. It sort of sounds like the CD player is broken, but it gets the job done.
Of course, it’s not a perfect system. For one thing, they had inputs all over the device, so I never could understand how they expected anyone to stand it up and plug anything in. Me, I mounted mine on a music stand with heavy-duty Velcro. Well, anyway, the bigger disadvantage was that you had to use CDs, so I found myself burning new disks every couple of weeks with new covers on them. Very 2005.
So a couple of years ago, TASCAM came up with the MP3 trainer. As you might expect from the name, they did away with the CD part. That was a big improvement, but this device was really poorly designed. The inputs? On the bottom. I guess they figured if Apple was going to put the headphone jack of the Nano on the bottom, they could, too. (I really have to think that Steve Jobs wasn’t in the office the day they made that decision.) The MP3 trainer is about as far away from the iPod experience as you can get. You sync through a USB cable, but you can only sync certain folders, and the file names, et cetera, et cetera.
Living as I do in the early twenty-first century, it’s hard to really describe how industrial in design this MP3 trainer is. It’s like a prop from the movie RoboCop. It’s about the size of an original Walkman, and it weighs more. Every time I hold it, it reminds me of seeing those old photos of Buddy Holly with his Stratocaster. Here’s this guy in 1950’s clothes and glasses holding this guitar that looks like it came from twenty years in the future. The design of the MP3 trainer reminds me of that, except that it’s Buddy Holly and the guitar is… every other thing in your house.
So now that I’ve complained at length about how poorly executed the MP3 Trainer is, I should probably add that I really got a lot of use out of that device. There’s no question it was money well spent. If you don’t have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (necessary for the product I’m about to talk about), I’d recommend the MP3 trainer. Hopefully they’ll come up with a new design at some point, though, because it’ll get on your nerves.
Finally, we reach the modern age. iLift is an iPhone app that plays a song out of your iTunes library and allows you to loop though a specific section, slow down or speed up, and change the key (even at less than 1/2 step increments). The interface is essentially just one screen, with big, easy-to-use buttons for everything. I love this app, it’s only as complex as it needs to be. It was definitely developed by a musician (and not by an art major, by the looks of that icon).
The only complaint I have is that you have to import the song into iLift before you can play it. You do this though the program, and it doesn’t take too long, but it’s an inconvenience. I’m sure this has to do with how Apple compartmentalizes the memory space for applications, but I’m hoping in future versions this can be overcome.
In the crazy phone app world, $9.99 somehow seems like a lot of money, but next to the dedicated hardware I used to use, ten bucks for this sort of thing is a great deal in my book. As far as music apps go, this is one of my favorites.
Come out and see me Friday (3/4) at McKenzie’s in Chadd’s Ford, March 19th (Saturday) at Cedar Hollow Inn in Malvern, or (did I say “or”? I meant “and”!) March 25th at the Malvern McKenzie’s.