As a musician in one of my many professions, I have taken a strong interest in the arrival - and subsequent development of - music making apps for various devices.
There are plenty of posts out there about various educational tools within music education, including those with special needs etc, but in this blog I am going to focus on different areas, mainly, creating music in ways to engage the user, whether to help them discover their musical genius, or even to help relax. Let's dive in !
So this is not always about the dreamy pan pipe stuff you may hear at a massage therapist (!), it also encompasses the idea of creating soundscapes that are both gentle and ever evolving. The legendary ambient musician (and renowned producer, and ex member of Roxy Music) Brian Eno, has always pushed forward the boundaries of ambient music. Together with Peter Chilvers they created Bloom, which is hypnotic both visually and aurally, with the user simply tapping around the screen to create visual "rings" that also trigger a sound. The beauty is that the patterns never play the same way twice. This may push an ASD person somewhat especially if they are used to rigid patterns. However, the visual is beautiful and I found it to be incredibly calming. Iphone and iPad only but the Android version is in development.
If you want to explore what Brian and Peter have further developed, visit thier website Generative Music I highly recommend it.
Video link to hear another one of their apps - Trope - in use youtu.be/HI1raqxrUdk
VISUAL MUSIC MAKING WITH BLOCKS
Yes that's right, it can be done, and done incredibly well. The unit that has held my attention the most is Reactable. Developed in Barcelona, this interactive system uses a series of physical blocks placed on a table with a screen top. Depending on where and how you place the blocks it sets off rhythms, loops, music and more. It's a game changer in the electronic world, but at 4,000 plus euro, it's out of our league!
Fear not, there is a version available for iOS and Android. Called Reactable Mobile, you simply use your fingers and move the virtual blocks around to create music.
There is also a mid version called Rotor, which is for iPad and you can order mini controller blocks to perform in a near identical fashion to the full Reactable.
You can see demos on the website link, but to show it in use, here is a video of Coldplay using it in their live show. Run by the drummer Will, it forms a backbone to the track "Midnight"
ITS A GROOVY THING
This used to be a standalone piece of software that schools and individuals used to gain an introduction to the world of music and composition. Now Groovy is an app and cloud edition. Using colourful images as musical building blocks, you can create a piece of music from scratch along a background as a timeline without having any notation abilities. I found that my kids became hooked on this very quickly, and loved learning via the tests and information in the various modules. It didn't matter that the music may not have sounded traditional in any sense (!) they were thrilled to be creating music via a visual means.
BEAM ME UP
The post wouldn't be complete without a little plug for one of our products. Beamz is a fantastic way to just use your hands to trigger music in the air. You can hook it up via bluetooth or MIDI to trigger music loops with the supplied programs or simply use it as a controller for your favourite MIDI app. Highly engaging for all ages, I've loved playing with this device, it gets addictive - see it in our store section under Music Technology.
In the end there are hundreds and hundreds of apps out there. This is just touching on a couple of ones that I have found to be very engaging with my own kids, and have seen similar results with others. While not neccessaarily following the normal lines of therapy, I am a firm believer in researching and finding out what is right for you. Sometimes it is a combination of research on blogs like this and advice from professionals.
More Music Musings to come !