It’s official! I’m now into using the iPad for music and am enjoying it very much. I’m still not a huge fan of using the computer on stage or allowing it to pull me too far away from my hardware, but I’ve lately found some iPad Apps that are indispensable for working with my hardware synths. The first Music App that I’d like to mention and recommend is one called “Midi Designer” which is simply brilliant. Midi Designer is pretty new but already out of the gate it has features I can’t find on any other iPad App which makes it a very valuable solution for programming synths and creating control interfaces.
The first hardware synth I decided to test with Midi Designer was the Korg MS2000R. I have two of these and absolutely love the sound and functionality. I even have the MS2000 with the keyboard which is much easier to use of course. The problem though with the MS2000 is that the Mod Sequencer is somewhat of a pain to figure out and use quickly. There is a fair amount of menu diving and if you hit the wrong button or turn the wrong knob, you will find yourself looking for a way out or messing up your sequence.
So, I decided to use Midi Designer to create an MS2000R Mod Sequencer controller and so far it’s been a dream come true. I have attached what I have created so far and although it looks a bit crowded, it essentially allows me to VISUALLY see and operate ALL functions of the MOD sequencer on the fly without touching the MS2000R. It has made creating Mod Sequences much easier and has put the musical and creative process front and center. The Mod Sequencer is now FUN FUN FUN!! No more do I have to hit the wrong button or try to remember in which order things need to be done in order to operate the MOD sequencer. Now I can just connect the iPad and have fun instantly creating a Mod Sequence which can then be saved on the MS2000R. Simple!
So why use Midi Designer? Well, first and foremost, Midi designer has two VERY IMPORTANT features that are essential in my opinion to creating a controller interface for a “MIDI external hardware” device.
1. Midi Designer can send Sysex, CC, NRPN, MSB/LSB, etc. to the external hardware synth. It even has Midi learn that actually worked with NRPN and CC’s. It didn’t work with Sysex, so I had to use Sound Quest to pull sysex data from the Korg MS2000R. There are a number of ways to pull sysex data from an external synth, and I find Sound Quest Midi XL to be the best for me. NO OTHER iPAD app had the capability to unleash all of the parameters needed to program the Korg MS2000R. Only one other App had the potential and that was the overrated Lemur App which has a major flaw ( in my humble opinion, see #2 ).
2. Apps like Lemur REQUIRE you to learn a complete new scripting language in order to write and then parse data such as NRPN, sysex, and others. I simply don’t have time to learn a new language when I already am busy wrapping my head around sysex, nrpn, plus keeping up with learning about music in general. This is where Midi Designer is simply BRILLIANT!!! You DO NOT have to learn any additional scripting language. Just open up a control and insert your sysex message or NRPN message. That’s it!! You’re done and now you can move on to creating another control or just jam away. In fact, the only manual you will ever really need with Midi Designer is the Midi Implementation Chart for your external synth. This is as it should be.
Although I like just about everything that Midi Designer has to offer, there are some additional things I’d like to see added to Midi Designer as follows:
1. A simple “keyboard” control that can be dropped onto the surface so that I can play sound modules easier. For now you can create custom buttons and press them to create note on/off messages which work, but a keyboard would be better. Note with Midi Designer you can create a Note ON/ON button to effectively hold a note when programming the Mod Sequencer which is again BRILLIANT!!! So many people complain about the Korg MS2000R not having a latch or hold button for the MOD Sequencer, but Midi Designer allows you to create one in literally 5 seconds!!! Problem Solved! Unbelievable!
2. It would also be cool to be able to create a panel and swipe it active or inactive to help create space. I elected to create buttons for the parameters which worked best for me, but if I could toggle a small panel to show or hide the additional buttons that would be awesome. I know that’s what pages are for, but I still need some parameters on every page.
There are a few other minor changes I’d like to see happen, but overall, Midi Designer has allowed me to remain productive with programming sysex and NRPN while keeping up with playing music and practice. I love the fact that it’s super easy to use and requires ZERO additional scripting language to learn. It’s not like FLASH where you dump a control and then scratch your head trying to figure out what “Action Script” is all about. With Midi Designer you can keep your head in the Midi Implementation chart which is a headache already and remain focused on the instrument. Midi Designer takes care of it’s own language which is simply BRILLIANT!
If you are looking for an App to create a panel for controlling your external synth or musical device, Midi Designer is not just recommended, but essential.
Note I’m not an affiliate of Midi Designer. I paid the $20 bucks for the full version and have considered it an absolute BARGAIN for what I need it to do. Also note that I have no idea how well Midi Designer would work for computer applications like Ableton Live. Other than the iPad, I only use external hardware, so I recommend to do some research if you are looking for a midi designer app for your computer.
However, for creating custom control surfaces for my MIDI external hardware, nothing beats Midi Designer for the iPad for the reasons I require and have stated above. More info about Midi Designer can be found at MidiDesigner.com