Straight Outta Lebanon

About 1.5 years ago we started a club at Lebanon High School called Recording Club. We had interest from students, but not much else: very little equipment, no studio, no real vision for what we wanted to get out of it.

What we ended up with after a year and a half is a real contribution to our school’s culture. Here’s how we make it work:

We try to make this a regular event, and it’s free for anyone who wants to record. Rock bands, rappers, singer/songwriters, and many other acts sign up for this. Some are polished and ready to record and others are just dipping their toe in the water, so to speak. The main thing about these sessions is that they are FREE for the bands, and they get a free copy of their song. I dare you to find an independent studio offering that.

It’s difficult to answer the question “how many people are in recording club?” The answer could be anywhere from 10 to 40 students. There is what I would consider a “core” group of 5-10 students who show at almost every session in some capacity. Some students only come to rock acts, others are simply friends of a specific performer or band. The cool part about this is many students get to experience the recording studio, if only in passing. Again, it’s important to think of Recording Club as a service, rather than a business.

In many ways, the CD sale at the end of the year is a big part of both the after school club and the Music Tech program on the whole. We sell CDs of all the best sessions at lunch for $5. Many students enjoy the fact that we play the music very loudly during lunch. I think this adds a unique and personal element to the school culture, as students hear their peers over the speakers singing songs they wrote themselves.

As we end 2010 with our second sale, it feels good to know we pulled off another successful year of this grand experiment we call Recording Club. We’ve got some great plans for next year’s club, and I personally can’t wait to see how it turns out.

iPad music apps: O-GAWA

For my second iPad music app review, I’m going to do one that hasn’t gotten much coverage lately: O-GAWA.

In short, this app is both very difficult to figure out and at the same time quite simple in what it delivers. It does this with an interesting visual flair.

The main view when you open up the app is what appears to be a black background with some very VERY dim blips in a diamond, circle, square, or um…the Chinese character for “confusing”.

Once you reveal the hidden play button on the top bar of the screen, it becomes apparent that these blips represent a time cycle of some sort.

After playing around with some of the other buttons, I revealed a sequencer view, that looks like a __ step sequencer with a number of unlabeled drum/synth samples.

The shortcuts at the bottom of this sequencer view are for things like drawing a select box, deleting samples, and so forth. You edit the sequence in this view, and go back to the other view to do some live “triggering” from different points in the loop. This is mildly cool, but I am not sure how useful this app is on the whole.

This is what I thought until I considered O-GAWA in comparison to something like OM-player or the myriad Max-MSP compiled runtime apps that are out there. They are basically cool proofs-of-concept. Another example is the awesome stuff on These are showcases by great programmers that are trying to experiment and show a cool way of showing something that’s normally shown in a boring way. In that sense, O-GAWA succeeds greatly.

Check it out on the App store: O-GAWA (free)

iPad music apps: Korg iElectribe

Hello faithful readers who have saved on your RSS feed reader. I am back. I have come down from the mountaintop, and in my hand I hold an amazing tablet. But let’s skip all the magic and head right over to the music apps.

For my first look at an iPad music app I’ll take a look at Korg’s iElectribe drum machine, a faithful recreation of their Electribe drum machine of not-so-many years past.

So we have the standard 16 switches for timing, eight sound bank slots, a “transport” area, and a pretty sophisticated effects area.

The “browser” button takes you to the preset sound banks, which do not appear to be editable, and also shows you the preloaded beats, which are of course editable. I wish that Korg would have make the INIT patches a little more accessible than throwing them down all the way at the bottom of this list, but at least there are many blank slots to mess with.

What sets this drum machine apart from many other iPhone/iPad 808-alikes is its ability to record knob turns in realtime. Simply hit the record button, and along with saving all of your pad triggers (and doing some auto-quantizing magic) it will auto-record every knob you turn in the effect section as well. This has its pros and cons, however, as it can be frustrating to think you’re changing the effect, only to have it change back on the next loop through. Once you realize what’s happening, it’s easy to fix, but the effect can be a bit jarring.

The last problem with this app is its inability to export the great sounding drum loops it creates. There is simply no way to get a wav or aiff or anything out of this app outside of hooking it to a line-in jack on something else, which kind of devalues the possibility of using the iPad as a standalone music making device. I’d love to dream up some loops in iElectribe and then export them to Looptastic (more on Looptastic later).

EDIT: a new version of iElectribe allows loop and performance exporting via iTunes file sharing. Woo hoo!

Try it out for yourself on the App Store: Korg iElectribe ($9.99)