All posts by rhughes


It’s been a while since I’ve tried out a new music app on my iPad. So I took advantage of the current discount on Earhoof and gave it a try.

It’s hard to classify what sort of an instrument it is as the different presets give some very different sounds. I think I like it most as a percussion instrument, which is what I’ve done in this sample:

The product video gives you a better idea of its range of capabilities:

…and a lengthy review on Music App Blog (which is where I discovered Earhoof).

The Best of “A Tune A Day”

My “Tune A Day” project created 8 hours and 12 minutes of music in 365 tracks. Here are my favourite 33 minutes and 20 tracks of it. Descriptions of the tracks below the playlist.

I think Raggle Taggle Gypsy was done 5 times throughout the project, partly because it became Tom’s favourite tune over the last year. There are two versions included here which, spookily, were recorded exactly 6 months apart from each other. 20th October is the loud, electric version; 20th April was the only one of the 365 tunes to have the whole family playing instruments.

During February I spent a couple of weeks trying to expand my repertoire of folk tunes; The Weasel’s Revenge (9th February) was my favourite.

Two of tracks here are remixes of earlier recordings. 22nd November was part of “remix week”, and combined the three parts of Rolling (3rd May, 19th June, 20th June) into a single piece. Three Days In August did the same with 21st, 8th and 23rd August and was mixed around the same time but never used as a tune-of-the-day. While the joins are not exactly seamless, both mixes give a better idea of what the finished piece is meant to sound like.

31st March and 4th April are two of my favourite new tunes from later in the series – both have a rather more upbeat, poppy feel than most of the series.

29th May started as a recording of Tom playing his drums angrily after being told off for something. He was expecting me to add noisy electric guitar to it, but the Hammond organ gave it an entirely different and unexpected feel.

4th January is one of the more complete songs, and has one of Tom’s best saxophone performances. There’s a long story attached to it – too long to go into here.

There are two versions of Water Pistol Jig in the series and I spent ages trying to decide which one to include here. The 5th May original was written in the garden while the children ran around soaking each other with water pistols.

I really liked 3rd July when I recorded it; I liked it even more after seeing Fabric Lenny’s use of it on one of his videos. I can’t hear it without seeing his pictures now.

17th June and 25th June both captured a rougher-edged folky sound I was trying to find. 25th June is a great example of what the project was all about – it started as an attempt to  record the harmonica for the first time, but what I like most about it is something completely different – the accordion riff, which influenced the way I played the accordion for much of the rest of the series.

16th September is a quiet, simple tune that I’ve always liked the feel of.

2nd June, 19th July and 21st February are similar tunes that use minor chords on the acoustic bouzouki accompanied by the electric bouzouki; they may get joined together in some way in the future. The title Twisted Ankle comes from the trampolining injury Tom sustained while I was writing 2nd June.

There are four “metal Abba” tracks in the series – Mamma Mia (24th June) was the first and best of them.

29th December was the most ambitious tune of the year – 12 different instruments for the Twelve Days Of Christmas.

Finally, 26th January always felt like something to go on the end of a long piece, which is what it’s doing here.

Best of the last 65 days of “A Tune A Day”

My tune-a-day-for-a-year project finished yesterday. More on that to come over the next few posts, but to start with, here’s fourth “best of” compilation, covering days 301-365. As with the other three, it’s not necessarily the best tunes or best performances, just the ones I get most pleasure out of going back and listening to.

31st March is quite possibly my favourite new tune to come out of the project. I did an acoustic version the day before, but I think I prefer the electric one. That, and 4th April both came from the same vein of poppier writing as melody for an unwritten pop song a few years ago.

If the tune-a-day project had a theme tune, it would be Raggle Taggle Gypsy. I think it’s been included five times in a variety of different forms. But the 20th April version is special to me because it’s the only one of the 365 recordings that has the whole family playing instruments. 26th April was another family performance – what it lacks in polish is makes up for in spontaneity; Anne had been playing through a few flute pieces, and I liked the sound of this one so picked up my bouzouki, then called Tom in to add drums.

2nd March is Tom’s composition for his piano homework – “compose a tune in E minor that tells a story about a ship on the ocean”. The full title (“Jolly Pirates Who Die On A Big Ship And Come Back As Zombies”) gives a fairly clear indication of the story.

I’ve done several silly versions of well known tunes throughout the series. 21st April and 16th April are two of my favourites, and I particularly like the incongruity of having the same instrumentation for renditions of a 1980s hair metal anthem and a classical standard.

One of the things that the project has taught me is that I really don’t understand electronic music at all. I’ve made several attempts to explore it, but very few have been particularly successful. 28th March is one of the better attempts.

During the series I’ve written a few tunes around existing vocal tracks. 23rd April is probably my favourite of these, featuring Laura James from She has a beautiful voice, and for some reason as soon as I heard this song I imagined a banjo behind it.

22nd March is a variation of one of my favourite tunes from earlier in the series, and 28th April was also inspired by an earlier tune – I wanted to recreate a similar sound once more before the end of the series.

And finally, 30th April feels like a fitting end to the series. I had a big, electric, anthemic version of this planned, but when it came to record it, the weather was so nice outside I went out into the garden and did an acoustic version instead.

The Android Musician

Since I bought my iPad, Android tablets have improved immeasurably. If my iPad broke tomorrow, I would consider switching to Android except for one reason… the music apps. The iPad is so, so much better for music creation.

But I’ve never had an iPhone because I think they’re far too expensive for something that I’ll probably drop and break. So I’ve been an Android phone user for several years. I’ve just upgraded to an Acer Liquid S2, a stupidly big 6″ phone, and thought I’d have another look at the Android music apps available. There’s very little to get excited about, but one exception is Audio Evolution – a pretty good DAW.

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It’s not exactly Garageband, but it’s not bad. And importantly, it contains (at a price) USB audio drivers, so you can plug an external microphone in using a USB OTG cable. I was impressed that it worked with my Blue Snowball mic, my Apogee Jam and my Zoom H2n microphone (the last of which doesn’t work with the iPad). It has the usual range of editing features, and some reasonable audio effects like chorus, flanger, overdrive etc (some of which have to be paid for). The user interface is a little strange, but makes sense once you get the hang of it.

So today’s tune is Android powered. Probably not something I’ll do very often, but overall  I’ve been quite impressed with Audio Evolution.

Best of the third 100 days of “A Tune A Day”

A little belatedly (because today is day 328), a compilation of the best of days 201-300 of A Tune A Day. As with the two previous compilations (here and here), these are not necessarily the best performances, just the tunes I get most enjoyment out of going back and listening to again.

21st February and 19th February are new tunes, both written and recorded on the spur of the moment. Quite a lot of the series have been done in this way, where I’ve just recorded whatever came to mind. But some come out better than others.

4th January is an older tune, with a story attached to it. In March 2013, I finally succeeded in selling my mother’s house after she had died the year before. My brother and I went and cleared the last few bits we wanted to keep, and I paid a guy to come and clear the rest. By about 5pm everything was gone except for a couple of bits of furniture and the piano (which was my grandmother’s when she was a young girl). The man-with-a-van I had arranged to collect it had been delayed on a previous job, so I sat on a coffee table (all the chairs had gone) played the piano while it got dark outside. The title is based on the strange feeling I had leaving the house which I had never lived in myself, and that I knew my mother never really liked either. I recorded some of what I played on my iPad, but then completely forgot about both the tune and the recording until I rediscovered it during my end-of-year video clean up. So I learnt how to play it again, Tom and I wrote a saxophone part, and Anne played bass. The piano is now in my living room, and both my children are learning to play on it. I think my mum and my grandmother would both be pleased by that.

I’m not quite sure when 26th January came from, but I have the vague intention of one day adding it to a long multi-section piece I’ve been working on for ages.

During February I spent a lot of time learning traditional tunes. This was partly prompted by discovering two fiddle pieces (3rd February, 4th February) by Ger Doyle on WholeWorldBand. Videos to both are here.  Two of my favourites of the new tunes I learned were “The Peacock Followed The Hen” (8th February) and “The Weasel’s Revenge” (9th February). Arrangements for both came from Chas Marshall’s excellent collections of session tunes.

Finally, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (21st December) was probably my favourite of the month of Christmas tunes I recorded in December. But the Twelve Days of Christmas (27th December) had to be included for being the most ambitious tune of the series so far – played on 12 different instruments, featuring Tom on saxophone and drums and Anne on bass, flute and recorder.

Cubasis is fixed!

Rejoice, for it seems that Cubasis is finally fixed. Ever since v1.7, I (like many other people) have found it unusable due to audio distortion during recording and playback. The 1.7.2 release earlier this week finally seems to have fixed it. Feedback on the forum is good, and I’ve successfully recorded 6 audio tracks without any problem.

While Cubasis has been broken, I’ve been trying Auria, but have to say I really don’t like it. More on that in a subsequent post.

Adventures With WholeWorldBand #3

Final series of WholeWorldBand videos for now. On the first two, I play piano on seed tracks from Emma Stevens. I love the delicacy of both arrangements.

(Edward Butler: Vocals; Shane McKenna: Guitar)

(Graeme: Electric guitar)

And finally a rather quirky number from Irish band I’m Your Vinyl. Shane McKenna (again!) on xylophone, I play accordion.

Next – some suggestions on how to get the best out of the WholeWorldBand app, based on my experiences so far.

Adventures With WholeWorldBand #2

At first glance, WholeWorldBand is a little dominated by guy-with-a-guitar seed tracks. But search around a bit and you find a much more interesting variety. As a Dublin-based startup company, it’s not surprising there is a disproportionate number of Irish musicians on WWB. I’ve always been particularly fond of traditional Irish music, and here are contributions I made to 4 traditional seed tracks.

The first two are with fiddler Ger Doyle. I added bouzouki and piano.

The next is “The Parting Glass”, sung by Eleanor Shanley. This was a bit of a challenge because the seed track was  unaccompanied singing. I play electric bouzouki and ebow.

Finally, a bit of hardcore singing-in-Irish trad from Rónán Ó Snodaigh. Shane McKenna (who seems to play on almost everything on WWB!) plays the guitar; I play the accordion.

Adventures with WholeWorldBand #1

I continue to be very excited by WholeWorldband – I think it’s the best thing to happen to iPad music since, well, the iPad. I do oscillate though between frustration with the app and some of its foibles, and joy when I remember to do everything in the right order and successfully add to a track.

After a few initial experiments in November and December, last month I started trying to make proper contributions to other peoples’ tracks. One of the things I’ve noticed is that seed tracks created by amateur musicians don’t tend to attract a lot of contributions so I felt that there is currently more fun to be had by contributing to existing tracks than creating your own (although I have been studying what makes a good seed track, and will eventually get round to trying to create one). So here are a few of the results.

The first track I contributed to was Ronnie Wood’s “Fill Her Up Honey”. This has by far the most contributions because it was the track involved in the recent competition.

(Ronnie Wood: Vocals & Guitar; Sarah-Louise Keane : Vocals; Shay Cosgrave : Drums; Paul Flood : Bass; Me: Accordion)

In fact, there are so many vocal contributions to this track I was also able to create an acapella version….

(Ronnie Wood, Sarah-Louise Keane, Clodagh Ryan & Roisin Doyle, Soul-On Z, Glenn Rosborough)

The next one is one of my favourites, Ethan Johns’ “Morning Blues”, featuring some great harmonica playing.

(Ethan Johns: Vocals & guitar; Natsuki Kurai : Harmonica; Beth Porter : Cello; Me: Hammond Organ)

More in part  2.


Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

Back in May I wrote about my initial experiences with Cubasis, and how it compares with Garageband. That post has become one of the most viewed on this site, so I felt an update was in order as it doesn’t really reflect my current thoughts.

In May, my conclusion was:

I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

I’ve used either Cubasis or Garageband almost every day since then as part of my tune a day project, and on the whole that prediction has proved to be very accurate. For mostly acoustic tracks like this one, I would always use Cubasis to give me more control over the sound of the instruments – Garageband’s lack of track EQ continues to be a huge problem to me.

But for electric guitars and tracks like this one, I would pick Garageband every time. I’ve used Ampkit via Audiobus to record electric instruments in Cubasis, but it’s a lot more hassle than using Garageband.

Another killer reason for using Garageband on a track like this is the ability to then open the track in Garageband or Logic on the Mac. The new drummer feature in both of these is so much better than anything I have on the iPad that this alone can be a reason to start a project with Garageband.

However, in recent weeks there have been more and more reasons to avoid Cubasis. I’m not sure whether it started with the iOS 7 upgrade or the Cubasis 1.7 update, but I’m finding the app less and less reliable, with frequent audio glitches. The Cubasis forums seem to suggest that I am not alone, but there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment.

I’ve found that the problems can usually be avoided by doing a total restart of the iPad before starting recording. But that’s a lot of hassle, and I often forget. It’s really disappointing, because I liked Cubasis a lot.

So… I’ve decided the time has come to try Auria. It’s downloading now… watch this space for a first report.