It was a beautiful early summer evening here yesterday – just right for a quick bit of recording in the garden. Here’s the result, featuring bouzouki, Friedlander Violin, wood pigeons and distant police sirens.
Despite the huge array of music apps for the iPad, I’ve never found a really good solo violin app. You can use Garageband’s strings section as a solo violin if you turn all the other instruments off, and ThumbJam has a violin, but neither of these are particularly convincing.
So one of the reasons I have done more recording with my Mac than my iPad recently is that I bought the wonderful Friedlander Violin from Embertone. At $120, it’s many times the price of the average iPad app, but sometimes you get what you pay for.
It requires the free Kontakt player, which can run as a standalone app on the Mac, or an AU plugin within Logic Pro X. The instrument uses a staggering 3.5Gb of samples, and while it worked OK on my 2011 iMac with 4Gb RAM, it certainly ran a lot better when I upgraded to 20Gb RAM.
I can’t say I’ve really scratched the surface of what it’s capable of – one of the interesting features it has is the ability to use TouchOSC on the iPad to control the expression of the playing of the violin. But even without that, it’s a terrific virtual instrument.
Here are 4 tunes I’ve recorded using it….
…and for comparison, here’s the original recording of the second of those tunes (“August”) played with Garageband’s (rather anaemic) violin.
This is one of those nothing-to-do-with-iPads posts. While idly browsing eBay one day, I stumbled across the spider capo. It lets you fret the strings individually so you can come up with some really wacky tunings.
As well as the obvious guitar version, there’s a four-string version for banjos, mandolins, etc. My instrument of choice is the Irish bouzouki, and I have never got on well with capos because of the way the pressure on the octave pairs of strings make them go out of tune. But with a bit of fiddling around with it, this one sounds quite good because you can put different pressure on different pairs of strings.
After playing around with it for a while, I discovered a tuning that I liked so much I semi-permanently retuned my bouzouki and stopped using the capo. I tuned the 2nd & 3rd pairs of strings up a semitone to change the GDAD tuning to G-Eb-Bb-D. Not quite easily pronounceable as the DADGAD guitar tuning, but lovely nonetheless. The open chord is an Eb maj7, which also makes it easier to accompany Tom’s Eb alto sax, and suits Ellie’s preference for playing her flute in Bb and Eb.
Since this discovery, many of the tunes I’ve written have used this tuning. This set of three short tunes is probably my favourite recording I’ve made in the last year. It also uses the Friedlander Violin – more on that another time.
I also created a video for it using the visualiser in iTunes, which is rather hypnotic.