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Traveling with Electronics : Sample This! : 2013 ios update

Live-Sampling on an ipad.....hell yes!

Close your laptops.....SAMPLR is in the house



Ok, so you know I've been doing this live-sampling thing for a long long time, like before it had a name, and it took one too many incidents of my gear not arriving at the location I had just flown to for me to finally abandon my much loved ASR TEN and move to a laptop based rig. While it was very powerful, I never really enjoyed playing a laptop in concert and in my opinion, watching anyone sit in front of a laptop on stage making impassioned mouse moves, is a singularly boring visual experience to be sure. (a little sampling history ).   

Two years ago when I was working on a multi-media theatrical piece called STORM, I got an ipad to use as a midi controller to run video from my location onstage (you can download that software here ). Of course I checked out the music apps but for the most part they felt like toys for hobbyists. Well, allot has changed in that time and the toys have turned into tools.

My plan had been to put together a screen-less rig using a mac-mini, an mpk-mini usb controller and Lithium software. But Lithium has been out in beta land for the past eighteen months.....such is life. Then I heard about SAMPLR, a Live-Sampling app for the ipad and what a revelation that was. It's definitely not a toy - but it's way more than a tool - SAMPLR really is a musical instrument.

I suggest following this link and watching the videos before we continue :


What I love about the design of this instrument (Marcos Alonso was on the design team for REACTABLE) is one : that it doesn't try to duplicate any old school knob hardware or laptop interface graphics, but embraces the multi-touch environment of the ipad, and two : it keeps the interface on a simple (essence of) level, using a very clean single screen with everything you need right at your fingertips. (SAMPLR really wants to be "played", with all ten fingers, either flat on your lap or flat on a table)

From the seven playing modes to the five per voice essential effects, plus tuning and wave division controls, as well as the six (1 per voice/track), gesture recorders, which only record playing gestures that are performed on the waveform surface itself and what is recorded is quite expressive, all in real time. The stunning range of real time expression that one can create on the multi-touch playing surface is what really brings this app into the world of the musical instrument. The most striking example of this kind of musical nuance is the simple fact that polyphonic volume is mapped to the vertical axis of the playing surface.....this is very very deep.

I had built this gesture recording feature into my laptop rig and it allows you to swap out samples and change tunings, envelopes, filters and effects while retaining the original rhythms, nuance and dynamics of the recorded gestures.

Each of the recorders will record up to 64 beats, so if you are running your rig in real time (60 BPM - quantize off), then you have up to 64 seconds of gesture recording for each of the 6 voices. This allows for allot of orchestration possibilities as well as the ability to either drop samples into or live-sample into voice slots that already have a rhythmic / gestural architecture very much in motion. That is fuckin cool! 


Another very elegant and useful touch is in the representation of the waveform itself. Each wave has a color family (like yellow to green), the lighter yellow indicates the location of higher pitches in the sound, while the darker green indicates the location of lower pitches. This is a very well thought out interface.

The effects in the upper right corner, cover 1- drive & distortion, 2- low & high pass filter, 3- amplitude modulation (similar to ring modulation), 4- delay, 5- reverb. Voice volume and envelope (attack & release) are just to the left of the recorder controls. 

After a couple of days working with SAMPLR, I went through my entire sample library and imported 1,000 samples (just under 4 Gigs) into my ipad and then purchased an irig pre, audio interface to use for live-sampling directly into the app.


***update 8/15/13 - undocumented feature : 

If I am playing track one in say, looper mode, and I'm moving two fingers of my right hand around through the wave. If I switch to another track (and don't lift my fingers), I can play the new track with my left hand, say in bow mode, while I continue to play the first track with my right hand (as long as I don't lift those fingers up).....very nice!


This live-sampling instrument is (imho), authentically brilliant and inspiring to play and I have big respect for Mr. Alonso and the work he has done. Bravo Sir, Bravo.


my very short wish list :

1- a tap tempo button instead of the metronome button (4 taps to set)

2- divide the track start/stop button in two, make the left side a master start/stop

for all 6 tracks and make the right side (latch), access the individual track start/stop

3- expand the pitch bend range to (+/-) a 5th

4- double the gesture record time to 128 beats (2:08 @ 60 bpm)

5- make samplr's record button active on the audiobus control tab 

when samplr is in the input position too - now it's only active in the output position


*****11/3/13 Version 1.3 released - major update

The coolest sampling / live-sampling app out there just got way cooler - check it!

1 - new play mode - arpeggiator - this mode is great for beat based events - wonderful addition

2 - 8 voice polyphony per sample - ups the orchestration possibilities per track considerably 

3 - tap tempo and master start / stop (still wish the play/pause button on bottom left could latch)

4 - record time now 128 beats (wish that overdubs had the option to record at current location) 

5 - two layers of overdub per recorder - plus two layers of sustain overdubs - very useful live!

6 - midi clock sync in - unfortunately it is always active - not cool - where is the on/off option?

 "always on" midi sync in, limits ones options for using samplr in a wider range of situations

please don't let this amazing instrument get turned into yet another beatmatched masterclocked drone



sp-404-sx : solidbody ukulele (eabe) > ditto > 50g > audio i/o : samplr : (the tiny trio rig)


My Very Short List of Apps : 

There are so many music apps out there and even though the are quite inexpensive (compared to hardware or computer software), one still must really take the time to research if you want to put together a rig that works the way you want to work. These are just a few apps that have caught my eyes & ears - you must judge for yourself.  : Borderlands is another brilliant and truly original sampling app and one to watch for sure, but at this point in time it is very undercooked (if you will), and updates have been really slow in coming.  : Audiobus is an app that allows you to connect / stream the audio between other apps and is very useful live. There is another (free) and more complex app that deals with both audio and midi, called Jack, but at this point in time very few apps are supported. Apple has announced that inter-app audio will be a reality in ios 7, so obviously this whole inter-app thing is going to be growing.  : Audio Mastering  is a combination 10 band graphic EQ, harmonic saturator, 3 band stereo imaging and a loudness maximizer, all in 24 bit. It drops right into the effects slot of audiobus and is very useful in a live situation or for sample prep.  : Loopy HD is brought to you by "A Tasty Pixel" (great name) and is like having 6 or 9 or 12 Ditto loopers on your ipad. Very useful.  : Samvada is a sympathetic harmonics generator and an absolute essential tool for anyone studying tunings and the math of harmonics.  : Funkbox is a vintage drum machine app and they are all in there. I just love the FUNKBOX!  : Animoog is one of the more expensive synthesizer apps out there right now but the sonic rhichness that comes out of this thing is well worth it.  : Survivor is not an app, but a case (a very serious case), and if you are going to drag technology around out in the real world and expect it to deliver the goods in concert, you need a serious case. 


I never felt that a typewriter keyboard and a mouse was any way to play music in the first place and after interacting with the elegance and expressive nuance of SAMPLR I don't see myself returning much to a laptop for live playing, any time soon.....yea!


Sampling (and looping), is really the art of juggling sound - regardless of working within the constraints of a master-clock, beat-matched paradigm or being immersed in the expansiveness and fluidity of a multi-clock, pan-rhythmic environment.

Sampling is about setting in motion, snap shots of sonic information that each have a life of their own and keeping them all up in the air, artistically arrayed to manifest a musical composition.

The more that the technology used, is transparent in the process, the closer one comes to the core essence of the magic.....the play of patterned frequencies within the matrix of time.

I have encountered to some degree, just about all the sampling technology that has come and gone since the late 1970's, and I truly feel that if SAMPLR doesn't join the race to the beat-matched bottom, it will be regarded as a "game changing milestone", in the history of the art form now known as sampling and live-sampling. It has already upped my game considerably.



CONCERT ALERT: I will be conducting The Butch Morris Dedication Orchestra : @ Konfrontationen 2013 : Saturday July 20th : Nickelsdorf Austria 



I'm going to leave you with three sonic postcards from my recent trip to Seattle. First, two from a duo concert with Matt Deason (Josephine 1 & 2) and then, one from the conduction I did with The Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble @ The Chapel.

Until next month travels.....dino