Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A computer on your wrist

You know those conversations you have where your not always listening to what you are saying? Well, I had one of those a couple of months ago with the drummer in our band. Before I knew it, I had agreed to enter the Bristol 10k run in May this year. Yikes, better get training.

Now, I used to use the Nike + system with my old iPod Nano (foot sensor in shoe and another sensor on the iPod) and it was quite good. Then I got the iPhone app and used that for a while and it was good (GPS based so no need for a foot sensor) but its quite uncomfortable running with an iPhone strapped to your arm (they are quite heavy) and at the time, a heart rate monitor was pretty expensive so I bought a Garmin Forerunner watch. The Garmin is an ace bit of kit (I have a 705 GPS on the bike) and works with any ANT + sensors so I was happy and the IOS devices where retired from running duties. That was until this week when two monumentous things happened! One, the battery went flat in the Garmin and Two, my replacement iPod Nano arrived (Apple recalled the 1st gen Nano's due to dodgy batteries). The replacement Nano is 6th gen, built in radio and more importantly, Nike +. I also needed a watch and the new Nano has some quite nice clock faces so a Tik Toc watch strap was procured and hey presto! A computer on your wrist

A suitable watch face selected and time on wake up selected

A bit like Gemini man (painfully dull 1970's private detective/invisible man/crime solving hero type TV show). The best bit though is the Nike + data, accessible from your wrist

Now, I know I'm not the first person to wear an iPod Nano as a wrist watch. Neither am I the first person to use a Nano to track a run using Nike + but I still think its cool. I spent my childhood longing for the days when we had jet packs and tin foil suits (remember, I grew up in the 1970's) so a computer on your wrist! Wow!
I have always thought an iPod, or some such MP3 player, per-loaded with subject specific material (audio files/podcasts of key science concepts etc. a few PDF's) would be good for year 11. Well, how about a P.E specific Nano? Load up with media specific to GCSE P.E or BTEC Sport and then use Nike + to track your general fitness traing (running)? Oh, and you can wear it on your wrist.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A studio in a rucksack

It's been a bit hectic round Chateaux RNG, what with Christmas and all so I've finally got round to writing another post. Santa brought some cool toys this year, mostly centred around music and I've been having a play.

First up, he brought (or rather, I bought whilst Mrs RNG was away up the north) a YouRock guitar. If you haven't come across one of these, check out some of the demo's on YouTube, they are wicked. Essentially it is a games controller (for Rock Band and the like) that also doubles as a MIDI guitar. It has a bank of built in (cheesy, almost but not quite entirely unlike a guitar) sounds for you to practice with (with headphones plugged in or through an amp/iPad/iPhone/iPod touch/Android guitar amp sim via a jack lead like a normal guitar) or you can use it as a device to trigger MIDI enabled instruments (such as the various soft synths available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux etc including the built in instruments in GarageBand) by plugging it into the iPad camera connection kit via a USB cable (provided). Cool, I am a hopeless keyboard player, now I can play a keyboard using a guitar (an instrument on which I am also hopeless)!

A rather lame picture of the YouRock guitar

Next up was an IK Multimedia iKlip. This device allows you to attach your iPad to a microphone stand.

iPad attached to iKlip

You can see a microphone in the picture above, that's an IK Multimedia iMic, plugs into the headphone socket and has a headphone through jack for monitoring. Works with Garageband and most other recording apps (including Amplitube which has in app purchasable voice recording modules like auto tune*, remember this for later!).

RNG studios recording suite!

I had already purchased a camera connection kit (needed for MIDI) and an IK Multumedia iRig (for connection of a guitar) and have several music apps on the iPad so time to give it a go. I used GarageBand to record a quick rendition of a new song my band (Poundshoplife, check us out on YouTube, Facebook etc.) are working on. I recorded a quick drum track using the drum kit that you play with your fingers, this is great as you can record the kick, then record the snare over the top, then the hi hats and so on to build up the drum track. It's also much easier playing it with your fingers than trying to play keys on a keyboard or program the stupid things in note by note! Then I got out the YouRock in MIDI mode and used the smart bass (Liverpool is the setting) to record the bass line. Then the YouRock again with a smart guitar (roots rock) for one guitar track and in proper guitar mode (via the iRig) for the second guitar part. I used a built in sound (it's supposed to be a clean strat!) and a GarageBand clean combo (blacktop) amp setting with a bit of overdrive. Then I used the iMic to record the vocals straight into GarageBand *(wishing I had used Amplitube so I could run an auto tune over them). All this recorded into a device about half an inch thick and 10 inches wide, clamped to a mic stand in my living room!
A bit of playing around, adding in a few sections and we are finished. What is nice about GarageBand on the iPad is you can duplicate sections of your song so it cuts down the amount of copying and pasting needed (note, I haven't used Logic beyond Logic 8 so this may be a feature by now). Also, splitting audio is nice with the multi touch screen.

Anyway, here is the finished article in GarageBand:

And here is the finished article on Soundcloud

(warning: contains a rather woeful vocal performance, listen at your own risk)

*see what I mean about auto tune!

So there you have it, a recording studio in your backpack (the neck of the YouRock actually detaches so you can just fit it in a 10 litre rucksack). More importantly for education purposes, for the cost of a single copy of Logic and a couple of plug-ins, you can have an iPad and all the kit I've used (including the apps). Oh sorry, I forgot, iPads are just toys, you can't be productive on one! Now, where did I save that spreadsheet...

No real instruments where harmed in the making of this track

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad