Apple’s new Music Memos app is a godsend for guitarists on the go.
What’s your favorite way to capture musical ideas when you’re far from home and studio with minimal gear?
Back when I had to walk 10 miles to school each day barefoot in the snow, we’d use a paper notebook, or maybe a handheld cassette recorder. Later, tiny digital memo recorders let us carry recorders in our pockets with fewer embarrassing bulges. Meanwhile, songwriters have phoned home to leave musical reminders for as long as answering machines have existed—a practice that still flourishes via voicemail. And now there’s a compelling new option.
Musician, memo thyself. At January’s Winter NAMM show, Apple announced Music Memos, a new free iOS app that offers various ways for guitarists to capture, develop, and organize musical ideas when traveling with only a guitar and an iPhone or iPad.
In Apple’s cushy suite at the Anaheim Hilton, Apple Music Creation Marketing maven Jeff Cross told me how a huge percentage of the musicians his team speaks with have been using Apple’s free iOS app Voice Memos to capture musical ideas on the fly. So, Apple figured, why not create a specialized version for musicians?
Voice Memos is basically a software version of a digital memo recorder, while Music Memos offers more ways to archive, edit, and share your recordings. And when you record material with an identifiable beat and chord structure, Music Memos automatically analyzes your audio, identifying the tempo and groove as well as the harmonies.
This isn’t a new idea—numerous DAWs can attach appropriate symbols to your chords and interpret your tempo and meter based on performance accents. Several desktop and mobile apps have also adopted this idea in creative and useful ways. A notable example is Supermegaultragroovy’s Capo, which can perform such impressive feats as identifying the chord progressions in songs by other artists and suggesting chord fingerings. But Apple’s app offers a different gee-whiz feature: auto accompaniment.
A bare-bones band. After analyzing your recordings, Music Memos can add fairly realistic drum and bass accompaniment. The app doesn’t quantize your performance, but attempts to follow it, tempo changes and all. You have some control over the auto-generated tones and playing styles, which you can revise at any point. After you’re finished, you can email your guitar/bass/drums clips, post them to social media, or transfer them to GarageBand or Logic Pro, where the results appear as three discrete tracks, ready for additional editing, overdubbing, processing, and mixing.
So let’s take Music Memos for a spin.
A trial run. For my first crack at Music Memos, I tuned up using the app’s built-in tuner and then recorded a fast verse/chorus sketch with a steady 8th note rock groove. The verse progression is E/D/A/C, and the chorus is C7/D7/E7 (with a few little variations).
You trigger recording by pressing the big button on Music Memos’ main screen. As you track, a waveform of your performance appears in real time (Image 1).
Ex. 1 is the initial performance.
Hi-fi, it ain’t. This is pretty typical for an acoustic guitar recording made with iPhone’s built-in mic. (To hear exactly how much external hardware can enhance iOS recordings, see the March 2015 Recording Guitarist column, “A Mobile Recording Reality Check.” Spoiler:Even inexpensive external mics can provide major sonic upgrades.) But for this experiment, I kept things quick and dirty.
I deliberately threw in a few curves. I started playing the verse with dry open fifths, but gradually added sevenths, open strings, and a few non-chord drone notes. The clangorous chorus chords freely mix stopped notes and open strings. And I slowed way down for the final chords.
Image 2 shows how Music Memos depicted my performance. Here, I’m about to define the recording’s start point using the app’s trim tool to remove the blank bar at the top. Meanwhile, notice how the given chord progression differs from the one cited above.
Yes, Music Memos sometimes gets chords wrong, though inevitably in logical ways. If, say, you play something smeary and percussive as you leap from chord to chord, the app attempts to interpret it harmonically. It can also fail to detect all the pitches in four-, five-, and six-note chords, often omitting the lowest ones. For example, it would sometimes interpret my five-note D9 chord as Am, correctly perceiving the A, C, and E pitches, but missing the D and F#.
Fix it in the mix. Fortunately, Music Memos has an excellent tool for correcting interpretation errors: You bracket the problem section using a tool much like the iOS text selector. The app proposes a list of likely chords, or you can enter your own chord names manually (Image 3).
Image 4 shows my recording after corrections. These edits changed nothing in my performance. They simply define how the virtual bass track interprets my harmonies. Ex. 2 is what I heard when I pressed the bass icon at the screen’s bottom, and Ex. 3 is the result after adding drums.
Pretty impressive, I’d say. The virtual rhythm section doesn’t quite follow the final slow down, though it does sound remarkably like real musicians messing up an ending.
At this point, you can still modify the virtual performance styles. Music Memo incorporates a clever tool from the virtual drummer instrument in Logic Pro: a square field with a moveable puck inside. Moving the puck from left to right makes virtual performances more complex, while moving it from low to high makes them louder. The bass editing field also lets you choose between electric and upright tones (Image 5), while the drum editor offers a choice of vintage or modern drum sounds (Image 6). Three additional icons let you specify whether the accompaniment emphasizes closed hi-hat, ride cymbal, or toms.
In Ex. 4, I specified a quieter drum part, and Music Memos automatically replaced the loud snare sound with a softer side-stick tone.
Back to the garage. After tweaking, I sent my parts to GarageBand on my phone using the export option. (I might have also mailed them to myself to open in my studio’s Logic Pro rig.) The parts appeared as three independent tracks, ready for additional refinements and overdubs (Image 7). Once inside the DAW, you have deeper control over the virtual performances and you can even choose between various drummer “personalities.” (Insert drummer joke here.)
Image 8 shows the drum editor in GarageBand for iPhone. I dialed in a more tom-intensive part and wound up with Ex. 5.
Memo to self: use Music Memos. It does several useful tasks extremely well (if not flawlessly) and, most important, it increases the odds that a flash of inspiration far from home will eventually find its way into a studio production. Plus it’s free—assuming you’ve got a fairly recent iPhone or iPad.
I’m curious to hear from you guys. How do you capture fleeting ideas before they vanish into the ether? Any tips to share about apps and techniques, especially ones for non-Apple devices?
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Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.