Mugician: iPad as musical instrument

Last week, I discovered a cool music app for my iPad. It’s called Mugician by Rob Fielding. I found it by searching for “microtonal” in the app store. It’s essentially an 11-string guitar synth. You can turn frets on and off. When they’re off you can slide up and down a string for complete control of tuning, within the limitations of your fingertip. You can also turn frets partially on so that you start on a tempered-tuning pitch, but then you can freely bend and vibrate the note.

Developer Rob Fielding’s blog has the instruction manual. He explains the controls at the bottom of the screen. The lock at the lower right kept me from discovering what the controls do. Unlock it (swipe the mini-slider to the left) and you  might not even need the instructions. The controls let you turn on and control reverb, several types of distortion, and echo.

He doesn’t aim to make the instrument easy to play by emulating existing instruments or by simplifying it with preselected scales or loops;  he says  his goal is to “keep things expressive by making sure that there are as many dimensions of expression as I can cram into the given space…”  He means for you to practice and develop your musical ideas, just like a violin or French horn.

Mugician isn’t being developed any more — it’s very expressive as it is. After all, you don’t want the instrument that you practice and become good at playing to change out from under you. I do hope they keep it working as the iOS changes though. (What a tedious responsibility for developers.) Rob  has developed another iOS synth, Geo Synthesizer, with Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. I’ll have to check that one out soon.

I’ve made a little demo of some of the playing techniques that intrigue me.

4 thoughts on “Mugician: iPad as musical instrument

  1. Hi Pamela,

    I recently came across your blog and have been enjoying reading through it very much! There's some really interesting idea and tips for creating music here (I am an aspiring musician myself)! I tried out this app, it's very cool, although I'll never get used to playing a 'screen'. There's something about that tactile, warm feeling of plucking a real guitar string!

    Anyway, I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing your blog on Glipho? Glipho is a new social blogging network that aims to promote the writing of its users and help build their audiences. We are trying to establish a creative community at Glipho, and your blog is just what we are looking for.

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  2. I remember reading that Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog Synthesizer in the 1960s, had to be on the defensive when people first said his analog synthesizers were not "real instruments", as these short-sighted people believed that for an instrument to be considered "real" it had to be made of wood and metal by a craftsman (like pianos, violins, etc.). His answer was that each of his synthesizers WAS painstakingly hand made and was every bit a "real instrument". Today, we realize that Bob Moog's instruments, though made from electronic circuits rather than wood and strings, started a revolution in new sounds that changed the music industry. Even with the amazing sounds that digital synthesizers produce today, analog synthesizers still hold a niche among many musicians, and are used in popular recordings.

  3. Nice memories of Bob Moog. I worked with him for a couple years in the 1980s when he was at Kurzweil. Analog synths could be such quirky instruments and hard to control. I was excited when I learned my first computer-music programming language.

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