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Hard-rockin’ drum pedal lets you be the band

Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

There’s always that moment when your drummer can’t show up for rehearsal. She’s got some other commitment. He’s got another gig. Her boyfriend needs her to take him to the hospital.

It happens. When it does, you can do what I’ve always done – pound your foot against the floor and try to muddle on through – or you can use a drum machine. The problem with standard drum machines is that they’re made to be used by hands or, in some cases, drum sticks. I’m not a drummer (no sticks) and I need my hands to play my guitar. What I really need is a drum machine I can play from the floor, guitar-pedal style.

That’s what caught my eye about the BeatBuddy – this is a guitar-pedal-style device that lets you use your foot to play back drum beats in a variety of styles, fills and different parts included. This is my new best friend when the drummer can’t make it to practice, and it may become my new stage pal if I take my act solo.

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The YouTube musician who made Steve Jobs dance with glee

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Jonathan Mann turns his fascination with Apple into catchy pop songs. Photo: Funcrunch Photo/Flickr

Steve Jobs wasn’t in the habit of dancing at Apple events. But in 2010, prior to a press conference where he addressed concerns about the new iPhone’s antenna, a song lampooning the controversy got Jobs dancing in the wings before he faced off with journalists.

The song in question, which played on a big screen to kick off the event, was the work of YouTube musician and Apple fan Jonathan Mann, who has spent the past five years composing a new song each day and posting it online.

“I heard later on from an Apple PR person that Steve Jobs was bopping along in the wings as the song was playing” at the Antennagate press conference, says Mann, speaking with Cult of Mac. “It was a surreal moment in my life.”

Antennagate went away, but Mann became the go-to guy for jingles about all things Cupertino. To date he has written 38 songs about Apple, touching  on everything from Craig Federighi’s WWDC performance to the unveiling of the Apple Watch. His clever ideas and quick turnaround times have turned him into YouTube’s premier Apple songsmith.

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Slash defends U2’s unique deal with Apple

Photo: Wikipedia CC

Photo: Wikipedia CC

Former Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash has praised U2’s poorly received iTunes album giveaway as a clever marketing strategy.

“There’s a lot less opportunities in the record business to get a deal and get a record out there, and there’s not a lot of radio play for it,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock magazine.

Describing the music business in 2014 as “like the wild, wild west,” he continued that this was “one of those kind of tactics that only U2 could really get away with doing.”

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London calling: The best of the iTunes Festival (so far)

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This year’s iTunes Festival lineup is fantastic. It’s got everything, with veterans like Tony Bennett and Robert Plant sharing a festival stage with relative newcomers Sam Smith and Deadmau5.

All those taking the stage at London’s Roundhouse as part of the free shows are consummate performers but — as with any large concert program — there are always some standout acts. We’ve rounded up some of the best moments from the first half of this month-long concert series.

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U2 and Apple crank marketing debacle up to 11

Apple delivers U2's Songs of Innocence to millions of iTunes users, but not everybody's buying the hype. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Apple delivers U2’s Songs of Innocence to millions of iTunes users, but not everybody’s buying the hype. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Thousands of angry iPhone users have found an album they weren’t looking for: U2’s Songs of Innocence.

Instead of making the band’s mediocre new album an opt-in freebie, Apple jammed it down the throats of a half-billion iTunes Store customers, enraging some of the company’s most loyal fans. Whether they wanted the album or not, it’s now showing up as “purchased” in individuals’ iTunes libraries on their computers and phones.

When Tim Cook trotted out the Irish rockers for a limp finale to Tuesday’s big Apple Watch announcement, he called giving away the band’s new record “the largest album release of all time” — but now it looks like one of the dumbest.

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Here’s proof iTunes Radio isn’t the underdog you think it is

Here’s proof iTunes Radio isn’t the underdog you think it is

iTunes Radio quickly became known as an underdog after its release last fall, with Apple facing an uphill battle against established services like Spotify and Pandora. In today’s video, we take an in-depth look at iTunes Radio, its features, its future — and why it deserves your attention.

Subscribe to Cult of Mac TV on YouTube to catch all our latest videos.

Brian Eno brings iOS app holograms to new vinyl record release

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Drop the needle on avant-garde musician Brian Eno’s latest album release (on vinyl, of course), and you’ll hear all sorts of future-retro electronic sounds composed to stir your emotions in sometimes unpredictable ways.

Aim your iPhone at the very same vinyl record, and if you’ve installed the app made for the purpose, you’ll see a whole different scene, a 3D hologram-like cityscape that rises up from the spinning platter. Check out the video (below) for a sneak peek.

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As streaming surges, record stores turn the indie knob up to 11

Photo: Jim Merithew, Cult of Mac

Video might have killed the radio star, but streaming hasn’t killed the record store. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Stroll into your local record store and you won’t find the dusty-floored wasteland of empty bins you might imagine. Chances are you’ll see something that’s more vibrant, relevant and vital than before.

Like the nerdy know-it-alls at specialty wine stores and comic book shops, today’s typical employee at an indie record store is still a tastemaking wizard — just turned up to 11. Staff picks bear the unerring zeal of the true believer, and staffers are more focused on uncovering stuff that you’ll never find on a Walmart CD shelf.

“Since there’s been a turn to Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes, we sell way more vinyl,” said Jim Haynes, assistant manager at San Francisco’s Aquarius Records. “We’re at about 75 percent vinyl to 20 percent CD and a smattering of cassettes. People are turning to an even more seemingly obsolete medium.”

Predictions of the end of physical media are as played-out as those reports about the death of rock ‘n’ roll, with everyone and their mother proclaiming that Spotify and other streaming services have killed the local record store. That fear-mongering sounds smart and might even contain a kernel of truth, but the reality is much different.

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iRing lets you rock mad beats using only your hands

Photo: Jim Merithew, Cult of Mac

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Sliding two distinctive iRings between my middle and ring fingers on each hand and then conducting the bouncy electronic beat coming out of my iPad mini and into my big fat headphones made me feel less like a conductor and more like an awkward boxer, punching at a touchscreen.

Once I relaxed into it, though, the music started to flow and my hands began to dance; this is one cool iOS music-making peripheral.

The iRing is made for making music, but the potential here is stunning: Imagine a video game controlled with your hands, a webpage that scrolls at a speed you define with your fingers, or an e-book that turns pages with a swipe through the air. This is a truly innovative new product.

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Tiny gadget cures MIDI of its cable addiction

Photo: Jim Merithew, Cult of Mac

Photo: Jim Merithew, Cult of Mac

Getting your MIDI keyboard connected to your iPad or Mac can be a frustrating experience. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right wires that connect to your output device of choice, and then you’ve got to make sure you never ever lose them.

PUC by Zivix LLC
Category: Music & MIDI
Works With: iOS, OS X
Price: $129

Hopping onstage for a gig at the local brewpub can be a frightening experience if you’ve lost that one special cord that goes from your keys to your Ableton Live setup on your Mac, and missing out on a recording session because you can’t find that special 30-pin adaptor for your iPad is just a pain in the butt.

The folks behind the excellent JamStick, Zivix, have your answer, then, with a cool-looking little round gadget called a PUC that connects any MIDI keyboard or other capable device to your iPad, your Mac, your iPhone, your PC — you name it, if it’s got Wi-Fi and can run a MIDI app, you can use the PUC to send your MIDI performance to it.

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