iPad music app’s overnight success took 10 years of hard work

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StaffPad being used on iPad
This great musical notation app is one of Apple's favorites.
Photo: David William Hearn

Londoner David William Hearn is not a trained programmer. He has no university education when it comes to making software. And yet his musical notation app for iPad, StaffPad, just won a coveted Apple Design Award this week.

The iPad app gives composers and conductors powerful tools for writing and tweaking musical scores, and for sharing their changes instantly with musicians on a stage or in a recording studio. StaffPad places the iPad and Apple Pencil squarely in the center of the collaborative creative process.

Here’s how Hearn and his team created their award-winning music-notation app.

Interactive sheet music makes learning and playing easier [Deals]

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Tomplay
Learn and play your favorite works accompanied by high quality recordings made by professional musicians.
Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

Learning and playing music can be hard, especially if you’re not able to dedicate every waking hour to the craft. But there are ways to make music fun and easy.

Take, for instance, interactive sheet music app Tomplay. It offers great features and tools that prove useful to musicians of all levels.

Tomplay makes learning and playing music easier and more fun. Just choose the track for the song you want, and press play. A high-quality recording will accompany you as you play along, with more than 18,000 titles to choose from.

The score scrolls automatically in time with the music, so you don’t have to mess around with flipping pages. Plus, you can change the speed to work your way up to full tempo.

Tomplay also lets you add annotations for performance notes, loop specific passages for practice, and lots more. Little wonder it’s earned 4.4 out of 5 stars on the App Store.

Buy now: Get a year of Tomplay Interactive Sheet Music for $49.99. That’s half off the usual price.

Play along to a massive sheet music database on all your Apple devices [Deals]

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Tomyplay Music App
Learn and play your favorite musical works with Tomplay.
Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

Learning music is a great way to sharpen your mind and deepen the enjoyment of life. However, even some experienced musicians find reading music intimidating. Interactive sheet music player Tomplay offers accessible, readable scores of thousands of songs — for all instruments.

With it, you can play along with more than 18,000 songs on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. (It works on Android and Windows, too.)

How to record Digitakt into Ableton Live with Overbridge 2 [Video]

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Digitakt close up
The Digitakt drum sampler is even more awesome paired with Ableton Live.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Overbridge 2 is an amazing new app/plugin from Swedish drum machine and synthesizer maker Elektron. As its name suggests, it acts as a bridge between your computer and Elektron’s hardware boxes.

Using Overbridge, you can plug in, say, the Digitakt drum computer and sampler, and stream all eight of its audio tracks to your Mac or PC over a single USB cable.

5 Ableton Live tips for GarageBand users

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ableton live at home
Who needs to leave the house any more?
Photo: Ableton

If you’re a stuck-at-home musician, or just someone who would like to learn to make music with their Mac, then maybe you’ve just downloaded the generous, lockdown-era, three-month free trial of Ableton Live. And if you’re a GarageBand (or Logic Pro X) user, you may be feeling a little lost.

Fear not. I did the same thing last year. At first I was overwhelmed just trying to do basic stuff, like routing my guitar into Ableton or trying to work out why the app offers at least three record buttons.

So, as a relatively fresh Ableton user, I thought I’d make a list of handy tips for new users coming from Apple’s music apps.

BeepStreet Drambo changes the face of iOS music apps

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BeepStreet Drambo on iPad and iPhone
Drambo works on any iOS device.
Photo: BeepStreet

Once in a while, an app comes along that changes the way you think of a computer platform. Like Photoshop on the Mac, Lotus 1-2-3 on the IBM PC, or GarageBand on the iPad. We just got another one of these apps Tuesday. It’s called Drambo, from veteran music-app developer BeepStreet, and it redefines music apps on iOS.

Yes, iOS. This amazing, modular, do-almost-anything app works on the iPhone as well as the iPad.

ConnectionOpen is like Skype for musicians

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ConnectionOpen Marshall amp and guitar player
ConnectionOpen lets musicians collaborate over the internet.
Photo: Daniel Chekalov/Unsplash

If you sit in front of an iPad typing up Apple-related how-tos all day long, then working from home is no problem. In fact, it’s simply the next step up from “working from bed.” But for some professions, like musicians, working from home is difficult if not impossible. You might have a home studio, but you still need to get the band together to record them.

Or do you? ConnectionOpen is an app that lets musicians play together over the internet. The wild thing is, it’s a standard plugin for Logic, Ableton, Pro Tools and other audio-editing apps. And now, it’s also available for the iPad.

How to replace Apple’s Music app with something better

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Yes it does landscape, too.
Yes it does landscape, too.
Photo: Marvis

Like almost all of Apple’s built-in iOS apps, the Music app is capable but hard to use. Apple’s habit of hiding key functions behind multiple button-taps is in full force here, and it’s getting worse. Want to “heart” a track? You used to be able to do it from the lock screen player. Now you have to access the Music app’s share menu, and find it there.

And what if you want to view your recently added items as a list, or your list of songs as a grid? Tough. On the other hand, if you use features like the For You… playlists, and Apple Music’s excellent More by… recommendations, many alternative music apps don’t support them.

The answer to this digital music conundrum is Marvis Pro, a 1-year-old music app that offers everything you need — and nothing you don’t.