How to find that great song you heard on TV last night

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Somebody’s been doing some really hard listening here.
Somebody’s been doing some really hard listening here.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If I’m watching a TV show and a great song comes on, I usually try to find my iPhone in time to shazam it. I almost always fail, as 1) TV shows don’t tend to play entire songs without people talking over them and 2) I can never find my phone in time. Or rather I’m too lazy to look for it.

A similar thing happens for movies, only I promise myself that I’ll check the credits at the end, and I seldom do.

My dad, old-school guy that he is, likes to call up the TV company and ask them. Maybe I’ll do that when I’m retired, if there are still TV companies with phone numbers.

But did you know that there’s an almost 100% foolproof way to find that awesome track that played in that TV show you saw last night? It’s called Tunefind, and it’s great.

How to make music with an iPad and a ‘classic’ Swedish synth

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These two will make beautiful music together.
A perfect music-making combo.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

At first glance, the decade-old OP-1 synthesizer from Swedish musical instrument makers Teenage Engineering looks about as standalone as it gets.

The tiny device couples a short, piano-style keyboard with a screen. And it contains a drum machine, several synthesizers, a sampler, a handful of sequencers, a virtual four-track tape recorder and even an FM radio. You can create entire tracks on it with no other gear, or you can hook it up to electric guitars and microphones and bring the outside world in.

But it also pairs surprisingly well with an iPad. You can record audio back and forth, but things go much deeper than that. You also can use the OP-1’s hardware keyboard to play instruments on the iPad, and use iPad MIDI apps to control the synthesizers on the OP-1.

Making music with an iPad and a synth

If you own both pieces of gear already, hopefully this how-to will give you some new ideas about making music with an iPad. But if you only own an iPad, this in-depth article will provide tips for using your tablet with other music gear.

And if you know nothing about the OP-1, or about Teenage Engineering’s work in general, you’ll learn why the company is kind of the Apple of the synth world. Teenage Engineering is known for its incredible interface design — and for having a quirky personality similar to 1984-era Apple, when the brand-new Mac was making waves.

How I wrote a shortcut to calculate the length of playlists

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Shortcut sign.
Shortcut sign.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

This weekend I made a shortcut that takes a list of songs, adds up the total duration, and shows it in a notification.

The first part was easy. The Shortcuts app has a great action that can tell you anything about an iTunes Media file (or any other media file), including its duration. I whipped up a shortcut to cycle through a list of music tracks, adding up the durations along the way. It took five minutes, tops.

Then things started to go wrong. The shortcut returned the total duration in seconds. I don’t know about you, but for me, a number like 4,166.867 isn’t that useful. I prefer something like 01:09:26, or 1 hour 9 minutes and 36 seconds. The problem was, I couldn’t get from one to the other.

Should you use the EQ in the iPhone’s Music app?

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How low can you go?
How low can you go?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The quick answer is “Yes, of course you should.” The more complex answer is “But only if you need it.” Your iPhone has an equalizer built in, although it’s not exactly easy to find. Annoyingly-hidden-yet-essential interface elements aside, there’s usually not much point in tweaking the EQ of your Apple Music library unless you have a problem in your setup.

But if you do want to use it, here’s how.

Atom Piano Roll is an iOS MIDI-lover’s dream

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Atom piano roll
Atom is a like a player-piano for your iPad
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

 

Atom is a “piano roll” sequencer for making music on iOS. A piano roll is named for the software used to run olde worlde player pianos. It’s a roll of paper with holes punched in it. As the roll moves through the piano, the holes are read by a “tracker bar,” and the corresponding notes are played.

Imagine such a sheet of paper in the digital realm. That’s a modern piano-roll sequencer, and it’s a commonplace way to control software instruments. Atom brings some amazing tricks to the piano roll. It’s also an Audio Unit (AU) app, which means it can work as a plug-in inside your favorite iOS Music apps, like Cubasis and GarageBand.

Major macOS upgrade will bring new Music, Podcasts and TV apps

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iTunes on Mac
You may need iTunes a lot less in the next version of macOS.
Photo: Apple

Evidence of Apple’s plan to break up iTunes has been uncovered ahead of the next major macOS update.

Icons for new Podcasts and TV apps have leaked out early. They’re expected to be accompanied by a new Music app and a redesigned Books app — all based on their counterparts for iOS.

Spotify’s fight against increased rates is good for Apple Music

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Apple Music
The #CancelSpotify movement is a win for Apple.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Spotify’s efforts to avoid paying higher rates is giving Apple Music a big advantage, according to a new report.

Apple is the only major music streaming company that isn’t appealing a decision to increase the rate paid to songwriters. As a result, Apple Music is getting all the love on social media.

Amazon thinks it can beat AirPods on audio quality

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AirPods 2. AirPods S, more like.
The wearables market is about to heat up.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s AirPods are about to get some fresh competition from Amazon.

The online retail giant is reportedly planning to release its own set of wireless earbuds that will be powered by its digital assistant Alexa and possibly better audio quality.

How to record digital audio from your iPhone to your Mac with iDAM

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Audio and USB, together again.
Audio and USB, together again.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Did you know that you can send the audio from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac via the Lightning cable? That audio stays in pristine digital ones and zeros, and can be recorded (or otherwise used) anywhere you can edit audio on your Mac.

For musicians, this turns your iPad and all its music apps into a plugin for your Mac. And for anyone else, it could just be a neat way to route audio into your Mac’s speakers. The feature is called iDAM, and it’s built into your Apple devices. Oh, and it works with MIDI too.

Spotify trials new Premium Duo plan for two

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Spotify Premium Duo
Sign up to Premium Duo today.
Photo: Spotify

Spotify has started testing a new Premium Duo plan for two.

The bundle offers two Premium subscriptions at a significantly discounted rate. It makes Spotify the only music streaming service to offer a couple’s plan — but it does come with some caveats.