Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box: iPads and Android Tablets as Instant Mega-Music Boxes

Have you received a music box as a gift during your childhood years? Now you can go back to those sweet childhood memories filled with wonder and excitement through Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box. I would be quick to admit my bias when m writing this review (I worked on its music after all), but I just can’t contain my excitement over it. Truth of the matter is that I really love it, and I think most of you will too.

I just received a complimentary copy of the software from Stanislas Hauptmann of Kidoteca. As soon as I had it installed in my iPad, I couldn’t help but be filled with awe and excitement as all of the 16 piece of music that I arranged for this instrument came to life.

The present version of the Magical Music Box gives you a total of 6 different music box styles. Instead of a single diorama you might find in an actual music box, you can actually “dress up” your music box depending on your mood or whatnot. However, (again, here’s my bias going off), the most important thing about the Magical Music Box is the music itself.

I arranged a total of 16 pieces for this instrument. These piece range from the most serious of classical music pieces like “Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5”, children’s classics like “Old MacDonald” and others. Of all the selections in the Magical Music Box, “Swan Lake”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Invention No. 8” are my favorites.

One more great thing about the Magical Music Box is the interactive interface. Upon opening the music box, you can start cranking it up to produce sounds from it just like the real thing. If your iPad has a folder-style case, you’ll see that if you cover up the screen, the music box is going to stop playing. Again, this is the same as real music boxes where closing the lid would stop the mechanism from playing. If you’re not in the mood to crank up the music box, you could just press the gramophone icon so that it would play as if it was a player piano. Another cool thing about it is that you can access tiny bits of history regarding each piece of music in the Magical Music Box.

At the present time, there are two versions of the Magical Music Box. You can try out the Lite version for free before you decide to purchase a copy. I think you can get way more for your money if you purchase the full version, which is only $0.99 on the App Store at the present time.

You can get a copy of Kidoteca’s Magical Music Box through the following links:


iOS Users

Android Users

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Kidoteca’s “Magical Music Box” to be Released on Apple’s AppStore Tomorrow

About a few weeks ago, I was working with Kidoteca, a publisher and developer of iOS and Android apps aimed at children, on a project called the “Magical Music Box”. My job consisted of arrangement and transcription of various pieces of music from standard notation or audio and into a special worksheet that Stanislas Hauptmann (one of the top guys at Kidoteca) and his crew developed. I can’t wait to be able to try out on the iPad and hear for myself the results of my work.

To give more details about my experiences while working on this project, Mr. Hauptmann provided me with a list of various pieces of music that he wanted for the app to run. The challenge for me was to rearrange a variety of music with varying complexity into versions that would work for an instrument with barely 3 octaves in range (C3 to C6). This component of the job is indeed challenging, especially when I had to slim down complex pieces like Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Act 1 Finale and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 into simple 1-minute pieces with a maximum of just 2 parts. It’s hard to do justice to such classics with those conditions, but I’m guessing I was able to pull that off.

The second challenge of the job was that I had to convert what I hear in my piano and read in the sheet music into Mr. Hauptmann’s specific code. He supplied me with a worksheet that essentially became a vertical step sequencer. I had to input notes according to scientific pitch notation, set a tempo and set a note value per beat. Seems easy on first look. The difficult part, however, was that I had no way of verifying by audio the results of my coding unless Kidoteca renders the worksheets as MP3s. I had to kiss the expectation of working like I do with FLStudio or Sibelius goodbye and instead try my best to accurately write down on the worksheet what I was hearing whenever I sight read or listen to the pieces that are assigned to me.

The third challenge was to curb my urge towards making complex arrangements. Complex arrangements do not work well most of the time when writing for the Magical Music Box as the notes tend to get muddy. There is a great emphasis on making the melody prominent and writing a simple yet driving bass line. There are at times when Mr. Hauptmann and I had a few differences over how the arrangements should go. Fortunately, we were able to settle things and figure out what works.

I also had the opportunity of writing descriptions for the pieces of music I arranged. It’s kind of like writing program notes for a recital except that this time it’s for an iOS app.

It seems to me that things are working out well as we’re going to see the release of Kidoteca’s “Magical Music Box” tomorrow. I just watched the YouTube promo video and it seems to have a really stunning interface. Of course, the music is *ahem* wonderful as well. Do check out the “Magical Music Box” by Kidoteca at the AppStore and Google Play. Turn your iOS and Android devices into a lullaby station or a mesmerizing kid’s music machine.

P.S. With this music box, you never have to wind it up to start playing plus it’s always at a constant tempo so the music doesn’t die down slowly.

The iPad as an Amazing Musical Tool

Just last week, my wife and I bought a new iPad from one of the shops at the SM Mall of Asia. I had been contemplating about getting a tablet computer or e-book reader for years given the advantages they have. I always thought that I could at the very least have one as a library or sheet music stack on the go. Upon getting an iPad, it opened up a whole new world to me.

The first thing about the iPad that was obvious to me was that I can use it as a musical instrument. This is due to Jordan Rudess’s influence, having seen him on many Dream Theater videos that feature the iPhone and then the iPad as an alternative to his Haken Continuum. Taking cue from that influence, my first app purchase was Wizdom Music’s Tachyon and MorphWiz. These two apps simply blew my mind away as it transformed my iPad into a new musical instrument, sort of like a fretless instrument with more controls. More toys for me to make a noise with then.

The second obvious application for the iPad was as a sheet music reader. I have plenty of sheet music in PDF format and so I got Adobe Acrobat Reader installed in the tablet, loaded up some of my sheet music in it, and there I go. I now have most of my sheet music with me in just a small package. No more folders or extra envelopes to bring with me then.

Reading all over the web, I realized that I can do more with it that those things I’ve mentioned. I have GarageBand in my iPad so theoretically I can perform multitrack audio and MIDI recordings with it. I have most of the things required to make that happen such as a couple of keyboards (from the massive Kurzweil PC88 to the Korg Nanokey), my trusty Technics digital piano, some guitars, and my Zoom H4n recorder. All I lack now is the digital camera connection kit for the iPad (essentially an iPad port to USB adapter). Since the Zoom H4n and the Korg Nanokey has been confirmed to work with the iPad, if I get that connector then boom! A recording studio on the go that’s more mobile than my laptop rig.

Since I’m a music transcriber, I’ve also thought about how the iPad would work as a scorewriter. It’s unfortunate that Sibelius for iPad hasn’t been written yet. However, there’s Symphony Pro and Notion for iPad. Since I’ve been reading reports about how both iPad scorewriters are prone to crashing, I held off the decision to purchase one or the other.

The iPad’s WiFi connectivity can turn it into a remote control surface for DAWs like Sonar, Logic Pro, Cubase, etc. This I haven’t tried yet but I’m assuming that it would be a good alternative to getting an actual control surface. I would have to admit though that nothing beats the actual hardware. But if you’ve got an iPad, it maybe worth trying out.

Having spent only a few days with the iPad, I now have an understanding of why a number of musicians prefer to use the iPad, iPhone, Mac Books and other Apple products for their music production needs. It’s easy to use, and it’s already optimized. I didn’t need to do any tweaks of sort to get things like MorphWiz running. With my PC-based music production gear, I had to spend hours tweaking various aspects of it to get them running smoothly. The big turn off for Apple products is the price. The iPad is not cheap, though I got mine lower since the New iPad just got released and I got the iPad 2. If I’ve already seen that much from just spending a few days with the iPad, I suppose there’s still a lot of exciting things for me to look forward to as this new device helps me in creating new music.