By: John Faulkner
Something being “cool” is extremely subjective. And it could be up for debate if the person or group of people who are the arbiters of “cool” are actually “cool” enough to judge what is “cool.” So we don’t spend any time and get dizzy trying to figure this out, how about I share a few cool things we saw at National Association of Music Merchants (or NAMM) 2015. How frustrated are you after returning home from a concert when you watch a video of a couple of songs you recorded and the sound is horrible? Yeah, probably not too pleased. The solution to getting high-quality stereo recordings at concerts or in other loud environments comes from the people at IK Multimedia with their iRig MIC Field, which works with an iPhone or iPad. This directional, digital microphone records video and audio and rotates 90-degrees to give you the flexibility of landscape or portrait recording. Downloading the free app allows you to record, edit, and process your recordings even while at the concert. The app is fully compatible with all social media sites plus Apple’s GarageBand and iMovie. $99.00, online and retail. Probably the most fun technology at NAMM was imitone from a company of the same name. Imitone allows you to voice the sound of any instrument, whether you sing, hum, or whistle. They call it “Mind To Melody.” Creator Evan Balster says the “smiles of surprise and glee were commonplace at our NAMM booth and hint at the heart of what I’ve been working to create these last four years: a state of play. Even if I refine my technology to the point where it revolutionizes the performance and composition of music, I think that will remain its true innovation.” The key to making imitone work best is by singing in tune since it makes music from your actual voice and not your desired voice. Getting started is easy. Just download their controller software onto a PC or Mac, connect a microphone, wear headphones, and download almost any music app or music software. Taking the place of a conventional keyboard, the developers of imitone say it is “intuitive, instant, and expressive” as it allows both beginners and accomplished vocalists to make the magic of music without needing to know how to play an instrument. $25 – $60, online only. For musicians at all levels, there’s the WholeWorldBand app (iPad or iPhone only), which allows anyone to video record a music session and then share it with musicians anywhere.
The process on the app is simple. You can choose to start or join a session and then either lay down your own music or play along with someone else’s. This is like a jam session where anyone with any of a number of instruments can participate. Other musicians can also layer on their instrument to your music session. It’s similar to being in a multi-track recording studio. Gregory Butler with WholeWorldBand says the company posited the question: “What if everyone can create music with anyone in the world?” This led to musicians “interacting and engaging other musicians where a high degree of technical know-how isn’t a requirement.” Free, online only. The true test of an innovative product is when it crosses between professional and personal use. Direct Sound Headphones have both a ‘studio’ and ‘home’ headphone line, though the pair that caught my eye was the Extreme Isolation EX-29 from the Studio side. Steve Rois with Direct Sound Headphones told I&TT that what makes these isolation headphones so popular with recording engineers, musicians, and for home use is that “they have a flat response with a cushioned seal that surrounds the ears and acoustical foam that lays against your head for comfort.” The EX-29 are passive isolation headphones, meaning they have no electronic noise canceling or use batteries. I found them to be very comfortable and a great way to listen to music – even from a smart phone. $129.95 online and at retail locations.
There’s a quick look at four innovative products I found would be useful, whether you occasionally play a few notes on the piano or guitar or make music for a living. NAMM is a rich and robust place to witness first-hand creativity, innovation, and technology while mixing with some of the most talented and accomplished musicians in the world. If you get excited about the world of music, add NAMM to your bucket list.