I’ve been spending most of my music-making time on my laptop lately. Maybe it’s a phase though I think the novelty of mobile music has worn off for me. There are lots of great apps out there, of course, but the platform is maturing and mobile apps are starting to feel like just another tool in the toolbox for me.
That said, I picked up Ripplemaker by Bram Bos a week or two ago and have really been enjoying using it. I have a 40-ish minute daily train ride from my home outside of Philadelphia into the city and Ripplemaker patching has supplanted my typical commute routine of playing chess.
Ripplemaker is a semi-modular synthesizer application designed with the west coast synthesis style in mind. Modules are pre-wired and you can override default connections by adding your own virtual patch cables.
There are more sophisticated and powerful modular synth apps out there for iOS, for example, zMors modular and Audulus. (I use zMors and prefer it over Audulus because it supports running PureData patches.) However, Ripplemaker drew me in largely because of its design. Bram’s background in UX design really comes through; you can tell he put a lot of thought into creating an app that’s accessible to beginning users and versatile for more advanced users.
In addition to the immediacy of making sound and experimenting in the application, Ripplemaker comes with an excellent manual to help newcomers get familiar with modular synthesis and veteran synthheads understand the nuances of patching (e.g., be aware of normalized connections).
While I usually run Ripplemaker on my iPad it also runs on iPhone and the design scales very well to the smaller form factor – an impressive design feat!
In addition to allowing open-ended patching for advanced users you also get Ableton Link integration and external MIDI input allowing sync and control from external applications.
Here’s a minimally edited jam using two instances of Ripplemaker synth, one on my iPhone and another on my iPad. The melody is loosely based on a bird song heard in my backyard (I’ve yet to identify the bird).
If you’re interested in learning about modular synthesis without a big time or financial commitment, Ripplemaker is an excellent choice. And if you’re a more advanced user, Ripplemaker may surprise you; behind its clean and polished facade there’s a lot of functionality to explore. Thanks to Bram Bos – looking forward to more!