Monthly Archives: June 2009


A demon­stra­tion of the Melodica app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are sim­i­lar apps out there — Tonepad, Synthtopia — but none of them are as sim­ple and pol­ished. That being said, there are a few fea­tures that could make Melodica stand out even more, such as the abil­ity to save com­po­si­tions on-the-fly and layer them under new ones, or the abil­ity to change the sam­ple sound, so I’m hop­ing they’ll be added in an update. Regardless, I’ve only had this app for a day, and I’ve been enjoy­ing it immensely.

Some tips for composing/performing songs in Melodica:

  • The rests, or spaces between the notes, are impor­tant too. Don’t feel that you need to fill the board with notes. Just like in jazz, it’s impor­tant to hear that notes that aren’t played. Sometimes a melody is strong enough that a few spar­tan notes by them­selves are enough to estab­lish some­thing beau­ti­ful. Or you can places notes on every beat of a mea­sure, except the down­beat, which sub­tly implies “this silence is where the down­beat is sup­posed to be, even though no note is being played”.
  • Don’t feel that you need to use bass notes to estab­lish a rhythm. You can switch it up with high notes as well, and have the base­line as the melody.
  • Syncopation is pos­si­ble. If you imag­ine each of the 16 squares going across as quar­ter notes in four bars in 4/4 time, then you can estab­lish as rhythm by hav­ing a note at the begin­ning (count­ing as the “one”) of each bar, and the third note if you like. You can achieve a nice syn­co­pated sound by putting a note on the sec­ond and fourth quar­ter note of a bar. But be care­ful; if you decide to remove cer­tain notes, don’t remove the rhythm before you remove the syn­co­pated notes. Otherwise, the lis­tener eas­ily loses a sense of where the down­beat is sup­posed to fall, it begins to sound like you’re mak­ing a mis­take, and the song eas­ily falls apart.
  • Try to have a pur­pose, or an idea of where you want to go. Improvisation is totally one of the main advan­tages of Melodica, but you can still decide where you want to go dur­ing a song. If you can see the struc­ture then it’ll be eas­ier to work up to that ahead of time. For exam­ple, if you want a song that starts quiet, builds slowly to a cli­max, then crashes dra­mat­i­cally before re-establishing a steady pace, then you can plan out which notes to add and take away that will quickly and effec­tively achieve these changes.
  • End your songs. Instead of just stop­ping, or clear­ing the board, fade out by tak­ing ele­ments away. And if you can, end your phrases, which means remov­ing the notes from left to right as they’re being played. If you remove notes from right to left, it’ll sound like you stopped abruptly in the mid­dle of a song. Sort of like hear­ing Westminster chimes with­out the last note, leav­ing the lis­tener to won­der where the res­o­lu­tion is.
  • Use sev­eral notes of the same pitch in a row spar­ingly. This is totally a per­sonal pref­er­ence, but I find I get tired of hear­ing these quickly.
  • Songs sound bet­ter with con­trast. That means keep­ing some space between highs, mids, and lows. Or aban­don­ing the mid-range sec­tion alto­gether, since there isn’t much ver­ti­cal room to com­pose. This is because you can cre­ate the illu­sion of more lay­ers by hav­ing strongly defined parts of a song. Otherwise, it all sounds like one com­plex melody.

Version 10.3: The Lifestream

You may have noticed that I’ve adapted my pop­u­lar ver­sion 10 lay­out into a lifestream1. I quite enjoy the con­cept of the lifestream, where you can see a person’s lat­est activ­ity that’s up-to-date by the minute. A change like this means a bump up to a full sub-version num­ber, 10.3

The key to all of this is my new iPhone 3GS. The tech­nol­ogy has roughly caught up to my needs, so I decided to get one this year. Apple tends to announce new iPhone gen­er­a­tions every sum­mer, which means I’ve been plan­ning this design update for months now.

So with this fancy new iPhone I can write tweets on-the-go, stay up-to-date on the peo­ple I fol­low, and check my @replies, all with the Tweetie appli­ca­tion2. I once had my tweets inte­grated into the blog, but decided not to stick with this because the fre­quency with which I use twit­ter meant that the sheer num­ber of tweets was flood­ing my RSS feed. Then one day, the real­iza­tion dawned on me to exclude that one cat­e­gory from my feed, et voila! A sim­ple workaround that lets peo­ple sub­scribe to my twit­ter stream if they so choose.

I can also take pic­tures with the built-in iPhone cam­era and e-mail them to Flickr directly from the phone, which will auto­mat­i­cally cre­ate a WordPress post and embed the pic­ture in the entry3. And coin­ci­den­tally enough, the max­i­mum width for images posted to Flickr is 500 pix­els, which hap­pens to be exactly how wide the main col­umn of my blog is. It’s like it was meant to be.

So there are two new cat­e­gories: one for tweets, and one for snaps. Both of them dis­play with CSS styling unique to each cat­e­gory and an icon to denote the type of post. A note on the “snaps” icon; I tried to find some­thing that would rep­re­sent both a cam­era and an iPhone, because the iPhone isn’t a pure cam­era, nor is it just a phone. I decided to use the cam­era app icon built into the iPhone, which says both. There are no com­ments allowed on these entries because I don’t care for dis­cus­sion on such fleet­ing things. If some­one really wanted to com­ment, they could post a reply through twit­ter, or a com­ment through Flickr.

So unlike most other life streams, this blog is not exactly an aggre­ga­tor of var­i­ous ser­vice feeds because there’s a unique WordPress blog entry cre­ated for every one of my Flickr posts and tweets as well, each one retrieved from within the WordPress loop. I did this to retain a lit­tle inde­pen­dence from ser­vices like Flickr or twit­ter; if I ever chose not to use them any­more, my blog won’t explode into a ball of fire with all the miss­ing entries.

With all of this snazzy integration in place, I can post things quickly and on-the-fly, as long as I have internet access. Which is almost anywhere, now that I have a 3G data plan. Version 10.3 is a reflection of that.

With my ever increas­ingly busy life, the abil­ity to post snip­pets of things comes as a wel­come change to my reg­u­lar entries, which often take days to write.

  1. If you’re see­ing some strange ren­der­ing issues, they’ll prob­a­bly clear up if you refresh the page. []
  2. This also helps me avoid text mes­sag­ing charges, which is how I wrote tweets before, when I was out in the real world with no inter­net access, though my new data plan has unlim­ited texts any­way. []
  3. In an ideal world, I could send the pic­ture to a WordPress e-mail address or post it using the iPhone WordPress appli­ca­tion, but the post-by-email option of the for­mer doesn’t allow attach­ments, and the lat­ter has very crude image upload­ing options with only one set width avail­able for resiz­ing. []

Feeling My Age

So cur­rently it’s:

7:00am — Two mesalamine pills for my col­i­tis and two snorts of cor­ti­cos­teroid for my hayfever
3:00am — Two mesalamine pills for my col­i­tis
7:00pm — Two snorts of cor­ti­cos­teroid for my hayfever
Dinner — One mul­ti­vi­t­a­min to make up for the foods I can’t eat due to col­i­tis
11:00pm — Two mesalamine pills for my col­i­tis and 20mg of cet­i­rizine hydrochlo­ride for my hayfever

I expect to be wear­ing adult dia­pers and using a walker any day now.