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.