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Your iPad as a musical instrument

Nov 11, 2014

Believe it or not, a transoceanic sailboat and an interplanetary manned spacecraft on its way to Mars share two important factors in common: limited space, and extreme isolation. Under such conditions and cut off from the rest of the world, it is recommended that the following items be available to help fill leisure time: books, a film library, recordings of musical productions, table games and others especially devised for cosmonauts, a controllable color generator, small musical instruments, and other equipment (Petrov, Yu A., Foundations of Space Biology and Medicine). Since bluewater sailors and interplanetary astronauts both have leisure time, the question becomes is there currently a device they can use for all these various leisure activities?

If NASA were to purposely design a small, portable, electronic adjunct to accompany astronauts on their interplanetary journey to Mars that would fulfill the above requirements, they would be hard-pressed indeed to design an instrument that comes close to the Apple iPad! The Apple engineers have already developed such an entertainment device and NASA would be well advised to adapt it to their spaceflight requirements and sailors for their long ocean voyages.

This is especially true since the invention and development of an absolutely killer app that turns an iPad into a musical instrument that can be played and mastered by using the same Qwerty keyboard skills that hundreds of millions of people already posses through the use of their computers. If you can type using a computer, then you can play a musical instrument!

This app was developed by Jim Fallgatter, who is also the founder of Aqwertyan Music Systems (full disclosure: Jim is a friend of mine — but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a great little tool). The app allows people with absolutely zero experience at reading music or playing an instrument to download any of tens of thousands of available songs and play them on their choice of more than 100 instruments! These songs and tunes consist of every musical genre — including sea shanties — perfect for pepping up life aboard any kind of vessel. You can also choose the “Ensemble Mode,” which provides an entire orchestra accompaniment. I have listened to Jim play songs on his iPad for senior citizens at one of our local nursing homes and the results were nothing short of spectacular, both in musical output and in the effect it had on the patients! Of course, Jim was using a portable amplifier to increase his iPad’s output volume, but that may not be necessary for most people who are entertaining themselves or a small group. A headphone set works just dandy for playing alone.

The key to playing music without any experience is by adapting the standard computer QWERTY keyboard that most of us are already familiar with and competent at typing on very fast. Aqwertyan Music Systems have programmed their system to use and convert music formatted for MIDI, (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to correspond to the QWERTY keyboard — pure genius, and very useful for us non-musician computer users. If you would like to use a stand-alone keyboard instead of the iPad virtual keys, the options are to use a Bluetooth QWERTY Keyboard, or a MIDI Piano Keyboard mapped to QWERTY keys.

The actual Aqwertyan App is free and comes with five free songs. After that, you can download and translate songs from the Internet and convert them for as little as 6 cents per song if you buy 50 for $2.99, or 10 cents each if you buy 10 songs for 99 cents. Now, get started on your musical side by going to www.aqwertian.com, and if and when you get tired of playing music then read a book, watch a movie or play a game, or even use your iPad as a remote wireless control panel!

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