New to Thumbjam

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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:50 pm

New to Thumbjam

Postby pepe_lemofo » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:20 am

Hello Jesse and fellow thumbjamers,

I am new to the world of iOS apps having just bought an ipad2 a couple of weeks ago, due in large part after watching the demo videos for Thumbjam. My congratulations to Jesse for creating such an inspiring and enjoyable instrument - I have only had little time to explore it but I am verily impressed by the obvious genius responsible for creating such a clearly organized and intuitive interface. My background in music has been as a freelance bassist and guitarist for the past 20 years and although I had to develop a (very) rudimentary level of competence on the keyboard when I was at music school I have never been able to really take advantage of the wide array of sampled instruments that are ubiquitous now via standard keyboard controllers. I am excited to finally have all these instruments at my fingertips and appreciate how well conceived this instrument is for both novice and pro alike. I look forward to what additions will be made to the instrument list and how the app will continue to evolve and be refined. After reading a few posts in the forum I am glad to see how responsive Jesse is to this community and hope that a few suggestions for further evolution/refinement might be welcomed:


After exploring the instrument list, and being generally impressed with the quality of the samples, I can't help but wish that their velocity could be controlled via the pressure on the glass as in Garageband, for instance. Some of the more expressive instruments would really benefit from a few layers of velocity switching.


An obvious case for the need for pressure/velocity but also it would be nice to be able to rearrange the order of the individual components of a drum kit to suit the individual - with the ability to drag/displace via the screen and also cut, copy and paste to duplicate or delete particular components.


This is one of my main concerns with Thumbjam and hope that Jesse can further refine this part of the interface, soon. In comparison to the two other instrument apps I have, Garageband and Animoog, I much prefer the Thumbjam layout in general. Playing a tiny keyboard (GB) on an ipad is frustrating at best and while Animoog has come up with an interesting way of incorporating accidentals into their scale layout by using black keys it still is nonetheless not quite as easy to visualize the chosen scale as I would like. Thumbjam has incorporated three colors to represent the root, P4, and P5 of the scale - which is very helpful in visualizing the layout and repetition of the scale. I would like to suggest expanding this central element of the interface to further define and visualize the scale that we are looking at. The root note is obviously the most defining note of the scale and perhaps could be represented a bit more boldly in its color saturation as compared to the other pitches. I would argue that the 3rd and 7th degrees of the scale are as important as the 4th and 5th and should be color-coded as well. Perhaps the 2nd, 4th and 6th could be displayed in lighter shade than those primary chord tones. Another idea is to borrow from the Animoog paradigm and represent the accidentals in a black outline as opposed to white. Having a clear representation of where intervals and chords are is probably something we all would like to see and the potential for TJ to lay it out in a logical color pattern seems to be central to the philosophy. I realize the simplicity of the interface needs to be maintained and it will be a challenge to come up with a color scheme that clearly shows what the pitches are without being too distracting. One thing I would like to mention here is that it would be less distracting to have the note(s) being played light up with their own color rather than changing colors as is the current behavior.


Please consider having the volume extend the full length of the x axis, preferably from right to left.


Please also consider retaining the bars in continuum mode instead of the target lines currently employed while retaining the black finger line defining the current pitch.

Change Instrument Behavior

This is a simple request but would save some time when changing instruments. It would be very helpful if the scale/key/and span could all be retained when switching between instruments and also when adding a second instrument.

Left Sidebar

A few suggestions here:
It would be convenient to access some of the more commonly used functions here by expanding on what's already present or condensing similar function buttons into a slide out grouping as in the bottom button (audio>midi control), preferably incorporating the much appreciated finger hold/glide functionality of the corner menus, i.e. the fewer taps the better. So, perhaps the metronome button could be tapped to start/stop or alternately held to reveal related settings such as bpm and volume. Btw, the metronome does not seem to start at the accent when started after being stopped, which would be helpful. Perhaps the recording buttons could likewise be grouped and accessed to free up room for more buttons/functions.... record undo/erase loop? Another button that might get some attention is the sustain pedal. I would rather it be lower down in the list to be more accessible; also, I find that sustain lock does not work for me for some reason - which might be better positioned or dispensed with as it blocks the lowest note on the scale. The functionality might be easily employed by a double-tap on the icon and tapped again to disable? Finally, pitch bend and mod wheels would be wonderful to have and might be incorporated by having a "performance" layout in which the sidebars are replaced with these useful tools, maybe two to a side and freely assignable. It seems that effects like tremolo (depth and/or speed) would be a likely candidate especially as vibrato likes to have its wiggle on the x axis to itself. I don't know about other ipad users but I am envious of the control parameters that are more suited to the iphone/ipod as the ipad is too big to be wiggling fore and aft.

Well, that's enough for now - I look forward to seeing how this instrument develops, it is already quite mature at 2.0 and I am quite happy to be exploring all on offer currently. Thanks Jesse!

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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:50 pm

( crickets) lol... well, I

Postby pepe_lemofo » Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:25 pm

( crickets)

lol... well, I won't take the personally as I am sure Jesse is hard at work on the next update - I would welcome any feedback anyone might have concerning my suggestions, though. I hope I am not completely alone in the areas I touched on, especially in regard to colors and scale recognition. Having the 1, 3, 5, and 7th degree of the scale more obviously displayed would certainly help to visualize chord structures without resorting to the Garageband 'dumb' instrument paradigm. The 2, 4, and 6th degrees could remain grey and still be easily recognized by their proximity to the other colors. Perhaps the option to color coordinate the scale could be a preference incorporated in saving a user defined scale, with the option of a user defined default color coding as well. As regards to how to demarcate accidentals I still prefer the Animoog method as compared to Garageband - the idea of seeing if a note is sharp or flat in relation to the major scale as the reference seems like it would be universally understood. I am still for a black outline but would love to hear other ideas.... anyone? Finally, after Thumbjamming a bit more I still have yet to appreciate how a note lights up in a different color once played, and yet another color depending on how many notes preceded it. I find this behavior distracting and unnecessary, if nothing else, Jesse, please allow the user to disable that light show!

(gentle surf)

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Sadly, it was yard work

Postby Jesse » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:26 pm

Sadly, it was yard work distracting me from replying to this one.....

I've considered several approaches to "velocity-senstivity", but I've not personally found any of them satisfying (in any other app either). I believe that most (including Apple) have been using the accelerometer to implement it which although can work OK sometimes, tends to be a little laggy and unreliable. Have you actually found any apps where you don't end up turning off that feature?

Good idea about the drum layout re-ordering. I'll consider it.

I can make the x-axis volume full width as an option. One benefit of the symmetrical center-loudest approach is that it is consistent in split screen mode, as well as being handed-ness agnostic.

Continuum mode is actually very different implicitly because in order for the dragging to make logical sense it works better when it is linear with pitch, so that the drags are continuous throughout the range. What aspect of the bars do you miss in that mode?

I'm agreed with you on the finger-touch color bars, they are non-sensical at this point, and leftover from days before I had color coded the intervals. I'll see if further color-coding the maj3 and 7th becomes too busy, and I'll saturate the root some more.

I'm glad you figured out the finger-hold glide of those corner buttons, I bet you're in the 5% who have!

I'll take your sidebar suggestions into account. The press-hold to get more functions is a pretty good idea.

As for the sustain lock mode, I think I should make those only take up a portion of the bottom, especially on iPad. Sustain lock works like this: when it is enabled it will sustain forever whatever notes you hit while the sustain button is pressed (even when you release the sustain button). Then you can continue playing regular notes (without sustain) while the sustained notes are held. To stop the sustained notes, toggle sustain lock off. This is kind of like the sostenuto pedal on a grand piano.

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Hi Jesse, Thanks for your

Postby pepe_lemofo » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:44 am

Hi Jesse,

Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough reply, I am glad that you find some of my suggestions useful. I appreciate the explanation on the sustain lock behavior and now realize I was neglecting to hold the sustain button whilst the lock was engaged, I must have assumed that the lock button was acting as the sostenuto pedal on its own - and now I understand the logic behind the behavior, thanks. I also see that the bottom note is blocked when tapped but plays when slid into from the adjacent note - if you could arrange for that note to be accessed on its own that would be helpful, especially as it usually is the tonic and a likely candidate for being sustained.

As for continuum mode, I love how you've implemented that - my only issue is feeling somewhat disoriented without the bars as a reference to where the pitches lay. The target pitch lines also don't convey their colors nearly so clearly, perhaps there could be an option for retaing the bars? In that 'normal' bar mode the on-pitch target lines perhaps could be an option as well for those accustomed to that look or for use with the snap to pitch feature off.

I agree with you on the dual volume orientation in split screen mode, that is 'handy', indeed. The full length would be useful or not depending on what other controls were mapped along the x axis. I am finding less works better for me - for instance having tremolo and vibrato together on the x gets a little too crazy. Actually, tremolo seems to me more like an effect than a performance technique so having its control available along the sidebar is one of my hopes for incorporating pitch/mod wheels - for quick access to speed and/or depth as well as on/off. Ping pong panning, delay feedback, etc. come to mind for other useful parameters to control.

The drum pad re-mapping would be a blessing as I find it much easier to group certain instruments or articulations in certain ways. For instance, where the open hi hat is relative to the closed hi hat, and having a couple or three of those as opposed to a fixed layout and just one of each makes tapping out a beat less cumbersome in general. Not to criticize, but I would love to see this area of the sample set brought up to the standard set be the cello, for example - that is a particularly good sounding instrument and even without velocity switched samples, quite expressive. In regard to velocity I find the Apple sounds to be quite useful, especially the strings and classic keyboards - although I find the layout frustrating, especially the strings and drums. I am too much of a neophyte to know what an accelorometer is but It seems that those instruments respond to pressure, no? I recently came across igog, which from the demos seems promising although limited by lack of cut and paste. I believe their samples are quite a few layers deep and sound quite realistic as a result. I also like how they implement the mic input as a trigger source as well. However, I would love for Thumbjam to be the only app I needed, and it is certainly wide enough in scope to meet most of my needs: intuitive control layout, diverse sample set, loop recorder, fx, etc. - having the already fine sounding instruments multi sampled and all the more expressive would be well worth the size penalty and I for one would be willing to pay whatever the premium for an HD sample library.

Finally, thank you for reconsidering the color coding. The ability to recognize 1,3,5,7 at a glance, regardless of major, minor, perfect, or diminished, etc. would be most welcome. One could then see where the
chord tones lay and visualize all the inversions and extensions more clearly. And if a scale deviated from the major scale tones perhaps the accidental could be rendered in a bold black outline as suggested, or in some other way? I suppose one of the more exotic or elaborate scales might have two accidentals of the same degree, i.e. flat and sharp and might need distinguishing... perhaps by shade instead of outline? Anyway, thank you for giving this idea some more thought. I look forward to how you refine and enhance this brilliant invention of yours!

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Hey Jesse, I see now how to

Postby pepe_lemofo » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:13 pm

Hey Jesse, I see now how to turn off the light show by sliding the graphics update chooser to off, much better now although best would be to have the appropriate pitch color illuminate. Speaking of colors and intervals: since that is such a fundamental aspect of the GUI and what appeals to one user might not work for another (I prefer the gray color scheme, btw) perhaps you might include the choice of interval color as part of the custom scale creation functionality? And regards to velocity, perhaps a simple implementation of that functionality could be the same as volume, along the x axis since it probably would replace that control for the instruments that would benefit from being velocity layered. I have yet to use Thumbjam as a midi controller for other instruments/apps but imagine it would be the ideal tool if there was a way of transmitting velocity. At the moment I am most concerned with finding a decent spec audio interface - hopefully Apogee and others will step up their game for iOS specific units. I am using Jam at the moment, which works... but the latency is killing me. The Tascam iU2 I tried and did not like how the mono switch did not seem to work as expected, i.e. sending the signal in mono. I also had to replace my ipad charger after plugging the iU2 into it via USB as explained in the manual, coincidence? Of course Apple is to be severely chastised for not providing a USB port on this thing... I am considering an Apogee One interface via the CCK and USB hub, any positive feedback with that combo, or other suggestions? Thanks for your support!

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Yes, x-axis volume is treated

Postby Jesse » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:09 am

Yes, x-axis volume is treated as velocity for midi output purposes already.

I haven't tried the hardware you are considering, I'll let others answer that one.

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Ah so, thank you for the

Postby pepe_lemofo » Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:05 pm

Ah so, thank you for the heads up on the midi velocity - sorry to have missed that in the manual. Here's hoping that some of Thumbjam's instruments will be updated to take advantage of velocity, with many new (acoustic) instruments to follow! Cheers!

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