Industry Roundup: Hear an Instrument From the Future

See a brand new futuristic instrument called the Seaboard, read about the new tool for recording musicians, and join the debate about whether Apple will keep winning the digital media wars.

Ultimate Guitar

Today we've got some incredible tech demos from the cutting edge of music technology, plus some impressive insights into Apple's media business which prove that iTunes is not just a means to sell iPods - it's a huge thriving business in itself which makes the company a big chunk of money.

Rolo Seaboard, the keyboard of the future

Some instruments have been around for hundreds of years (and thousands if you include tribal drums). Our favorite instruments like electric guitars and basses are relatively new additions from the 20th century, but they've earned their place alongside traditional instruments thanks to decades of classic music that was created on them.

So what's coming next? Well, computers might have opened up a universe of sound using digital production techniques, but a real musician likes to get their hands on an instrument if they want to perform with a real sense of feeling and emotion. That's where real musical magic is made.

Enter the Rolo Seaboard, a brand new instrument which tries to combine the benefits of digital samples with the tangible skill of a physical instrument.

Check out the Seaboard in this video clip to see what it does:

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The musician gets to control pitch in fine detail using the pressure sensitive pads, and it seems like the attack of each note can be controlled depending on the height that you press each key. Interesting stuff. Would you be tempted to use one in your music?

AudioCommon, a new way for musicians to comment on studio recordings

Recording music is a major part of any rock musician's career, but in many ways it's easy to feel locked out of the production process while studio engineers tweak your music. And that's a problem - because it's your music, right?

Here's an example: you spend a few days in the studio, then the engineer sends you a CD a few days later asking you to listen to their mix of your track and make some notes. So you send them a bunch of notes, which might be messy, and then the engineer has to figure out what you mean and what part of the song you're talking about. And then the whole process repeats, which can take up weeks or months of expensive studio time.

AudioCommon is a new piece of software which helps engineers and musicians communicate their ideas and thoughts on a studio recording. You can comment on individual instruments by hearing them in isolation, and leave timed comments so the engineer knows exactly what you mean and where to fix it.

Here's a presentation by the AudioCommon team which explains their app in more detail:

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There's one big problem with AudioCommon. Some musicians forget that the mix engineer is being hired because their opinion is unbiased and helps find a balance between the opinions of each band member. If they're fighting to keep up with comments from the band who don't always understand the technical reasons for certain mix decisions, you could be left with a messy mix that lacks vision.

Overall, communication between musicians and engineers needs to be improved, so AudioCommon is a welcome development in this area.

iTunes grows by five times in seven years

A graph showing the growth in iTunes revenue has been posted online, suggesting that mobiles devices like the iPhone and iPad have made Apple's digital media business explode.

You can see how the red app sales appeared out of nowhere when the iOS app store launched in 2008, but it's also interesting to see how music sales have been growing at a steady pace since the same time. There might be a lot of music pirates in the world, but a bunch of other people are happy to pay for music on their mobiles - especially when it only takes a simple one-click purchase to start downloading.

Apple always said that its iTunes store only ever breaks even, with just a little profit on top at the end of the day. But according to Asymco who posted the graph and shared its opinion, that would mean its operating costs were around $3.75 billion. "It's hard to imagine this level of operational expense for digital content," they say.

Instead, Asymco reckons Apple makes over $2 billion per year in profit. We all know that Apple makes a tonne more money from other parts of its business, but by any other measure, iTunes alone would probably be the biggest digital media company in the world.


That's the end of our industry roundup this week.

Would you use the Seaboard instrument in your music?

Have you got any horror stories from working with studio engineers that would have been avoided with an app like AudioCommon?

What do you think of Apple's growing media business - will it keep growing, or will a competitor like Samsung or Google knock Apple's iPhone business down and leave them behind in the technology wars?

As usual, let us know your answers to these questions or take part in the wider debate in the comments.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The Seaboard thing looks really cool...doesn't really have a distinctive sound though. Kind of ruins the point of creating a 'new' instrument.
    sounds like something from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars!
    Dr. Bacon
    Seems interesting. Who knows if that will ever catch on though...It's like a midi controller on acid.
    Cool that it's pressure-sensitive. And that slide-y area below the "keys" seems like it could be used in a lot of interesting ways. I like.
    This is right now functioning as some sort of ear massage to me, I'm just pushing replay over and over again on that video. Sounds really good.
    It's a pity you didn't review Dropin....HTML5 Web+Mobile, Audio Recording Studio on the Cloud.