I bought the app after watching watching a YouTube video of a string quartet using the app to play chamber music. It was impressive, and I thought that it might be a fun distraction. It has turn into a bit more than a distraction, however. I don’t want to put my iPad down, and when I do, I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve my score, and my music.
I have a drawer in my house that I call The Drawer Of Shame. The drawer contains four harmonicas, two recorders (wind instrument that makes noise, not the device that records it), and a zither. The drawer also holds the various books, CDs, tapes, pamphlets, and videos that explain, in excruciating detail, how easy it is to play these various instruments. The zither was actually my daughter’s, but I thought I might learn to play it. Now, like the other casualties of my music making attempts, it collects dust in the Drawer of Shame.
Oh, every so often I get the time and gumption enough to open the drawer and try one of the harmonicas or recorders (I’ve absolutely given up on the zither), and always, like fresh cut flowers in a vase, my music making impulse withers and dies after a few days of earnestness.
I know my drawer isn’t the only one in existence, many of you own such a drawer filled with your music making failures. Knowing that we are not alone helps a bit, but only a bit because we will open that drawer again when the moods strikes us, only to close it again a few days to a few weeks later having only mastered “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
I’m not stupid, I CAN learn to play, it’s just that to play at the level I want to takes lots of practice, and practice takes time, and time is a premium for us. If there was some way to shorten the learning curve so that we can pick up an instrument and play it with reasonable proficiency after only a few precious hours of instruction and practice, wouldn’t you be interested?
I know I would be.
You may remember SMULE. They are the folks who gave us the magical Ocarina app for the iPhone. ( It’s amazing I don’t have a real ocarina in my drawer.) Well, SMULE has outdone themselves with a new iPad-only app that is truly magical: Magic Fiddle.
Since the introduction of the iPad the term “magical” has been thrown around a lot, but in this case, the word aptly describes how this application transforms the iPad into a true musical instrument, and how it can transform even the most musically inept into a fiddle playing fool.
It’s the user interface that makes Magic Fiddle magical. It borrows a bit from the popular guitar-playing games in that the notes you play are scrolled to an appropriate spot on the virtual fiddle neck, three colors for the three virtual strings. You touch the strings as the notes progress while holding your thumb on the “bow,” which is a circular area that controls the intensity of the sound produced (move your thumb closer to the center of the circle to give your music more bravado).
Play the notes as they scroll by
There’s a really good tutorial as well that takes you from holding the iPad/Fiddle properly to learning vibrato and string plucking. But long before you learn techniques the tutorials will have you playing real music.
Yes, it starts you off with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but you progress to far more substantial tunes, like “Pomp and Circumstance,” quickly. I do suggest you go through the tutorial though. It takes about an hour to get through it, more if you want to practice a lot, but afterwards you’ll understand and can use your Magic Fiddle a lot better.
The tutorial really teaches
When you’re ready, you can practice on different tunes located in the Songbook, which includes 20 familiar and not so familiar tunes. Regardless of how familiar the pieces are, you’ll find them all very challenging, and the fun is in mastering them.
Yes, I said “fun.” Just as those guitar games were fun as you tapped buttons and flicked switches in time to rock standards, Magic Fiddle is just as fun, and I would even say more fun, as you learn the subtleties of fiddling. Vibrato, arpeggios, chords, and more are all there for you to master. The thing is, you won’t think you’re “mastering” anything. It’s just a game, right?
Well, this is why I think Magic Fiddle will finally put my music making shame to rest. How I hold the iPad when playing the fiddle, how I move my fingers to play the notes, how I do that in time with a beat, and do it repeatedly, is teaching me to actually play a fiddle. I don’t believe for a minute that a few hours of tapping on an iPad screen will make me ready for Carnegie Hall, but I would for feel far more confident picking up a real fiddle an attempt to saw out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” And that is far more confidence than what I had before picking up Magic Fiddle.
Lots of tunes in the included Songbook
I’ve just finish playing a beautiful little ditty called “A Poor Wayfaring Man Of Grief” by Ebenezer Beesley. I didn’t know the song before I played it, and it’s not a difficult piece, but on the first try I hit 78 of the 85 notes. Not bad. My next try was 80 notes, but it wasn’t a clean sounding play. So now I’m playing to make it sounds as good as I can get it. It’s 12:30 AM and I have to go to work in 6 hours. Regardless I need to get this down pat else I won’t sleep.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the tunes in the included songbook you can check out what’s in the Magic Fiddle Store. There you’ll find song packs for kids, classical music, and more. Each pack contains four to five tunes and will cost you US$0.99.
The fun doesn’t stop there. You can broadcast you musical accomplishments to the world and listen to the successes of others who are mastering the fiddle with you. And when you feel confident enough to go it without the scrolling notes, there’s a solo option that lets you free-play to your heart’s content. Plug the audio from the headphone jack into some speakers for a better sounding public performance, or use headsets to really hear what you’re playing.
Magic Fiddle Settings
You can adjust the angle of the strings, the speed of the songs in the songbook, even the key in which the fiddle is tuned to.
I’m sure there’s something wrong with this app, but I can’t find it. I’m having too much fun just fiddling around.
If it’s a bit hard to imagine the iPad as a valid musical instrument, much less a string instrument I suggest you take a look at this YouTube videos of Magic Fiddle in action.
The bottom line is this: there are many apps that offer the wannabe musician virtual instruments to bang, strum, or tap on, but few teach you how to make real music then trick you into practicing by presenting the instrument as a challenging game. Magic Fiddle is impressive and whenever I show it off everyone wants to give it a try. It begs to be played, and played, and played. That, my friends, is how you practice. If you play an instrument, or you want to, and you own an iPad then Magic Fiddle is what you need, I suggest that you GET IT NOW.*
|Review Item||Magic Fiddle|
* Note: My rating system goes like this;
- Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
- Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
- Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
- So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
- Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.