New Microtonal Synthesizer For iPad, WorldScales

Kelfar Technologies has released a new software synthesizer for the iPad, WorldScales, that lets you break out of the limitation of equal-tempered tuning and play in whatever tuning you like:

Have you ever wondered why we tune our instruments the way we do?

They are usually tuned to an “equal-tempered scale”, which divides the octave into equally spaced tones and semitones. This has become the most prevalent way of tuning the instruments in the west since the 18th Century. Today, musicians use this tuning system, and the scales based on it, without ever considering other ways.

For example, in the Middle Ages European musicians generally used Pythagorean tuning, and today many traditional instruments in the Middle East and Asia are tuned according to regional systems and standards.

Features:

  • Ability to tune each key in the octave individually (+- 100 cents).
  • 18 High quality sampled instruments: From grand piano, violin and organ to oriental oud and kanun, to voices of a choir singing Ison voices. Many samples are polyphonic and have multiple velocity layers.
  • MIDI In. Connect your External MIDI keyboard and play microtonal music.
  • Many presets, introducing lesser known western, byzantine and oriental scales.
  • Ability to save your own scales and tunings.
  • Entering directly frequency ratios, frequencies or cents.
  • Shows on the piano keys where the scale starts and what keys are included in the scale.
  • Changing the root key of a scale: all tuned keys are shifted correctly.
  • Audio effects: reverb and compressor.

I’d like to see microtonal tuning support become standard on software synthesizers. But if you’re interested in exploring alternate tunings, Kelfar’s WorldScales will let you do it for $4.99. It’s available now in the App Store.

6 thoughts on “New Microtonal Synthesizer For iPad, WorldScales

  1. Excellent. If you don’t see why, listen to Wendy Carlos’ “Beauty In The Beast.” Its totally about alternate tunings and you’ll immediately hear why this is a desireable app. Peter Namlook uses them a bit and his music is well above the usual.

  2. I purchased the app and have given it a quick look. My first impressions are a little mixed. Of course, I should disclaim that without having spent much time with it, you should take my first impressions with a grain of salt.

    On one hand, it is a useful tool for hearing and creating different tunings. On the other hand, it is a little clunky and has room for improvement.

    Pros: the interface for choosing and creating tunings is intuitive and flexible. The pitch bender seems to work smoothly. The variety of sounds is good.

    Cons: though the audio quality of the samples is good, some of the samples are a bit rough in terms of playability. Some elements of the interface are either hard to see (the arrows by the root key) or hard to press (you really have to be right on it to get it to work). The built-in keyboard itself is not especially easy to play on, and shift the range of the keyboard requires pressing a button which does not work intuitively.

    Ok, my cons out-weigh the pros in terms of “word-count”. But I do think as a new program, it has potential, there is certainly a need for it in the iPad world. Perhaps the developer will continue to help it evolve into something more polished and playable.

    1. Good points!

      Unfortunately, there’s not a lot there yet in terms of custom tunings on iOS. I’d like to see open collaboration on this, so it becomes a standard feature.

      1. True. But once you get to the point where you have 1000’s of tunings like with Scala, you are almost better off making your own right there and saving it.

        I also wish that there as the ability to make a more elaborate tuning map over the entire keyboard. Why? — two words: stretch tunings

  3. Thanks for the the feed back! I’m the developer of the app. I agree with the criticisms. We wanted to get WorldScales out there and then see where the majority of people want to see it go. And we are already working on implementing features from feedback.

    UI Buttons: Yes, I see that we have to do something to make it easier to see and press the button.

    Samples: Will be improved in the next update.

    Keyboard: Is a big ticket, and takes quite a lot of effort the get a really playable keyboard! But we are working on making it better. For now, to use it as a real-world instrument, I would use an external MIDI keyboard. Making a GarageBand quality keyboard, takes a lot of effort, I, myself, am surprised.

    Custom tunings: For the next big update. we plan to support scala files (import and export).

    Tuning all indvidual keys: Will be added with the Scala update.

    Cheers
    -Luke

    1. Wow, I’m glad I back-surfed to check this thread. Nice to hear from the developer here. Thanks for letting us know there are improvements in the pipes.

      I also noticed some aliasing on the top range of the keyboard. That could be remedied by mapping a brick-wall filters version of the sample to the high register.

      Best wishes.

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