bitKlavier A Digital Prepared Piano For iOS


Developer Dan Trueman has introduced bitKlavier – a digital prepared piano for iOS.

Like the prepared piano, the “prepared digital piano” feels just like a piano under the hands and often sounds like one, but it is full of surprises. Instead of bolts and screws stuck between the piano strings, virtual machines of various sorts adorn the virtual strings of the digital piano, transforming it into an instrument that pushes back, sometimes like a metronome, other times like a recording played backwards.

The virtual strings also tighten and loosen on the fly, dynamically tuning in response to what is played.

Here is the official video intro:

There are a range of “preparations,” including:

  • Synchronic: “metronomes” of various sorts that respond to your playing.
  • Nostalgic: reverse piano, synced to the synchronic preparations or driven by the length of the notes that you play.
  • Tuning: various tuning systems, including some that change under your hands as you play.
  • Direct: muted notes, so they don’t sound when you play, but their preparations activate; surprisingly useful!

These preparations can change under your hands in various ways. For instance, in the Tempo pane you can make the Synchronic metronomes follow the tempo of your own playing, and in the Preset pane you can make specific notes completely change the preparations to a different preset.

bitKlavier is available for US $4.99 in the App Store. An OS X version is also available. Full details are available at the Many Arrows Music site.


19 thoughts on “bitKlavier A Digital Prepared Piano For iOS

  1. Bad name for this app. After all: no forks, no knives, or spoons, no rubber bands, feathers, egg-shakers, taped coins, etc on the strings. You wanna hear prepared piano? Check out John Cage videos on YouTube, for e.g.:

    1. That was my first thought as well. When I think of a “digitally prepared piano” I think of either some physical modeling, or some samples of a prepared piano. BitKlavier is fine, though, because it doesn’t refer to something that specific.

      Though this app has relatively few processes (currently), they are somewhat unique and useful. If I think for a moment, I can easily think of 3 or 4 more functions to add, and ways to make the included ones more powerful (without requiring any significant bump in CPU). Room to grow, is what I’m seeing.

  2. Nice to see this app get a proper demo video. The early release demo was pretty rough.

    I think this type of app is a worthwhile endeavor to put new ideas and sounds into our music.

    This still feels a little unfinished. No mention of AudioBus or IAA at this point. Seems like that is a bare minimum. I think even a promise to implement AB & IAA in a future update would make it a safer feeling purchase.

  3. I think the name of the app is good. It is a digital prepared piano, and BitKlavier fits quite well. Anyway, not so important.

    BitKlavier is a standalone app, on OSX and on iPad. There is no plugin version. So it is not a surprise that there is no AU, VST, or Audiobus/IAA version yet. That might change in future, but it might not. It is a tool for composers, students, researchers.

    But now to what I would like to say myself after the first impression. I think it’s a great app. The idea with the metronome and the backward sounds is brilliant. Very unique, I can’t think of any software that does that in this direct way while you’re playing. I guess this can lead to new approaches of performance, teaching, and learning.

    Microtonal scales fascinate me, and changing the temperament on the fly is another thing BitKlavier is capable of. There are other dynamic temperament options in Cubase, Logic,, and maybe more. If one has the time and interest, it is a very vast realm to discover, microtonality, and dynamic microtonality.

    I appreciate very much what the developers have created with BitKlavier. I guess it is one of those tools I will use many times. To learn, to experiment, and even to make music.

    Now to some technical, software specific details: the iPad version doesn’t recognise the attached audio interface (in my case the Apogee Duet 2). There’s a trick however. When the app is running, I simply detach and re-attach the interface. Then I can play BitKlavier over my monitors, sounds much better of course. The Mac app crashes constantly, I could not make it work on my hackintosh 10.7, even after several attempts. Obviously it runs fine on a real Mac with updated OSX, so it’s only a problem for older OS I guess.

  4. It looks like a cool app, but what it mostly does is make me want an actual prepared piano. Count me in as one of the people who saw the name and assumed this app was going to actually be like a prepared piano. I was already thinking I wanted a prepared piano after watching “Love and Mercy” and seeing Brian Wilson messing around with the insides of the piano while recording Pet Sounds.

  5. damn, first reason I have seen to update to IOS 8!!!

    I hope the reverse sections can be midi clockable…or a sequencer could replay them the same every times, that could be really useful

      1. Well, iOS 9 hasn’t been out all that long. And pressing the update button brings a whole load of trepidation about what will break.

  6. Sounds great. Please look into some of the standard expectations for iOS musicians that allow us to explore it in the context of our choosing: Audiobus, IAA, and yes, AU for OSX . Not implementing those things or expressing no interest in doing so sounds more like an excuse than a rationale.

    1. App Nazi strikes again!

      Where does it say that developers can’t develop apps that do what THEY want?

      This is clearly an interesting app, but it’s intended for a VERY niche audience. It’s never going to be a mass-market item and so it makes sense for them to focus on doing what makes sense for their audience.

      Yeah, that means it won’t have some of the bells and whistles that you or I might want – but we’re not the primary audiences, it’s classical muso’s like they show in the video.

      1. Umm. Even the most basic and simple of apps can implement AB or IAA.

        To exclude AB or IAA is a decision. And it is perfectly appropriate for people to freely comment on that decision. To smack down such a comment with the “nazi” slur is … well, not very nice.

        It is true that this is a pretty niche kind of product. It would, however be a shame if the lack of inter-operability might be a barrier to someone who might bring it into their music.

  7. it depends on how we judge a software. If we look after specific and unique features that can teach us about music and expand our views, an app like bitKlavier is certainly one of the more interesting ones. Its concept is merely dedicated for live playing and academic research.

    I’m glad there are developers who create such special software. Therefore it is not so important in my opinion if they don’t follow every trend.

  8. the iPad app has network MIDI, so it should be possible to play from a computer.

    Concerning the Mac version, it may be good to extract the zip file directly on the Mac computer. Last time I extracted the zip on a Windows computer and copied the folder without that __MACOSX thing, and bitKlavier crashed every time. Now it works. And there’s been a new version recently.

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