App Review: Bebot – Robot Synth by Normalware
Bebot is an ingenious music app. It basically turns your iPhone/iPod Touch into a synthesizer. You touch the screen to play notes (up to four at a time). The notes are arranged on the screen from left to right. At first glance, it may be difficult to tell where you need to touch for each note of the diatonic scale. However, there is a way to turn on a grid to mark the notes for you, making notes much easier to find. When you slide your finger horizontally on the screen, the pitch goes up and down. When you slide your fingers up or down on a given note, it changes the timbre (or roundness) of the pitch. To add to the audio effects, Bebot the robot reacts to the notes you play. He leans forward or backward depending on the pitch being played. He also opens and closes his mouth as if he were singing what you are playing.
By double tapping the arrow icon in bottom right hand corner of the screen, you can bring out the options bar, which presents you with a plethora of ways to change the sound the program produces. There are four wave modes to choose from: Bebot, Pulse, Theremin, and PWM (pulse with modulation). Each of these modes changes the basic sound of the notes. Once you have chosen which mode you would like, you can play around with the other effects.
In the effects category, there are four options you can change: echo volume, echo time, echo repeat, and overdrive. The echo volume determines how loud the echo of what you just previously played, plays back. The echo time is how long it will be before you hear the echo of what you just played. The echo repeat affects how many times the echo repeats itself. One of my favorite features on this app is the overdrive. The overdrive gives you the option to give your sounds a more rugged effect, just as you would turn up the overdrive on a guitar.
The next section in the options menu is the scales category. In the scales category you can change the pitch of the notes and zoom of the screen, as well as opt to show the notes grid mentioned earlier. You can also change the tuning effects and the scale being used. The pitch changes how high or low the pitch range of the notes on the screen will be. The zoom allows you to have more or less pitches on the screen at any given time. To get a larger range of pitches, make sure the zoom is low. The more you are zoomed in, the easier it is to accurately hit the notes you are going for, but there is less you can do because of limited pitches. The Note Grid is the option to show the lines where each note is located. There are three colors of lines: Yellow, Black, and White. These colors denote specific notes (C, D, E, etc.) in the diatonic scale. AutoTune is the feature that lets you decide how the synthesizer moves from one note to another when you drag your finger horizontally over the pitches. There are four options, the first of which is no auto tuning or “off.” Snap tuning makes the synthesizer jump from one pitch to the next. When fast tuning is selected, the synthesizer will slide from one note to the next quickly. Slow tuning is very similar to the fast tuning in that it still slides from one pitch to the next, but will arrive at the next pitch more slowly. Once you have arrived at the desired pitch, you can even add vibrato by wiggling your finger ever so slightly. At the bottom of the scales section there are 12 squares that represent all 12 notes within a one octave range in the same arrangement you are used to seeing on a piano. By tapping on the squares, you can turn off some notes and leave others on. This is great when there are notes that you know you will not be using (ie. using a pentatonic scale).
One great feature of this app is the ability to play along with a song of your choice from the collection on your iPhone/iPod. Just double tap the start-up button and press play. See if you can play along with the song accurately, harmonize, or just add a little Bebot.
A quick word of advice: When you first launch the app, Bebot may be little confusing. At least for me it was. After a quick visit to Normalware’s website (www.normalware.com), though, all was quickly explained in the videos they have posted there. (If you are having trouble figuring it out, I highly recommend giving their site a visit.) You can also see the octave feature, which should be coming out soon.
Bebot is a great app whether you just want to watch a robot make funny noises or you are a real musician and you want to jam on a synthesizer.
Bebot is available in the iTunes App Store for $1.99
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