Ocarina gets even cooler

I've blogged before about how amazingly cool the Ocarina iPhone app is. In the latest release, it gets even cooler.

It's always had the ability to record snippets of what you're playing and upload those snippets to the server, where anyone in the world can play them back (using a nifty 3D globe interface).

But now you can manage your snippets, via a web interface. You can put titles on them; you can add metadata; you can see how many times each one has been marked with a heart (indicating that a listener liked it) and how many times listeners have skipped it after it started playing.

And you can also manually determine what gets recorded. After you put your Ocarina into manual-recording mode, you tap a Record button to start recording, then play a tune, then tap the Stop button. Then you can tap the Playback button to listen to what you just recorded. If you're satisfied with it, you tap the Archive button and it uploads to the server, appearing immediately on your "My Melodies" list. And you can then tap the Email button to send the URL to a friend, if you're so inclined.

Also, in the past, recorded snippets were limited to 30 seconds. Now you can go up to at least a couple minutes.

So I ended up spending six or eight hours on Tuesday afternoon and evening cleaning up my recordings. I labeled all the ones that were recognizable tunes (rather than just noodling around), and I re-recorded most of the ones that were particularly bad in my original attempts.

It turns out that my one really popular tune is "Greensleeves," which has been hearted 158 times in the past six weeks. That wasn't a great rendition of it, nor was it complete, but I guess it was good enough, and recognizable enough, that people liked it. I'm disappointed that some of my other tunes, better performed, haven't gotten any hearts; especially since most of my recordings (despite not being great) are way better than most of the recordings that come up if you browse the most-popular-recordings category using the 3D world interface; many of the ones in that list are just random noodling. I suspect that when it comes to actual tunes, people tend to heart only tunes they actually recognize.

Anyway, if you want to hear my recordings, you can visit my My Ocarina page, and click a title to get a playback control in the browser, and click Play to hear the tune.

I'm still not a musician; even my re-recorded tunes are a little too staccato, have a few too many too-long pauses as I shifted my fingers around, etc. But they're a whole lot better than my earlier attempts.

I played all of those tunes by looking at the tablature provided in the forums; if you want to try playing any of them yourself, do searches in the forums.

Btw, Smule is having a contest (with ten $1000 cash prizes) for best videos of people playing Ocarina. I'm tempted to try to record "Hava Nashirah" or "Tallis's Canon" in three parts, but I suspect the technicalities required are beyond my meager audio- and video-recording abilities. (Might also be fun to do that kind of thing as a remote collaboration--one person records one part, sends it to the next person to record the next part, etc; clever video editing combines the three or four parts.)

The other Ocarina-y thing I did on Tuesday was memorize "The Holly and the Ivy." When I tried to show people Ocarina at Thanksgiving, nobody seemed much interested; Mary Anne later pointed out that I hadn't been able to play anything but a scale without having tablatures in front of me, and that actually playing something would be likely to get people more interested. On Tuesday I noticed that "Holly and the Ivy" is a very short and simple tune (a lot of it is running up and down bits of a major scale, which I already know how to play), so I spent a while memorizing it. I can now play it blindfolded. I may try and coerce people at Xmas dinner into listening to me play it.

Anyway. Even after a three-week hiatus when I never seemed to find time to play it, Ocarina is still probably my favorite iPhone app of all, and I still highly recommend it. And it's still only 99¢!

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