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iFretless Brass – New app in the iFretless series

Blue Mangoo has released the latest in their iFretless series, the long-awaited iFretless Brass. Delayed for release due to the miasma of iOS8, they have finally deemed it ready for the wild. Was the wait worth it? Absolutely.

The iFretless series of apps may be familiar to many of you. Their previous apps included iFretless Guitar, iFretless Bass, and iFretless Sax. If I need to describe what instruments are included in those apps, then perhaps you may want to consider taking a nap before you continue reading? Possible insults aside, what these apps do is straight-forward, but brilliantly executed. All of these apps, as well as the new Brass, share the same interface, so they will be easy to pick up and play.

My favorite of the previous iFretless apps is the Bass app. Hands down the best acoustic bass app on the iOS platform, it is a "must buy" for anyone looking for an authentic-sounding bass guitar or upright bass sound. Woefully under-represented on iOS, due to the predominance of "303" bass apps, the smooth sounds of iFretless bass fits nicely in any rock/jazz/folk/blues track you may be looking to record.

OK, let's say that you are not familiar with any of the previous iFretless offerings. Well, you are in luck, as the developers have created a great help system to quickly learn the interface and options within iFretless Brass. Upon opening the app for the first time, the help menu will be overlayed on top of the interface, explaining what each button and slider does. Thankfully, the app is very intuitive on its own, but some guidance on the velocity settings is helpful for first-timers.

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As with all of the iFretless apps, iFretless Brass excels in two key areas - playability and sounds. First, the interface of Brass is laid out in a way that is instantly accesible to guitarists. The layout resembles strings and frets on a guitar, but also indicates the "black keys" of a piano, providing a point of reference for pianists as well. With the options of 9 strings vertically, and 9 frets horizontally, you have a massive range of notes right in front of you. This immediately alleviates the problem I have with some iOS synths, in having to use the octave arrows to play in different octaves easily. And as a guitarist, I like seeing guitar "strings" in front of me. (I also like pepperoni pizza, Irish Whiskey, and Black Sabbath, but that's beside the point right now).

You can change the intervals of the interface as well, selecting either Major 3rds, Fourths, Tritone, or Fifths. These do provide you with different fingerings, and you'll find that some make playing major chords easier than others, for example. Other performance options include an onscreen control to control wah and volume. This is really nice for doing volume swells, or while using the muted trumpet.

The other area in which iFretless Brass excels over other "brass" apps are the sounds. Included in Brass are Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Euphonium, French Horn, and a muted Trumpet. Some preset synth sounds are also included, and certainly should not be overlooked. But, I'd like to focus on the organic instruments. Each note is separately sampled at nine different volumes, thereby providing a very "real" sound. These words obviously don't convey that fully, but what this gives you is a velocity-sensitive control over the notes. If you play a real trumpet softly and then loudly, there will be a natural difference in the timbre and overall sound. On many iOS apps, this simply is not reproduced, and you get a very "cold" sound. You're going to hear a big difference compared to apps like SampleTank.

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Taking this further, iFretless Brass allows you many options on how to arrange the various instruments. Choose one primary instrument, and you can create some lead solo sounds. But, dig a little further into the options, and you'll see the choice to combine the instruments in several interesting ways. The "Blend" option allows you to select three instruments to play the same note together. Choosing the "Arrange" option will put the top instrument in the higher register, the middle instrument in the middle, and put that tuba (or whatever bass instrument you select) down in the low notes. Playing chords with the Arrange feature make this app sound very orchestral and natural. The "Extend" option replaces instruments with more suitable chosen instruments based on the range of notes played. For example, if you try to play the tuba on some high notes, it will be replaced the trumpet (if selected). Trust me, it makes sense when you do it.

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As I mentioned before, I'm a big fan of the onscreen playing surface, as it provides access to a huge range of notes, and it's very intuitive to guitarists. But let's say you'd rather use an external MIDI keyboard, or a MIDI sequencer? No problem. I had no issues plugging in my M-Audio Oxygen 25 keyboard, and iFretless Brass recognized it immediately. Using midiSequencer or Xynthesizr to feed a pattern into iFretless Brass was simple as well.

As mentioned earlier, the developers held off on releasing iFretless Brass until they were confident that it was operable in iOS 8. Throw in Audiobus and IAA-compatibility, and you're set with all of the "basics" for using iFretless Brass in your workflow. In these crazy days of iOS 8, it's quite nice to have that assurance.

Blue Mangoo has a reputation in the industry of creating quality apps. Among the musicians of the Audiobus forum and iPad Musicians Facebook group, any question about the best bass app will always be answered with "iFretless Bass". With the magnificent sounds and choice of instruments in iFretless Brass, I imagine that this one will be at the top of the list for most musicians seeking out brass instruments as well.

If you are thinking about buying iFretless Brass, please consider clicking through our App Store link below. Thanks!

iFretless Brass (AppStore Link) iFretless Brass
Developer: Ngo Minh Ngoc
Rated: 4+
Price: $13.99 Download

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