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ThumbJam: A Look at the Music Performance and Creation App for iOS

ThumbJam App ScreenI first heard about ThumbJam from Richard Bona in the Blue Note Tokyo green room while we were both working with the Jaco Pastorius Big Band. (I’m setting this up not to brag, but rather to let you know that when a master like Bona raves about a music app, we all listen!)

The app has a very simple premise: pick a scale, pick an instrument and start playing up and down the app’s bars (each representing a different note of the scale), record to create backing tracks, and add layers of instruments as you go.

The real power of the app comes in the form of the settings and sounds available. The sounds are both phenomenal and plentiful. You can even record and import your own samples as well. The company offers a growing list of instruments as free downloads too.

There’s a wide variety of scales available, from chromatic to various Eastern and Western scales, and you make use of vibrato, tremolo, note bends and volume swells.

When Richard demonstrated the app by singing and accompanying himself with only the app, we were all duly impressed (both by Richard’s talent and the app).

While the company doesn’t offer any bass-focused videos, you can get a good idea for how this app works from this demo:

I love playing with this app because it’s fun, it’s easy and you can actually make real music with it. This isn’t just about fun, it is also about stretching your musical mind, improvising and composing.

Check it out! ThumbJam is a universal app available for $6.99 via the App Store. The app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.

As with most music apps, ThumbJam is not available for Android devices. ThumbJam creator Jesse Chappell posted this explanation on the company’s forum: “The technical issues regarding consistent low latency audio performance on Android are still a show-stopper for a ThumbJam kind of app. Sequencers or other things (as iReal B appears to be) don’t have this problem because they don’t have to worry about immediate touch response to be useful. They attempted to improve it recently but still fell far short of the buffersize/latency numbers required for success, and that iOS has had from the start. The variety of hardware Android has to worry about, in combination with a lack of experience by the OS developers to provide the audio APIs that professional audio apps require both contribute to the problem.”

Instruments included with ThumbJam:

  • Cello
  • Violin
  • Upright Bass (plucked and bowed)
  • Drum set
  • Darabukka
  • Djembe
  • Electric Guitar
  • Electric Bass
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Tenor Sax
  • Flute
  • Low Whistle
  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Hammered Dulcimer
  • Mandolin
  • Cittern
  • Grand Piano
  • Drawbar Organ (2 types)
  • Rhodes
  • Pipe Organ
  • Melodica
  • Scottish Smallpipes
  • Synth Strings
  • Synth Choir
  • Theremin
  • Sawtooth Waveform
  • Sine Waveform
  • Triangle Waveform
  • JR Zendrix
  • JR Smooth Steel