The National Association of Music Merchants convention (NAMM), is like CES for musicians. Just imagine a lot more hair, tattoos and piercings. The men are even worse. This show is monstrously huge. It attracted 95,000 people on January 19-22, almost as many as CES, to a convention hall better suited for more modest events like Blizzcon (a convention for World of Warcraft devotees). At each event we’ve ever attended at the Anaheim Convention Center previously, the bottom floor was designated for exhibits and the upper floors were set aside for sessions and chats. Not here. The show floor extended to the third floor of the building. The last time we sent a reporter to NAMM, the iPad wasn't even announced yet. Two years later and there are iPad-related announcements coming out of both ends of the Anaheim Convention Center. That's not too surprising given how popular Apple products are among musicians. Still, it wasn't an all-Apple show, as you will see.
This entry-level keyboard makes piano lessons as easy as possible thanks to an interactive keyboard that lights up, telling you where to place your fingers for the notes in a song. It has a USB controller so it can be connected to a computer or iPad, plus wireless connectivity to the free Page Turner iPad app with sheet music on it. There are 100 preset songs with digital scores to learn, along with 392 built-in Voices to let you create the sounds of strings, guitars, brass, synthesizers, drums, and more. Pricing will be announced when it ships this spring.
For guitarists who have not developed perfect pitch, there are electronic tuners that you plug your guitar (or bass guitar) into instead of an amp, and pick each string one at a time until you get all of them in tune. TC Electronic's PolyTune Mini cuts that down by letting you strum all six strings at once and displaying how out of tune each one is, individually. You then adjust accordingly and check again with another strum. The PolyTune Mini will fit on any pedal board so you can always check your tuning. TC Electronics did not give a price or release date.
MacBooks are popular with DJs for their versatility, but iPads are catching up thanks to introductions like this. Numark’s iDJ Pro is a professional DJ controller that integrates the iPad into the controller casing. Look closely at the image and you'll see an iPad is sitting in the middle of it. It combines the design of Numark DJ controllers with the iPad and Algoriddim's djay app (one of the most popular DJ apps for iOS). You can instantly access just about any song, download tracks to the iPad and mix them with the Numark controls. It also supports AirPlay. Numark didn’t announce a release date or price for the iDJ Pro.
Normally, for a fun karaoke experience you need karaoke versions of songs (the ones with the vocals removed) in order to sing along to a song. The $249 VoiceLive Play from TC Helicon will let you plug any MP3 player in and sing along with your favorite artist using your standard MP3s. You plug in a microphone and play the song on your media player and VoiceLive Play replaces the vocal track with your own. It can add vocal effects such as reverb, auto-tune and harmony.
The iRig Stomp from IK Multimedia turns your iPod/iPad/iPhone into an effects box--the kind on-stage guitarists have stomped on for years. Clearly, you don't stomp on your $200 phone, you tap on it. The iPod/iPad/iPhone connects to the iRig Stomp device, so you have one device and not the cluster of pedals guitarists often use to get effects like reverb, fuzz and delay. It's due out in March with an SRP of 59.99.
Many people consider AutoTune to be the incarnation of evil for allowing tone deaf "singers" to get away with sounding like they can actually sing. So what better move than to come out with one for the guitar? Guitar maker Peavy Electronics teamed with Antares Audio Technology, maker of AutoTune, to create the AT-200, a guitar that will sound like you are in perfect tune even if your strings are not. It even lets you choose from a variety of tunes so you always sound like you have perfect pitch, even if you don't. The $499 guitar will ship in September.
Jammit is a music tutor for the iPad that has licensed music from artists and separates out the instruments. Want to learn how to play Rush's "YYZ?" Jammit has the song with isolated guitar, bass and drum tracks, so you can listen to nothing but one instrument and follow along to the part as well as the sheet music (you CAN read sheet music, right?). You can also loop portions of songs and slow them down to try and get it right through practice. The Jammit app is a free download to your iOS device. Songs, however, are sold for $3.99 a piece.