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Sweet MIDI Player is a must-have app for any musician who uses MIDI practice tracks.  It lets you play MIDI files, change their tempo or key, and mute or adjust volume for individual parts (channels) within the MIDI file.

This blog post is about the iPad version of Sweet MIDI Player, but the app is also available for iPhone, Mac, and PC.

There’s a free trial version of Sweet MIDI Player for iOS which lets you try out all of the features, but only plays the first 75% of your MIDI file.  From there, you can purchase an in-app upgrade to the full version.  It’s a worthwhile purchase if you use MIDI practice tracks frequently.

Here’s an overview of the controls for MIDI playback, transposition, and tempo (tap “Mixer” button at the bottom to display this view):

Sweet MIDI Player

The transposition control (+/-24 semitones):

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The tempo control:

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The instrument selection menu:

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Note: If you change the key, tempo, or other settings, Sweet MIDI Player will prompt you and ask if you wish to save the changes.  If you choose “Yes”, it will overwrite your MIDI file with your changes – so if you care about having the original MIDI file, be sure to make a backup copy of it before you use it in Sweet MIDI Player!

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The “Files” view (tap “Files” button at the bottom) displays your library of MIDI files.  When you install the app, it comes with a few sample MIDI files to try out.  (More on how to import your own MIDI files later in this post.)

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You can create your own playlists:

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Here are screenshots of the app settings.  Click any image for a full-size view:

The app also has a help page, accessible from the “Help” button on the lower left.

Sweet MIDI Player also supports background audio, which means that you can start playing a file, switch over to a different app (for example, a PDF score viewing app like forScore), and the the MIDI file will continue to play while you are viewing the score in the other app.

Importing MIDI files into Sweet MIDI Player

There are several methods for importing your MIDI files into Sweet MIDI Player:

  1. Web browser
  2. Dropbox app
  3. Email
  4. iTunes

1. Importing MIDI files using the web browser

Open Safari on your iPad and navigate to a website with links to MIDI files, for example this one.  Tap on the MIDI file download link.  You should be taken to a page like the following.  Tap the “Open In…” button:

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Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

2. Importing MIDI files using the Dropbox app

As of this writing, the Sweet MIDI Player app does not have direct integration with Dropbox, but you can still use the Dropbox app to import MIDI files from your Dropbox account.

On your iPad, open the Dropbox app, navigate to your MIDI file, and tap on it.  It will download and then you’ll see a “Unable to view file” message, but don’t worry.  Tap the “Open in…” icon in the top right, then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

3. Importing MIDI files from email

On your iPad, open the email message containing the MIDI file(s).  Tap-and-hold on the MIDI file icon and you will get the screen below.  Tap the “Open in…” button:

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Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

4. Importing MIDI files using iTunes

The help page for the app provides instructions on how to import MIDI files using iTunes.  Personally, I find this method a bit of a hassle, unless I need to import a large number of MIDI files at one time.

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Alternative App: Learn My Part

There’s another app similar to Sweet MIDI Player called Learn My Part.  It’s specifically geared towards choral singers and also has the ability to repeat one section of a MIDI file and to import and view PDF scores.  However, I still prefer Sweet MIDI Player because I find the controls easier to use and I like having the ability to transpose.

What about MP3 accompaniment/practice tracks?

Sweet MIDI Player doesn’t support MP3 files, but there are other apps such as Amazing Slow Downer, Riffmaster Pro, Anytune, Tempo SloMo, and AudioStretch that play MP3 files and allow you to adjust tempo and/or pitch independently.  I plan to cover some of them in future blog posts.

Related Posts:

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One annoyance I’ve had with the iPad is that normally there isn’t a way to simultaneously listen to YouTube recordings in the background while using other apps.  If you try to switch to another app while the YouTube video is playing, the audio will stop.  I ran into this situation a couple of time recently: once when I wanted to listen to a Le nozze di Figaro YouTube clip while viewing the Bärereiter score on the excellent Neue Mozart-Ausgabe website, and another time when I wanted to listen to a bunch of Wolf lieder on YouTube while reading their texts and translations on The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive (also an excellent site) and consulting a song literature reference book that I digitized and put on my iPad.

I did some Googling and discovered a few ways around this limitation.  It may depend on what version of iPad and/or iOS you have.  As of this writing, I have an iPad 3 running iOS 5.1.1 (because I’m jailbroken, and like a fool, I neglected to upgrade to the latest jailbroken iOS 6 version (6.1.2) before the window closed).  Here are some ways to get around the YouTube hurdle:

Jasmine app, which is an alternative viewer for YouTube and currently available on iOS 6+ only.  I’ve heard that it’s supposed to support background audio – but I’ve also seen app reviews suggesting that this capability might have gone away in the iOS 6 version (possibly due to limitations in iOS 6).  At any rate, if it doesn’t work, you won’t lose, because the app is free and I’ve also heard several users sing its praises as a great alternative to YouTube’s native app/website.

Play Tube app, which is another alternative viewer for YouTube.  This is what I use, since it also supports iOS 5.  The background audio definitely works for me.  I fire up the video in Play Tube, and once it’s done buffering and actually starts playing, I can switch over to my other apps like forScore, Safari, or iBooks in order to view scores, libretti, and other reference materials while listening to the recording on YouTube.  You can also create locally-stored playlists within the app and have those play in the background.  I think there is also a way within the app to log in to your YouTube account and create/manage/play the playlists in your account, but I haven’t tried that yet, so I can’t confirm.  Sometimes there is a little hiccup in the audio the first time I switch from Play Tube to a different app while the video is playing, but it’s not too big a deal.

There’s also a method for playing background audio from YouTube that’s documented in a number of places on the web and doesn’t require installing a new app:

  1. Open Safari and navigate to the YouTube website.
  2. Find the video and start playing it.
  3. Double-click the Home button on your iPad to bring up the recent apps bar. The audio will stop.
  4. Switch to the other app you want to use.
  5. Double-click the Home button again on your iPad to bring up the recent apps bar.
  6. Swipe left to right on the recent apps bar until the music controls appear.
  7. Press the play button. The audio will resume and you can now use the other app while the audio plays in the background.

Frankly I don’t like this method as much because it requires more tapping and swiping than just using an alternative YouTube viewer app.  Also, you have to go back to the music controls and press the fast-forward button to advance to the next track in a playlist.  But it’s useful as a backup method if for some reason you can’t use an alternative YouTube viewer app.

Welcome

Posted: May 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve started this blog to document and share how I’ve been using technology to study, rehearse, and perform (mostly) classical vocal music. Enjoy!