Orphion iOS Synth

Orphion is one of those cool little apps that are a lot of fun to play with and generate ideas with. I love the way that different touches will bring out different sounds. One of which has a very Shamisen sound to it.

The user guide only shows three gestures but I find that you can get a fourth more thunky percussion sound if you are in the right spot.

Orphion Touches

Though you can hear in the recording below that it is hard to get that sound consistently.

There are both iPhone and iPad versions of Orphion, the iPhone version is called Orphinio. I prefer the iPad version because you can buy in-app a way to make your own pad layouts and use whatever notes or scale that you want to experiment with. Including how they are tuned. This is helpful as a way to arrange the chords and scales into a setup that makes sense to you, your hand size and the piece you are trying to play. You can share these layouts or download other people’s. I do like the fact that in your own layouts, you can change the tuning of a note. The sample below is showing you a Hungarian minor scale which is basically a minor scale with a sharp four and sharp seven. I didn’t like the way the C chord was sounding so I lowered the e-natural tuning a little.

iPad Orphion Build your own

There are some pre-loaded layouts available that include a piano-style layout and a blues scale layout. On the iPhone, the piano layout is helpful to working out or generating ideas. I think it is much more accommodating to a person’s hand than a really teeny-keyed piano app.

iPhone Orphion Piano Layout

There is an option only on the iPhone to select notes and have them play by shaking the phone. The sound that you can get with that is interesting but not something that I use often. The iPhone comes with 9 layouts. You cannot add any others.

One of the nice touches in Orphion is that in transposition, the layout holds it’s place so if you change the key, the pad that was the tonic will remain the tonic…just in the new key. One little gripe here is that the key name changes might give you some odd note names. For example if you are in c minor, the e-flat could be called a d-sharp. You can change the labels in your own layouts though.

One very cool use of Orphion is as a MIDI device and another app as the sound source. This is especially great with the Animoog app. The small keys there can sometimes be an issue but with the different gestures and glide available, you can set yourself up nicely to use Animoog’s great sounds with Orphion’s great gestures. However, be aware that this is not the easiest thing to record on the iPad itself. You can record within the Orphion app and export it but these are rudimentary controls at best. Once you start involving another app as a sound source, it might work and it might not. GarageBand for example, would not take more than 3 simultaneous notes while trying to record even through inter-app audio. Best to try and record directly into the computer if you truly want to record Orphion using the Animoog sound.  You will lose the easy editing of MIDI if you do it this way but keep the Animoog sound. You may also have to adjust some of your settings. I found that I really had to bump up the levels while recording the Orphion app straight into Logic. In terms of using the Orphion sound, you can record that directly into something like GarageBand on the iPad and it is compatible with the Audiobus app as well. It is quite easy to setup a network session with your desktop DAW and record Orphion directly into that either as audio to keep the Orphion sound or MIDI to keep all of the gestures intact. This works best with a software instrument that uses all of the MIDI information available. Otherwise, I would just use a regular MIDI keyboard and not go to the trouble of hooking up Orphion.

Recorded MIDI from Orphion into Logic. I did tweak it a bit but that is the great reason to use MIDI. The sound is from the Sculpture Synth, a very fun sound generator.

I like the Orphion app. It’s a lot of fun to play with and with the right equipment, can be used as an interesting sound source.

Orphinio is available for iPhone for $0.99 from the App store. Orphion for iPad for $3.99 plus $0.99 in-app purchase for the layout editor which I highly recommend.

Orphion is from Bastus Trump and you can connect with him on the Orphion website.