Make it Musical

When I first started taking guitar lessons, my instructor told me that while it would be hard at first to sound good (it’s still hard, bro) to “always keep it musical.” What he meant and what I try to explain to my son as he progresses as a guitarist is to make it sound like a song. Don’t get wrapped up in the mechanics or lose the beat.

Yesterday, I was with our other boy and we stopped into Staples to get some school supplies. This was my first opportunity to play around with both an iPad Air and the new Mini, which is the one I’d get if when I start doing cross-platform development for iOS. They are both really nice devices and very light. I had an iPad (3) and the Air blows it away. Yesterday evening toting my Surface to a book seminar I’m part of it felt heavy in comparison.

Yet this was also my first time really experiencing iOS 7. And one thing that struck me is that the animations seemed rather clunky. How could this be? The display tag below it proudly extolled the presence of the mighty A7 processor. It’s not a hardware issue. I was surprised how rough things like the transition between portrait and landscape are. Not to make comparisons too much, but Microsoft did a pretty good job on that in Windows 8.x.

It wasn’t until we were driving home that it struck me what it was. Whoever designed those animations failed to make them musical. I had happened to turn the radio on, which was set to NPR. While I’m not much of a Classical music fan, I appreciate certain composers and pieces. The overture from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino was playing. As it opened, I suddenly pictured in my mind animating tiles and color transitions in time with the music and reflecting the mood of the piece. Feel free to listen to it while you finish reading:

If you’ve ever seen Fantasia or Bruno Bozetto’s parody Allegro Non Troppo then you will have some idea what I am talking about. The next time you make an animation or transition, try setting it to music while you’re working on it. One thing these master composers had down is timing and mood.

In a subsequent post, I’ll show a recent example where I was setting animation and transitions to sound effects for an animated, vector-based splash screen. Ordinarily I wouldn’t add one to an app, preferring to get right down to business, but this is for a game and it’s  also meant to add a little branding and some personality. One thing I found is that visual perception effects the way the user connects sound and sight. Sometimes you have to futz with timing so that a sound either starts earlier or later.