Skoogmusic, the Scottish music tech innovators behind the globally successful ‘Skoog’, have recently unveiled a new addition to their product range: it’s called Skwitch and it’s basically an MPE-friendly (!), transformative iPhone accessory for educators, children and why not, electronic music makers. Skwitch is now available on Indiegogo (only two days left for the campaign!), and we had a chance to spend some time with a test unit in the past few weeks.
What Is Skwitch?
In short, it’s a mobile, super compact and battery-free controller with a twist. Continuing Skoog’s ‘music for everyone’ mission, this is the first time tactile MPE friendly technology has been made available in a passive, pocket-sized gadget – allowing iPhone users to keep up their creative flow, wherever they go.
The secret to Skwitch is its brilliant, simple design: a sleek cuboid featuring a soft, expressive control button on top that clips onto your iPhone. When you open the Skwitch music app, the innovative battery-free technology brings the Skwitch to life, transforming your iPhone into a one-button musical instrument and MPE controller.
With the Skwitch app It’s easy to compose your own riffs, melodies and chord progressions, expressively shaping the sound as you squeeze. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, connect wirelessly to GarageBand, Logic or any other MPE or Audiobus-ready app[s] on your connected iOS/MacOS devices.
My Hands-On Experience
Skwitch is deceptively simple but pretty clever in its design. I love the fact that it’s a passive, battery-free device. I tried it with my old iPhone 6s, downloading the free iOS app (SkwitchMusic). The app is well-thought-out and guides you through the first steps with clear full-screen and fool-proof instructions. It also features several helpful video tutorials that help you make the most of your new gadget. Setup was relatively smooth, I just had some random issues getting the iPhone recognized by Skwitch, but it may be due to the fact the unit is sensitive to magnetic fields, and I probably have too many gadgets around my desk!
After learning the basics, you’re presented with two main options – a new audio or MIDI session. An audio session involves using one of the in-app basic sounds (sine, triangle, square and saw wave, plus a sort of vocal sounds (which reminds me more of a trumpet!). The filter section lets you choose what you can modulate with the pressure of your finger. The default option is the low pass filter, but you can also pick among Formant, Tremolo, etc.
You can either play pre-existing scores (children songs, classical pieces, scales, etc.) or write/perform your own melodies. Things get more interesting (for us music makers, at least) using the MIDI session option. You can easily control one of those wonderful synths you have on your iPad, and spice up an otherwise boring live performance (how about controlling some drone sounds through Skwitch?).
During my test, while the audio sessions worked flawlessly I experienced some crashes using the Bluetooth MIDI option. I know things can be a bit shaky when it comes to Bluetooth MIDI, so I’m not surprised.
Skwitch is a brilliantly simple product that can find its place in music classes, at home (especially for all those who cannot play a traditional instrument due to physical or cognitive difficulties) as well as in a proper studio or in live setup. Honestly, for the price of a few H&M T-shirts (or a ‘pizza and wine’ dinner!), I couldn’t ask for more. Sure, it’d be nice to have more advanced ways to create music within the app, but this is obviously not a Roli Seaboard or a Linnstrument!
You can learn more about Skoog and their projects here.