Sweetwater GearFest Pics + Music App Developer Interview

We visited the 2017 GearFest at Sweetwater Sound this past weekend.

This was the 16th year of the event, which has grown into the single largest public music instrument & gear convention in America. The bustling tents and conference rooms featured workshops and hands-on gear showcases from almost every major gear manufacturer in the world from Ableton to Zildjian.

What is it? You may be familiar with the NAMM convention, which we have covered in great detail in the past. GearFest can be thought of NAMM for the general public. NAMM is more “industry” focused. GearFest, on the other hand, is free for any musician to attend and play new gear until their hearts are content.

The event also featured industry “celebrities”, such as Roger Linn (creator of the most radical 80’s drum machine), Paul Reed Smith (PRS Guitars), and Chris Lord-Alge (engineer with credits including U2, Coldplay, Green Day, and Waves Plug-ins).

For a “Past-meets-Future” approach, we also met up with an iOS Music App Developer to get his take. We connected with him at the event via the AudioBus Forum (the most popular online hub for all things iOS Audio related).

The Ableton booth was always buzzing with activity.

The Roland tent was packed with all their latest and popular gear.

Moog had a beautiful tribute to Keith Emerson

While we were there, we met up with popular music software developer, Matthew Fecher, a team member of iOS AudioKit (the framework that powers cool stuff like this and this). In addition to AudioKit, his code is in over 100+ music apps, on platforms ranging back all the way to Windows XP. Chances are, you may have used an app with his code.

Matthew Fecher, from iOS AudioKit

DMM: What brings an app developer to a mostly hardware gear show?

Fecher: Making music is why we are all here, right?

A day spent making music is never a day wasted.

DMM: Haha. That’s a philosophy I can get behind.

Fecher: It’s beautiful and inspiring to see people use a piece of gear or instrument for the first time. Today, I saw a little girl play a Moog for the first time. She put the headphones on and started twisting knobs. Then her eyes grew wide and had this look of sheer joy and total amazement. Her smile was contagious. That’s the power of music making.

That’s why I love making music software. It’s a joy to be here.

There was an amazing collection of classic synths at GearFest

DMM: You’re part of the iOS AudioKit team. Can you explain what AudioKit is?

Fecher: AudioKit allows app developers to easily add music, sound, effects, and synthesis to apps. It can be thought of as a toolkit. In developer terms, it is a “music framework”. And, quickly becoming the de facto way to make music on iOS- In the past three months, there’s been over 3+ Million more app installs that use AudioKit. You may even have an app on your iPhone now that uses AudioKit, and not even know it.

DMM: Anything new going on with AudioKit?

Fecher: While we’ve been behind the scenes in your favorite apps, we’re stepping forth to create a completely free and open source iPad / AUv3 professional level synthesizer. We’ve gained so much support, including dozens of developers and sound designers, including synth & sound guru Chase Dobson, tech for M83, Tycho, Rihanna, Kanye West, and more. Plus, popular YouTube sound designers and bloggers have stepped forward to help. We’re hoping to empower music makers around the world by building the ultimate free and professional iOS synthesizer.

Plus, we’re really excited that the #1 iPhone game, Blackbox, added a new audio interface using AudioKit. Ryan McLeod, creator of Blackbox, then won an Apple Design Award a couple of weeks ago for his app. Coincidence? (Laughs).

1939 Novachord at GearFest

DMM: Wow. That sounds really great. What did you enjoy best about GearFest this year?

Fecher: I’m a big fan of Daniel Fisher’s synth videos on YouTube. It was exciting to meet him in real life. I’m sure he thought I was just a random crazy person. But, he talked with me about synths for quite awhile. He’s a great guy in person.

He encouraged me to play the 1939 Novachord they had on display. I was so nervous. I felt like a kid at a piano recital. “I don’t want to play keyboards in front of Daniel Fisher”, I thought. (Laughs). I played. He turned some knobs. It sounded amazing.

That’s something I really like about Sweetwater. They always have a great education component. Whenever I want to learn about a new synth, I know I can fire up their YouTube channel and Daniel or Mitch will have some of the best gear videos in the business. [Editor’s note: Mitch Gallagher was the former editor of EQ Magazine. He is now the editorial director at Sweetwater. Their educational elements are world-class].

DMM: Thanks for talking to us! 

In summary, Sweetwater GearFest is a free and fun experience, with something for every musician. We even overheard some attendees call it “Disneyland for Musicians”.

They’ve already set a date for next year. We’ll see you there:
June 15, and Saturday, June 16, 2018.

To learn more about GearFest 2018, you can visit the Sweetwater site.

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