What's with the weird two-handed interface?
Most drawing apps let you draw with one finger and pan/zoom with two. I've never found this to work particularly well: you often have to try multiple times to trigger the pan, false strokes are a frequent occurrence, and you lose out on momentum scrolling. Since writing music requires you to move your viewport very often, I wanted navigation in Composer's Sketchpad to be seamless without compromising the core drawing experience. The mental model is actually quite simple: your "piece of paper" is very slippery, so you have to hold it down with one finger before putting down notes. It quickly becomes second nature! (But if you feel like doing things the conventional way, two-finger navigation is also an option.)
Why no MIDI in/out support?
One of the core features of Composer's Sketchpad is the ability to bend individual notes to any frequency. For compatibility with existing standards, this is implemented by putting each note in its own MIDI channel. Unfortunately, this means that the MIDI output for this app would be very complicated and ill-suited for most workflows. A simplified version of MIDI-out (with a maxium of 16 notes playing at a time) will likely be added in a later update.
This app doesn't have my favorite DAW features!
I largely made Composer's Sketchpad because I found DAWs to be a poor model for musical exploration. With so many features targeting heavyweight audio production, there were just too many buttons, panels, and widgets breaking my concentration and deafening my inner ear. In my app, above all else, I wanted the draw-play-edit loop to be as frictionless as possible. As a result, my app is light on checklist features, but grants you the kind of expressiveness and creative freedom you'd normally only find in a real world instrument. Also, keep in mind also that what you see is not the final product: Composer's Sketchpad is a long-term project that will adapt to my needs over the years, and I'd love to hear your crazy feature requests if you have 'em!
What features are next in the pipeline?
In terms of major features, iPhone support is a high priority. I'll also be looking into Audiobus support, MIDI file import, and a bigger roster of compositional tools like repeats, dynamics, and note selection. There are also tons of smaller and more esoteric features I hope to add. (But I don't want to reveal all my secrets quite yet!)
What's the future of this app?
As a rule, I try not to develop software with a limited lifespan. Composer's Sketchpad was created because there was nothing quite like it in the world and I strongly felt that it needed to exist. It's also the core creative tool I plan to use for composing music going forward. Aside from my Apple Developer membership, the app has no external dependencies and relies on open formats for all its data. (Open your compositions in a text editor: they're just JSON!) My intent is for the app to live forever, regardless of whether I'm actively working on it or not. Furthermore, as someone who has benefited immensely from open source software, I'd love to eventually release the code for this project to the public. (The emacs of freehand composition?!) For competitive reasons, I intend to do this either after I hit my sales benchmark or after enough time has passed. Stay tuned!