Skoog 2.0: Tactile Musical Interface for iOS and Mac

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2019.59.rev.11448

Skoog 2.0:  Tactile Musical Interface for iOS and Mac.  Hardware Interface and Apps for iOS and Mac.  Suggested retail price $199.95 www.skoogmusic.com

Skoog is a MIDI interface designed to allow anyone to make music.  In the box, you get the Skoog device, a USB cable and a quick start guide.  The next step is to download the Skoog App for iOS or the Mac version from the App Store.  The USB cable allows you to recharge the internal battery, giving you at least 10 hours of music making.  The device communicates with your iOS device via Bluetooth or you can connect to your Mac using the USB cable.  Not only can you use the Skoog app, but you can also use most MIDI capable apps such as GarageBand.

The Skoog device is a squishable cube (about 5”x5”x5”) with a solid base.  Each of the five usable sides (other than the base) is color coded and transmits MIDI data when pressed.  This allows anyone to be able to use the Skoog, especially musicians with disabilities or motor skills issues.  The real strength of the Skoog is its flexibility when paired through Bluetooth with an iOS device.  Once they pair, it will automatically calibrate and then you’re set to go.  You can play your own music or link to your iTunes library or Spotify Premium account and play along with anything in your playlist.  Through the app, you can program a number of parameters for the Skoog, starting with the scale and pitch set being used.  The way this works is you select the tonic pitch and scale you want to use and Skoog will select five pitches within that scale.  If you want to use a different set of five pitches, all you need to do is change them in the notes window.  To play along with a song from your iTunes or Spotify Premium playlists, simply select the track you want and Skoog can automatically detect the key or you can set it manually.  Since the Skoog works with MIDI data, it’s very easy to change the instruments.  The app offers a number of instrumental sounds to fit with whatever your needs dictate.  The app will also allow you to change from monophonic to polyphonic.  If you are just beginning with the Skoog, the app also contains a songbook.  Each song consists of the same color coding as the Skoog so you can play the melody based on the visual cues.  You will also find handy user guides, tutorial videos and easy access to online support to help you learn.

If you are interested in expanding your possibilities and creative classroom activities, Skoog works together with Swift Playgrounds to bring coding into your classroom.  Skoogmusic.com includes instructions and videos to help you set up a Swift Playgrounds subscription and access everything you need to get started exploring music and instruments through coding.

Just about everything I’ve done with the Skoog has worked very well.  The one issue I’ve had is trying to connect to Garageband using virtual MIDI.  I’ve worked through the online setup instructions but my old iPad just doesn’t want to cooperate.

As an instrument, the strength of the Skoog is its ease of use and the fact that it allows anyone to be able to perform.  Teachers will find this a terrific instrument for students with special needs.  Just recently, one of my senior Music Education students contacted me, as she was student teaching, and asked to borrow our Skoog to use with one of her classes.  By the end of the semester, her cooperating teacher requested funding to purchase several Skoogs for the district music department. Visit skoogmusic.com for some terrific videos, educational resources, lesson plans and more.  While you’re there, explore the Skoog’s younger sibling, the Skwitch!

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Last modified on Monday, 07/10/2019

Timothy Nord

Timothy Nord is Associate Professor of Music Technology at Ithaca College.  He has presented papers and workshops at numerous local, national and international conferences.  His work focusses on programming different tools and applications for music research and instruction.

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