The simplest setup you can use with ChordMaps2 requires opening only one other app (one that responds to MIDI) playing just one sound (a piano sound, a string sound,  a brass sound, etc.) In the example below, we will be using ThumbJam as the MIDI app, and Trombone as the sound being played.

1 - Set up a MIDI app.

2 - Make the connection.

3 - Choose a map.

4 - Tap.

2 - Make the connection.

When you open ChordMaps2 and look at the top right corner of the screen (top left in Landscape mode), you will see a location that has the letter i in a circle. Touch this location, and the info pane opens.

Here you will see the MIDI channel assignments. You can use the - and + buttons to change the MIDI channel for each row. The values range from 1 to 16. For now, set it up to read...

               Chord Sound 1                        1

               Chord Sound 2                       2

               Bass Sound                              1

               Melody Sound 1                      1

               Melody Sound 2                     3

               Additional Sound 1                4

               Additional Sound 2                5

               Display Keyboard Sound      1     

Below the MIDI Channel section you will find a heading that reads "Destinations." Here you will see a list showing places where the MIDI information can be sent. In the list you should see the name of the synthesizer app you opened in part 1 above. Touch the name of the synthesizer app and a checkmark will appear in that row. When the checkmark appears, the connection has been made.

Next touch the word "Done" at the top left of the info pane.

(NOTE - Some MIDI apps do not let other apps know that they are available. In cases like this, an app like MidiBridge can sometimes be used to establish a connection.)

3 - Choose a map.

The map selection area is to the left of the screen. The maps are numbered 0 to 9. When ChordMaps2 opens, Map 0 is already displayed.

4 - Tap.

When you touch the colored boxes (with Roman numerals) on the maps, you should hear chord sounds being played by the synthesizer app you selected.

Note: You will probably want to turn off Multitasking Gestures in the iPad Settings.

If you don't hear any sound, these are the things to check...

1 - Is the main volume for the iPad on? It should be set at a reasonable listening level.

2 - Has a MIDI synthesizer app been opened, and when you touch the keys or playing locations in the synthesizer app, do you hear sound?

3 - Has the synthesizer app been set to remain on in the background? (This is sometimes called "background audio.")

3 - Is the synthesizer app set to respond to MIDI channel 1 (or channel 0 if the app creating the sound numbers the MIDI channels from 0 - 15)?

4 - After opening ChordMaps2 and touching the info button at the top right, does the info pane Channels section read 1, 2, 1, 1, 3, 4, 5, 1?

5 - On the same info pane, a little further down, is the name of the synthesizer app shown in the list of Destinations? Is there a checkmark in the same row as the name, indicating that the synthesizer app is connected? If not, touch the name of the synthesizer app. The checkmark should appear to the right.

6 - Touch "Done" at the top left of the info pane.

7 - Check to make sure the following locations on the ChordMaps2 screen are highlighted with small yellow triangles: C1 (near the top in Portrait mode, near the left edge in Landscape mode), also B and M1... and down along the left edge of the Chordmap Region, B and C should both be highlighted.

8 - Note: some apps turn off background audio if not used for a while. If this happens, double-click the home button and select the synthesizer app. When it opens, play the keys or playing locations on the synthesizer app until you hear sound. Then double-click the home button again and return to ChordMaps2.

Quick Overview and Onscreen Help

Each part of the ChordMaps2 screen is dedicated to a particular musical function or idea. If you would like to see a short description of what each part does, touch the question mark (?) located at the bottom right of the screen.

Getting Started

1 - Set up a MIDI app.

ChordMaps2 doesn't make any sounds on its own. Instead it sends MIDI signals to other synthesizer or sound-generating apps, telling them which notes to play. Before using ChordMaps2, you will want to open a MIDI synthesizer app. There are many synthesizer apps that respond to MIDI. (Some of the ones we've tried are ThumbJam, SampleTank, iM1, Nave, LaunchKey, GarageBand by way of MidiBridge, bs-16i... and the list goes on.)

It's important that the synthesizer app remains on in the background, because ChordMaps2 will be the visible app on your screen when you are playing, and the synthesizer app that's creating the sound will not be seen. Some synthesizer apps, after being opened, are automatically on in the background, while others require you to turn on "background audio" as one of their menu options.

The MIDI signals are sent to the synthesizer apps over any of 16 different channels. Some apps number the channels 1 - 16, and others number them 0 - 15. At the beginning, and for simple setups, we can work with just MIDI channel 1 (or 0). Most apps will respond to this channel by default. (For more complicated setups using multiple channels and multiple sound-generating apps, you may have to look for the menu settings in each synthesizer app and choose which MIDI channel you would like eacg app to respond to.)

Once the synthesizer app has been opened, has been set to remain on in the background, and is receiving data on MIDI channel 1 (or 0), you can then open (or return to) ChordMaps2.

Example Using ThumbJam: Open ThumbJam. At the top left is a button marked "Sound." Touch "Sound" and then choose "Change Instrument." In the list, select "Trombone." Touch the ThumbJam main screen. You should hear the sound of a trombone.

Next touch the "Prefs" button in the lower right hand corner. Select "Options." One of the first options listed is "Background Audio." It should already be on, but if not, turn it on. At the very top of this list is the word "Preferences" with an arrow pointing left. Touch the word "Preferences." This takes you back to the Preferences screen.

This time select "Midi Control." This is a long list. About two thirds of the way down is a heading marked "Input Options." Just beneath it is a slider labeled "In Channel Start." It should be set to either "Omni" or "1." Next touch the word "Done" at the top right of the list.

Press the Home button on the iPad and look for the ChordMaps2 icon. Touch it to open ChordMaps2.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Mugglin



When touchscreens were first introduced in the iOS world, I purchased quite a few of the music apps as they became available. I wanted to know what the state of the art was.

Over time, it became obvious that playing a piece of glass was not the same as playing a keyboard or guitar. The sounds were there, but the playing surface was different.

Eventually, the thought came: okay, a piece of glass doesn't give you the same touch sensations as playing keys or strumming strings, but the glass has one advantage -- it's very smart. What if the various locations on the glass, instead of being keys or frets, were representative of states of thinking, or awarenesses, a musician might have while exploring or improvising at their instrument? What if playing a keyboard chord with three notes in the right hand, and a bass note in the left hand, was all mapped to one small location on the screen? Many such locations could be created, each one representing a group of ideas, or a combination of thoughts.


When you consider the number of people who would like to try songwriting, but stop because they get discouraged, the question usually isn't one of words or melody; far more often it's a question of chord vocabulary, knowing which chords are available in a given key, and then how to play them.

If a reasonable number of chords are available at the tap of a finger, grouped together so that they tend to flow from one to another in ways that sound good, then, with just a little instruction, beginning songwriters and those new to music theory will have a path already marked out for them.


As valuable as the hardware midi controllers are, there will still be some situations where a musician might have only the iPad itself. The question then becomes "What can you do with just that?"


Full size iPad or iPad Pro recommended


Download on the App Store