Friday, January 18, 2013

In Depth: Make music on iOS: create amazing tracks with your iPhone or iPad


In Depth: Make music on iOS: create amazing tracks together with your iPhone or iPad

It's right before dawn, and you are squeezed in to a warehouse club, the bunch jumping because headliner plays what definitely seems to be their last an eye on the night. As the beats die out, the lights come down and the main man can burn from the stage.

Just the echoing chants of the group remain, when suddenly a small square of light appears over the gloom - sufficient reason for it, a clattering boom through the sound system. 'Is that… an iPad?' you hear someone exclaim, as the speakers start to roll out a skin-tingling blast of sound.

Looking closer, you can see the DJ arms aloft, his fingers dancing over an iPad's screen along with the sound system obeying his every command. 'How is he doing that?' you wonder breathlessly because the beat starts to kick back in. 'And… can I make it happen, too?'

The answer is yes - plus much more besides. Apple has cooked up an incredible opportunity with iOS, and music developers aren't letting the medial side down. There's an ocean of apps out there, and yes it doesn't matter a high level virtuoso violinist or Bez from Happy Mondays - you will discover something that makes your jaw drop.

It's not only possible to complete on stage - you can also play melodies through emulations of world-famous hardware synths; jam on your guitar for the sound of classic stacks; record and manipulate vocals; sample and edit the globe around you; tap out banging beats; come up with tracks in the same way you would in a very professional audio-editing package; export your time and energy for all the planet to see; and much more.

There's forget about innovative platform on the market right now - so take a deep breath, because it's time to get wet.


Yamaha TNR-i

In first it was just you, your fingers, your iOS tool and your imagination. Apple's touch interface assists you to interact with music in an entirely new way, thankfully without any bewildering score notation - so in case you can't tell a crotchet from the crab apple, you will still be able to produce surprisingly impressive melodies and tunes, and possess more than a few moments of genuine delight on the way.

The number 1 place to start has been Apple's GarageBand for iOS (£2.99): its Smart Instruments will turn your butterfingers in to the confident digits associated with an experienced musician. You can command swelling strings, find cool riffs on acoustic and instruments, get grooving on bass or jam for the keyboard.

The standard drum instrument is fun, too - you can bash out beats with your fingers over a virtual kit, or research a large range of custom percussion. (For more information on how to get started with GarageBand, download our free guide on Newsstand.)

Budding drummers should also check out Drum Meister Grand (£1.49), where you'll be able to expand each with the four kits with funky extras such as cowbells. Pianist Pro (£2.49 for iPhone; £2.99 for iPad) reckons it sounds so realistic, even those that can tickle the ivories in person will want to participate in it - making this the place to whack out that tired (sorry, obviously we mean jaunty) rendition of Chopsticks.

If you have never even sat down near a piano, SoundPrism (Free) might be more down your alley: it's both basic and fun to operate your fingers across its colourful interface to envision gorgeous melodies and chords. Sound Wand (£1.49) is an enchanting virtual harp that responds to movement - it's surprisingly absorbing and perfect for clearing mental performance.

You can turn your iOS device in a flute with Ocarina 2 (Free) - just blow to the mic and pop your fingers for the lights on-screen to experience along with songs from Lady Gaga to Debussy. Yamaha's mind-widening TNR-i (£13.99) can be your chance to write music using light: just tap to illuminate spots inside matrix that will create bleep-tastic melodies.

And should you be blown away through the track-mashing skills of top DJs, try Rocudo DJ Studio (Free with IAPs) - it's really a loop launcher filled with pro-quality samples that may have you sounding like Deadmau5 quickly.



It's an easy task to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of choices for stepping up your game, why don't we sort the sheep from your goats. Apple's iPad Camera Connection Kit (£25) doesn't only play nicely with photography gear - additionally, it provides a sneaky way to hook up MIDI keyboards having a light power draw.

There are a great deal of quality compact 'boards available - we like Korg's microKEY 25 (£49) due to the velocity-sensitive keys and wicked pitch/mod stick. You will use controllers like this to try out synth apps including Korg's iMS-20 for iPad (£10.99), a virtual recreation of legendary hardware.

You may also use them to try out the piano instruments in GarageBand as well as other digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Blip Interactive NanoStudio (£5.49) and Intua BeatMaker 2 (£13.99).

iPhone and iPod touch users can't make use of the CCK to connect, so they should investigate Akai's SynthStation 25 (£49), where Apple's hardware slots straight in the keyboard. Its app compatibility limited, but you can come up with some cool ditties with all the accompanying SynthStation app (£1.49), which boasts three synth layers plus a drum machine.

Propellerhead's Figure (69p) is surely an iPhone/iPod touch app that offers lead synth, bass and drums powered with the company's celebrated Thor synth and Kong drum machine. With an innovative yet easy-to-grasp interface, it provides a unique, ephemeral technique of putting together loops.

Music software behemoth Native Instruments has brought its industry-standard technology on the iPhone with iMaschine (£2.99), a fairly easy yet powerful beat sketchpad.

The world is surely an amp-shaped oyster for guitarists - connect your axe with Apogee Jam (£70) and you are able to rock out dozens of amps, cabs and pedals with AmpKit (Free, with IAPs) plus all kinds of other apps, including GarageBand.

Record audio in your iOS device by attaching IK Multimedia iRig Mic (£32) - this condenser mic teams up while using VocaLive app (Free, with IAPs) to produce swash-buckling vocal effects. If you already own a mic, attach it for a iOS device through IK's iRig Pre (£25).

Singer/songwriters might prefer Tascam's iXZ box (£39) allowing you to connect both an acoustic guitar and mic simultaneously. You need to hear what you are doing, and M-Audio's Studiophile AV30 speakers (£70) include the men to do the job - plug them in the headphone jack. If you've got additional cash, splash from their big brothers - the AV40s (£96).


Alesis IO Dock

An iPad can be the perfect complement for your studio setup, but what is the best strategy to get everything connected?

The Alesis iO Dock for iPad (£140) is getting ready to become your new best ally - it's hosting a veritable port party. Through it you'll be able to hook up MIDI and USB MIDI gear, mics, instruments, headphones and sound systems in your iPad. You'll need some serious studio monitors, using the KRK Rokit 8s (£399) delivering an almighty bang for your buck. If you may have deep pockets, investigate the Genelec 8000 series (£575+).

If you have to make some recordings out in the field plus your iO Dock is napping in your studio, the pocket-sized Apogee Mic (£163) may be just the ticket - this little fella plugs straight into the dock connector.

Turn recordings into samples through SampleWiz (£6.99), a robust app that offers both conventional and unusual editing interfaces. Voice Synth (£1.99) is definitely an intuitive effect for turning vocal snippets into anything from T-Pain to your T-Rex.

Animoog (£6.99 for iPhone; £20.99 for iPad) brings the famously rich and dynamic sounds of the iconic synth manufacturer for your iOS device. If virtual analogue synths are the thing, also check out NLog MIDI Synth for iPhone (£2.99) and iceGear's Cassini (£2.99 for iPhone/ iPod touch; £1.99 for iPad). Alchemy Synth Mobile (Free with IAPs) can be a port of Camel Audio's top-notch subtractive synth.

If you're after a strong MIDI controller, kings with the scene M-Audio have just updated their Axiom 61 keyboard (£229): alongside 61 semi-weighted keys, it boasts faders, knobs and pads for controlling desktop software, making it a worthy addition to the studio that speaks both iOS and OS X.

Alternatives include Novation's SL 61 MKii (£380), or if you don't need any control bling and would prefer to more keys instead, try the imposing M-Audio Keystation 88 (£132).

Those who produce mostly on desktop may use their iOS device being a controller. For iPad, touchAble (£17.49) is the foremost app on the market for Ableton Live; touchOSC (£2.99) is suitable for stacks of programs including Logic Pro.

There are several serious groovebox apps available. Korg's iElectribe for iPad (£6.99) can be an enjoyable emulation with the company's Electribe ER-1 hardware, while Propellerhead's ReBirth (£1.99 for iPhone/ iPod touch; £10.49 for iPad) is an exact copy of the formidable desktop software.

GarageBand and BeatMaker 2 are great for bringing these elements together, but Aurora Sound Studio (£6.99 for iPhone/iPod touch; £27.99 for iPad) can be a great alternative - it includes synths, samplers, mixer and effects, all tied up in a Tenori-On-style Multi-Touch grid interface.


Numark DJ Pro

Big-name electronic artists such as whizzkid James Zabiela and techno icon Richie Hawtin are famous for using their iPads to have the dancefloor moving, as well as good reason.

Slot an iPad to your existing setup and utilize this flexible paradigm with performance-focused controller apps such as Liine's Griid Pro (£17.49), which is targeted on launching Ableton Live clips, along with the intuitive, uniquely powerful Lemur (£34.99), thats liable to bring a part of £1,700 hardware in your iOS device.

Digital DJing suites NI Traktor and Serato Scratch Live can be controlled by TrakPro DJ (£6.99) and MIDI-to for iPad (£5.49) respectively. If you'd like to require a step further and employ your iPhone or iPad since the main mixing interface, algoriddim's djay (69p for iPhone/ iPod touch; £13.99 for iPad) could be the one each of the rest are attempting to beat.

Connect two iOS devices running djay together with IK Multimedia's iRig Mix (which incorporates EQ knobs), and cue output and channel faders; or else, buy a full hardware system including CDJ-style platters while using brand-new Numark iDJ Pro for iPad (£309) or iDJ3 for iPhone/iPod touch (£180). The cheaper iDJ Live (£79) offers an affordable gateway on the concept for beginners.

But DJing is not the only method of performing along with your iOS device - it's also possible to play it as a possible instrument or effect on stage. Morph sounds from timbre to a different, note by note with MorphWiz (£6.99), create sonic mayhem with filter app Moog Filtatron (£5.49) or rub the screen to spit out diverse effects and lead lines with KORG iKaossilator (£6.99).

Reactable Mobile (£6.99) is something a little special: place generator and effect blocks in your screen to develop pulsating arrangements, then edit them in real-time and energy to spectacular effect.

Guitarists will see a neat performance solution in DigiTech iPB-10 (£379), a 10-slot pedalboard programmed through iPad app iPB-Nexus (Free). With almost 90 effects, 54 amps and 26 cabs, you'll not struggle to find a suitable sound.

IK Multimedia's iRig Stomp (£39) is single stompbox that could slot into the existing pedalboard setup; run it through AmpliTube 2 (Free with IAPs) to get a top-quality collection of guitar kit emulations. And there's a handy approach to keep your device becuase without adding a vibe-killing table taking centre-stage - IK's iKlip (£25) and iKlip Mini (£25) holders clip onto a normal mic stand.

How to set it altogether

BeatMaker 2

Now you are sure that which apps and kit are worthy of your hard-earned moolah, it's time for you to investigate how that will put it all together and wind up having a track or performance worth shouting about.

First, if you're a beginner so you know nothing about music just yet: chill. Have a go with the apps we recommended inside Dabbler section that need no prior experience whatsoever. Enjoy the experience of creating music and allow it to bring a smile for a face - that's what it's all about, in fact.

Those who are able to read music much like the back of the hand should give these entry-level apps a go, too: there is so often inspiration to become gained from going back on the start and searching at something in a different way.

The Yamaha TRN-i app is a perfect example - it throws the regular methods of representing pitch out with the window, instead employing a matrix of buttons that you just tap to illuminate. Aside from looking devilishly pretty, it pulls the rug from under your established compositional practices, forcing that you go about things differently - and that means you end on top of things you'd probably never have thought to try otherwise.

The Tenori-On hardware the app is based on is prohibitively expensive, and this proves one of the key points of iOS as being a platform: it brings innovative formats and also the sound of high-quality gear through the sweaty clutches from the privileged few in to the grasp with the everyday humble musician.

Apps such as this require only a deft finger plus some spare time, but a majority of others take advantage of hooking up a piece of extra kit. MIDI gear (most popularly keyboards) allows you to definitely control software instruments. It's much easier to play tunes over a real piano compared to jabbing with one finger in an on-screen virtual 'board!

How can you connect your MIDI gear for a iOS device with no hitches? Well, iOS 4.2 was the large update for musicians: it brought CoreMIDI support in to the fold, allowing your device to convey with other MIDI devices over either USB or Wi-Fi connections.

Apple's Camera Connection Kit enables some MIDI hardware to be hooked up almost directly, but only in the event the unit doesn't require an excessive amount of power. If your kit causes a warning message to flash up on the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, introduce a powered USB hub in the chain - this will likely do the trick nicely.

If you've got an item of gear that operates on traditional 5-pin MIDI in lieu of over USB, you'll be able to connect over dedicated interfaces for example IK Multimedia's iRig MIDI and Line 6's MIDI Mobilizer. These little black boxes plug into the dock connector one end along with your unit's MIDI port one other, and that's it - setup complete!

If you've already got a sweet studio setup that you simply're inspired to slot your iOS device into, otherwise you know that you simply want to work with not just MIDI instruments and also guitars, microphones and much more, you should buy an all-in-one interface solution.

We mentioned the Alesis iO Dock being a piece of key kit, as well as for our money it really is the foremost iOS interface out there. It's got every one of the ports a serious musician needs, plus preamps and phantom power for getting condenser microphones involved inside the party. Just slot your iPad in the dock and attach any little bit of gear when you please, and you're simply ready to go.

On record

MIDI connection

You will not want people to grit their teeth every time they hear your vocals, plus a key part to get this right is capturing the audio employing a decent microphone.

Hold up a sec, though: it helps to know somewhat about mics before you decide to hit that big red Record button. Broadly speaking, there are two varieties: condenser and dynamic. Condenser microphones will be more sensitive to sound, driving them to perfect for capturing the expressively wide range of volumes heard in a vocal or instrument performance. These mics require phantom power to work, as well like a preamp, which raises the gain level.

Dynamic microphones tend to be robust and not quite so sensitive, in order that they're great in the noisy environment - including on stage or when recording drums - where you will not want the mic to go into shock whenever it hears a loud noise.

If you already own a microphone, you can find interfaces available that allow you to hook it up for an iOS device and use it with audio-processing apps. The Alesis iO Dock is one, as the Tascam iXZ is often a cheaper alternative offering just guitar and mic inputs (great for a singer-songwriter).

If you prefer to record audio and aren't enthusiastic about MIDI or instrument connections, IK Multimedia's iRig Pre will hook you up in a budget price. (All of these three provide preamps and phantom power.)

If you do not own a mic, check out an iOS-specific solution including IK iRig Mic or Apogee Mic. The iRig Mic is surely an affordable condenser unit that plugs straight in the headphone jack. Reports on its quality of sound are varied, if you decide to want top-dollar recordings, listen to it safe and opt for the rather more expensive Apogee Mic. This bad boy plugs straight in the actual dock connector rather than the audio jack, and can be a great portable solution for making samples for the move.

Now you've got your mic and connection sorted, onto some quick tips for the great recording. First, make certain you're in as quiet an area as possible: so shut any windows, turn off any extraneous hum-emitting equipment, get out in the wind, and educate other half what you're up to so they really don't burst in.

If you're recording vocals, place a pop shield in front of the mic to prevent bursts of exhaled breath making annoying 'pops' on the recording. You can buy one approximately £15, or if you're strapped for cash, indulge in a very bit of cheeky amount of DIY by stretching some tights on the coat hanger (seriously).

Ensure your singer or other sound source stays inside the same place throughout the recording - when they move about, a dark tone will change.

Finally, make certain the input gain with your DAW or app is set to the right level. You should never start to see the input levels illuminate red, simply because this means how the audio is 'clipping' and definately will sound distorted on playback. Test the levels by running with the loudest part of the material you're recording, minimizing the input gain if required. Once recorded, adjust the start and end points in the audio clip on your iOS device when needed.

But you don't have to prevent there - you will want to transform the fabric into something else entirely? Powerful sample-editing app SampleWiz can be a creative approach to take audio clips and free them using their natural form. You could pitch your clip down an octave, drag its final notes out on an eternity and wreak havoc on its grain size - then resample your sonic Frankenstein and mess about from it a little more.

The benefit of using SampleWiz over a regular sampler is its unique touch-based editing interfaces, so professionals should really give it a whirl to determine what atypical noises they can cook up.

Attaching an acoustic guitar


Want to rock out using your, er, iPad out? Your guitar won't plug straight into your iOS device, which means you need either an interface using a ¼-inch input or even a dedicated guitar box, examples being Apogee Jam (which hooks up with the dock connector to get a digital signal) or IK Multimedia's iRig (which plugs in from the audio jack). This is made specifically to power IK's AmpliTube 2 app (which exists like a paid and free-with-IAP version), which offers an astonishing quantity of amps, cabs and effect pedal emulations, all of your extremely excellent.

Apogee Jam

Apogee's Jam, about the other hand, will work with pretty much all guitar amp sims, including those present in GarageBand. These apps are great because guitar hardware normally costs a lot of money, in like manner have hundreds of options to use without breaking your bank - or perhaps your back lugging them around - is quite the luxury.

The same is true from the many amazingly capable drum machines apps. Deceptively simple yet powerful is Native Instruments' iMaschine, which is really a tiny version of the company's Maschine hardware/software combination. The focus is on the beats - which you are able to tap out about the app's 16 drum pads - but there is also a keyboard and audio recording functionality, so you are able to make a full mini track if inspiration strikes on the go. Trust us - you'd never get your desktop Maschine setup on the bus!

Other more comprehensive solutions include Propellerhead's ReBirth and KORG iElectribe, which showcase the platform's abilities - these are generally complete beat-making solutions that who considers themselves a 'pro' should be using. After all, it is more natural to glance at the beat right there in your fingers compared to to manually draw it in utilizing a mouse.

Laying down a track

Digital audio workstations such as GarageBand, NanoStudio and BeatMaker 2 act because the centrepiece of your respective iOS musicmaking experience, be it Ed Sheeran or Sasha in your sights. They're like a big melting pot where you are able to gather together all of your audio recordings, MIDI performances and samples, mix and balance all with the ingredients then add some effects being a garnish.

But how do you get your elements together in one app? There are a few methods, yet it's simpler than you may think!

Back next year, Apple began allowing audio to become copied and pasted into and from apps while using the iOS clipboard, and this will be the most convenient strategy to get your stuff into GarageBand or any other DAW. Most apps allow you to definitely record or keep your work, so simply hold your finger down about the file you want to move, select Copy, open up your DAW, tap and hold about the track you need to add it to, thus hitting Paste.

And that's it - the mighty tones with the Animoog, say, ready to become layered with other elements in GarageBand!

However, before Apple made this functionality available, Sonoma Wire Works made a similar standard called AudioCopy. Over 100 apps are still compatible with using this method, and that means you might spot it as an option once you tap and hold on the file. Feel free to apply it instead, although be aware that GarageBand doesn't support it.

If an app doesn't support either copy standard, don't panic; it's no problem - you can use your Mac as being a middleman. Export the file to your desktop, then re-import it to your app of choice through its File Sharing Area in iTunes. Back in the app, obtain the Import Files option and select it in the list. This can be a bit more of your faff than copying and pasting, however it still gets the job done.

Once you have got the whole crowd gathered together - synth parts, drum beats, guitar performance, messed-up samples, blinding vocal part - then it's time and energy to mix them down.

At the most basic level, make sure that the volume per track is appropriate - you do not want the drum beat to drown your vocal - and add any effects you think that sound good.

If you are a professional put off with the lack of mastering and effect options in GarageBand, take a look at NanoStudio prior to deciding to decide to write off iOS regarding gathering and manipulating sounds only. This comprehensive app offers four insert effects per channel (select from compression, EQ, reverb, waveshaper, chorus, bitcrusher and delay) in addition to two global effect sends, therefore it is not short on power.

BeatMaker 2 is additionally a very capable alternative, with ten effect units, three insert slots per track and unlimited global effects racks.

The bigger picture

Tascam iZX

When you may have your track finished, it's time to get it out from the confines of your respective iOS device and into the top wide world. No matter what DAW you're using, this couldn't be simpler. All offer the option to export directly to trendy music-sharing site SoundCloud, which hosts everyone from a next-door neighbour to worldbeater Paul van Dyk.

If you would like to not share your creation while using unwashed masses, you are able to export it as being a WAV, AIFF or AAC file straight to iTunes. GarageBand also supports sharing direct to Facebook, YouTube or through email.

Professional musicians might feel that they are able to get the track to some certain time iOS before it will take exporting to their desktop computer for further work. That's no problem in case you are using GarageBand - it exports multitrack projects that you are able to open up in GarageBand or Logic Pro on the Mac, willing to dive straight last.

Professional users also can look at their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad from another angle: taking advantage of its touch interface to control their existing desktop applications in the new way. Whether you want to widen your musical boundaries or just control your DAW from your bed, this route is unquestionably worth exploring.

If you're doing work in Ableton Live, touchAble is the one you want, whilst the flexible touchOSC is able to control a host of desktop programs.



When you're making music, it is necessary that you can accurately hear what you're doing. Many speakers manipulate the incoming signal, pumping inside the bass making it more exciting or boosting the treble so that vocals apparently shine from the mix. While this will make tracks sound 'good', it won't reflect their actual frequency content - and when you're working on the track, this adds up with a big disappointment when you hear it being played elsewhere for your first time also it doesn't sound quite as epic when you thought.

The best approach to avoid this is studio monitors with a flat frequency response. Such speakers could be really expensive, as they're a specialist bit of kit: for example, the Genelec 8000 series won't spare your blushes, but they won't spare your wallet either, with all the cheapest pair costing £600.

The KRK Rokit line are the ideal (fairly) affordable option, while those that aren't sure whether want to invest so heavily for making music as of this time should take a look at the M-Audio Studiophile AV30s or AV40s we recommended earlier - they cost under £80 and £100 respectively.


iRig Mix

Making beautiful sounds along with your iOS device might be really impressive, rather than more so than whenever you're performing in front of the crowd!

A host of professional DJs use iPads to wow fans using their technical wizardry, by incorporating apps being a direct response to this innovation: Liine's Griid clip launcher for Ableton Live was created with top techno banana Richie Hawtin, for example. The same company have gone even deeper making use of their Lemur app, which emulates an item of very expensive, much lusted-after hardware: it is possible to use it to delve deep in your configuration and control anything from your stunning light show to the flanger effect in your DAW.

Taking the concept further are apps for example algoriddim's djay, which enable mixing purely along with your iOS device. IK Multimedia's iRig Mix allows that you plug in, say, two iPads and treat them as you'd probably normal decks, loading up tunes from the personal library.

But most DJs will explain that a touch interface isn't as precise as other methods of mixing just yet - so the iOS bandwagon is making inroads there, too. Numark create a comprehensive distinctive line of iDJ controllers, from the iPad-friendly iDJ Pro (soon to become available) towards the iPhone-only iDJ3 and also the mobile-focused iDJ Live, which can be affordable and basic enough to encourage even complete beginners to have a go.

The iOS instruments we mentioned earlier either can slot into a traditional setup for 'special effect' - or they is most likely the special effect themselves.

Reactable Mobile is an absorbing app that appears at creating electronic tracks from an entirely new viewpoint. It's suitable for performance, so don't be afraid to try out it on stage - though it's just like much fun to have a try by yourself in your bedroom.

We've already seen how easy it is in order to connect a guitar to a iOS device, and we've mentioned other key kit that take this idea a little more forward for whenever you're beneath the lights. The DigiTech iPB-10 can help you program 10 stompboxes using virtual amps, using a slot to the iPad to slip into.

Don't feel nervous about slopping beer all over your beloved iPad or perhaps cracking the screen which has a clumsily aimed foot - it may operate without them, if you have to program it first.

If you want to spend less but still get a iOS device involved, IK Multimedia's iRig Stomp can daisy chain along with other effect pedals, slotting into in lieu of replacing a conventional setup.



So, making music on iOS - also can we say? Well, don't judge us, but we could bang on for months about all the opportunities it presents - from your new relationship using the very portion of sound to its incredible capability to bring heaps of expensive hardware literally into your hands.

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