iOS Music Technology in the Classroom
This winter quarter at The Institute of Production and Recording students received iPads as part of a scholarship program called edUX (Education User Experience). Education User Experience brings the latest technology into the classroom to provide students with a more interactive and engaging learning experience. To help maximize our iPad experience at IPR, I organized tools from the app store into 4 easy steps. For those of you who are on a student budget (AKA free stuff! woo!) seeking ways to transform your iPad into a mobile studio there are a lot of free downloads for music production that can amplify your music making experience.
1. Download Free Synthesizer Apps
Nanologue is a virtual analog synthesizer, which comes with 50 preset lead, bass and effects sounds. You can choose from two waveform choices and a multitude of parameters to play with to adjust your sounds. The synth looks like a prop that came out of a sci-fi film. I personally think that this app sounds the best and has the most detailed quality sound. This is my top pick for free synthesizer apps. It doesn’t have any sequencing abilities in comparison to the Alchemy app but you can accomplish the same thing through inter-app audio connectivity in Garageband.
Alchemy Synth Mobile Studio is an expansive workstation which allows you to choose from audio samples, synth parts, drum beats and pads to record into it’s 4 track sequencer. When playing a particular sound you have the option to manipulate preset and custom parameters including X and Y pads. An added bonus feature of this app is the inertia and tilt options which enable you to physically move your iPad to change parameters. This app is a must to check out! This is the second app of my top picks for free synth gear for the iPad.
These next two apps have interesting features that are worth noting, but I found that I got more functionality out of the first two apps. However, I recommend deciding for yourself. I had fun playing with all of them. They are all worth playing around with depending on the type of music you are choosing to make. These last two synthesizers are great, but in my opinion, they are more geared towards the production of electronica music.
Novation Launchkey Synthesizer
Novation Launchkey contains 80 synth sounds to choose from. The key component that makes this app stand out is it’s unique performance area. You can modify and adjust parameters of the sound by moving the circular graphics in the performance area with your finger. This app also connects with Novation Launchpad allowing you to create even more dynamic performances and recordings.
TF7 Synth is loaded with crazy sounds that when yielded by the morphing pads, transforms them into a wide landscape of sound effects. I spent hours creating and playing with the pads in the performance space of this app. Creating great sounds from this app comes easy, especially without needing the knowledge of a keyboard to play.
2. Download Free Groovebox Apps
Novation Launchpad Groovebox
Novation Launchpad is an all-in-one groove box with 8 preset sessions. This free download is my top pick for groovebox apps. I immediately dove right in compiling loops by easily switching tracks on or off with pads. I was building dynamic loops in seconds. The free download comes with built in effects pads including low pass, high pass, band pass and stutters. At first glance this app seems like it takes little talent to create good music but with the effects offerings you learn quickly that this app makes better music based on your skill of maneuvering your pad combination choices. When you are satisfied with your performance, hit record and simply send to your Dropbox, Soundcloud or email for instant sharing. Launchpad also syncs with Novation Launchkey for simultaneous app performance. Very entertaining!
Tabletop is my second top pick for groovebox apps because it took me longer to understand how to use this app. Once I had it running right it felt like a really cool virtual studio environment. This app comes with 14 musical devices, which you can connect together any way you choose. Included is a sampler, keyboard, tone matrix, 8 channel mixer, EQ, effects, turntable and more. You can design your own workspace, your own songs and your own live performances.
RD4 Groovebox is last, but not least. This app is chocked full of features including a synthesizer, drum machine effects, recording and mixing capabilities. You can either perform with pads and keys or write in your own note data on the piano roll. This app is currently is not inter-app audio compatible but can still be used to create extensive sequences and loops.
3. Download Free DAW Apps
GarageBand allows you to record up to 32 tracks with keys, drum machines, touch instruments and it’s on board microphone. This app blew me away with how easy it was to use. The navigation of this app is really easy to work with which makes my workflow process fly by very fast. This app includes tons of loops to jam with, mixing capabilities and effects. If you are familiar with the desktop version of GarageBand, the app is very familiar, intuitive and equally as awesome.
Tape is as bare bones as a DAW can get. Just record, edit and playback your recordings all inside this app. Includes mastering effects, audio trimming, metronome, tape art and social media connectivity. Keep it old school with this vintage 2 track!
Hokusai Audio Editor
Hokusai Audio Editor makes basic audio editing extremely simple. Record or import sounds and edit inside its clean workspace with no frills tools. When you are done editing, just export to Dropbox. Great app for quick edits.
4. Utilize Inter-App Audio Connectivity
Apple recently updated to iOS7 and one of the features of that update is inter-app audio connectivity. This feature gives input and outputs to individual apps which are compatible with inter-app audio connectivity for iOS7. This allows you to connect one app to another to create a signal chain which can be used for recording in Garageband. If you are using Tabletop be sure to try out the inter-app audio connectivity option for the Tabletop keyboard. You can select a keyboard app outside of Tabletop and utilize the Tabletop keyboard as a controller for that app, thus adding it into your complete Tabletop mix. Prior to this update on iOS7 there was a free app called JACK which enabled you to do the same thing with any apps which were JACK-compatible. The recent update has caused JACK to not work on iOS7, but as of December 2013 they announced the future possibility of JACK support for iOS7.