Saturday, November 12, 2011

More on iPad music workflow

ReBirth Audio track with GB tracks added (iPad)
Its been awhile since I posted so I thought I might put a few new thoughts together again on musical workflows involving the iPad. I have put several songs together in recent weeks here, and have used many different methods to combine and produce finished works. Also there have been many new synths and updates to existing ones that make life slightly easier!
One gap on my huge list of iPad apps is an audio-file based DAW (or as SmiteMatter likes to term it - and iDaw). I have looked with interest at MultiTrack DAW, Meteor MultiTrack recorder, and most recently Music Studio. These all have their pros and cons. The first two would let me combine audio files together into tracks, apply effects, panning etc and master on the iPad. Cool idea but only half the solution - limited Midi and both a bit expensive in iPad terms ($15 and $20 respectively with additional in-app costs to extend them further). Music Studio is a bit more robust with software instruments, audio files and lots of tracks - and might be in my future.

For now, though, having so many other options, I find enough ways to edit audio, combine audio and midi and put together songs entirely (or nearly entirely) on the iPad. I am not a purist that will not export off the iPad before publishing - I love the interface of the iPad for creating and playing tracks but will take advantage of my iMac for mastering and converting formats.

I continually come back to NanoStudio as an iDAW and often find it entirely sufficient with its own Eden synths and TRG pads. When I want to add shortish snippets from other synths, it is fairly easy to use Audio Copy/Paste (ACP) to pop samples onto TRG pads. NanoStudio's powerful effects engines and mixer are probably my favorite option I have on the iPad. The incredible Animoog synth works very well with NanoStudio since it can only record small samples. All of these fit easily into TRG pads. Its worth reminding you that NanoStudio is an iPhone/iPod app currently. I prefer it scaled up on the iPad and there is a native version in the works but don't let the fact that its not iPad native put you off - it is extremely usable!

My other favorite iDAW (well much more than that) is of course Garageband which is now both iPad and iPhone/iPod compatible. Besides being an incredible musical DAW on its own, recent releases have added um...1/2 of ACP. You can paste audio into Garageband but can't copy it out (sort of a musical Roach Motel!). Indeed SmiteMatter passes on the app since you can't really produce a finished result without uploading to a computer - more on that in a bit. In my piece Running Sacred, I used another favorite of mine, ReBirth to do a techno track and then added some sampled voices and synths to it with Garageband. ReBirth also recently added audio copy to their app (GarageBand only pastes, ReBirth only copies - very symbiotic!).

Garageband is limited to 8 tracks so if you have many audio tracks, you probably want to combine them or "bounce" them before putting them into Garageband. My solution there is Hokusai audio editor, which lets me paste in multiple tracks, apply any number of effects or edits and then combine them and copy them back to the ACP clipboard. This reminds me of the early days of Garageband on my underpowered G4 iMac where I would bounce or lock many tracks since the CPU wasn't that robust. Of course I can't copy the tracks out of Garageband so the solution is to paste them out of the original apps, combine them and then paste the resulting combination back to Garageband.

There are some postings on how to bounce tracks from Garageband itself but this is a very bad idea. Garageband does let you export and email a file but it first mixes it down to a 128 kbs m4a file which is very lossy. Not a good way to move around audio!

I think Garageband is a much better fit for folks with Apple computers than Windows fans. Garageband does make it easy to upload your project file to Garageband on the Mac or Logic 9 (I use the latter). Once on the full DAW, you can do almost anything! I tend to clean up the mix, add any automations, fades or midi edits needed and then publish the song.

One point sometimes brought up about iPad synths is keyboard support. If I need to use the camera connection kit, a USB chord and compact keyboard on the iPad I really lose interest. Once the portability factor is gone, I may as well use my desktop DAW with a keyboard - way more powerful! But I do like the iPad keyboard for some things. You should check out all of the cool options in Animoog for keys. I have read many critiques saying that keyboards on the iPad feel unnatural. One area where I distinctly prefer the iPad is for portamento or glide parts. It is far easier to slide over smooth surface for these sort of sounds than carefully playing legato on a traditional keyboard.

Whew...well this post is all over the place - I welcome your comments or ideas on how you work with iPads or iPad/computer combinations. I haven't even touched on using the iPad as a wireless MIDI controller for Logic - maybe another time.

No comments:

Post a Comment