Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Tale of 3 DAWs

Its been a big month for iOS music app updates with the iPad native NanoStudio (finally!) and updated to many others. I thought I would blog a little bit about what DAWs I use (and perhaps what I don't and why).

My "big 3" DAWs lately seem to be NanoStudio, Music Studio 2 and Garageband. Missing from the common list is Multitrack DAW, Meteor and BeatMaker 2. Multitrack DAW is primarily used with audio files and since I do mostly MIDI, I haven't found a need for it. It also is useful for live recording - another feature I don't use. Meteor is a bit more complete but expensive. Every little feature costs more - a bit of a turnoff though I hear great things about it. BeatMaker, I have to admit is a personal thing. In my opinion, the interface for MIDI editing was heavily borrowed (stolen) from NanoStudio and that sort of thing just turns me off on the company - great product by most accounts though. Music Studio also has a MIDI piano roll editor and at least they used their own design there.

iPad Native NanoStudio

So when to use what? NanoStudio is often the idea generator. When I think of all the soft synths I have and begin to get a sound in my head, I sometimes go to the Eden synth in NanoStudio and quickly patch up the sound there rather than work through audio copy/paste with the other synths. In many cases this is enough. If I have a few samples I want pulled in, I record them to the TRG pads and roll away. If I had to pick only one DAW to work in on the iPad/iPod, this would probably be it. The editing is complete, the sounds are great - the interface very well laid out and the author is extremely responsive to support questions and enhancements.

While waiting for NanoStudio, I picked up Music Studio 2 which is nice in many ways though very different. The biggest feature I like in Music Studio 2 is its support for audio files. Music Studio gives you tons of sampled instruments (think of them more as "presets" - very similar to Garageband on the iMac), but also lets you paste audio files. So, if I really want to use some of my stand alone synths from the iPad, Music Studio is a great place to consolidate and edit the resulting WAV files, as well as add additional sounds from its library. Where it is weakest is in its effect bus, but usually I add the effects on the synth before generating a WAV file.

Lastly, Garageband for iPad/iPod is still a very useful performance tool. I find it very different than its big brother on the Mac but it is a favorite. Recording guitar parts, bass lines or keyboards is a pleasure on it and it also support audio file "pasting" - though it is a one way trip. To finalize the song, I almost always have to upload it to the Mac and use either Garageband or Logic 9 for mixing/mastering - not really a bad thing!

I have many other tools I am just getting the hang of (iSequence HD, Rhythm Studio, etc) but I am still learning those.

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