Saturday, November 1, 2014

iPad Reality Check?

So, I'm working away on the iPad, popping in track after track and decide to sit down at the desk and hook up to the iConnectMIDI2 to finish things off. I start reaching to the iPad in Cubasis and stop and ponder.

Here I am, sitting at the iMac, Logic X on the screen and I'm struggling to fit tracks in Cubasis - what is wrong with this picture? Obviously the best DAW at my disposal is Logic X and I can easily add iPad tracks into my mix over the iConnect MIDI.

In getting the iConnectMIDI2, I was looking to better integrate iPad music with my desktop. But it is important to think of the best tool for the job. At my fingertips is Logic, all of its plug-in synths, Komplete 8, Aalto, Arturia AUs, Korg M1 AU, SampleModeling Trumpet and Saxes and more plugins than I can ever hope to use.

So, why the iPad? Until recently, there were few, if any sounds on the iPad that I couldn't do better on the desktop but that is changing in a few areas. Animoog, for example is completely unique with its modulation possibilities and I can do things on the touch screen that are very hard to "automate in" with traditional desktop plugins. I also have some very unique add-ons such as the Grateful Dead set in Animoog that don't exist on my desktop.

In other areas, my tendency to "cheap bastardhood" weighs in. I have most of the libraries for Alchemy Mobile edition on my iPad but I only have the "free" Alchemy player on the desktop. To buy those libraries on the desktop is an expensive proposition, but I have the best of them on the mobile (I know the bitrate is different and its not the full library, but its still damned useful).

Z3tA - likewise, I don't have the desktop version, same goes for iSem and many other unique items on the iPad. So for all of these synths, I might use them and pass the audio into my pieces.

The other area where the iPad shines is as a MIDI controller. Using StepPolyArp, Gestrument or even Logic Remote is often more intuitive and more fun than using keyboard controllers on the desktop. I can pass the MIDI into my software synths on the desktop and have an extremely responsive controller. Thumbjam too works extremely well as a playing surface and can be used to control much better sample libraries on my desktop.

I get Computer Magazine and often see adds for novel MIDI controllers for the desktop but I'll sacrifice tactile feel for the infinite possibilities of a touch screen in most cases (the Akai EWI is a notable exception that I do have!)

Often when I am working, I am solely on the iPad and I do make heavy use of iPad DAWs in those cases. For those times when I do connect the iPad to the iMac though, I need to take a breath, think and decide what I want to accomplish with what tool.

If I want an iPad only experience, which is quite often, I will use the local DAWs and tools. If I want a polished jazz piece, I might opt for a Desktop only piece in Logic. But I think I should do more "hybrid" pieces and use the best of both. For my "sketch pad" style pieces, my best option is Garageband on the iPad and then moving the project file to Logic X. This brings all MIDI, audio and track information intact onto the desktop where I can replace some instruments, extend things, automate etc. I'll probably be doing much more of this in the future.

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