The iPad can be an under-utilized music performance and production device, there are lots of ways it can integrate into your own workflow and hopefully seed some ideas for your own creative work as a great music tech tool. The obvious advantages, to begin with, are its size, portability, and versatility. With the processing power becoming increasingly powerful, developers are generating interesting and unique apps for sound creation and music performance, Granular synth Borderlands is a notable example. With an expressive interface that only exists on a touch screen, this is an utterly unique and powerful instrument for the ‘tablet’ domain. In this video, we explore a number of free apps and approaches with the iPad, including some hot tips on how to use an iPad and DJ with any analogue mixer!
Another attractive feature of the iPad is its low entry barriers to music-making programs. For example, Synth One is a free and powerful two-oscillator synth (with a bonus sub-oscillator) that sounds fantastic and if you are familiar with traditional additive synth concepts, this can be very intrinsic. This app also has a convenient 16-step sequencer and built-in effects, that can make generate ideas very spontaneously.
If you don’t like the feel of the smooth glass screen, simply plug in a midi controller like the Arturia Key Lab and the iPad becomes a powerful synth brain with a hardware feel.
An overlooked feature of the iPad is its microphone. This device can be a great field recorder and sampler. With apps like Koala Audio’s sampler or Native Instruments iMaschine, you can find the functionality of a MPC (and more) with the workflow of a traditional sampler like an MPC. Again, at 0.5% of the cost of the hardware unit. Also notable is the new Ableton Live Note. Which is an iOS sketch pad that enables the user to start ideas on their phone or device and then open them in Ableton to generate complete tracks. As far as workflow goes, what a time to be alive right!? You can check out our video on Ableton’s Note.
Perhaps you have a unique workflow and you need to design some custom controllers for your lights and sound. Apps like Jazz Mutant’s Lemur is the tool for that. So much so that it is commonly found on stage with the likes of Daft Punk or even Deadmau5, who built his own version of the customizable interface that he operates on stage as part of his Cube Tour rig.
iPad also has some amazing DJ apps for performance, some of the best are also free. Try Traktor DJ 2 which is a great 2-deck DJ app that also lets you stream from Soundcloud. No sweat if you arrive at a party and do not have the tracks to suit the room.
With Apple’s modus operandi these days you will find yourself wanting a few extra dongles to enhance your workflow or increase your connectivity. Bits like this Traktor DJ Cable or this dongle from Jaycar will allow you to play audio and charge at the same time can be invaluable.
iPads could slowly replace the laptop in terms of music production workflows, with many small audio interfaces being iOS compatible now such as Universal Audio Volt interfaces. Paired with a DAW for iOS like Garage Band or Cubase it’s becoming harder to imagine the need to open a laptop for the fast-paced work style of a producer.
We’re only scratching the surface and hope this has sparked some creative ideas for you, let us know what you think!