A portable studio in your palm of your hand
The list of superlatives you often hear when people talk about Apple’s iDevices are becoming a touch overplayed now. We all know about the amazing apps it can run, and the weird and wonderful sounds which can be achieved as a result, but how many people are actually doing exactly that in a live or studio setting? When does the ‘studio in your pocket’ pipe dream become a cast-iron reality. Right about now, since you ask. Here’s how.
See, no matter what you play, or what you compose, or even what you listen to, Apple’s range of iOS products are powerful and versatile enough to get you making music in no time at all. All you need are the keys to the car, so to speak, the tools with which to unlock the magical potential of these amazing devices. This iOS music gear focus will hopefully shed some light on the options available to you.
First things first, you need a way to start playing. This could be through using your existing instruments and tapping into the devices recording or effects tools, or it could be controlling sound generator apps. Either way, we’ve got your back.
If the sounds you want come in the form of apps you’ve downloaded directly onto the device, you’ll need a way of controlling them. Aside from the grubby fingerprints, the touchscreen isn’t designed for great accuracy and extended play sessions so, while it is possible to control your various synth apps without a controller, you open up a world of new possibilities by recruiting a dedicated device to your line up.
There are plenty of options here but we’d point you in the direction of a keyboard controller like the Novation Launchkey 49, which adds a series of pads to its standard keyboard layout. The pads allow you control drum kits by tapping your fingers on them, which offers a more tactile and responsive way of playing than using the iDevice alone.
If you’re more into recording a traditional instrument into your device, you’ll either need a way of plugging your instrument (like a guitar, bass or synth) in, or of using a microphone to pick up the sounds you get from an acoustic instrument (brass, strings etc.)
For a strong all-rounder, you might consider a fully-fledged audio interface like the Focusrite iTrack Studio package. This bundled collection includes a good quality Focusrite audio interface, into which you can plug instruments or line-level inputs, and also microphones, of which there is one included. It also features a set of headphones for silent production, and an accompanying app into which you can start recording your creations.
Alternatively, you might prefer the Alesis iO Dock II (reviewed here) which is designed in such a way to cradle your iPad and open up the world of multitrack recording through its dual inputs. The Alesis really excels when it comes to live performance though, as it provides the link between your iOS device and an external amplification source like a PA or amplifier.
Both the Alesis and the Focusrite will allow you to incorporate proper studio monitors into your sound too, ensuring you can mix properly when you’re ready.
Of course, there isn’t always the need to do things properly. Any musician knows the most interesting stuff comes when you’re just messing around without pressure. The iDevices come into their own here, with a few worthy options on offer to encourage your creative exploration.
First of which is the Korg Volca Sample, which allows you to use your iOS device to transfer sound samples directly onto the unit so you can enter the wonderful world of sample manipulation. Your Apple device can also act as a go-between for Korg’s superb apps, like Gadget and Polysix, mixing the dual worlds of physical (Volca) and virtual (iOS) to amazing effect.
Aside from its uses as a sound source, the iOS range also plays nicely with Roland’s V-Drum range as a training tool, as well as a conduit to musical gamification via apps like Friendjam, which allow you to compete against other players around your ability level.
The key here is to think more about the iOS range as a link between traditional and modern worlds of musical performance, as opposed a shiny toy which is of limited use in the ‘real’ world. There are so many ways you can integrate your phone or tablet into your musical activities; hopefully this iOS music gear guide has helped demonstrate a few of these exciting new methods.