Build An iPad Recording Studio
Create a studio you can use on the move
There’s a lot to be said for portability when it comes to recording your music. Sure, it’s great having a dedicated space set up to capture ideas, but every now and again a change of scenery can provide you with a burst of creative inspiration which you may not get staring at the same four walls.
Alternatively, if you’re out on tour or traveling a lot, having a small, reliable setup you can sling in a bag means you’ll never again forget a line or riff you come up with while you’re out and about.
Nowadays, with tablet computers and the like, the opportunities for this kind of portable studio are endless. We’ll focus on the Apple tablet in this article because, as yet, Android-ready equipment isn’t exactly flooding the markets. It may be that will change in the future, but for now here are a few basic bits of gear you can use to help you build a powerful yet simple to use iPad recording studio.
Focusrite iTrack Studio Audio Interface
One of the main challenges about recording onto an iPad is actually getting the sound into the device. No serious musician is going to rely on the iPad’s internal microphone, so you need something to act as the central hub for audio creation.
Step forward audio interfaces. These devices act as the central component of the studio, taking sound from an external source (like a microphone or guitar) and converting it into a signal your recording device (in this case your iPad) can understand. It also acts as the connection point for your headphones or speakers. Audio in and audio out.
The Focusrite iTrack Studio Package is a great option, and has been built with the iPad in mind. It even offers the ability to connect directly over your iDevice’s Lightning connection, which saves faffing around with USB hubs and the like.
Novation Launchpad S
Novation’s Launchpad series has quickly grown into one of the most used and respected controller units on the market. Players love its flexibility and simple pick-up-and-play ethos, which means even non-musicians can be making tunes in no time at all.
While the original Launchpad was designed exclusively with Ableton Live in mind, the Novation Launchpad S plays nicely with the optional Camera Connection adapter, which basically gives your iPad a ‘proper’ USB slot to plug into. There’s even a dedicated Launchpad app available in the App Store which has a few neat tricks of its own. Well worth a look.
Regardless of whether you’re on tour stuck in a hotel room on an off day having spent your PD’s the night before, or you’re at home with an electric and some very uncompromising neighbours, inspiration waits for no one and when it strikes, you need to catch that bolt of lightning before its gone for good. Sadly, hooking up a 30-watt tube amp and some microphones to record your next hit isn’t always possible. Enter the iRig.
The iRig guitar interface by IK multimedia was a godsend when it hit shelves and allowed guitarists to capture musical thoughts in an instant via a handy little plug and play interface and their iPhone or iPad. The IK Multimedia iRig 2 Guitar Interface is an improved and updated model and just as useful, especially with the new FX/THRU switch, Gain control and amplifier output additions.
Simply plug your guitar and headphones in and fire up the Amplitube app and you’re good to go. It can facilitate demo’s right the way through to professional recordings, all operated in the palm of your hand.
Mackie CR3 Monitor Speakers
Finally, you’re going to need a way of hearing your recordings. Headphones are an obvious option but can prove tricky for accurate mixing of your tunes. There are options here; if you’ve gone down the route of using a ‘proper’ interface, like the Focusrite iTrack Solo, then you can use any kind of active studio monitors.
However, as a cost-effective option which will have an amazing impact on your studio sessions, we’re going to recommend the Mackie CR3 monitor speakers. In conjunction with the audio interface, these speakers will elevate your recordings to a new level and allow you to mix much more accurately than the internal speakers of the iPad. Plus they have an aux-in connector, meaning you can plug in your device directly to them which makes watching films much more enjoyable.
So there you have it. A fully-fledged, well-stocked music studio with not a lot of gear. It’s entirely feasible you could record entire albums onto an iPad, or you may prefer to use it as a sketchpad to keep you going while you’re on the road. Either way, the technology is compact, easy to use and will have you recording in no time at all.