iOS: The Unexpected Music Platform

In recent years, iOS music-making software has undergone a swift transition from gimmick to thriving and innovative platform. It’s capable of serious audio work, exceeding what was previously thought possible with a touchscreen device, and becoming an invaluable tool for musicians along the way.

Below, we take a brief look at a selection of noteworthy iOS apps and hardware.

GarageBand

GarageBand

GarageBand

With GarageBand, the iPad is transformed into the ideal musical sketchpad.

Apple’s own foray into iOS music software is as slick and robust as one would hope. The app is a superb translation of the desktop version bundled with every Mac and musicians will soon be up and running, with on-board software approximations (or ‘soft-synths’) of real instruments like guitar, bass and drums.

The iPad is not limited to just soft-synths though, as with a third party device such as Apogee’s Jam, guitarists will be able to plug directly into the iPad and make use of GarageBand’s inbuilt effects, enabling the spark of creativity to be recorded and shared in just moments, with the ability to easily export ideas to a Mac – either to the desktop version of GarageBand, or the high-end Logic Pro.

GarageBand’s ‘smart instruments’ aim to remove all need for pre-existing knowledge, the feature acting like training wheels on a children’s bicycle to give a running start to even the most inexperienced among us. GarageBand’s simple interface belies a remarkable depth of features and the combination of app and iPad lends itself to learning these features so well that the user will find it near impossible to put down.

The very low cost coupled with Apple’s own reputation will likely provide an additional push for the casually interested to hop aboard and begin to create.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad
Developer: Apple

RB-338

RB-338

Rebirth RB-338

Originally dating all the way back to 1996, Propellerhead’s Rebirth software has been given new life with an iOS reboot.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Propellerhead Software has garnered much respect within the industry by ignoring convention and playing by their own rules, thus attracting a die-hard group of users along the way. Those old enough to fondly remember the Rebirth RB-338 software back in its mid 1990s heyday will likely already be planning on purchasing this app but, nostalgia aside, even newcomers to the Propellerhead brand will be attracted by its impressive rhythm machine capabilities.

Rebirth RB-338 contains emulation for several classic Roland electronic instruments; two TB-303 synthesizers, a Roland TR-808 and a TR-909, all of which are able to be used at once, with effects such as digital delay, compression and distortion to make things even more interesting. In addition, there are five original user mods included, which offer new sounds and graphics.

Rebirth RB-338’s UI, seldom praised for its beauty or ease of use, does suffer somewhat from a lack of screen space on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but it more than makes up for this with a wealth of classic sounds in a faithful representation of the original desktop version, small enough to fit in your pocket and capable of reproducing the sounds which launched a thousand dance acts.

Price: $14.99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: Propellerhead Software AB

Jasuto Pro

Jasuto Pro

Jasuto Pro

Jasuto Pro is an ambitious attempt to bring granular synthesis to the iOS touch interface.

While the majority of iOS music apps are aimed toward ease (and speed) of use, Jasuto Pro is an app which dares to be different. For those unfamiliar with complex synth software like Jasuto Pro, there will be a steep learning curve, but the newcomer’s patience is rewarded with a powerful framework capable of creating and linking synths, effects and filters, the possibilities near-limitless.

The visual nature of Jasuto Pro is highlighted by its motion control, which can be utilized to bring a highly unique sound from each scene and, though it is available on a range of devices and platforms, the implementation of Jasuto Pro’s features offer a very ‘Apple-like’ experience.

Responding to touch and with an ability to receive input from the accelerometer and mic input, this app is for a niche market, but for those who understand exactly what they could do with it, Jasuto Pro will be an inspiring piece of software indeed.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: Chris Wolfe

Beatmaker 2

Beatmaker 2

Beatmaker 2

Beatmaker 2 is a mature and feature rich platform for rhythm creation and more.

INTUA’s second iteration of its popular Beatmaker software is an app which brings an impressive level of depth and, unlike GarageBand, can also run on more recent iPhone and iPod Touch models (for older iPod Touch/iPhone compatibility, the original Beatmaker may be worth your time).

Boasting an unlimited multi-track sequencer, a keyboard sampler, and an excellent drum machine, Beatmaker 2 comes with a host of presets, demos, and beats, with an ability to import songs from your iPod library too. INTUA have done a fine job shoe-horning so many effects and instruments into an easy to use UI that resembles a studio. The on-screen piano and synth are limited due to screen size on the iPod Touch and iPhone, but the iPad excels in this regard.

Another important aspect of Beatmaker 2 is the thriving user community which has built up around it. INTUA have worked hard to provide a platform and the masses of musicians and artists who use the app have stepped up to the challenge in order to create a wealth of beat libraries for free download.

Using the companion desktop app to transfer audio to and from Beatmaker 2 gives you the opportunity to transfer beats to the desktop or even export to SoundCloud directly from the app itself.

Price: $19.99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: INTUA

Musicians Toolbox

Handy iOS music-related apps which no musician should leave home without.

Cleartune

Cleartune

Cleartune

Cleartune is a useful and affordable guitar tuner which can be bought more cheaply than many basic chromatic tuners, is able to recognise multiple tunings, and has the added bonus of always being on hand.

Price: $3.99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: Bitcount

iTalk

iTalk

iTalk Recorder Premium

iTalk Recorder is a convincing replacement for the iOS default Voice Memos app, offering three quality levels and complemented by a companion desktop program (for Mac and PC) to transfer audio over the local network. There is also an ad-supported free version which lacks advanced playback features.

Price: $1.99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: Griffin Technology

SoundCloud

SoundCloud

SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a website which offers easy sharing of audio online, doing so in a manner much more conducive to creativity than the quickly dying Myspace. This free iOS App allows browsing, playback, and even uploading audio to SoundCloud, Twitter and Facebook.

Price: Free
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: SoundCloud Ltd

iOS Hardware Options

With iOS now serving a new role as DAW, music sketchpad, and amplifier simulator, musicians need a method for getting their guitar, bass or keyboard sounds onto their iOS App. Third-party hardware options have grown alongside the iOS software innovations and there is already a wealth of choice from respected manufacturers. Below are a couple which stand out from the crowd.

Apogee Jam

Apogee Jam

Apogee Jam

By throwing their considerable reputation behind iOS hardware, Apogee are sure to gain many converts to the portable platform. Promising to provide ‘no configuration’ plug and play, the Jam has one instrument-level input, which can then be plugged into iPad, iPhone 4 or Mac, a one-stop (and very portable) solution to many guitarists’ needs.

Price: $99
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Mac
Developer: Apogee Electronics

iRig

iRig

IK Multimedia AmpliTube iRig

Available for less than $40, the iRig offers a good quality connection at a cost which compels consideration. Promising full compatibility with any other music making app, the iRig can accept input from guitar, bass, keyboards, and synths.

With AmpliTube’s free app, the user is given control for up to four simultaneous effects and amplifier/cabinet combinations, while the paid version of AmpliTube offers many additional effects, multi-track recorder, and more.

Price: $39.95
Requires: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
Developer: Amplitube

Conclusion

The above is by no means an exhaustive account of all the excellent software and hardware available for iOS devices – there simply isn’t enough room to list them all. As the platform grows in maturity and user base, developers are continually pushing the limits in what can be achieved with an Apple portable device, the end user reaping the rewards.

One has to wonder at what the current and upcoming generation of artists will create, having grown up with such accessible and affordable music creation aids at their disposal, it’s a veritable revolution in music making software.


  • http://www.hammyhavoc.com Hammy Havoc

    Given how great the Lemur was, it came as no surprise to me that iPad would take the place of it.

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