Thursday, March 21, 2013

Audiobus Shakes Up iOS Recording

I've been writing and recording songs using iOS apps on my iPod Touch for a couple of years. In the last year, I've also done a lot of writing and recording on the iPad, whose larger screen makes it much easier to use with simulated synth keyboards and recording consoles. I've gotten good results with apps such as Thumbjam, Chordbot, and especially Apple's own Garageband app. Most of these apps support some sort of data export or audio copy/paste, which allows combining sounds from different apps, although this is usually an awkward trial-and-error process.

Sometime last year, an app called Audiobus was released, described as the missing link or "cable"  between other iOS music-making apps. For apps supported by Audiobus, this allows nearly effortless real-time combination of different music apps. The makers of Audiobus and the various music app developers have been steadily adding to the library of iOS apps that work with Audiobus. I bought it a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with various combinations. But the other day was the breakthrough for me - Apple released version 1.4 of Garageband, with Audiobus support! Now I can work in my most comfortable iPad recording environment and easily incorporate the sounds of the many synths and other music making apps I have.

This takes the iPad almost into the realm of "grownup" recording applications on other platforms, such as Sonar X2, which I use on a Windows 7 laptop. It certainly competes in the variety of available "soft synths" and exceeds the Windows/Mac world in touch-specialized interfaces, best exemplified by Thumbjam. Of course there is always more to want: with all the instruments I can now use in Garageband, how can I get by with only eight tracks? Yes, I know the Beatles made Sgt. Pepper with only four track tape recorders (and like producer George Martin, you can bounce sub-mixes down to stereo to free up some tracks for more parts - just add genius, and you're the Beatles!).

Of course I still have Sonar to use for projects requiring dozens of tracks, so there is no reason to complain, especially when the iPad travels so well. One problem that I have in both environments: dozens of wonderful tools with enormous depth and breadth of features that I have barely started to discover. Do I spend time getting better with the tools? Or do I spend time creating new music? I try to do both at the same time!

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