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Musos kind of love the iPad. There’s a truckload of tasty apps for the dedicated musician and we’ve got five of the best to get you rocking. Corny, but it’s the best intro we can come up with after a heavy weekend of gadgets and boozing.
Garageband is a compact home studio. And that’s a big deal. Considering its competition — FL Studio for iPad — costs US$19.99!
I don’t think everyone quite understands the effort Apple went to creating a useful songwriter’s tool with Garageband for iPad. Whether it sounds the best or not, the combination of quality and ease-of-use makes it a must-have for any songwriter. Although a limited selection of instruments, the Garageband app plays various instruments for you in five playing modes. There’s acoustic guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, bass, electric guitar, a 5 instrument string orchestra and amp modelling to be used with an iPad/guitar interface.
The real-world usability comes in with the guitar modelling, the keyboards, the piano and the orchestra. I find the drums to be a bit cheesy, but the “drum machine” sounds are great.
To give you an idea. I recently played the double bass with a bow, the cello, viola and violin all separately with a few harmonic notes. I imported each part into Logic Pro, panned each instrument and got a live, wide sounding orchestra. It’s so easy to use, and sounds so good, I didn’t bother with Logic’s strings. All this at US$9.99.
I got this on special for US$0.99. But I see that it’s now available for that price permanently. Well, that makes it a serious bargain considering the price of other apps. It’s a retro-style drum machine with some great features and a really cool look. Choose your kit and BPM. You can use a TR-909, a super dancey sounding Polaris or go for one of their acoustic sounding kits, which has grown in number since I bought it.
You have the option to play live or set up a step-groove and mix each sound individually in the mixer. From there you can morph your groove through two effects units including phaser, formant, texturiser, robotizer, dalek, filter and compressor.
You can organise your beats into patterns like in Fruity Loops and arrange them into a song. I have used this to develop a song before and it’s brilliant, easy to use and great sounding.
Export options range from posting to your favourite social network and to iTunes. It also makes use of the “audiocopy” system which I have never found the need to use.
If you’ve got a decent amount of data or Wi-Fi where you live, this app is great. I prefer it to a regular audio recorder because sometimes you get those moments where your guitar and vocal come out so well that you’d like to share it with the world, and Soundcloud is brilliant for that. It automatically loads your sounds onto the cloud (as the name suggests) and allows you to set it to private or public. This way you can store your rough ideas under “private” and access them wherever you are.
4. Garageband tap tempo feature
There are many individual apps that do this, but I’m all for all-in-one solutions. Every studio needs a tap tempo facility to figure out the tempo of a loop or song. Go to the spanner at the top right, tap on “tempo” and then tap on the “Tap to set tempo button”. Very easy and straightforward. It will also set the tempo for the project in Garageband so you can create beats and instruments.
Although the app store says it’s a “chormatic tuner”, is in fact a chromatic tuner! Useful and usable, it’s a handy little thing to have around if you’ve misplaced your tuner.
We’re long past the days of buying loads of gizmos like the old Roland drum machines and various gadgets that are on the market today. And the iPad is becoming a stalwart feature in music outfits all over the world. So just do your homework, find what you need and find the software to do the job. You’ll save thousands.