Life doesn’t always cooperate with our studio addiction. As much as we’d all like to shun the outside world for long days at our music rig, we’re often pulled away to other endeavors. But if your schedule includes a few hours a week where you’re on the go but can still mess with an iPad, you could be working on that music instead of trifling with games or social media. Because iPad music making is a more limited experience than what you’re used to with a desktop DAW environment, I find that it can be a more fruitful pursuit on an iPad than making your own music from scratch, because remixing uses some amount of material that has already been painstakingly mixed and produced. So grab some stems from a friend, Indaba, or a collaboration site like Blend.io, and get ready to go to work.
You’ll need to be on iOS 7 or later to take advantage of the Inter-App Audio (IAA) feature, and you’ll also need the free AudioCopy app.
Let’s begin with a groove-box type app where you can chop up and sequence samples. Blip Interactive NanoStudio ($12.99) has a multitrack sequencer, mixer, effects, and a 4x4 pad sampler, TRG-16 for importing, editing, and playing samples. It even has the polyphonic subtractive synth Eden, which lets you use samples as oscillators. NanoStudio could even be a one-stop shop for remixing, if you’re willing to limit your possibilities a bit.
Bring in your stems or samples to be remixed from the NanoSync free desktop software for Mac or Windows. This drops audio material into the NanoStudio file browser over a Wi-Fi network. In the app, open an instance of TRG-16, go to the Edit page, select a pad and touch Load to bring up the file browser and assign one of your imported samples to the pad. Touch Sample Edit to edit the waveform’s start and end points, and apply fades and/or up to four of five available effects. Back on the pad page, you can copy and paste one pad to another and then transpose and pitch the sample to quickly set each of the 16 pads with different tones and variations (see Figure 1).
Repeat that process with up to six TRG-16s (or 16 with an in-app purchase), filling at least one of them with either one of the included drum kits, or your own percussion samples to make a beat. Then record your pad parts and use NanoStudio’s excellent piano roll note editing to get them right.
When your tracks are done, repeat this process to bounce each track to an audio file. Solo the track in the track header, go to the Manage tab, and touch Mixdown. Render the full track or just the loop length if you prefer. Now touch Email File to open the file browser, select the file you just bounced to the Mixdowns folder, and touch Copy to save it to the clipboard.
WaveMachine Auria LE ($24.99) is a sophisticated multitrack audio editor and recorder with 24 playback tracks, support for 24/96 audio, automation and way more, especially if you upgrade it to the full version. It has a full-blown console view and an arrangement view, where you will select Add Track from the Menu tab, and then press A Paste. This brings up an AudioCopy window, where you select AudioPaste to place your bounced track from NanoStudio into Auria. Repeat this procedure for all of your bounced NanoStudio tracks. If you have other remix stems that you didn’t give the NanoStudio treatment, you could import them from DropBox, selecting Import Audio from the Menu.
Fig. 2. Auria’s ChannelStrip plug-in Inserts hold the key to recording Inter-App Audio into an Auria track. You’ll use Auria to finalize your tracks, editing, mixing, and processing them with the included PSP ChannelStrip plug-in, an excellent finishing plug-in including EQ, compression, expansion, and insert effects that you add to from the Plug-in Store. But first let’s record some synthesizer tracks into Auria.
NanoStudio’s Eden synth is quite good, but for the next level in sound and features, check out a dedicated synth like BeepStreet Sunrizer ($9.99). This virtual analog synth does a great job imitating the classic Roland JP-8080 digital analog module, so it has a comprehensive knack for lush pads, biting leads and wobbly basses. It also has a full effects section, configurable arpeggiator, two filters with tons of filter types and lot of modulation options.
Fig. 3. The gorgeous Sunrizer synth is seen here connected to Aurio through the Inter-App Audio transport bar. To record it, start a blank track in Auria and touch FX in the track header to bring up the PSP ChannelStrip. There, touch a field under Inserts to bring up a box that shows the available plug-ins and your compatible IAA apps (see Figure 2). Tap Sunrizer in the menu, and the Sunrizer app will open with an IAA transport bar added (see Figure 3). On that bar, tap Record followed by Play. You’ll hear Auria’s audio, and it will record your Sunrizer performance. Press pause in the IAA bar to stop recording, and the Auria icon to return to Auria.
Record all the synth tracks you want, and then finish editing and mixing all the audio you have in Auria. Create mixer subgroups, to which you can apply the finishing PSP MasterStrip plug-in, with its own EQ, compression, and limiting functions. When you’re ready, choose Mixdown from the Menu to create your final mix. Auria lets you bounce to stems or a single stereo file. You can also save it to your DropBox or publish directly to SoundCloud, closing the loop on this all-iPad remix.
Roll Your Own Setup with Tabletop
Fig. 4. Tabletop presents an alternate remixing workflow for the iPad: a modular environment of connected devices, both free and for purchase. There are so many iPad music apps and workflow possibilities, and this article only pinpoints one possible combo. If you’d like to keep everything in one contained space, while still being able to add different apps and use IAA, check out Retronyms Tabletop, a free modular music producing environment that includes some basic instruments, effects, mixers and sequencers to get you started. From there you can purchase additional high-end Tabletop-ready apps to build your studio. To mimic the ideas laid out here, we recommend getting iMPC Pro ($19.99) for your Groove Machine and Arturia iProphet ($9.99) for the synth (see Figure 4). A fast and powerful sampler with sequencing, effects, and tons of editing, iMPC Pro does a lot more now for 20 bucks than a $2,000 MPC did 10 years ago. And iProphet beautifully re-creates the classic Sequential Circuits Prophet- VS wavetable vector synth, with all the features of the ’80s standout plus modern amenities.
Markkus Rovito is a contributor to DJTechTools.com, and is a drummer, electronic musician, and DJ.