Sound Design Workshop: iPad to DAW

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FIG. 1: Korg iMS-20 songs and patterns bounced from your iPad appear in the iTunes file-sharing area. You can copy them to your hard drive for use in your DAW.

iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch music applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and many offer sound-design processes that aren''t easily replicated on a desktop or laptop computer. After you''ve logged hours on the couch or on the go creating these nuggets, you''ll often want to combine and expand on the results in your DAW (see Web Clip 1). That entails moving audio files from your device to your computer, a process that some apps accommodate more easily than others. Here are the more common approaches and some of the potential pitfalls.

The most obvious method, direct audio transfer, is often the best solution. If you are working with your iOS device in the studio, you''re probably already piping it through a DAW audio track to use your studio monitors, so you might as well use that setup for recording—it''s always available and works for every iOS app. The downside is that the audio leaves the digital domain via the device''s DACs, which are often adequate but less than ideal.

If you''re working in a pattern-based application such as Akai SynthStation, Propellerhead ReBirth, or Korg iMS-20, set your DAW''s tempo to match the project. Even though you can''t tempo-sync the apps, it will make the requisite trimming and possible timing adjustments easier. You''ll also save yourself a lot of headaches by recording stems rather than (or in addition to) the full mix. You can do that by soloing each part, but in pattern-based programs, I find it easier to create a new song that strings the patterns you want to use end-to-end with enough bars of silence between them to allow for effects tails.

Before bouncing tracks, I prefer to remove effects such as reverb, compression, and EQ, and to maximize the level of each part. That allows more flexibility in mixing in your DAW, and it provides the best audio quality. On the other hand, keeping the original effects and levels makes it faster to reproduce your original mix.

Many apps provide ways to render and export audio directly from your iOS device. The best method is iTunes file sharing, but iMS-20 (which runs on the iPad only) is one of the few apps I''ve found that support that. It lets you record in real time or bounce any pattern or song as a WAV file. When the iPad is connected to your computer and is selected in the iTunes Devices browser, the iTunes Apps tab reveals all of the bounced files in the File Sharing window at the bottom (see Fig. 1). From there you can save them to your hard drive and you can delete them from the iPad. IMS-20 will also link to your SoundCloud account for audio and song-data sharing.

A more common method is via Wi-Fi transfer. Jordan Rudess'' MorphWiz lets you save and load recordings as WAV files, e-mail them directly from the program, and erase them in the MorphWiz browser. SoundStation and Sonosaurus ThumbJam present you with an HTTP address to which you can log on while the application is running on your device. From there, you can download and delete the rendered files. ReBirth renders the current loop as an MP3 file, posts it to the company''s server, and provides a link for emailing or posting. Chris Wolf''s Jasuto Pro presents its memory as an FTP site that you can access with an FTP client such as Fetch.

All these methods stay within the digital domain and, with the exception of ReBirth''s MP3 rendering, provide better audio quality. Use your DAW or sample editor to trim and possibly more tightly tempo-sync individual stems, and you''re ready to rock.

Len Sasso is a freelance writer and frequent EM contributor.