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Loopy HD is a fun and useful multitrack app for loop recording and playback.
Think your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch is only good for email, web browsing, and Angry Birds? Think again, because your handy little computer can be a powerful musical companion—capable of serving as everything from an amp and effects substitute to a host for DAW software, complete with full mixing capabilities and plenty of plug-in processing power. No matter what style of music you make or how you prefer to work, there are apps and accessories for your iPad or other iDevice that will let you capture recordings and work on your music wherever you find yourself.
There are hundreds of thousands of these inexpensive (or even free) small programs that make our devices fun and useful. You can get an app that will turn your iDevice into a Line 6 POD, or one that will turn your iPad into a 48-track recorder with up to 24 simultaneous inputs. There are dozens of metronomes, tuners, setlist managers, synthesizers, drum machines, and much more. There are even remote-control apps for taking charge of the other gear in your studio.
I recommend the following apps for putting your iDevice to work—divided into “musician’s toolbox” apps and useful studio apps.
Musician’s Toolbox Apps
Metronome Plus: A powerful yet easy-to-use metronome that can also record your playing and accelerate the tempo automatically while you practice licks.
Subdivide: Another metronome that is great for practicing odd time signatures and rhythmic feels.
iReal b: A virtual version of The Real Book.
Setlists: A handy app for managing set lists, displaying lyrics, and more. You can even link multiple iPads running Setlists together and control them from one master iPad so that everyone literally stays on the same page.
Songsterr: Guitar tab app.
Jammit: Song-learning and practice app that breaks down songs into separate drum, bass, guitar, keyboard, and vocal parts that you can slow down for easier learning.
forScore: App for managing and displaying charts for gigs.
PolyTune: This is a virtual iOS version of the TC Electronic PolyTune tuner.
GuitarToolkit: This app has a tuner, metronome, chord dictionary, scale dictionary, arpeggio dictionary, and more.
Line 6 Mobile POD: This turns your iDevice into a POD and it’s included with Line 6 guitar interfaces.
IK Multimedia AmpliTube: The iOS version of the popular computer amp/effects modeler.
JamUp Pro: This amp/effects modeler has a built-in 8-track recorder and the ability to play back and slow down songs.
Studio and Recording Apps
WaveMachine Labs Auria: A 48-track DAW with up to 24 inputs, plug-ins, editing, mixing, and more on an iPad? Yes! With the right audio interface, you can use Auria as the centerpiece for a studio or live-recording rig.
Steinberg Cubasis: A version of Steinberg’s popular Cubase DAW that runs on iOS and features plug-ins, virtual instruments, MIDI, etc.
MultiTrack DAW: A straight-ahead DAW that’s great for capturing and building ideas, and for creating final productions.
FourTrack: A simple 4-track recorder. I use it to capture ideas on my iPad and iPhone.
Loopy HD: A powerful loop-recording and playback app that’s fun to use and is controllable via a MIDI foot pedal. (I love this app.)
GarageBand: The “standard” music-making app from Apple. It’s fast and easy to use.
DAW Remote: Control a DAW running on your computer using your iDevice. This makes it easy to record yourself playing and singing without having to sit at the computer.
If you’re going to use your iDevice for music making, there are some accessories you’ll want to have. First, a stand is very handy for holding your iDevice in place. I like the Ultimate Support HyperPad because it can sit on a studio desk or clamp to a mic stand. IK Multimedia also makes several versions of their iKlip stands that work well onstage or in the studio, too.
Perhaps the most important consideration is how you’re going to get audio in and out of your iDevice. Yes, you could use the built-in mic and headphone output, but you’ll quickly find yourself wanting a better solution for most things you’re doing beyond running a metronome. Fortunately, there are many great possibilities. Focusrite, Apogee, Tascam, Roland, and others have professional-quality audio interfaces that plug right into an iDevice (though in some cases you’ll need the Apple Camera Connection Kit adapter). You can even use the 32-channel Antelope Audio Orion if you want to go high end and have tons of ins and outs for Auria or Cubasis. At the other end of the spectrum are iOS-compatible microphones, such as the Apogee MiC and the Blue Spark that plug right in and make it easy to record a vocal or an acoustic guitar.
For many applications, all you’ll really want to do is get your guitar signal directly into your iDevice. And many manufacturers have stepped up to provide a wide range of options. I’ve found Apogee’s Jam and the Sonoma Wire Works GuitarJack to work well, but lately I’ve been using the new IK Multimedia iRig HD. Line 6 has the new Sonic Port that looks great, and it comes with the Mobile POD app. One thing all of these guitar interfaces have in common is that they’re brain-dead simple to operate—just plug in and go.
If you’re an iDevice owner and you’re not using it to make music, you’re really missing out. So download an app, grab your guitar, and get started!
Mitch Gallagher's latest book is Guitar Tone: Pursuing the Ultimate Guitar Sound. He is the former Editor in Chief of EQ magazine. In addition to being a writer, he is a freelance recording engineer/producer/mastering engineer, teaches music business and audio recording at Indiana University/Purdue University, and is Sweetwater’s Editorial Director. mitchgallagher.com.