iPad 2 App Roundup for Indie Rock Musicians
By Richard Turgeon
I have to admit I’m a bit late to the party, but I finally got an iPad 2. (Actually, my wife got it for me as a birthday gift since she felt sorry for me reading news and email on my iPhone.)
If you’ve read my book, Indie Rock 101, you’ll see my entire low-fi gear list and production process at the end of the book. I’ve always been big on small, light, and portable gear and simple, utilitarian software apps for my Mac and, more recently, my iPhone. Since I started recording digital music in the late 1990s, I’ve been continuously amazed at how digital technology has afforded so much sheer creative power for so little. The iPad takes all this even further.
The iPad has really taken off with DJs and performing musicians, but there’s still plenty to offer good-old-fashioned rock dudes like myself. Ever obsessed with light and portable, the first thing I see potential in is complementing (not replacing…I’m not ready!) bulky hardware like my beloved Line 6 Pod with an iPad-based amp modeler like Amplitube, which I reviewed with other new iPhone apps on my IR101 blog many months ago when it was released for the iPhone.
Dozens of guitar amps in your iPad: IKMultimedia gear and software
There are certain companies that always seem to be innovating and putting out quality products for musicians, and IK Multimedia is one of them. Check out their gear and software for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad here. I love the distorted “metal” tone of the Amplitube software so much that I layered multiple settings from it for guitar tracks on my latest single, “The Squirrel.” (Listen and download for free here.) Now using the same tiny iRig adapter you can use with iPhone, you can practice and record with Amplitube software on iPad.
Obviously, the iPad offers a much wider and even more visual, interactive playing field than its iPhone counterpart, and it sounds just as amazing. Along with dozens of amp models, stompboxes, and presets, it also features a single track recorder with a “re-amping” feature, which records your guitar tracks dry so you can try as many different settings as you want after getting the perfect take. (My current Pod model can’t do this, but the latest can.) You can expand the single-track recorder to a full 8-track recording studio with master effects section through an in-app purchase.
IKMultimedia also offers a slew of very cool and useful hardware accessories for the iPad (and iPhone), including iRig Mic, a handheld mic for iPhone, iRig MIDI (coming soon), and iKlip, a universal mic stand adapter.
A new “take” on classic recording software: GarageBand
I have to say that even as a total Mac-head and Logic Pro user, I always had a certain fondness for GarageBand. Maybe it was just the pretty colors. But seriously, it was the first software I’d ever seen that made recording easy, fun, and visual—and the first I’d seen with an interface that looked more intuitive than, say, the controls of a 747. Even so, the sound of the amp models had been disappointing.
The GarageBand for iPad app improves on the modeling sounds and offers an amp modeling interface that’s far more visual than it was previously. Between Amplitube and GarageBand, it shouldn’t be tough for guitarists to find the tone they’re looking for, without complicated setups or settling for computer-sounding imitations.
One of the iPad’s strong suits is, of course, its touch screen. The GarageBand app makes full use of this by offering realistic, highly visual interactive play modes for guitar, piano, and drums, bringing whole new meaning to the term “practice space.” You really have to see the demo videos for yourself to understand what you can do with it. Using the Audio Recorder feature, you can even record your voice, a nice touch for recording demos on the fly. A main advantage to being a Mac person is that Apple makes it very easy to share and continue on the Apple ecosystem, working on your different Apple hardware, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, or iPod.
Potpourri of cool apps
There are so many good apps out there that it’s hard to narrow down to just a few. After a look at the landscape, there are a few standouts for indie rock dudes such as myself.
The first is Drum Meister Grand, which Mashable called “the most amazing musical instrument iOS app.” Watch this YouTube video of a real drummer playing it to see for yourself. Like most other apps, this high-powered offering comes in at a very reasonable $1.99. Next up is StudioTrack, a powerful multi-track recorder and songwriting tool. With advanced editing, effects and, coming soon, amp modeling, I like to think of this as something like “GarageBand Plus.” This nice little 3-minute video provides a nice overview of StudioTrack’s features.
The last app I wanted to share was Pianist Pro, which seems to be one of the more popular of several available iPad piano apps (see video demos on their homepage). The app is apparently good enough to be featured on one of Apple’s recent TV ads for iPad. As any Apple fanboy like myself knows, Apple is very picky about endorsing anything third party. The app features realistic sound on multiple instrument types, an arpeggiator, key velocity, soft and sustain pedals, drum track and multiple drum kit accompaniment, and all the other bells and whistles you’d expect from real-world synths that cost thousands of dollars—which, by the way, it also has.
There are thousands of iPad apps and accessories for musicians coming out every day. Which ones are you using to practice, create, and record your indie rock band? Sound off in the comments, and please feel free to include a link or two to your creations.
San Franciso-based indie musician/producer Richard Turgeon is the author of Indie Rock 101: Running, Recording and Promoting Your Band, published by Focal Press. You can keep up with his latest projects at his website and blog at www.indierock101.com.
Top photo by tacoekkel on Flickr