Welcome to the first in our regular new series of Making Music with Apps tutorials. In the series we’ll be looking at the wide range of new and exciting music making apps available for the iPad, and how to link them with your DAW. Today Danny J Lewis experiments with creating an entire drum & bass track from iOS Apps recorded into Ableton Live.
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 101
Fact: It’s getting to the point where you won’t need a laptop or desktop computer to make music. Things are moving so fast in the mobile app world that right now it’s feasible to construct a complete track using elements created entirely within your iPad/iPhone. Sure not all the aps are talking to each other right now but standards are emerging and sooner or later each and every app will provide an audio and MIDI stream to each other. If I was to take a guess why Apple’s much anticipated Logic 10 is taking so much time to arrive it’s because of this little upstart called iOS!
I wanted to take a look at what’s feasible for myself so I set aside a little bit of a budget and grabbed some interesting tools from the app store. I was looking for a nice broad selection of elements, a drum machine, a couple of synths, a loop mangler and some devices for creating abstract sounds. I decided not to try and use some of the new MIDI and Audio standards as from what I can make out only certain combinations of apps will work. I just wanted an open canvas and for that reason I decided to record from the audio output of the iPad into Ableton Live via an audio interface (Propellerhead’s excellent “Balance”). Also on a hardware tip I quite fancied plugging an actual MIDI keyboard into the iPad so bought the camera adapter and found that it worked perfectly with my AKAI LPK25. Do you know what? The hands on physicality that a ‘real’ keyboard brings when plugged into the iPad makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of a winner here. It’s like a Korg Kronos on a budget! Seriously, next I’ll be plugging in a full size keyboard and getting one of those iPad holders to go on the top. I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest if this is what contemporary session musicians do; a weighted midi controller keyboard partnered with an iPad might just make it onto the stage at Rhihanna’s next gig, you never know.
So this approach is all about making the most of the unique qualities of each app and recording the results into Ableton as audio clips. The advantage is that you are committing the sound and in my example you also have to do a good job of performing the musical elements in. This brings a certain ‘organic’ flow to the proceedings, something that I truly enjoyed. Working with MIDI for so many years has made me lazy, I tend to record something in, quantize it and make it all perfect. I don’t tend to practice a riff and try to ‘feel’ how it should be. This is why recording iOS apps feels like breath of fresh air. The element of danger, the fact that you need to lock down that performance whilst recording, it brings a very refreshing vibe that I miss from the early studio days. Trust me, watch the video, get some apps and get some stuff down; you might surprise yourself. I’m all for alternative methods of composition to break out of a rut and I feel positively cleansed by this whole experience.”
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Hi. This is Danny Lewis; Course Developer and Tutor, here at PointBlank Online. You’re watching Making Music with Apps.
In this week’s video, we’re going to take a look at using iOS apps to create all of the musical elements in a track idea. This is recorded into Ableton Live. I’ve got several elements. We’ve got the iMachine for the beats, Korg MS20 for bass, Animoog for abstract pad sounds, Beat Shuffler for the [inaudible: 00:37] arrangement, and then Garage Band Electric Piano. In the next few minutes, I’ll take you on a tour. I’ll show you the apps I use to create the actual musical elements that you’re hearing now.
The first app was the iMachine, from Native Instruments. What I wanted to do was create some variations so you can see they’re muting the closed high hat pattern. Recording into Ableton Live now. This is not synchronized with the transport at the moment. I’ve just got the tempo on the transport, the same as the tempo on the app. That means that it’s out on the actual audio clip recordings, so all I need to do is re-establish the first beat in the bar, that’s what’s happening here.
The section with the closed hat into the section without. Create a couple of clips as a variation, you can see me doing that now, reducing the actual length. This is going to be the clip with the closed hat and then shifting the loop brace over. Adjust the loop brace, of course, just find a section that you prefer. That’s a beat down. Next onto the bass.
The bass is from the Korg MS20. It’s got real classic analogue sounds to it. You can see me recording a bass line in here, just improvising a little bit every now and again. Remember, there is a lag because of the fact that I was using Soundflower. If you guys are just doing this for yourselves, you’re going to get a nice instant response from the synth. You can see I moved the low-pass filter to create a variation, shifting onto the high- pass, thinning the sound out, onto the Chaos Pad.
Animoog is next for an abstract pad sound. This is from the Richard Devine collection. What I wanted to do is just get a collection of notes. These are really abstract, so there is not so much a defined note pitch. I wasn’t worrying about the notes; I was playing on the keyboard. What I wanted to do was to get a little bit more expressiveness; I used the actual keyboard on the Animoog, because the vertical position adds modulation to the sound. Animoog is a great synth for abstract textures, as well as traditional sounds.
If you want some fun mangling up, some breaks check out Beat Shuffler. You can see that I can trigger the loop at whichever position in the grid that I want it to be. Just rearranging stuff on-the-fly, automatically quantized as it’s locked into the grid. The concept really, was just to record a long section where I can get some bits that I can pick and choose from. You don’t have to worry if you make any mistakes, just get it all down and then see what’s best when you actually finish. I ended up this loop, transposed it up, reduced the section to create a more gated effect, and then just adjusted the level.
This is the Smart Keyboard in Garage Band. I’ve got something programmed here. What I’ve got programmed is the chords. You come up to the Settings, as you go to Edit Chords, you can see what I’ve setup on these last two. These are deliberate; these are something that I feel work quite nicely. Really easy, you just trigger the chord by holding your finger down, and when you move up, it create this little arpeggio. This is a really nice way to get some chords down. I’m going to record some in, on top of what we’ve got.
That’s it for this week. If you’ve got an iPad or an iPhone, try the apps out, see how it works. Record them into Ableton, Logical, Qbase, whatever you’re using. Don’t forget to subscribe to YouTube.com/PointBlankOnline. Check out the promo after this for some information about our courses.
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