Thursday, June 23, 2011

iPad apps Mega-Update part 4: Music Production apps

Edited 6/15/13: I see these posts are still getting a lot of traffic, two years later! Much of this info is outdated. However, I am working on updating my iPad app pages for 2013! I'll post to my blog as updates are completed, or you can check the page directly.


  • EveryDay Looper: I just got this app and haven't had much time to play with it, but I already love it. For $6, you get a live performance tool that rivals many hardware loop stations worth hundreds of dollars. This video is worth a thousand words:


  • GarageBand: Apple's GarageBand for Mac has been a staple of my classroom technology use for three years. It was released for the iPad this spring, and for the most part, it does not disappoint. One thing I love about the iPad version is that it's easier to forbid students from using built-in loops–new files always default to a software or live instrument. There are a large number of high-quality sounds, cutting-edge virtual instruments, and "smart instruments," which are limited to a particular scale or chords. There are some limitations that are much more significant in certain styles of music than others. Like the desktop version, a song can only have one tempo. Unlike the desktop version, there is no piano roll editor, so if you make a mistake recording a track, your only option is to re-record. I'm guessing Apple will fix the latter problem in an update, since it's a major part of the desktop app.
One of the high-quality instruments built in to GarageBand


GarageBand's track view, very familiar to users of the desktop version.
  • iSequence: This is another recent purchase, and so far I think it's fantastic. iSequence is a pattern-based sequencer. Basic use is pretty intuitive (at least if you're somewhat familiar with sequencers), but if you're willing to spend some time with tutorials, it has some powerful features. You can loop sequences and record multiple tracks in real-time without ever hitting "stop," or you can step-record for the greatest accuracy. The app includes hundreds of instruments, mostly synths and kits, and has several high-quality additional banks for $1.99 each. There is also a built-in sampler, effects channels and mixer, and several import/export options. The next update will include full MIDI support. Here is a video combining iSequence and StudioTrack (below) with Audio Copy/Paste for a rockin' flute song:


  • Music Studio: Xewton's Music Studio was GarageBand for the iPad before GarageBand for the iPad was released. It is a powerful music production environment that is great for laying down a bunch of MIDI tracks. It also has a very functional piano roll editor, unlike GarageBand It comes with 40 free instruments; you can purchase 50 more high-quality instruments within the app for $14.99, or individual packages for less. Audio recording and .wav import are promised with the next update. Music Studio is pretty intuitive, even for younger students.
Music Studio's track view. Notice the tabs for changing modes.


Select and customize instruments in the instrument tab.


The double keyboard option. The two keyboards can record simultaneously onto separate tracks.
  • StudioTrack: StudioTrack is a high-quality 8-track recorder for the iPad. It includes AudioCopy/Paste and a number of other sharing options. The video above, under iSequence, uses AudioCopy/Paste to add a live flute track to an iSequence song.
  • Symphony Pro: Symphony Pro remains the best music notation option on the iPad, by quite a long shot. I was a beta tester for this app, and it has improved by leaps and bounds over the last year into quite a powerful notator. I use it primarily as a sketchpad for ideas, but it is becoming increasingly possible to use it as a primary notation tool for less complex scores. It still is more crash-prone than my other go-to music apps, which has given it a lower app store rating than it really deserves. I will do a full review of Symphony Pro in the near future. In the meantime, here is a screenshot:
Notes can be entered with the built-in keyboard or through tapping/dragging.



There isn't an actual lyric entry tool, but text boxes work for now.


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