“100″ A Personal Retrospective
Everyone has a story. When, why, and how they came to appreciate iOS for creating music has many different perspectives. So much has happened and changed since I started. This is my (first) 100th blog post, and I will share some of my story from before I started blogging, through today and the future of iOS Music as I see it. At the very bottom of this is a little gift of some custom Nave patch banks I made. Enjoy.
Its been more than 4 years now that I’ve been enjoying the iOS Music ride.
I’ve watched it all grow from a cool curiosity with potential to a full blown serious music production option.
When I got my first iPod Touch I had no idea what would unfold, or how much my life would change.
I had already given up on pursuing my passion for making music ages ago. I sold all of my guitars, abandoned my hopes of buying a modern, high end synthesizer, and laughed at the notion of using computers to make music. It was final. I was not ever going to be able to let the ideas I had for music out of my head.
It was all just too damned expensive. I couldn’t ever justify spending thousands of dollars on even the basic gear I would have needed. So I forgot about it and let that dream just die. Sure there is always a way, but the timing and events in my life always made it impractical.
One day with my new iTouch in hand I was checking out the App Store for new games, when on a whim I checked the “Music” category for the first time. I saw an app called “LoopTastic”. The description sounded very interesting and fun. So I downloaded it.
That first hour with the app was a ton of fun for me. More than just fun, it felt like something very special was happening. I was feeling creative and inspired. It was all just a bunch of pre-made loops that I was arranging, but it sparked something in me.
Playing with loops was fun, but it didn’t take long before I wanted to make my own stuff. So I started visiting the App Store music section more and more. Hexatone was the first instrument type app I bought. That summer of 2009 was an extremely exciting and inspirational time of exploring new possibilities. More and more apps were popping up with more and more creative possibilities.
Long story short, I created an alias for myself and started recording mixes of loops, and recordings I made from other apps all together. I called myself “Sounds Off Center” and eventually made a MySpace page to put the mixes I was making on.
I called my first digital album “Box Thought” and printed a few CDs to give to friends and family. Nothing special.
“Sounds Off Center” and “Box Thought” were quickly pushed aside in favor of pursuing a more refined musical production. I had actually forgotten about that until I was reminded by a fellow iOS music enthusiast about its existence. I was inspired and motivated to do this by an old professional musician friend of mine, who thought what I was doing was very cool, and sounded great. He was starting his label up and looking for new and interesting things. I was stunned when he suggested signing with him and then, under his tutelage learning techniques and whatnot, he would release my first all iOS made album. That was extremely flattering to me coming from him, so I started to really take things seriously at that point. Why not, right?
“SmiteMatter” was born. For those who don’t know or are curious, the name “SmiteMatter” came from my lifelong love of the old 70s anime “Star Blazers” AKA “Space Battleship Yamato”.
The iPad still didn’t exist yet, but I was planning to make a full album using that iPod Touch with all the music apps I was accumulating. Everything was happening so fast!
Music apps were getting more sophisticated and rapidly evolving. Music Studio was the first “serious” music production app I owned. Then NanoStudio and BeatMaker. Nano would occupy most of my time creating music in the palm of my hand. Beat Maker seemed like it would be great, but I hated the interface and never wanted to use it. It just made me miserable, and that’s not a good feeling to have while trying to enjoy oneself.
I was happily using iTunes File Share, and wi-fi to move recordings but wishing for something more immediate. AudioCopy/Paste was a hack, but it became very important in the absence of any wireless alternatives.
As the apps were becoming more sophisticated, I couldn’t believe how inexpensive they still were. I was using them to make music that would have cost tons more any other way. So even though at the time this was relatively the more difficult of options, it was by far the most affordable. Not to mention the huge potential.
Then the iPad came out.
That further revolutionized the whole concept of electronic music, at least for me.
By today’s standards it was very underpowered, yet for the time, powerful enough to get more complex productions done. AudioCopy/Paste was essential in my workflow. I abandoned “File Share” and never looked back. “Say no to wires” became my motto. The mobile flexibility was hugely attractive to me. Having the ability to go where ever I wish and create some tunes was, and still is a big deal. Going to a local park, the forest, or even nearby Mt.Rainier would become my studios. My music studio was anywhere I happen to be. All without any electrical power support. Trees don’t have electrical outlets so being forced to stop everything to plug in just to move files was incredibly irritating to me. It disrupted the creative process for no good reason. I could not understand why music apps were even being made without ACP? It made no sense to me at all.
I heard some reasons from some developers about why they were not using ACP in their apps, but their reasons, while logical (I suppose) at the core, were silly when clearly (to me) the big picture was about mobility and convenience. Making customers stop everything to sync their device in order to move a recording from one app to another seemed cruel. ACP was certainly not ideal, but it did get the job done. It worked. It was all we had then. A choice is always better than no choice at all. At any rate something better was desperately needed.
With the added power of that first iPad we started to see more iDAWs. Since Music Studio was still without ACP, I abandoned it in favor of more flexible work stations.
I got Studio HD, and Multitrack DAW to create my mixes. NLog Synth Pro was my main synth workhorse, and is still a favorite synth now. Other often used apps at the time included Xenon, MorphWiz, ThumbJam, Twisted Wave and iMS20. Half of the music for my official first album “Technopolis Lost” was made using my iPod Touch, and the rest came with that first iPad.
I started blogging reluctantly several months before my album released. It was something I didn’t want to do, but a respected friend was adamant that I should. So I did it. He had suggested I write all about what I was doing. That idea bored the shit out of me. After a few experiments figuring out what to blog about I settled on a combination of reviews and my own experiences. I didn’t want to do anything that I didn’t think I could do well. Ill never forget the first few comments I got with the earliest blog experiments. “You’re an idiot” by: Anonymous, and “You just squandered all the legitimacy you earned with that Sunrizer Synth review, by spreading that (something about a new iPad release date) rumor” or something like that, from “Robert”. I guess I made a comment that really pissed off a couple folks? I did not want to make people angry, so I made it a point to not write reviews of anything I didn’t like or know about. Keep it positive, and waste no time with the negative, seems to be the best philosophy.
While I was finishing up “Technopolis Lost” there was a flurry of new, increasingly powerful and capable music apps being released. Additionally I was discovering existing apps like MoDrum, while new ones like, Garage Band Mobile, Sunrizer, and Addictive Synth came out, raising the bar. They just kept coming or being discovered, constantly changing things for me. Apps were changing my life as much as they were changing music production. Garage Band Mobile excited me right away, but that excitement soon faded when I found it couldn’t do much for me. Too many limitations and initially no ACP. It was inefficient, and I gave up on it.
Virtual Core MIDI was making many things much easier, but it wasn’t really anything I was using often. I had always preferred to do everything with audio.
Nevertheless, MIDI capability had been there for much of the infancy.
I hated the idea of connecting anything by wire, and as time went on would continue using only my iOS devices and apps for all of my music. ACP was still very important, but becoming more and more unappealing to me. I wanted to stream audio from one app to the other. I wanted something much like what was found on computers with DAWs and VSTs. Basically a virtual audio cable to and from apps. Why was it taking so long? It drove me crazy having to rely heavily on ACP when it seemed so obvious that someone should and could make an app to bridge the gap between apps. It wasn’t easy, but I had gotten by with ACP, and finished “Technopolis Lost” which released October 2011. Much of it without many of the tools or features we have today.
I had been hearing (still do, but I am kind of bored with that bullshit now) of course that a large number of people considered iOS in regards to music production to be nothing more than a novelty, or just “toys”. Some people thought well of my album and production. I heard from people who thought it was amazing on its own musical merits, but some also added it was especially good since it was all done without any hardware or computer aid.
Oddly a few people insisted there was no way I made that whole album using only my iDevices and apps. I took that as a compliment, but a couple were pretty harsh about it. Harsh in that they would accuse me of lying and that I must’ve used some computer DAW and or other pro hardware. It was the accusation questioning my honesty that hurt. Well, nothing I can do about it. The truth is the truth. Funny thing is, they insist it can’t be done because the “sound and production quality is beyond the capabilities of the devices and apps,” I did in fact use. Man, get your head around that. If anyone can, I’d like to know how to make sense of such crazy talk.
Whatever the case. It can be done. I did it. Others have done it. You can do it too.
Animoog came out, taking things to a new level, and pissed me off because my album had just released! Oh boy what a major kick in the pants Animoog gave me! Then later that year BeatMaker 2 came along. I bought it immediately despite no iPad native support. It looked like the interface was cleaned up a lot, and had an impressive list of features. I ended up disliking it albeit a little less than BM1. StudioHD and Multitrack DAW would continue being my go-to production apps while cleaning up my recordings with more apps like “Reforge” and “Twisted Wave”.
Then iPad 2 came along. Much more powerful and faster than the iPad 1, it became my main workhorse and for a while my iPad 1 was my secondary device. That was when I stopped using my iPod Touch regularly.
When I finally got myself that iPad 2, Apple announced iPad 3 shortly after. Damn it. So I bought an iPad 3 a few months after it came out.
It was about then that I felt iOS Music was really on the verge of becoming widely acceptable as a serious option. Not just as it had been already for me, but to a much larger audience. The apps were outstanding, and floods of new people were joining in. In July 2012 Auria hit me like a ton of bricks and I was sure it would be “the” thing to push everything into mainstream. Oops, that didn’t happen as I expected. It did show off the incredible possibilities, and high quality audio I was sure more “pros” would perk up to. It had full automation, high quality EQ, FX, and real plug in support too. The first (for iOS) convolution reverb too.
It also showed off how far behind the devices were. A very powerful app for a very underpowered generation of devices. Still no inter-app audio connectivity. ACP was still a necessary evil and while helping me get my job done, it was holding back the whole concept of mobile music being taken seriously. It really was sounding like the biggest detractor was the inability to connect apps.
In contrast to the disappointments my eagerness to continue was unhindered seeing only the huge potential and making it work as best as I could. Clearly “we” were progressing.
There was no end in sight for increasingly powerful and innovative music apps.
PPG started developing for iOS, as did Steinberg Media. Cubasis was another big iDAW. Although it has a great interface, it’s a castrated beast without automation, quality FX and no mastering tools to be taken seriously. Yet.
More major brands were creating more serious emulations of old hardware, and or totally new apps. We had Yamaha, Korg, ImageLine, and Moog among other big names. They seemed to be taking this all seriously, but there was still a lot of resistance among many musicians.
Then iPad 4 came out on the heels of the iPad 3 release. Are you effing kidding me Apple? Sigh. At least it had a faster CPU and every improvement helps, but small incremental improvements aren’t enough. Nevertheless I bought one a couple months after Audiobus was born.
OH RIGHT! Audiobus. With the end of 2012 came the beginning of one of the most important music apps seen to date. After long months of rumor, speculation, and impatient would-be customers, it finally arrived. Excuse me here but, HOLY SHIT! The solution to inter-app audio connectivity was here, and it works! Mostly.
“The Bus” would sweep many off their feet, myself included. No more stupid iTunes File Share! No more hack work around, AudioCopy/Paste! Now making music on our iPads would be just like on a computer. Play the synth running through some FX, being recorded by an iDAW. Sweet! Mostly.
I said “mostly” twice. You probably wonder why? I mean that, to get the best results while using Audiobus, it depends a lot on what other apps are being used, and on which device. Forget about iPad 1. Be ready for some pains with iPad2. Start getting comfortable with iPad 3. Finally, have the best possible experience with iPad 4. That’s not the end all be all, and I’m generalizing a bit. Specifically, that’s how I’ve seen and experienced things. There are numerous combinations of apps and devices that vary wildly from one example to the next. So mostly, its all good. It’s definitely better than before.
However AudioCopy/Paste isn’t dead. Many people are still using it with no problems happily. Sometimes I find myself using it for certain circumstances. The thing is, there’s a choice now for most users, that’s a good thing.
This year, 2013 is reaching its sunset. We have had some spectacular new apps arrive, older ones updated with Audiobus support during and a bit before the year’s start. NanoStudio, iPolySix, EchoPad, Samplr, PPG WaveMapper, Turnado, Audio Mastering App, Magellan, Waldorf – Nave, Propellerhead Softwares, Thor Polysonic Synth. Arturia brought us an emulation of the MiniMoog with the “iMINI” synth app. More and more. Getting better and better. What we have today compared to when this all started is a big jump.
Not just big named developers with their big brands, but a magnificent collection of independent developers continue to bring us outstanding new apps and advancements. Each for tiny asking prices.
Having tolerated the cheap reverbs over these years we now have at least 3 high quality stand-alone reverb apps. More to come? Well there are definitely going to be more stand-alone FX apps. Elephant Candy released the sweet “Ultra Phaser” effects app. Kymatica is working on a delay unit called “DUB” to add to its expanding AUFX series.
Not just FX, but more complete audio mastering suites are coming. There’s exciting development of new synths, iDAWs and countless other highly useful new music apps. Never a dull moment.
We really do have everything we need including continued development.
We want more.
From the beginning I always wanted more. I’ve experienced the beginning of it all and throughout I’ve enjoyed seeing all the advancements pushing things further ahead. Change is good. Anyone involved in iOS music at any level whether starting today, or started 4 (or more) years ago, will want something more. What will come next? What do we need? Since I’ve been writing all of this from my own personal perspective I’ll chime in with a bit of what my vision is for the ideal future.
First we need a much more powerful iPad. I get by fine with what is available today, but I’m not fooling myself into believing the current level of power is sufficient. At least not if all of this is to finally be taken seriously by the resistant and so-called “pros”. We are beyond the “toy” phase I think. Probably have been for a while. There is a lot that can be done now, and at a high level. Unfortunately more is still needed.
I don’t think its unrealistic to envision an iPad with at least a 2ghz CPU, with 2 GB ram and a stereo microphone jack. It should include at least one USB port and lightning port. Pressure (wishing here) sensitivity. An iPad “Pro” maybe? I don’t know what that processor would be, but I’m sure the technology exists in some way or another that could be made to work. It would be a nice start for the next gen. iPads, I think.
I see the future of app development bringing more innovative ways to make music.
Some brand new synths, not more analogue emulations are needed. Though I wouldn’t turn down any classic remakes.
We need a full blown DAW. I don’t care who makes it, but I want it.
We do not need more half assed iDAWs that do not have decent FX, Mastering Tools, full MIDI support, and Automation.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with new music apps being released without Audiobus support. Maybe after iOS 7 arrives with the speculated solution of Inter-App Audio integration which, speculated or not, is highly desirable for the future of iOS Music. It would be very nice if it were to allow audio & MIDI to transmit from one device to another via WiFi or Bluetooth. Maybe it will, or maybe it will later?Eventually it’ll have to. I’d like to be able to play a synth on one while the other is recording it wirelessly.
iTunes File Share must not ever again be the only way to move files in any music app. That was OK in 2009, but today (or even 2 years ago) it’s flat out useless.
We need apps sold in tiers to have the “Pro” tiered version include all features, no IAPs. It sells at a premium, so it should come with all premium features. Always.
This being my 100th blog post is to me much like iOS Music in general. Its early. There is much more to come.
I honestly believe this is the future of music and will be very commonplace in the near future. Technology will make most anything possible in time. Having a way to be creative that is both high quality and affordable is something we all need. This didn’t exist in my 20s or 30s. OK, 38 it did. That’s a lot of years being unable to have an outlet, wasted. I hope nobody ever has to shelve their creative desires again. Making music is not an exclusive club for “some”. It is a right for all. There is always plenty of room for more people to join in the fun and express their musical ideas without requiring huge amounts of money for the tools. iOS Music is now, and so long as the quality keeps pace, will be, one of the greatest things to ever happen to music.
Lets all keep happening!
Thank you for reading: “100″ A Personal Retrospective.
I hope you enjoyed my hundredth blog post sharing my personal take and experiences, on all of this through my eyes.
I couldn’t include everything I wanted to without this being a lot longer. I am a bit nervous sharing as much as I did. Its pretty long as is even after much editing, so I sincerely hope you found this a worthwhile read? If you have anything to add, please do comment. This isn’t all just about me. I am very interested in your story, or thoughts. Thank you. See ya at 101!