Month: March 2013

An Ever Changing Process

UPDATED 4/18/13

Recently I have been going back to doing most work through Audiobus to Auria. The below experimental process has more or less become a bit too tedious. As I described below, I was working what really has begun to feel like a double process. Read down for details. Now I am skipping the multi step process and simply running my audio through Audiobus to Auria where I arrange, mix, automate and master. So much faster. I’ll still use Cubasis for sketching and where certain apps don’t work with Auria through Audiobus. Apps like Addictive Synth, and Grain Science. In those cases it’s not much extra work to give them a run through to Cubasis first, then once recorded in Cubasis I’ll put that in an Audiobus input, and send those recordings to Auria. Really any number of adjustments and options are available to work around any road blocks.

iOSMusician.com has invited me to do an interview focused on my process. Good timing as I’m settling into a more streamlined flow, and I find it much easier to explain it when asked direct and specific questions. Otherwise I just ramble trying to cover everything.
No matter what comes of any of this, the only good process is the one you discover. Possibly taking a few cues from others, but a carbon copy is never universally accepted. Part of the beauty of iOS music is the numerous variations of options that can lead to as many work flows. Nobody has “the” workflow for everyone.
If I don’t detail enough of what I do, then just ask me. Pretty simple. Send me an email: SmiteMatter@comcast.net I sincerely do not mind. I get plenty as is, but never feel bothered by receiving more. Plus I’ve used or tried pretty much every single music app around, minus the novelty apps. As for iDAW types, I started with NanoStudio, then Studio HD, and the rest now and then like MultiTrack DAW, BeatMaker 1&2, Music Studio, FL Studio, Meteor, and others I’ve probably forgotten about. So I might have an answer, but I don’t know everything.

Original Post Below

I thought I’d share some of my process, since it is something I am asked frequently to do. Much of how I’ve made my music with iOS over the last 4 years-ish, has been in a constant state of change. Thanks to Audiobus, much of the labor has been eased. I still appreciate the uses of AudioCopy/Paste, but I haven’t used it much at all since Audiobus came out.

My main iDAW is Auria. It is the only iDAW currently available with solid high end, FX, and mastering tools. Tools that are absolutely essential in what I do. Far from perfect, Auria has the very best capabilities for creating a well polished mix. The GUI though is a bit unforgiving if not sometimes a flat out pain. I’m sure that will be improved over time. In addition to its superior FX, Plug Ins, EQ, etc, the full automation capability is also very important to me.

Now that I have Cubasis ( an accidental download while juggling my coffee, cigarette, iPad, and some other app downloads ) I’m finding ways to make the best of the two combined. Cubasis has an outstanding GUI. Its very smooth, and reliable. Virtual Midi is becoming more important to me thanks to Cubasis.
Its Audiobus integration is one of the very best Ive seen so far working on iPads 3 & 4. Mixing, arranging, editing, and all that is a great pleasure. Like Auria, Cubasis has its strengths and weaknesses. The EQ in Cubasis is a prank at best. The FX are low quality. No automation, and in my opinion grossly incapable of mastering at even a average level.
But, that’s OK for now. However I wish I knew why developers can’t seem to put the best of both worlds into a single iDAW app? Whatever the reason, I can’t dwell on it, and have to make the best of what I have available to me today.

How I use these two iDAWs with polar opposite and equally different strengths is something of an unusual workflow. Maybe, maybe not? Its certainly experimental.
In short I begin work setting up Cubasis at the Audiobus Output spot. Then use my various synths, and other music apps at the Input. In order to preserve as much device power as possible and reduce chances of problems, I try to use only one or two inputs at any given time. Sometimes a FX app occupies the Audiobus FX spot.

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Ill do all the initial recordings to Cubasis. Then edit, measure, and arrange. Avoiding FX, and keeping the tracks “dry” for the most part. They are useless to me and, I’m not going to need them anyway.

Again, much of what follows is still being worked out and may change depending on what I discover or decide to alter. I’m experimenting.

After I have my rough, dry mix all arranged and set how I like it, Cubasis reverses its Audiobus role. As seen in above screenshot. Now its in the Audiobus Input spot, and Auria is the Output.
I could just mix down or send the entire project to a single Auria track. That probably would be quicker, but defeats the end goal of having fully separated, individually mastered tracks. So I haven’t even experimented with that. Can’t make sense of it.
Instead I have chosen to go the painfully tedious route.

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I “solo” the Cubasis tracks one at a time and Audiobus them to Auria. One at a time they are recorded in Auria set at the same positions as they were in Cubasis. Kind of mirrored. This almost always ends up needing a bit of a manual tweaking to adjust and sync everything as well, in Auria.
Eventually everything is in place in Auria. Then I disengage Audiobus completely, and shut down all other previously running apps, except Auria. Out of Habit I might fully shut down and restart my device also. Either way it works out.

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Now with only Auria running, I am free to start adding FX, and plug ins to each necessary track. Ill also work on various automations, freeze tracks at any opportunity, and put my polish on the overall mix completing the mastering needs. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
Something of consideration is project size. Since I’ve solo’d tracks into Auria from a full mix I expect rather large project files. So far its not been too big a deal. It remains to be seen if that’s going to be a problem. I’m still experimenting with all this. So far so good.
I’m getting the best of both worlds, and the results are promising. I do not expect or even recommend my experimental process to catch on. Not at all. It may sound insane to some people, and overly complicated? Maybe it is? It works for me. I’m maximizing the strengths of two amazing apps and happy with the results. What I get out of it, is not presumed to be universal.

In the end, its better for me than the old days of having to copy and paste parts. There’s always going to be some guess work and a search for work arounds. At least until someone develops a single iDAW that does everything right, or one of these two progress into that single iDAW of my dreams. For now that’s my new, and experimental process in a nut shell. Or from a nut out of his shell.

PS Coming up: A full Cubasis review. Then a review team up I call: “Remarkable Or Regret”. PantsOfDeath (known to most) and I, are going to put a review together and share with you. It should be fun. We have completely different workflows, needs, wants, etc. Maybe even polar opposite?
Plus we have very different music styles. A couple things we do agree on is our passion for iOS, and love of creating music.
We hope this coming review will be helpful in showing two different perspectives in a fair manner reaching a wide variety of iOS music makers. What will we be reviewing? You’ll see.

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Chordion – Review

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Chordion, by Olympia Noise Co.

Chordion was a bit of a surprise to me. I had heard good things, but until it was in my hands inspiring me to explore its many offerings, I hadn’t really taken notice. What a pleasant surprise indeed.

Chordion employs several functions to provide a fulfilling musical experience. The scales and keys selections are numerous, allowing the user to make simple or exotic selections for any sort of style. You play chords (Hex Keys) with one hand while strumming or hitting individual notes with the other. All in perfect tune. Each of the icons on screen represent a visual queue as to which options and parameters are to be selected. It’s a nifty, clean interface for quick navigation. There were times at first while learning the interface where I lost track of where some things were but I got used to it pretty fast, so I don’t consider it a flaw.

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Chordion has a decent and simple built in synth, but with more controllable parameters than most of this breed. Such controllable tidbits like Timbre, Envelope, Polyphony, Delay, Vibrato, and so on. That’s a nice option allowing a lot more user sound control, but really where Chordion shines is when it controls your favorite synth. Virtual Midi control is set up with ease. A nice no nonsense design makes it all quick to set up, and get right to it. In no time I was snapping out melodies and chords simultaneously feeling very good about the experience.

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In addition to the synth, Chordion sports a handy Arpeggiator, and 4 different drum machine styles to expand its functionality. One could write complete songs using only Chordion. With Audiobus support, sending all the audio to record in your favorite iDAW is a cinch. You could also use its built in record feature to save performances and then upload to SoundCloud, Dropbox, or iTunes File Share. AudioCopy is noticeably absent. I know many users who either don’t have Audiobus or just prefer ACP would appreciate that to be added in a future update.

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Chordion is rich with tools and options to design and play with your own unique style. With the many scales available and more being added this becomes a potent instrument. Easily customize your own scales and layout. The interface is very responsive with no detectable latency or any stability issues. It’s comfortable and fun. Not to mention deep enough to make Chordion accessible to any musicians level. I couldn’t really find anything to complain about. This is a remarkable, full featured Midi controller/instrument.

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Sure, there are a lot of Midi/instruments available on iOS. Chordion separates itself by a wide margin with including so many options to tweak (there’s that word again) the sounds, play chords, leads, arpeggios, accompanied by an included drum machine. All pooled together in a marvelous U.I. This is the most comfortable and content I have felt with an app of this breed so far. My experiences with the Virtual Midi control while also running this through Audiobus were so pleasant and issue free, that I just can’t help but recommend this fantastic app with a big smile.

Buy Chordion from iTunes HERE

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App Tease

I’ve been making music using only iOS devices and music “apps” going on 4 years now. In that time I’ve seen, used, beta tested, and reviewed countless music apps. I own somewhere around 400 music apps alone. Not counting all the crazy games and gadget apps. Addiction anyone?
In all that time development has gone berserk bringing new, improved and capable apps. It’s been nothing short of astonishing with how far it’s all come. Not to mention the insane low prices. Oh the prices! So low, for such brilliance.

In the early days using iOS music apps had been a bit cumbersome. I sure thought so. I had to record in one, audio copy and then paste into another. That was never enjoyable, but it made a lot of things possible that otherwise couldn’t be done without hooking up to other hardware or computers.
I hate wires, iTunes File Share is dreadful, so record & audio copy were essential features in any music app I would take seriously. Nothing against apps that didn’t have audio copy, it was just what I needed to do what I wanted to do wire free.

Audiobus finally arrived in December 2012 forever changing how I make my music, as I am sure it has done the same for many of you. It essentially brought everything together in a seamless and simple process. Not unlike how music is made on computers with DAWs and VSTs. They day I got Audiobus was the last day I used ACP in my process. It wasn’t until January when more developers supported Audiobus in significant number. That number grows day by day. Today everything I use to make music goes through Audiobus one way or another. See ya ACP!

After years of wishing, and hoping for something like Audiobus, and now having it, there’s no going back. So why do so many new music apps come out with no Audiobus support? Why? It is now the most necessary feature for any music app. It has resolved any need for any other method of transferring audio between music apps. Any other method is just painfully outdated. Obsolete even. Somehow new music apps keep coming out with no Audiobus support. It doesn’t make sense? Why release an app that makes us drool and get all excited about it, only to learn the apps developers failed to recognize that they left out support for one of the most critical features?
“App Tease”!

Hey look, a really cool new synth arrived in the App Store that sounds amazing! It’s a must have! Oh, wait a second? It doesn’t have Audiobus support. It doesn’t even record? What? You can only transfer audio via iTunes File Share or through some proxy via audio copy paste in another app. For the love of gawd why?

I’ve asked developers many times, and invariably hear the same absurd response. “We are listening to our customers feedback and will implement the most requested features in future updates.”
BullSpit! Seriously, they didn’t think end users would want to use their hot new music app with the single most important feature currently available today? If they didn’t know that, then how’d they even know to include a volume control? I can see the response to that would be something like: “Oh we didn’t know if end users wanted to actually hear anything? We will consider that for a future update. Thank you for your interest.”
OK, that was extreme. To me though, missing something like Audiobus support in the initial release of a new music app is pretty extreme itself. It reminds me of my favorite comparison of offering the coolest sports car ever made but with no steering wheel. They’ll be upgraded to support that later. Ferraris without steering, that’s what these new music apps without Audiobus are to me.
Apps made before last December get a pass. So do Midi controllers for the most part. They are jumping on board and updating often in most cases anyway. It’s the newest music apps that are making my head spin by arriving without it.

A year ago many of us would dismiss an app as a “toy” if it failed to have its own record function and audio copy. Today if a new app comes without Audiobus support, and no support even for the old ACP tech from past years, its hard to not feel teased. It’s a no brainier. New music apps must have basic functions and supports. Unless the intention is for novelty use.

Maybe I am alone on this? Maybe no one else wonders why a developer would create a super cool new music app that everyone will want, but not make it useable by today’s standards? It’s possible these are just the rantings of a mad man. Nevertheless, I am begging developers to please stop teasing me with the absence of Audiobus support, but are otherwise highly desirable and cool new music apps. No one wants to buy a Ferrari that only goes strait, and will be upgraded later if enough customers ask for a steering option.
No more App Tease, please. You know Audiobus support is crucial. Just finish it, then release it. 4 years ago it was tolerable. Today it’s just silly.

Can I get a second from any other end users in the comments? I’d like to hear from you if this strikes a chord. No pun intended.