iFretless Bass App Review

iFretlessIconThere are so many music apps available online that it is sometimes hard to filter through and find the truly inovative apps that will truly change the way we make music. Even when you do stumble on an app that you think might fit into this category it takes me several videos and a ton of reading to fully believe enough to actually pull the trigger and purchase the app.

iFretless Bass is one of those apps. I have been looking at this app for a while now and after seeing a YouTube video this weekend I decided it was time to make a purchase. Here are the two reasons I think this app is going to be a blast to start using;

  1. The interface allows for a new method of interaction not easily done on a piano style interface. This interface allows for so much more expression and access to a wider range than a piano does on iPad. Go watch a few videos on their web site and you will see what I mean.
  2. The app allows you to use MIDI to control other apps. This means that even though this app has amazing samples already included that are going to allow anyone to record some great bass lines, the sound options are endless with the inclusion of MIDI! Use iFretless to control Animoog or SampleTank or whatever other app you want. Even use it to control external MIDI devices!

Of course I would not even bring this app up on my blog here if it did not support AudioBus! One other technique I am going to try out is using this app along with Apollo, an app that allows me to use Bluetooth technology to wirelessly control a software synth inside of Logic Pro on my MacBook. I hope the latency is fast enough to use live!

Go watch a few of their videos, actaully go watch all of their videos! This app is going to be a nice addition to my live performance tools not to mention the apps I use to record my own songs! I love the new interface and possibilities it all opens up!

This is the app featuring iFretless Bass and Voice into iVoxel -

GarageBand Updated to support AudioBus

If you have not checked out your updates for your iPad apps GarageBand was updated today to support AudioBus! This is pretty significant. This indicates that Apple is throwing their support into the AudioBus app arena. Considering that Jack just announced their new app that is similar to AudioBus. If you want to read some more on Jack this is a good review….

 

Creating music with iPads

There have been some outstanding new developments in the world of music for iOS users this past few months!

First has been the actual release of AudioBus for iOS. As they say on the iTunes Store… This is a revolutionary new inter-app audio routing system allowing you to connect your AudioBus compatible apps together with virtual cables. In other words…. I can be playing a synth on my iPad, like Magellan, and record it into my MultiTrack DAW on the same iPad! This opens up very different possibilities of being able to record from a long list of currently compatable apps into other apps on one iPad instead of having to have two devices or using audio copy/paste. Check out their website for currently compatible apps as the list is changing almost daily!

In the late 80‘s I remember spending many hours programming keyboards for the ministry team at college that I was involved in. It was great fun to get inside of a synth patch and make all sorts of tweaks to it to come up with a new patch that was my own. Little did I imagine then, that I would be able to do this on an iPad with a color, touch screen! Check out the list of apps othe AudioBus page. I think there are some outstanding apps there that will make some outstanding music! Imagine if we could get these apps into the hands of our students in a non-traditional music class!

Audulus App

Audulus

Another major development is the development of apps that allow your creativity to fly to new heights! One of those apps that blew me away today is Audiolus. Audulud is a modular synthesis app that is available for the iPad as well as the Mac. This app allows you to create synth sounds from scratch, one step at a time! I can not begin to imagine the possibilities of this app in a music class combined with science concepts being integrated all in one mega fun unit! Your science teacher and you, the music teacher, could have a hay day with this app! You have got to watch the tutorials on their tutorial page! This tutorial in particular floored me when I started to get a grasp on what this app is capable of…. I love how it starts with a demonstration of the outcome and then it takes you back step by step to build the patch starting from absolutely nothing! (Wait…. isn't that the model for a great lesson plan?)

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of great examples of amazing performances from people who are truly creating amazing music using iOS and iPads/iPhones. Both of these groups have active YouTube channels that I would suggest you subscribing to

The first person is Rheyne – Rheyne uses live looping with analog keyboards, USB controllers and iOS devices. The videos on his channel are all performed live! The integration he has between all the apps and devices is stunning! His music is digital and does not attempt to re-create an acoustic instrument performance!

The second group is the DigiEnsemble Berlin – This is a group of professional musicians trying to turn mobile devices into instruments. This group has music of both the electronic nature as well as classical and everything in between. You can see them recreating a classical string ensmeble using iphones and ipads for instance or performing Starlight (from the alternative rock band Muse) and then performing a magical, musical interpretation of Silent Night.

This sort of musical creativity needs to be taught in our schools alongside the traditional Band, Choir and General Music classes. Of course that means new classes need to be created and staffed! The biggest reason we need these sort of classes is that our students would be forced to become the innovators, the ones creating and designing the final product. There are not many programs like these in place yet so the development of this type of course is going to muddy water and the learning process will be messy. Let's wade in and get dirty!

 

MultiTrack DAW – The Question is not “What is Possible” it is “How Do I Do It?”

The first year I owned an iPad I had to tell people that the iPad was meant, so far, as mostly a consumption device not a creation device. About the time the iPad2 was released things started changing and I felt like I could use the iPad for creating more often.

Of course the biggest problem is that we have to go through a major paradigm shift using an iPad. I think that the iPad can do WAY more than what most of us have a grasp on. The question about what the iPad is capable of doing should never be “What is possible using my iPad?” The question should be, “How can I do_____ (fill in the blank)?” For instance I’ve been on the search for an audio interface. After doing a LOT of digging I discovered that I could use a Griffin iMic, which I had like 4 or 5 of because of using SmartMusic. I reached up on my shelf, grabbed one, plugged in the camera connection kit into my iPad and went to my keyboard. I was trying a free version of MusicStudio and found that I could indeed record audio using that iMic into my iPad!

One problem – it was noisy! Don’t get me wrong – I was enjoying the recording – but there was no way I could actually use this for a serious recording in a real situation. Fun, yes – useful, no.

After all the research on the web I did finally buy MultiTrack DAW from Harmonicdog. (Thanks Simeon for giving me the last push!). Even though I knew the iMic was noisy I still plugged it in and tried out the new app. This app actually had a solution to the noise though! There was a way to lower the input level! (which might be in MusicStudio as well but I couldn’t find it! More on that in a minute) Because I could lower the input level on the iPad input I then could turn up the output level on my keyboard and get an acceptable signal to noise ratio! There was still just a little bit of noise but it worked for now!

THE PROCESS:
I used the 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ mono adaptor cable to get my keyboard outputs into the iMic (by the way if you are still using those little RCA to 1/4″ adaptor plug’s…. get one of these cables instead!). I also used my headphones so I could record multiple tracks. I then proceeded to record 5 tracks. All of these tracks were a one shot deal (I did not bother to go back and edit out mistakes or do multiple takes to fix things) The only thing I did do was cut out a few short things when one of the pad sounds was making things too mucky.

 

Click to see larger version of file sizes on my iPad.

THE SONG:
Why in the world I picked a Christmas song I don’t know but I did! I also picked a song that I still do not know very well. In other words don’t listen to the mistakes. Use the recording as a sample of the quality that is possible! I also picked a song that was really long on purpose – it’s 5:37. I wanted to see how much room these recordings were going to take. Click the picture on the right to see how large the recordings were. I also wanted to see what the iPad would do with a long recording like that. (The iPad never hesitated a second! It takes a few seconds to draw the waveforms though. I was never bothered by this.) I did not mess around with any EQ or effects or any other plugin’s or anything like that – I usually don’t when I am coming straight from my keyboard.

THE RESULT:
I think the recording on my iPad was as good of a quality as the other ones I have done straight to my laptop with Logic Pro and GarageBand. Again, we are not discussing plug-ins and all the fancy stuff. I was able to do edits as I expected to on the iPad – things like cut out a few things, added a couple of fade outs and I was able to adjust once when I cut a little bit too much off a clip. I went back and added back in the part I clipped off just a bit early. If you listen in the very beginning you can hear what little bit of noise was left after adjusting my input left. MultiTrackDAW was pretty quick to figure out and worked as I would expect it to intuitively. The only thing I had a bit of trouble figuring out was how to set the track to a stereo recording. Even after reading the help file I still did not “get it” but after playing with and studying the pop up controls closer I found that all I had to do was slide my finger down or up by the rec enable button.

I invite you to listen to the recording I uploaded to SoundCloud from within DAW – just be nice :) If you want a comparison to coming straight from my keyboard to my laptop then you are welcome to listen to some of the other songs on my SoundCloud.

SHARING:
There are several sharing options built into DAW.You can email, use SoundCloud (A nice surprise) or do a mix down into the iTunes file sharing folder. The app supports three file formats – wav, ogg or m4a. There are a bunch of Bitrates supported too – 128, 144, 160, 192, 224, 240 and 256. The file that is linked on SoundCloud is from a m4a at 192 bitrate.

Creating a Mixdown version of my song in wav format was much faster than creating an m4a. To be fair, I’m sure that the reason it took longer was because not only was it Mixing down (bouncing down) my 5 tracks but it was also compressing the file. I think in the future I would do this on the laptop. The capability HAS to be built into the app though because then you don’t NEED a laptop to create a recording and then email it to someone.

CONCLUSION AND LINK TO THE SONG:
This is going to be REALLY fun! Way cool!
 Listen on SoundCloud

The price point here is staggering between what is possible with my iPad compared to what we had to spend 5 years ago to get this same setup! Even when you take into account the price of the iPad!

For Educators looking to expand offerings to their students this sort of experience is a very real life experience of how a student could end end up making money doing music, something they love!

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