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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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