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Entries in music creation (35)

Meteor Multitrack Recorder Video Preview from 4Pockets

Want a full on recording studio on your iPad with a range of per track effects and recording features? This might be it!

After we saw a tweet and blog post from uber-mobile-music blog Palm Sounds about Meteor Multitrack Recorder, we found this video below from the Developer 4Pockets and it has got us excited at the possibilities. The 'Effects Freeze' feature looks especially impressive.

This app includes video import too (like the desktop version of GarageBand) for editing movie and video audio or adding synchronised narration and sound effects!

Hopefully we can grab a copy to play with and let you know more after we have given it a thorough workout, but for now check out their video below, then let us know what you think in the comments.

 

Thank you again to Palm Sounds for giving us the heads-up on this one.

iTablaPro and Mugician by MusicApps

Our friends over in Brazil, MusicApps (a great mobile music creation blog) have posted this video demo on YouTube of two iPad apps in action together iTablaPro and the free MugicianiTablaPro is one of the few iOS music apps that continues playing audio in the background when another audio app is launched, something we need much more of!

We have admitted to MusicApps before (over on Twitter) that we haven't given Mugician the credit it deserves so far but this video, based on Mugician developer Rob Fielding's own video, has made us think seriously about diving in to the app again to see what it can do.

We hope you enjoy the video and are equally inspired to give Mugician and iTabla Pro a try. Let us know if you do in the comments below, we would love to hear how you get on.

First Thoughts: noteplex for iPad

noteplex is a fascinating new way to create music on your iPad. It uses a board made up of lots of little cells onto which you place 'nodes' that, when activated, play sounds and trigger pulses which shoot out in multiple directions to hit other nodes/sounds creating chain reactions and melodies.

Pulses and Visual Displays

As you can see from the demo video above, this pattern of pulses provides what looks like a many-coloured fireworks display representing the audio's path around the screen. It can be quite beautiful to look at. The whole experience brings a smile to your face and a sense of satisfaction when you get the patterns working harmoniously together.

Samples

The sound samples are quite useable, mainly synths but with bass and drumkit sounds included too. If you want to, you can also add your own samples to the soundbank, which extends its potential even further, although it has to be done via iTunes File Sharing which is a bit of a clunky workaround.

Complexity

The variation of sound samples, note life, volume and replication gives this app an extraordinary depth, not something that can be fully understood at first sitting. The more we have experimented with the app the more we have been amazed at how much you can do with it and some stunningly complex arrangements are possible.

Controls

Note selection (pitch or drum part) is via a multi-coloured keyboard at the top left of the screen, with sound sample dropdown, node type, note volume and note life settings continuing across the top of the screen. Below that are the move, add (edit) and erase tools for nodes.

At the bottom of the screen are more controls for tempo, pulse rate (experimenting with this dramatically changes your song) and playback controls along with File save, open, upload, and Net (more on this below).

The usual pinch and zoom controls allow you to place notes more accurately, it can be a bit fiddly getting the note to appear in the right place without zooming in.

Sharing and Inspiration

Like a few other iOS apps, noteplex allows you to upload and share your creations, as well as download songs created by other noteplex users. You do this via the Net button at the bottom of the screen, where you get to see the 'Most Recent' uploads as well as the 'Top Rated' songs. Selecting any song will download it to your iPad ready to be played.

You make a song a favourite by pressing on the star at the bottom right corner of your screen as someone else's song is playing.

This is useful when you are new to the app to see what others can do with it, but noteplex lets you edit their songs as if it was one of yours. You can see what they have done, plus add or take away nodes of your own. Maybe this is a way to collaborate on noteplex songs in the future?

Bugs

There are a few glitches, the sound stutters occasionally during playback and always when a menu is brought up whilst the song is playing. We had a few random crashes too but this may just have been low memory on our iPad.

Occasionally, after downloading one of the songs from another user, the text in the Sound and Tempo boxes turned into big white blocks and the sound stopped working, which was a bit odd and we thought it may be to do with custom samples in that track.

We are sure these issues will be addressed in an update though and on the whole, for a first release, this app is very impressive.

Try It!

At just $1.99 (£1.19) in the app store we would definitely recommend you check out noteplex. With a little patience and experimentation with node placement, note life and the node types, we think you will be impressed with what noteplex is capable of.

Be sure to let us know what you think of noteplex in the comments below, we are keen to hear what your impressions of it are. 

Friday Fun: Zelda with iPads!

If you were to ask the iPad Creative team, "What are the two greatest things ever?", in one of our more whimsical moments, we would probably say the iPad... and Zelda.

Imgine how excited we were to find this video then, it is just perfect, we hope you like it too!

The video's creator is obviously a NES (and iOS) fan as he's also made some really creative video tutorials for Zelda and other classic NES games.

Known as GuizDP on YouTube (Guiz de Pessemier on Twitter) describes himself as "Freak video maker and iPhone musician". Be sure to check out the rest of his fantastic video library, and his website.

Friday Fun: Japanese iPad Music Video

We think there is something lost in translation here, but this video struck us as very cute and really quite catchy, so we hope it brightens up your Friday! The band ICHIZU (Japanese language site), made up of two Brothers and a Sister, have a few iTunes albums out, so we think they are for real.

It is good to see our friends in Japan getting into the iOS musician spirit too, even if they do use the Fart Piano (admittedly for one note only). Enjoy!

In case you're curious, here is a list of the apps used in making this song:

Piano Studio
Pro Keys
Six Strings
Percussive
Bassist
Drums!
iBone
My Whistler
Cat Piano 
Fart Piano
CowBell+

iPad and MIDI - Create Digital Music goes deep

We found this really interesting video on YouTube and wanted to make sure you had seen it. Peter Kirn from Create Digital Music (CDM) demonstrates music creation on the iPad via the Camera Connection Kit and various external hardware devices.

If you want to get your audio/MIDI geek on, this video is backed up by a brilliantly in-depth column over at CDM. There are a lot more videos and some great commentary on the vagaries of using the iPad and MIDI devices/software in that article, which we highly recommend reading.

iRig Mic - Vocalists are not left out of the iPad revolution

This year's CES has understandably had a lot of focus on tablet devices and of course our favourite, iPad. Whilst not iPad exclusive, IK Multimedia have announced the new iRig Mic hardware for iOS devices and VocaLive software which is basically an AmpliTube for vocalists and audio recordings.

The samples, especially the chorus effects, sound amazing and if the samples provided are anything like those for Amplitube, the real thing will sound very similar (depending on your musical talents).

A big advantage is that the vocal processors will be available through AmpliTube in-app purchase, so if you have already spent out on the Recorder in AmpliTube, you can add just the vocal effects and record everything in that app.

Think about that, no need for another recording app with Audio Copy/Paste, you can record a whole song in one app! Things just got a bit more interesting in the audio effects/simulation app race.

The iRig Mic isn't out yet, it is slated for a Spring 2011 launch, but you can pre-order it now at $59.99 (~£42) with new VocaLive app plus AmpliTube Free included.

Here is the iPad in action with IK Multimedia's new iRig Mic, VocaLive app and some talented musicians. Be sure to let us know what you think of it in the comments below:

ReBirth makes it to iPad

It is one of those apps we knew needed to be on the iPad and finally it is out and optimised for our favourite iOS device. After playing with the little brother version on our iPhones (and frankly finding it a bit too fiddly to be useable at that screen size) ReBirth for iPad, from Propellerhead Software, fulfills the enormous potential of this app and provides us with a nostalgia trip all at the same time.

With a totally redrawn UI, new sharing features for your tracks (most notably Facebook and Twitter), new menus and other new features this is a definite must buy for electronistas.

ReBirth for iPad is available now in the app store for  $14.99 (£8.99).

We hope to bring you more soon, but in the meantime check out the video above (make sure you play it in HD for the glorious detail).

Friday Fun: (one-man) iPad Band

Laughing in the face of anyone who says the iPad is not a device for creating content, Geoff Kaiser posted this video that shows off some of the many musical instrument apps available on the iPad and his musical skill.

We were impressed with Geoff's creativity not only in playing these virtual instruments but also in putting the video together by layering up the parts. Nice one Geoff, thank you for sharing this video with us.

If you enjoyed Geoff's video please pop on over to his YouTube page and let him know.

StudioTrack for iPad - Should You Buy It?

icon-studiotrack-512px.pngDid you ever mess around with one of those cassette (remember those?) based multitrack recorders? We did, and we loved it. The iPad Creative team have even been known to record a few songs that should probably never see the light of day again.

If you never experienced the joys of trying to use a cassette tape to do multitrack recording then you missed out on a lot of fun!

So that you understand why digital multitrack recorders are so impressive, we will quickly explain what the 'old way' was like - feel free to skip to the next section if you have been there and done that, or simply don't care to hear why it is so amazing to see apps like StudioTrack being crammed into your iPad.

Multitrack Recording - the 'old way'

The problem with cassette tapes, apart from mechanical failure, was the quality. On a normal tape player, you would have two sides, with each 'side' of the tape split into a Left and Right channel for your stereo sound, so that is where the four tracks came from.

The special heads on the fourtrack recorders could play and record to all four tracks on the tape at once, if needed. You could also record onto tracks 1, 2 & 3 (perhaps drums and bass guitar), 'bounce' or combine those three tracks down onto the fourth spare track and then record over tracks 1-3 with your other song parts, such as rhythm/lead guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals, etc.

Bouncing tracks degraded the quality of the sound though, so the audio got very messy, very quickly. This was all in addition to other perils such as stretched tape making everything sound all warbly, tape being chewed up in the mechanism or worst case scenario snapping completely.

Digital Multitrack Recording - the 'new way'

So we come to the iPad as a portable and importantly digital version of a multitrack recorder via the StudioTrack app from Sonoma Wire Works.

First up, the obligatory features list:

  • Multitrack Recording - 8 tracks plus bounce

  • Re-arrangeable tracks with FX Bypass, Reverb Send, Pan, Gain, Mute, Solo, Record Arm and Track Icon

  • TrackFX - Tempo-synced Delay, Compressor, Parametric EQ and Reverb Send on every track

  • Calibrated Meters - accurately monitor record and playback levels

  • Calibrated Faders - accurately adjust playback level of each track

  • MasterFX - sweeten the sound of your recordings with a compressor-limiter and a 4-band parametric EQ

  • Output Compressor-Limiter - automatically fattens sound of the output mix

  • Master Channel with Reverb Return and Stereo Output meters

  • Metronome - select tempo by number or tapping. Includes pro drum recordings.

  • Bounce - mix song to track 1 and 2 of a new song to record as many tracks as you want

  • Mix - Save the mix as a stereo file

  • AudioPaste - allows pasting audio from AudioCopy compatible apps like InstantDrummer and DopplerPad

  • WiFi sync mix or individual tracks to a computer and import into any software that imports WAV files

  • Slide-to-Record - prevents over-writing your tracks

  • Latency Compensation - accurate to within 1ms

  • Recording Quality - 16 bit, 44.1 kHz

  • Supports both portrait and landscape iPad views

StudioTrack is in the app store for $39.99 (£23.99), we will come back to the price later.

What we liked

There is a lot to like about StudioTrack. It really is the digital equivalent of the multitrack recorders we mentioned at the outset, with the notable limitation of only recording one track at a time.

Here is what stood out to us:

User Interface

It has to be said, StudioTrack is lovely to look at and a lot of thought and care has obviously gone into creating an authentic app, based on world real world mixers and recorders. That is not to say that it is all about the looks, the user elements are accurate and responsive to the touch as they need to be and we were confident about making adjustments using the onscreen controls quickly whilst recording, reviewing and mixing tracks.

If you have used any sort of analog (real world) or digital multitrack recorder many of the controls will be familiar to you, with Pan, Gain and Master FX send controls per track, also Mute and Solo buttons for each track.

We found the sliders to be just as accurate and responsive too, really adding to the authentic and professional feel of StudioTrack.

New tracks are added with a single touch and the new track is armed for recording automatically, assuming (probably correctly) that you want to record something else by adding a new track. Tracks can be reordered simply by dragging the track's left or right.

The app works in either Portrait or Landscape orientation, but you will find that in Landscape mode you will not see the level sliders on the individual tracks, so if you are reviewing and mixing then you may prefer to be in Portrait mode.

studiotrack-mixer-portrait-sml.jpg

 

studiotrack-fxselect4eq-portrait_sml.jpgAudio Effects

Each track of your audio has two slots which can hold several of four different effects applied. Some of the effects take both available slots so they can only be used on their own. The four effects are:

  • Compressor (1 slot)
  • 1-band parametric EQ (1 slot)
  • 4-band parametric EQ (2 slots)
  • Twin Delay (2 slots)

In addition to these individual track effects there is a Master Reverb. Each track has a green Reverb knob which adjusts how much of the total Reverb that track receives. This gives you a great deal of control over how your song sounds, letting you give the vocals, for example, more reverb than your guitar, or the lead guitar a little more Reverb than the rhythm guitar.  This is also where the Mute and Solo buttons come in as you listen back to your track and adjust the effects accordingly.

The EQs are, as they should be, really powerful and we were able to rescue some pretty ropey sounding vocals recorded with the iPad's microphone via the 4-band EQ.

Extra Bounce

studiotrack-bounce-portrait_sml.jpg

We talked about bouncing tracks at the top of this post, and although quality will always be compromised when bouncing tracks, in the digital world the compression effect of bouncing tracks is nowhere near as bad as it used to be on tape based recorders.

StudioTrack allows you to bounce several tracks down to another empty track in the same song, or even to another song altogether, something that would be very difficult to do with tape based recorders.

Audio Paste

This is a really great feature and is an excellent 'ace up the sleeve' for Sonoma Wire Works. This sets StudioTrack apart from other multitrack apps as you can create audio, perhaps a drum groove or a synth riff/melody, in another supported app and then incorporate it into your multitrack recording.

There is a growing list of apps which play nice with StudioTrack, and there is an up to date list of them at Sonoma's site. These include FourTrack for iPhone and InstantDrummer (also by Sonoma Wire Works), DopplerPad, MorphWiz, ThumbJam and Looptastic HD (read our review of Looptastic HD here).

There is a Developer SDK for Audio copy/paste available from the same webpage too, so there may be many more apps in future that support this functionality, let's hope so.

Audio Export

Getting the audio off the iPad involves Wi-Fi sync. You can create a mixdown of your track to a stereo wav file or export individual tracks to your computer (on the same wi-fi network) for editing in a DAW.  It is a fairly simple affair, hit the Wifi Sync button, an IP address is displayed, you type that in to a browser on your computer and you get a screen a little bit like the one below.

As you can see, each track is downloadable separately, and also a Mixdown track if you have created one. This only copies them to your computer of course, the originals are left on your iPad for further editing.

StudioTrack wifi-sync.png

So those are the features of StudioTrack that stood out to us and we enjoyed using. Below, we discuss some of the areas that we were not so happy with or that we wish were included in the app.

 

What we think could be better

Lack of Inline monitoring

One of the main problems we had with StudioTrack was the lack of inline monitoring when recording. There is a monitor in the form of a coloured meter which jumps from green through yellow to red, and this tells you how 'hot' your input sound is and when it may be clipping or distorted. This works well as it is being very clear and emulates professional mixers.

But we were trying to record a guitar signal from a Multi-FX unit and it was difficult to tell what it sounded like when we changed the patch to something else or were pushing it a bit with a high gain setting.

Hearing what you are playing is particularly important if, like us, you are using distortion and delay effects that have a bearing on what you play depending on how the delay fades and rises.

This is something we think will be addressed very soon because it is in the new version of Sonoma's iPhone multitrack app FourTrack, but it is also something we would like to have seen in a professional level app from the outset, especially as it does work in some of the cheaper multitrack apps we have seen.

Lack of waveform

A bit of a wishlist one really, but we were thinking here about GarageBand on the Mac which shows the audio waveform so that punch-in recording can be done more easily and quick edits and cuts can be done visibly. This would also help with arranging parts.

There are cheaper apps that do offer waveform based editing though, most notably MultiTrack DAW at just $5.99. We hope to look at this app in a bit more depth in future.

It may not be something that is on the development roadmap for StudioTrack, but for the way we work it would make navigating around the song and editing it easier, which brings us on to our next point.

The scroll wheel

Using the scroll wheel to scrub backwards and forwards through the track is ok and we acknowledge there is a time readout, but if we had a waveform to navigate the whole song by it would be faster and easier in our opinion to pick out the audio section we wanted, such as when the chorus kicks in or a second guitar part is introduced.

On long tracks you can scrub along the progress bar but we found this to be a bit fiddly when trying to do things in a hurry, for example at a rehearsal when someone wants to re-record a part while they are 'in the groove'.

We found that even with a combination of flicking the scroll wheel and using the time scrubber we ended up in the wrong part of the song or overshooting the insertion point and it was frustrating to use.

One track at a time recording

This one is really a limitation of the iPad itself, so we are not levelling this at StudioTrack necessarily, but even with the humble tape based Four Track we could record several instruments at once, even recording a whole band during a rehearsal at the same time, so we would like to see some enterprising developer work this one out for the iPad to become a true mobile studio.

Price

This is a thorny issue. At $39.99 (£23.99) StudioTrack is one of the more expensive iPad apps, even for an audio/music creation app, which tend to be more expensive. As such it attracts greater scrutiny and the price for many is an immediate turn off.

However, when you consider that our humble little tape based four track cost around £250 more than 15 years ago and this is an app that records in digital quality with a whole host of other features and effects that you would not find in the older units. Some features can be found on digital multitrack recorder units costing 8-10 times StudioTrack's asking price.

We did a quick Amazon search and found several books about Home Recording costing as much as, or more than, StudioTrack.

When you put it into perspective, the price does not seem that bad at all really, especially given Sonoma Wire Works' audio heritage and the resources they can put into future development of the app.

So yes, we think that the price is a barrier to entry, and that if StudioTrack was, say, $10 less then perhaps more people would be tempted to buy it. But Developers have to tread a very fine line between offering value for money and devaluing their time, effort and the product by offering such a complex app at a rockbottom price.

They also have to make a profit usually and StudioTrack has to be at the top end of development cost. As an end user though, this isn't really our concern is it? It is the perceived value to us and features that the app offers which affect our purchasing decisions.

Should you buy it?

StudioTrack is an amazing feat when you consider what has been achieved on a first generation device (although the foundations were laid with FourTrack on the iPhone). If the above points are addressed in a future update, then it would be a no-brainer.

We know there is an update on its way for StudioTrack, just from reading the comments in the forums and around the web from Sonoma employees, so we think that future versions of this app will keep getting better.

As it is at the moment, we have to say we would highly recommend StudioTrack to those who are after the nearest thing to a professional solution for the iPad and who can afford it.

However, if price is more important to you than the look and feel of the app and you can do without some of the more unique features such as the track FX and Audio Copy/Paste, then there are cheaper alternatives, and you may want to wait for the next version of the app and iOS 4 on the iPad.

Ok, that's what we think, over to you, let us know what you like/don't like about StudioTrack and the recording experience in the comments, we look forward to seeing what you have to say.

If you still haven't decided to buy the app yet, we encourage you to check out the site and watch the video below for an overview of what StudioTrack can do.