To everyone things that Apple’s iPad does right – high-def movies on the go, games, increasingly ordinary coffee shop payment terminal—it rarely gets its due as a powerful musical tool.
Whether you have an infectious beat in your head, you want to turn into a ringtone, you want to learn a little music theory, or you are a serious musician with studio ambitions, the tablet is surprisingly skilled. It combines hardware power and useful apps that can help record, edit and export your music.
The basics: What you need
To get started, of course, you need to have an iPad. Any iPad you buy today, or purchased within the last few years, should be more than capable of making your musical dreams come true. After all, Madlib created all the beats for his collaboration with Freddie Gibbs, Bandana, on an iPad a few years agoand Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn famously made an album on an iPad way back in 2010. The hardware has improved significantly since then.
The most important thing to know if you want to connect mixers, instruments or other hardware is whether your iPad has a Lightning connector or a USB-C connector, typically available on some newer iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad Mini models.
You can buy Apple Flash-to-USB 3 Camera Kit or a AV Multiport Adapter to connect most USB instruments or mixers and add a MIDI-to-USB cableor even invest in one wireless adapter that uses Bluetooth. ONE more direct cable solution may be available, but some instruments may require an additional power source than what the iPad can provide.
It’s certainly possible to record ambient sound or vocals with the iPad’s built-in microphone and to create loops and music without external hardware, but it’s nice to have the option to add microphones, keyboards and other tools.
Next, you need some software to turn your iPad into a digital audio workstation. DAWs have been around for a long time, and the term covers everything from a studio mixer setup to Apple’s free GarageBand app. If GarageBand is not pre-installed on your iPad, you should be able to download it from the App Store.
Although it has a bit of a learning curve, GarageBand has masses of loops (installed and downloadable), instrument tools and editing options, more than you ever need. Hokusai music editor, AudioKitand Spir are a few additional audio editing apps that are either free or free to use with in-app purchases.
Make your music
Next, you want to become familiar with the idea of creating multiple tracks with sound and mixing these tracks together.
GarageBand and other DAWs work on what is called a timeline, typically a horizontal set of tracks stacked on top of each other, showing sound levels and offering editing options such as fade-ins / fade-outs, effects and the ability to repeat a section of a tracks like a loop.