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The Bass Geek

iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies – The Book Is Here!

Ryan holding the newest book - iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies!

So proud to announce my new book iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies is available now at Amazon, Google, and finer book retailers near you. Hard copy? It's right there in the picture! Digital version? You bet! Should you obtain a copy? Of course!

Seriously, though, I couldn't be more pleased with the way this whole project turned out, and that I managed to tackle the vast majority of apps that I wanted to. Some apps that I'm enthused about either came out or received major updates between the time I finished the book and when it published, so I'll include some app reviews and updates in this blog as time goes on. In the meantime, though, musicians looking to include their iOS device in their musical activities should jump on this book as soon as possible.

Because really, this device made my gigging and musical life so much easier. In a single device, I can carry my instantly reconfigurable pedalboard and sheet music source, plus any number of synths and drum machines and loopers I want to carry around. It's almost like a new brain, and I get to fascinate/annoy my fellow musicians at the same time with all the new noise. Everybody wins!


My New Book!

Cover for iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies

Yes, I just turned in the first draft of my new book (also featuring the contributions of author and all-around electronic music guru Mike Levine) iPad and iPhone For Musicians For Dummies to the good folks at Wiley Publishing.

Like most For Dummies books, the title pretty much tells it all - this books shows musicians how to integrate their iPhone or iPad into their music-making process (beyond taking a bunch of on-gig selfies - why am I seeing so many of these recently?). Using your iOS device as a virtual synthesizer, guitar rig, recording studio, far-out freaky noise-making machine - it's all in there.

And the best part was playing with these toys as I was writing it. So many apps making so many beautiful noises!

So now I'm waiting for the author review process, where we go back over all the copy Mike and I contributed and make sure it actually makes sense, then send it off for the magic printing/e-book process. Look for the final publishing date early next year (pre-order for the holiday season, maybe?).

I'll talk more about the book as it gets closer to the publishing date. Quite frankly, I'm a little done with extended writing for a bit (the book tops out just over 400 pages).

In the most pressing update, though, I once again discovered the #sitarfunkfail hashtag, thanks to some Twitter policy changes. That, my friends, is a modern miracle.


Playing and Gear Update

Part of trying to use too many toys is finding out how they work together. And part of moving into a new place is discovering all kinds of fun buzzing and grounding issues. So I've spent the past few months trying to locate the best places to place gear and try out configurations of pedals. My usually reliable Q-tron had to make a trip back to the EHX factory for reconditioning (the good folks at Webb's Bywater Music suspect a short somewhere after a switch fell out of the housing), and working with the virtual modeling effects on the iPad and Alesis IO dock have been less than satisfactory. Right now, the Loopy software is the only thing I'm happy with, and I've been loving playing at home with that. Not sure how many folks outside my place want to hear it, but it's still fun. But I think I have the placement figured out know so that I can test configurations at home without crappy buzz and hum.

I REALLY want the modeling stuff to work - it would be great to carry the iPad along instead of a huge pedalboard, but especially the response on the envelope filters just isn't the same. The fuzz and chorus seem to work well enough, but it's not fully functional enough. Guess I need to do more tweaking.

The new-to-me Markbass amp has been a wonderful acquisition, though - going up and down steep stairs is much better at one-third the weight and half the size. And it's still way loud enough for the gig. Can't recommend them enough.


Full recording studio on the iPad? Slow Down . . .

It's NAMM time, so a ton of press releases are going around regarding new products and software, including this rather surprising announcement about a 48-track recording program that could host VST plug-ins and recording 24 simultaneous tracks of audio. As noted here, these claims are a little misleading and the software hasn't really arrived yet. It's easy to get caught up in gear announcements and the remaining fall-out, but a little calm would be nice here. The iPad is running hardware roughly comparable to the machines that were running Pro Tools many years ago, so it's not impossible to make these kinds of things happen. It's also true that this app will require the traditional studio equipment around it (an audio interface, good monitors, a good-sounding room, etc.) to make it work. And then there's the question of where all these audio recordings will live. Local copies synced with a cloud storage location?

The main appeal of this app to me is being able to record in a studio and then just grab the iPad and do edits and modifications elsewhere. But it's not a one-stop solution in a box, and the ad materials need to be a little more clear. And, of course, we have to actually get our hands on the app and test it. 🙂


Some Quick Thoughts on Garageband for iPad

Folks used to working with the Mac version of Garageband will probably notice a little loss in functionality - only 8 tracks, and the audio recording process isn't entirely intuitive. Monitoring of the audio signal being recorded isn't on by default, and you have to record in the instrument section and not the track view. Editing in the track view is relatively simple, though, and moving and deleting audio is quite easy. The recording process also involves recording in sections (A, B - think pop song structure) of variable number of measures (4, 8, 16, etc.). Record your A section with all instruments, then move on. Good for songwriting, but not necessarily for free-form idea recording.

The virtual instruments are unusually effective here - the virtual guitars and basses have virtual frets you can touch to get the note. The virtual basses also allow for sliding notes along strings and bending strings. The virtual guitars allow the same on a regular fretboard, and you can also set up sections of chords where you can strum or "fingerpick" without having to worry if your left hand has fretted the chords correctly.

The drums are interesting - you have your choice of a drumkit you can tap beats out on, or you can use "smart drums." These drums function on an X-Y axis of simple to complex and soft to loud. Pick your drumset, then drop the bass drum on the X-Y axis. The application "plays" the drum in accordance to where you dropped it. This means you can have a steady, loud bass drum with a more complex snare and hi-hat above that. Move them around to tweak the beat to your liking and add more percussion instruments, if you wish. It's not a standard drum grid, but it might act well if you want a thought-started for songs.

At a price of $5 (plus whatever hardware you buy for getting audio into your iPad), there's a ton of functionality for both sketching and field recording for the price. It doesn't replace the software I use for recording or podcasting, but it does make for easy recording of ideas and allows me to get decent audio away from my home rig.

EDIT: How could I forget the most egregious omission?! THERE'S NO VIRTUAL BASS AMP?! Amplitube takes care of live performance needs, but it doesn't feed audio in GB. Please, Apple - could this be an upgrade for the next version?


Music-making on the iPad

A fellow bassist recently told me he's getting back into recording because it's so easy on the iPad (he's using the Amplitube app I reviewed earlier), which makes a ton of sense to those raised on dealing with the infamous 4-track cassette recorder. This device performs the same function as the 4-track with none of the same quality issues or temperamental nature. And those wanting to expand on what's possible get apps as well (like the Moog Filtatron, Bloom, or any number of synths). Add in the announcement of Garageband for iPad 2 (and just that device, more than likely) and FruityLoops for iOS (coming soon), and the iPad becomes a viable musical recording device (just ask the Gorillaz).

What I want to see next is giving these devices a coherent workflow. I'm not demanding the use of plug-ins or anything (maybe my use of Record and Reason has beat that notion out of me), but the ability to route audio cleanly between apps without having to import and export would be handy. Not sure if that violates API rules or if it's even possible, but it's a direction I'd like to see explored.

And, of course, I want a good music notation system and ever-expanding live music apps, but I've written about that before. Some dreams never die.

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iPad as Sheet Music Repository, Pt. 2

Looks like more folks are catching on to the iPad as an optimum solution for sheet music - you can clip it on a mic stand now. Not that it was too heavy for even the lightest music stand, but this does eliminate another piece of gear that needs to be tossed into the bag in moved. Add your PDF sheet music or the iRealBook and you're good to go.

And, of course, toss in an audio connection for any audio apps, and you could even control any loops or backing tracks you might want to use directly from the mic stand.

I'm really geeking out over the possibilities of touchscreen devices like this for live music. If only because the backlighting make worrying about stand lights a thing of the past.


New IMN Podcast and Turning Your iPad into a Cassette Recorder

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm and 10pm.

I'm a fan of a few iPad audio apps with retro appeal - like the Rebirth synth from Propellerheads and the Korg iMS-20 - but I have to shake my head a little bit at the new Tascam app for its iPad Portastudio. Complete with cassette-like transport. Really, though, the only reason it doesn't appeal to me is the lack of a decent mic to use it. That's not really Tascam's fault, though - the new iOS edition apparently reduced enough power to peripherals than good mics simply can't be used with power from the USB bus.

Well, that and the cassette interface. Recording on cassettes was not fun, and I don't want to go back there. I don't want to edit tape with razor blades anymore either, and working to keep my Model T up doesn't interest me, either.


New IMN Podcast and Sheet Music on the iPad

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm and 10pm.

My new iPad holds quite a bit of sheet music in PDF form, and so far it's been a good resource for such storage. The resolution is high enough to be useful, and the screen is big enough to show the entire page in legible form. It's still a little slower on the large files, and normal PDF files aren't convenient to scan through (Real Book fans, take note). But it's awfully convenient for storage, a quick touch changes the page, and it's hundreds of dollars cheaper than the MusicPad Pro (a device designed just for sheet music, although it does come with a foot pedal for changing the page). I wouldn't be surprised to see this showing up on tons of music stands soon.