Since the iPad was introduced a couple of years ago, there have been many interesting music apps developed covering a vast area of music production: drum machines, synthesizers, effects units, seemingly limitless DAW controllers, plus GarageBand itself. However, I’m questioning why there still aren’t some software tools available for the iPad that could be put to excellent use on this technology. Here is my wish list….

At the top of my list for iPad apps is Ableton Live. The unique hands-on aspect of Live, combined with the success of controllers like the APC, Launchpad, and other iOS controllers like Griid all say something obvious – the iPad itself would be an ideal platform for Live! You have a relatively cheap, reliable and hi tech touch surface on top of a CPU that compares to a computer of only a few years ago, how would it not work? How would it not be awesome?! Ableton’s unique session view, in my opinion it’s distinguishing feature, would come to life (Live?) on the iPad’s touch screen. It would make an excellent sketch pad for starting a project when inspiration hit and then transferring to your desktop computer for editing and final mixing later. But on the other hand, with audio interfaces like the RME Fireface now functional on the iPad, perhaps it could even become a complete Ableton studio tool itself?

The next item on my wish list, or perhaps we should say firing line, is Pro Tools. Ok, expecting a Pro Tools HD-like system to run on an iPad is crazy (though it won’t be one day soon), but how about something like “Pro Tools GarageBand”? GarageBand is a simplified version of Logic that offers compatibility to its bigger brother desktop application; can we please have similar iOS software for Pro Tools users? Or something else to think about – how many Pro Tools users spend time on their laptops between sessions tuning, editing, drum replacing, beat detecting etc etc? What about four different version of Pro Tools iPad that focused on these tasks? “Pro Tools iTune”, “Pro Tools iEdit” “Pro Tools iReplace” and “Pro Tools iDetect” perhaps? The pinch, swipe, zoom interaction on the iPhone and iPad has resonated with its users so well that Apple has now implemented this functionality on their computer hardware…. Imagine what this control could do for us when editing! We could pinch zoom on a waveform, swipe to scrub, tap-hold to select, double tap to cut and so on and so forth. The interface has the potential to immensely speed up our workflows on those repetitive tasks.

Ok, I’m going to review my expectations. Perhaps the development time is so immense that they are already working on it and we just need to wait a little longer?

In the meantime, let’s go back to basics. I mentioned the huge variety of MIDI style DAW controllers available for iPad earlier. But there are a few apps missing… Where is Avid’s own controller for Pro Tools? Steinberg’s custom Cubase Controller? Apple’s specific Logic controller?

Well over a decade ago, Mackie had a revolutionary idea of combining a mixing console’s ergonomics with the power of a DAW in the form of the HUI. The idea was refined and within a few years the technology had hit it big, with many hardware brands creating their own DAW controllers. In 2004 the Lemur was released, which operated remarkably like an iPad (with a touch screen for controlling MIDI commands) and really got us geeks salivating (and it has also now been released for iOS). But really, what revolutions in DAW/MIDI controller technology have we had in the last few years?

So, what if we took some of the editing workflow ideas mentioned above, combined them with the concept of a DAW controller and had the inside knowledge, understanding and access to the DAW code? We could have a controller that blends a hands-on console-like experience, with the editing finesse of a mouse and the feedback of a high-resolution screen – all on the iPad. Editing a waveform on an iPad could be so easy… Controlling multiple parameters on a plugin, which IS actually THE plugin on your iPad would be creatively invigorating! Automation could be both fast and hands on. MIDI sequencing would become less technical and more musical. (While we wait for this, check out V-Control by Neyrinck – this is the closest I’ve seen to this concept with their “V-Window”, but it lacks the elegance and finesse that could be achieved if these apps were made by the same developers as the desktop software)

As tablet and smartphone technology continues to improve and proliferate, we will see the use of desktops decrease – in India already, mobile Internet traffic has surpassed desktop Internet usage – but for the foreseeable future desktops will still have a place in music and audio production. However, why not make better use of this technology that is so accessible (and so cheap) now to improve our workflows and bring more creativity into our interaction with the software?

What do you think? What is on your App wish list?


[This article written by Anthony Garvin and has previously appeared in Audio Technology Magazine]

[Follow this link for more technical insights: http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/]

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