The iPad came out in 2010. Small, lightweight, many forward thinking musicians gleamed at the thought of using it for mobile on the go music creation.
At first, we had cool little amusing toys for apps. Silo’d apps that weren’t much more than a minor amusement to play with, but nothing most serious musicians would consider.
Then later, apps like Amplitube that allowed guitars to plug directly in and have the sounds of a Marshall, Vox, Fender or Mesa amplifier pouring through their headphones. Also, multitrack DAW (digital audio workstation) apps showed up, allowing recording of ideas in a way that was impossible just years before. But these apps were still all isolated. You couldn’t run Amplitube into GarageBand, or pipe a cool synth into Auria.
That all has changed. New apps that are basically nothing more than conduits between audio apps have revolutionized how musicians can work within the limited confines of iOS. Audiobus is the commercial solution, and it works very, very well in my experience.
Using Audiobus, I can record Amplitube, Jamup XT Pro, or AmpKit+ into GarageBand. I can pipe Animoog or iPolySix into Cubasis. I can even run a synth into a guitar amp modeler, then into a DAW, for total audio mangling. While applications can’t support traditional plugin instruments like a Windows or OS X desktop can, Audiobus has truly changed what it means to make music on iOS.
Now comes JACK, which many might recognize as an old friend (or frenemy, depending upon your experiences) from open source platforms. Jack for iOS not only allows for audio between apps supporting it, but MIDI as well.
Some might ask why you’d want to possibly attempt to work within the small confines of a tablet, and they’d certainly have a point. After all, many of us have spent a lot of time and money getting bigger and/or more screens, in order to make music production more efficient and convenient.
However, like the old Tascam Portastudios of days gone by, there’s something quaint and romantic about working on a small, personal device like the iPad. with the touchscreen, it nearly has the feel of working with one of those old devices.
Unlike those old devices, however, the iPad is capable of far better quality than what those Portastudios were, as well as having far more tools available as well.
In summary, these are interesting times for musicians, and while the iPad might not forever be THE mobile platform, it certainly feels like it now.