Is The iPad ‘The Future Of Home Music Production’?

As more and more apps are released for the new music platform, more and more people are debating the place of the new device in a musician’s toolkit.

A few days ago, we featured a blog post by Music technology blogger Will Kuhn that argued that making music on an iPad is currently ‘a bag of hurt’. Kuhn’s view is, arguably, the ‘cup is half empty view’.

Here’s another take on using the iPad for music, via composer Chip Boaz. Boaz offers a very different perspective on the state of music apps for the iPad:

I don’t think that iOS music making is something that will emerge in the future; I think that it’s something that is powerful now.

This isn’t to say that things are perfect now, iOS music will be better in the future. As they become more powerful, iPads will be become a standard in home production and they’ll appear frequently in professional studios.

The time to understand the interface and all the possibilities is now, preparing you for the wave of the future . . . besides, there’s an awful lot that you can do at this point.

Boaz goes on to suggest that iPads, and mobile music making tools, are the future:

I honestly believe that the future of home music production lies completely in the iPad, and the device is going to be integrated largely into the professional studio.

Current iOS devices contain loads of power, perfectly suited for high level music making. We are already at the point where full albums are being recorded and released through the iPad, and that’s only going to get more common.

I’m not saying that you should ditch desktop music production – at least not yet – I’m just saying that there’s currently so much potential in the art of making music on iOS that it really hurts.

Here’s an example of a musician that’s embracing the iPad as a music making tool. In this live performance at SXSW of Settle Down, New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra performs with what looks like a dual iPad rig:

Kimbra creates a dense, loop-based vocal arrangement and then adds software synth pads in a performance that clearly wows her audience.

Check out Boaz’s full post for his perspective on the state of the iOS music platform and let us know what you think!

Note: Some eagle-eyed readers have suggested that the touchscreen on the left is actually a TC Helicon Voicelive Touch, which is a dedicated vocal processor. If so, we need a better live jam performance to illustrate this post. Suggestions welcome below!

53 thoughts on “Is The iPad ‘The Future Of Home Music Production’?

  1. Although the question feels a bit antagonistic for some reason, it is already starting to seem silly to resist. Anyone into going four ways on half a share of an Apple stock?

    1. “silly to resist”

      But is the future made by people who cease to resist and get on board the current trend, or is the future made by people who against-all-odds act crazy and make amazing things happen?

      The iPad is certainly cool and Grain Science and other synth technology on the iPad is wonderful. But I wonder about the passion, the sense-of-life, the CRAZINESS of the people who use iPads.

      I mean, there was a time when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were still getting number one hits and pushing Beatle tunes out of the top of the charts. But rock people came along acting passionate and wild and having fun and doing CRAZY things like Pete Townshend SMASHING HIS EQUIPMENT at the end of a performance. That cost some money for him, back then.

      Can anyone picture an iPad musician or group jumping around and smashing their iPads, just cracking the technology to pieces? (I can’t. I don’t know if it means anything, but passion and craziness always seem to be part of the future.)

      1. I like your point of view Mark – music should be about passion, that’s the human stuff that grabs our attention, connects with our souls, and makes music an integral part of our lives. While I think you’re right, I can’t really picture people on stage smashing iPads, I think that there are other ways to express passion in music. Think of someone like John Coltrane – probably one of the most passionate musicians of the twentieth century – he wasn’t into stage theatrics and I don’t think that anyone would doubt the depth of his passion. The iPad is a tool to express music, just like Coltrane’s saxophone was. As things evolve, I think that people are going to be using that tool more and more to capture their musical expressions, either through recording performances or using it as a compositional tool. As the use of the iPad becomes more commonplace, I have no doubt that displays of passion will emerge from the device – personally, I can’t wait!

      2. “But is the future made by people who cease to resist and get on board the current trend, or is the future made by people who against-all-odds act crazy and make amazing things happen?”

        iPad is not current trend, using iPad is actually very unorthodox. And it is crazy synthesizer, as well as crazy interface to control the synthesizer. iPad is a part of the future in music.

        “Can anyone picture an iPad musician or group jumping around and smashing their iPads, just cracking the technology to pieces? (I can’t. I don’t know if it means anything, but passion and craziness always seem to be part of the future.)”

        Thats not the definition of passion and those who smash their instruments would of course break their iPads too. And they don’t usually break their other studio equipment either. There are 0 intentionally smashed Buchlas in the world. If only smahsble instruments are allowed into hall of normal music, its a rather narrow hall. I have seen really pashionate performances, where the musicians used all kinds of instruments and the iPad was in there.

    1. Simon – it’s hard to tell from the video. I thought it was Vocallive running on an iPad in a case, but you may have better eyes.

      If so, we need another live performance video!

  2. My guitar only has five strings ’cause the top one broke and I decided not to put it back on: when I play chords I only play bar chords, and the top one always used to cut me there. — Brian Eno

    Music isn’t really about the technology, is it? And technology is always changing so why freak out about this or that piece of technology?

    You can play music on a guitar with five strings or six strings and some shredders now have guitars with more than six strings. They all work. A bass typically has only four strings and a jazz bass player can kick ass with four strings.

    On the other hand I bet if you put Scarlett Johansson in the best equipped studio in LA and had the ghost of George Martin produce her she would still suck.

    iOS is cool and OS-X is cool and Windows is cool and Linux is cool and even using something like SwiftForth on a hacked-together custom circuit board is cool.

    So I’m sure the iPad can do fine at making music, both at home and for a pro.

    However I suspect when Apple releases their next product they’ll want you to use that, too, in the future. Just a guess.

    (Good luck, everyone, re-living that bag-of-hurt thread. I’m not going to do it, this is my only comment here. Have a nice weekend, everybody!)

    1. Totally agreed Mark, it’s all about the music, not the tools that we make to use them. At the same time, I think that we should be open to new tools and investigate the possibilities they hold before we blow them off. I felt like too many people were blowing off the iPad as a music making tool unnecessarily and wanted to point out the possibilities. I do think that the future of home studio production lies in the device, but the reality is that it’s one of many tools.

      By the way, I’ve never heard ScarlettJohansson sing, but after thinking about your comment, I’m crossing my fingers hoping that Black Widow doesn’t break out into song during The Avengers . . .

  3. I also have the voicelive touch. It is very useful. However, I’m pretty sure she is only looping & auto-tuning her voice alongside a minimal i-pad synth-line. To make this as some counter argument against the relative infancy of iOS production is hilarious.

  4. the ipad will be big in the studio! IF it’s not allready! as tools…. its the perfect thing… i mean i know when i’ll have it im going to do so many drum kits with synth apps and what not… then when your actually home, you can make it a controller… plus lots of more things that i dont even know yet

    1. I like the way that you’re thinking Samm! In order to push the iPad to the point where we’re placing it at the center of a home studio, we’ve got to explore the full range of possibilities behind the device. That’s one of the beauties of the device – you can use it for so many different things. It can be a drum machine, a DAW, a synth, a guitar amp, and so much more. The thought of putting that into the overall studio flow as a controller is just awesome. The availability of all those uses seems reason enough to use an iPad for music production, but that’s just the tipping point for its potential. Sounds like you’ll be making some good music on an iPad in the future, you’ll have to share it with us!

    1. That’s legit, I might see my iPad cup as more like 3/4 full, but I think what you’re implying is right on spot here – the iPad isn’t ready to replace the PC but it’s got a ton or potential for music production. I think that the iPad will have a 90% full cup in the near future, but you’re right – we’re not quite there just yet. I’m sure that we will be there though!

      1. If Apple opens up their platform a little to allow the use of hosts and plugins it could be comparable to a workstation, but IOS is five years old already and no such things has happened.

        But its ok, there are plenty of other tools that can do it. I keep my ipad for touch instruments.

        1. I’m not sure that I agree that plugins are the answer. That’s one way that we’ve tackled expansion on desktop music production software, but I don’t think that it translates to iOS. I think that the answer really lies in something right around the corner – Audiobus, an API that allows you to run audio from one (or more) app into another. In this sense, every app would act like a “plugin” to a core iOS DAW, allowing for pretty vast expansion. We’ve already got Virtual MIDI allowing apps to trigger one another, providing yet another expansion option.

          We’re not there yet (although Audiobus should arrive in the very near future), do at this point, yes, desktop plugins trump iOS options. I do think that things will be different in the near future though.

          1. Audiobus and virtual midi is nice, but I don’t like having to switch to each individual apps all the time just to change simple things like pan and volume. A host would provide a centralized mixer which would be awesome. There’s also Auria that will let us use some VST plugins, but Apple has to approve every VSTs before they are available as In-App-Purchases… which is really not that great because you can’t use any VST you already own. And VST instruments are not supported in Auria, only VST effects. Still Auria looks like its going to be the ultimate recording studio for IOS.

            Apps are like plugins, and it would be great if we could load an app within an app. Sure not everybody would use this, just like plugins, but it would be a nice options which you wouldn’t be forced to use if you don’t want to, but I and a lot of other people would find it immensely useful.

            But Apple has to let devs make these kind of softwares.

        2. It doesn’t have to be comparable to a workstation, its a supplement for it, that you can also take a way. Its still fantastic synthesizer and as a musical tool its freakishly affordable multifunctional swiss army knife that is not only portable and cheap, its also something that most of us don’t otherwise have. And I have tablet PCs. I vastly prefer iPad on gigs and rehearsals compared to PC and it has completely replace all my other music making tools that I carry all times.

          And iPad is only 2 years old. Thats when the synthstuff REALLY kicked in.

          For me the PC is 50% full and iPad is 75%.

          1. I believe it could be much more than just a supplement if there would be no restrictions in the OS because it has all the necessary power to be a workstation.

            But as you say it, even with those restrictions its still a fantastic little synth and touch instrument.

  5. Kimbra’s killer song answers a lot of the question. Even if you only play solo piano, you are certain to have other devices such as recorders, mics or perhaps Mike Garson’s pad, where a program scrolls through ‘sheet’ music in real-time. Do any of us have only one tool or approach? I’d be boned without what I use. Its “just” Logic, a USB interface, a small analog mixer, 2 Korgs and 3 outside softsynths, but what a lovely racket it all makes! An iPad is an impressive thing, but its just another way to find your own ‘sweet spot.’ Man, that girl can sing.

    1. You make such a great point here Fungo, we’ve all got multiple tools that we combine in order to make music. Whether its a guitar player with his amp and pedals, an electronic musician with multiple synths, or a recording engineer with a studio full of equipment, we all combine different tools to reach our final musical goals. An iPad can combine a lot of those tools in one place, but as I said in the article, it’s certainly not the only thing that you’ll need in many cases. It’s one piece of the whole puzzle that become a powerful part of a workflow. I imagine a lot of home studios using the iPad as their centerpiece, but surrounding it with a variety of accessories. It’s a pretty powerful thought.

      Kimbra is a new discovery to me too – just discovered her when this article went up. Killer stuff! Love the way that she’s combining different technologies to make music on her own. Listening to her full EP now, cool stuff!

  6. Last week : “Is Making Music On iOS Really ‘A Bag Of Hurt’?”
    This week : “Is The iPad ‘The Future Of Home Music Production’?”

    Next week should be fun.
    Bring on the page clicks!!

  7. Another iPad topic!!
    Cool 🙂
    Com on people, go for 200 replies!
    My opinion is still the same.
    Ipad is only good for jacking off on the sofa.
    As an instrument it can mean something in the future.
    Sequencer is faster when your looking to a big screen and mouse around with your mouse.
    You will have more choice of DAW also.
    You can’t multitask with iPad.
    And in the future Apple or somebody else will come up with something new (probably apple).

    1. I think that you’re right one key point here – we’re not quite at the point where the iPad is going to be the centerpiece of the home studio just yet, but we’ll get there in the future. At this point, it’s worth a little more than entertaining yourself on the sofa though. I think that once you adjust the interface, sequencing can be pretty quick. There are an impressive and growing number of DAWs in the App Store, ranging from stuff for beginners like GarageBand to more complex settings like NanoStudio for experienced users. I’m not sure that multi-tasking is the best thing for music production; it just seems to get me distracted from the key point – writing music. If you’re talking expansion though, both Virtual MIDI and the upcoming Audiobus allow you to make apps work together in ways that gives you massive potential in your studio.

      It’s true, we’ll always have a stream of new technology coming our way, but I don’t think that means we’ll be replacing iPads. As a platform, the iPad provides an accessible and affordable way to set up a home studio – two major factors that will make it stick.

  8. Nauseating liberal crap. Looked like a starbucks advert. I better not reference Laurie Anderson, Chris and Cosey, Daniel Dax (?) Siouxsie, Annie Anxiety. Bjork even ,Stina Nordenstam etc
    There have been people before who have beaten this girl to the post .
    I believe they hid all the bodies of the factory workers behind all these boring looking ‘happy docile’ people. In the words of a great northern working class dadaist phuking wank.
    Steve jobs look what lame wank you left what a legacy you cunt.

      1. Neocon, and I make references about the deaths of workers. How great to see you references a word that might be has ‘hip’ as an ipad, but you have no grasp of the words meaning.
        Thank you for that !!! I am about as conservative as Finkelstein. Spose you are versed in the works of radical thinkers. Steve jobs was a Neocon.

  9. schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem schhritssscchbhoem
    Is this the music of the future?

  10. I bought my ipad simply for music, though my main intention for it was to use it as a controller for my desktop DAW, I have found a wonderful variety of music applications, some of which really take advantage of the touch interface to make things possible which are not possible using a regular keyboard (animoog is a great example). I think the iPad currently fills a void in the market, which makes it a great music tool (but it doesn’t really stand alone right now), and it will continue to fill that void for a number of years (especially as apps mature), however, I think as laptops gain a touch interface, as more midi controllers add touch sensitive keys and xy controllers, then you will likely see less usage of the iPad. It is the touch interface that makes the iPad novel, as laptops and midi controllers adopt that technology they will find that they can tap into the same market.

  11. Mobile music isn’t the future of all music for the same reason laptops aren’t the future of all computing – a smaller form factor is ALWAYS more limiting in terms of power, connectability, and usually has more technical issues.

    That being said, laptops occupy an enourmous shar of the computer market, and are quite powerful.

  12. For the purpose of this question, I’d divide the promise of the iPad into several separate qualities:

    1. It is has a touch-screen. Users can relate to it differently than with a mouse/trackpad.

    2. It has a wide user-base and app store. The prices of apps are much more affordable than with other platforms.

    3. It has some connection to a the smaller iPhone/iPod-Touch and the larger Mac computer. So it can have some inter-operability.

    4. It is its own evolving platform (which is a track that will overlap with computers & laptops).

    When I think about all categories, I think the iPad will have a role in pro studios for the near-term. And perhaps a larger role in the future. But I think the more important point is that, like garageband, it will make entering the music making game more appealing and friendly to a wider group of people, including and perhaps embracing non-trained musicians.

  13. this whole ipad discussion starts to annoy me big time, its like win vs mac or strat vs les paul or xbox vs PS

    its all about marketing guys

    no one not even apple themself said that the ipad was intended as the centerpiece of a studio^^

    the ipad is a notebook

    if you are into music, you get some music apps for ON THE GO (!!)
    if youre into graphics, you get some graphic apps like filterstorm or sketchbook pro
    if youre into animation you get animation apps

    anyway, its meant as a “small as possible” but still usable notepad

    no painter would say that even the best notebook and the best pencil will replace his big canvas and oil colors, because it was never made for that, it was made for portability

    if iam sitting in the subway i find it more fun to make beats then to read newspapers or play games on my phone

    when iam talking to a customer i find it better to sketch ideas on a touchscreen and have them digitalized right away instead of sketching ideas on a sheet of paper and then scan them and send them to my customers.

  14. That chick is amazing! That’s how you work 2 iPads. Music can be made with anything. We used to bang on lunchroom tables with fists, a plastic spork, a dime and come up with some of the sickest drum patterns. It’s not about what you use but how well you perform with it.

    Let’s cut all the bickering about what’s better and use our sh*t, whatever it may be.

  15. is sensationalism the journalism of the future?

    yes – its stupid content for stupid people.. cant really go wrong with that

  16. My Ipad has definitely earned it’s spot at the table in my studio but I don’t expect it to-nor do I really want it to-be the ‘centerpiece’, so to speak.

  17. Reading the comments here and pondering on the importance and professional functionality of an iPad in the studio I started thinking about a famous youtube video where a guy does Mona Lisa in MS Paint. This means basically that even a toy or a very limited instrument in the hands of a true ingenious visionary musician can become a powerful tool. Someone with a Sunrizer that knows how to handle it and is passionate can kick the ass of someone else who plays a Roland JP-8000.
    Another example is video game music. Who remembers the old NES tunes from Mario, Zelda, Castlevania etc? Those old chiptunes have been remade by philharmonic orchestras around the world with great success and critical acclaim. This when usually it’s the other way around, people trying to play Moonlight Sonata on a keyboard you’ve purchased at Toys R Us.
    The music apps for iOS is great for introducing more people to how fun and easy it is to make music to an affordable price. I am a hobby musician as well with differend projects in various genres and doing industrial noise for instance has been hard due to lack of equipment. I’m just too poor to shell out €2000+ for an old granular synthesizer, analog effects, pedals, mixer, controllers etc. So then it’s great that there are noise making apps like Sprak or granulars like Curtis that sometimes are even free which I can just plug into my Firestudio Mobile and from there into a DAW, record and experiment. The only thing that hinders music and art is narrow mindedness, especially those people who believe things have to be made in a certain way, like harsh noise/power electronics has to be made only on analog equipment otherwise it’s not “true”. Even if they would not hear the difference between a digital made track and an analogue. There’s something wrong when the ammount of (analog) gear is more important than the piece of music.

  18. I dunno… I have always thought the whole digital/computer/software versus analog hardware debate, especially in studio applications came down to life-span of the equipment and cost/complexity of repairs. Though tablets and laptops are wonderful tools for making music, its pretty tough to fix on your own when it has a rather serious failure in its relatively short life span (In comparison to certain hardware life spans). Some wonderful analog equipment has been consistently made for studio as well as live use that consists of discrete components one could buy at radio shack, and with minimal reading, replace with a soldering iron and some solder braid. A good new example of that is Tom Oberheim’s SEMs. An older example is the Moog Rogue, or even older, the Wurlitzer 145A. Both can be calibrated or repaired by hand after reading the manual and/or service manual, and you can identify practically every part in it as being available, and continuing to be available for a number of years, at least as an equivalent, as they are discrete common components. I say this after living through an analog Korg Lambda having a lot of custom chips fail. That is bad hardware: needing custom parts that are rare and expensive. Same goes for digital synthesizers/tools. Some digital synths are actually made with some simple parts you can get from Texas Instruments, and that makes them, in my opinion, more valuable than the Lambda. This is usually not the case though in the lineup of instruments I have used. If we want to live and grow with an instrument that can fix ourselves (in most cases) and get to know better, and make music with from the age of 16 to 86, its gotta be built to last. Of course, not everyone wants that long out of anything… Even a short run of some equipment can be awesome, like a series of gigs over 5 years before something bad fails and you have to switch it up. I am apprehensive to accept the iPad and its tablet/phone equivalents as a major part of the future of music because of its manufactured quality and complexity. Computers are outdated and left without updates or support pretty quick and fail at an alarming rate these days. It seems to me that unless we can work with and fix these things ourselves, and understand how they work, they are doomed to fail and fade into obscurity for lack of soldering iron and finger poking love.

  19. Really, what’s the big deal?

    Multitouch is a great way to interact with the PC.
    Keyboard is necessary for typing.
    Smaller lighter PC’s is good.
    Big screen is useful.

    The iPad is a small PC with small sharp screen and multitouch, but without keyboard.
    You’ll need to connect it to keyboard, big screen and – btw – a sound system
    to make music with it.

  20. Not sure what the future holds on a lot of fronts. It’s clear that iOS products are quite versatile, and the apps are surprisingly affordable.

    Some argue that the technology doesn’t matter, and to an extent that is true.

    However, the technology influences the process and the results. And when the goal of the software is to put a bounty of cliches within instant reach, I wonder if the results will be at all surprising.

    As impressive as the technological advances seem to be, we are in a period of “neo-classisism” and the restrictions on rhythm, harmony and melody are stifling– at least in pop-culture.

    The glimmer of hope within this wave of advancement lies in the potential for new means of expression through capturing gestures, etc. But that is by no means the exclusive domain of iOS.

  21. Check out the ipad orchestra, they use only ipads for the music, as for Kimbra, she definitely uses Tc Helicon Voicelive touch.

  22. Wow, comments without anyone resorting to racial slurs? What have I stumbled upon? As far as passion goes, don’t waste yer time trying to define it. Some people smash stuff, but I’m sure you could think of a few people just as passionate who never have. I have to say, the I-pad is kind of a mixed bag. There are those that simply use it for the gimmick factor (like it’s used in this video). She could have bought a cheap synth to do that easily… and not been afraid to break the bank by smashing it if need be… or afraid of replacing data if lost or stolen. However, if your set is comprised of dozens of sounds, unique settings for each, and it cost $600-$700 for each one you might smash… well, I doubt Townshend was busting $600 guitars when he started. And a guitar mostly just made guitar sounds back then. I know when I bust a guitar it costs me less than $100… but you’ll never see me spear my cab with it until I’m endorsed.

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