Better Than Talking Music & Tech: Creating Music With Tech
I’m back at music making again. After 25 years. Thanks to an iPad Pro, AppBC’s Modstep and some more apps for music creation.
It feels like aeons ago I had sold almost all of my other gear. A solid Marshall JCM100 Lead Series Top, black & red striped finish. My FX, including–be ready to cry–a genuine Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer. Yes, the one with THAT chip. A friend took care of my Moog Rogue. However, I never will part with my ’79 Fender Stratocaster or my Ovation Stereo Classic. I even built a Flying V myself. But that’s another story.
I never really played live except for a few occasions. In the early 80s, I turned down the offer to join a new band to be formed by members of our small town’s best known band, Intensiv. To be fair, there was another band with more fame, but hey, they did all the cover song gigs. From our point of view as teens, that was sheer heresy–and we gladly went to see the gigs of Intensiv who wrote their own songs, of course with that touch of social criticism.
Every day, me and a good friend of mine (he still is), we jammed and added more instruments and other gear over the years. We started looping, and we took a deep dive into 4-track recording and dubbing. The result was a wild mix ranging from electronics to blues and metal… maybe I should digitise it from tape.
Then there came university, and later being on the job.
When I got my first iPad, I saw that tiny, yet glistening line on the horizon. I always kept an eye out for synth apps, and I downloaded more than one over the years. But I only used to toy around with them. They stood side by side, lacking the ability to exchange the data. So I wasn’t aware when MIDI entered the iPad scene. Or Audio Bus.
It felt strange. I felt like being disconnected from a part of mine. I sadly missed making music.
In December 2015, the game changed with a bang. I was reading an article by someone who mentioned his friends were developing Modstep. One app to control the others. I googled a review of Modstep. Without requiring a full Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on MacOS with synth plugins at least, or even hardware synthesizers, the windows opened again.
Maybe there were similar apps or even DAWs like Cubasis or Auria already around (for iPad). I didn’t notice it. With Modstep I finally spent more time with my synth apps within a few days than all the years before.
Now, I didn’t have to look for an excuse to buy one of those fancy, large iPad Pros.
Admittedly, it took me long, very long, to get into Modstep. I had been out of the music circus for too long. The first documentation was like, non-existent. That changed. Also, I never actively worked with MIDI. But I got it. In theory.
Furthermore, I hated digital synthesizers for discontinuing hardware controls. And I hate simulated pots on the iPad. If you are to implement circle-wise controlling movements the right way, look how Propellerhead has implemented it with Thor. This is how to do it.
Update by update, and video by video I got into it. Not perfectly yet, but it works.
Eight month later, circa August 2016, creativity returned. I started creating patterns with the DM1 which came closest to what I’ve been familiar with: the good ol’ Sequential Drumtraks. Did I mention I even "worked" with an MFB601 Sequencer back in the days? (Btw, I still own it…)
Next, I started adding more tracks and synths in Modstep. Whenever I learned to master another feature I rejoiced like a child on Christmas.
Finally, I sensed the return of my lust for sound. Which is the the best of it all. One of the first iPad synths I got was the Korg iMS-20–simply because it’s been one I knew from way back when. Despite of good reviews, it doesn’t really work for me. Maybe it will some time.
Moog’s brilliant Animoog, Wolfgang Palm’s WaveMapper, and most of all Arturia’s iProphet changed the game.
A note to all professional and even semi-professional musicians: Right now, I’m using nothing but my iPad and my Beyer Dynamics headphones. So, it’s still just testing and tinkering.
But, my creativity and fun already let me consider re-activating the old and dusted Korg M1 which is my last keyboard relict from the past. Not really a suitable master keyboard but whatever. I’m still reluctant to take the last step. Because this would undeniably lead to expenses higher than a couple of Euros. But the desire is strong.
Wondering how long I can keep away from new monitoring speakers…