You know, these days with technology almost anything is possible. I am going to spend the next couple of paragraphs focusing on the iPad and all the different ways to record your new song ideas, demo tracks or your podcasts. We will test 3 different multi-tracking apps, I will tell you all the tools you will need, and I will tell you a few different ways to get the audio in to your iPad.
There are 3 ways to get audio in to the iPad.
1. Through the internal Microphone
2. Through the headset mic/headphones combo
3. A USB Interface that is compatible with the iPad.
Here is a list of everything you will need to complete this task: (everything that I have)
1. iPad (1st or 2nd Generation).
2. A small (1 or 2 channel) USB recording interface. I use an M-Audio Fast Track Pro.
3. A Powered USB Hub (the iPad doesn’t produce a powered USB port)
4. Apple Camera Connection Kit (converts the apple USB to a normal USB connection.
5. A Microphone or Guitar (with cables) for the interface.
6. A Multitrack Recording App from the App Store (see below)
Here is the configuration from the Interface to the iPad. Please make sure it is all wired prior to testing your system.
USB Interface -> Powered USB Hub -> Camera Connection Kit -> iPad
Now, I am assuming that because you are reading this that you are familiar with multi-tracking prior to this so I will not be going through that definition in any of this article. Please do a Google search for “Multi-Tracking” if you need more assistance with that.
We are going to start our first session with the always popular “Garage Band”. This is a great song writing tool that with a low price of $4.99 from the app store is our cheapest option in the way of multitrack recording on your new iPad. When you purchase the app you will notice it take a little while to download as it is a huge app, which makes the “under $5” price tag all that more appealing. When you first open Garage Band and start a new song, you will have the choice of what kind of track to add to your song. (Guitar, Smart Piano, etc.)
Choose the “Audio Recorder”. A screen will pop up and you will see a meter that will let you know if you are receiving a signal from your interface. You can record a track and insert it in to your song. Now, there are a few downfalls from garage band… one being that you can only record one track at a time. That is good for the folks out there that are just doing some songwriting such as a guitar track or a piano track, etc. but this app will not be the best one for the serious Podcaster or Demo Song enthusiast.
Studio Mini XL:
I will now move on to the next app in our article, “Studio Mini XL”. This app is available from the App Store for $9.99. That is a little pricey for an app these days, but it does deliver. The difference between this app and Garage Band is that is doesn’t have a waveform to edit. It records to a track, and you see the input but you have no way to edit the actual recorded material other than by volume, effects, etc.
This app also shares the “1 track at a time” limitation.
If you are looking to track a demo (guitar, bass, drums (if premixed through a mixer), vocal) this is the perfect app for you. There are 8 tracks (Upgradeable to 24 for a few bucks more). There aren’t many other apps that offer that kind of multi-tracking power. Except for one.
This by far is the best app I have found to record my tracks in to the iPad. Not only does it share the $9.99 App Price, but you are able to edit the waveforms directly (Cut, Paste, Copy, Fade In/Fade Out), and it is the only app out there (that I have found) that accepts “Dual Mono” Recording. Which means that with a 2 channel interface such as the Fast Track Pro, you can record two tracks at once. (Guitar and Vocal). Now this is limited to only two tracks (as far as I am aware as I don’t have a 3 or 4 track interface laying around. But, I do remember seeing something on the Multitrack DAW website about “compatible interfaces”.
I did a “Test Interview” with a friend of mine and it recorded perfectly. I was able to edit a slight fade-in and fade-out very easily and the tracks are pure quality.
Plug in your Interface using the method I described above. Open the “Multitrack DAW” recording app and start a new song. Name the song whatever you would like and start 2 New tracks.
On track one, select the “ARM” button and just below that you will see the word “stereo” under ARM button. Hold your finger on the word “Stereo” and slide your finger down until it says “mono 1”. Do the same thing with track two but make it “mono 2”. Now, ARM both tracks to record and press the play button. You will see the waveforms moving across the screen. Record for a few minutes to make sure that you have a good test. Play back each track to see if each one recorded as you wanted it. For example (Guitar DI on track 1 and Bass Guitar DI on track 2). After you have successfully tested your system you are ready to go!
Another great tool within this app is the WiFi option. When hooked to the WiFi network at home or in the office as long as you have your iPad and another PC/MAC on the same network you can swap files, etc.
On the bottom of the app’s opening page you will see the word “Wi-Fi”. Click on it and it will give you an IP Address. (i.e http://192.168.1.2) All you have to do is go to your PC/MAC and enter that IP Address in your browser and you will see your files and songs there. Its the easiest way to swap files from your iPad to your Studio Computer.
Now, I am not saying that this app and the iPad are going to replace your Studio DAW, that is not the intention. This is meant to be a quick, easy way to track on the go. I use it for various Interviews and on-location recordings when my studio DAW is unavailable.
The files it saves are in .wav format, which is a large file (depending on the length of your recordings) but will import directly in to your studio DAW such as Pro Tools, Cubase, etc. for final mixing, and editing.
I hope that this article has helped open your mind to new and creative ways of recording music, demos, or pod-casts.
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