Before using iOS apps for music production, I had a custom PC which hosted Reason, Absynth, Acid pro and Soundforge. That was my “set up” for a few years. However, the PC crashed (as they tend to do) and my brother sent me an ipodtouch and I discovered the fledgling music apps that, although basic, held promise of more advanced development in times to come.

I didn’t have to wait long, and before I knew it, I was making reasonable music and recording / performing dj sets with the apps on the iPad that I got on the first day of release in the USA. I started blogging and interacting with developers in 2009 and for sure, we all felt that apps were going to be the new way of production tools due to the “touch effect” and the affordability.

But not everyone felt that way. Some saw apps as toys or sketch pads for ideas ( some still do but they are far lesser in number. But the fact is that now you can get a vast amount of fully functional synths, editors, drum machines and a handful of reasonable daws for very cheap.

You name the app and I’ve tried it. Most developers send me promocodes in exchange for reviews. But despite the greatness of many apps, I tend to use only a few because my kind of production demands simplicity and focus. Some producers want to use many apps and have a complex approach that demands more of developers and the devices.

They want iPads to become desktops in essence.

For me, iOS has always been about simplicity and effectiveness. Call me old school but I favour audio copy and paste above Audiobus. The latter has many great uses, especially in a live situation but has yet to prove that full tracks can be produced in that scenario. And it has to be said that people are still not fully satisfied even though they can link up any combination of apps and interface with a few decent daws.

There is always “something missing”. And this seems to be a common thread that is found on iOS blogs. “Why can’t this do this, or why is this feature missing”, “Why won’t NanoStudio add Audiobus”, “Why doesn’t this synth have midi” and so on…

So, there are some features missing in many apps and as far as DAWs go, even the best ones are criticised.

What is going on?

  1. Maybe iOS apps have not fully come of age, or
  2. Maybe people need to settle into music making and let developers realise that their apps are actually working, thus they will be encouraged to develop more intensely?

I feel option 2 is rational, simply because the sheer volume of apps can be used intelligently in various combinations ( in or out of an Audiobus scenario ) to achieve great results.

Some iOS artists I follow on soundcloud that are personal friends are achieving remarkable results. So much so that if you didn’t know they use apps, you’d be forgiven for thinking they used expensive desktop software and real analog synths. They have got on with the job and are grateful for the tools they have.

So, I personally like to focus more on the result, especially if the process itself is pleasurable. Those that find the process pleasurable will achieve excellent results…

I love my own personal process and I’ve narrowed down the apps I use to around 5. I ocassionally revisit some older ones but to be honest, I’m looking forward to an ultimate standalone daw that has amazing built in synths, excellent editing options and great drum manipulation built in. This would save all kinds of back and forth shenanigans aswell as space on the device.

So, I’d like to open this for discussion and encourage you to share your thoughts.

  • Are you happy with the current iOS app developments?
  • What is missing?
  • What are your own goals for the music you make with apps?
This entry was posted in app views, discussion, iOS music, music apps, technology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Alex Matheu says:

    I write music in different places, and each has it’s own workflow and it’s own set of requirements, thus each has a different app or application if I am using a notebook/desktop.

    I agree there always seems to be something I want missing from this app or that app, especially, personally for me in the app DAWs, but you know what, that is OK.

    I enjoy using different apps for different things, even if they do some things that are very similar, just like my surrounding seem to affect my end result so do the apps that I use, even if it is something simple like the aesthetics.

    So while a do it all sort of DAW is missing, and it would be great, I don’t think it would stop me from still using different apps to get different sorts of sounds.

    I think when inspiration strikes, use whatever you have accessible to you to capture it, and whether or not you finish the piece in that app, or take it to 5 different other apps along the way, part of the excitement is in the journey the sounds take.

  2. As I’m usually writing ‘out and about’ (and so dependant on iOS to provide me with tools I can use to do this), I’m firmly of the belief that we are still in the early days of app develepment and the abilities they can provide us with. Things like Audiobus and Jack are the start of the 2nd generation development, but there is far more to come.

    I use whatever I can to get what I want and yes, sometimes, its just not possible (yet). However this just encourages me to use the things I do have available to me in more unusual ways and often pushes my sounds and music in an unforseen (and often surprising) direction. If I wanted to sound like everything else I’d sit there using presets and sample packs and soon get pretty bored of it all.
    Because of my situation I usually only get an hour or so in any day to focus on the creation side of my tracks, giving me lots of time with it running through my head working out what could occur next, what to drop in or take out, and then fire up and hit what i need to when the chance comes.

    I really don’t think that hammering on at dev’s all the time helps the development of products, so many different things are wanted and the list of things to do runs the risk of drowning the dev, and imo the one thing that would kill all development is the dev drowning in requests, filtering in some and leaving what others deem necessary and STILL getting hammered for it! A demoralising job.

    There are lots of things I’d like to see happen, and I’m sure they will in time because it’s the logical development of what an ‘iOS studio should be doing, creating repeatable, editable performances and developing the quality of sound facilities. So far there is still only one real choice for that for me, and when something better comes along i’ll jump on board.

    But I bet I’ll still be ACP’ing samples til i’m a debauched OAP with a souped-up mobility scooter!

  3. Theo Trek says:

    I have had an iPad for about a year and I’m amazed at what and how fast developers are putting out awesome apps. I don’t mind that the iPad is less powerful then my lap top I knew that when I got it. My wish is that Apple would work closer with hardware developers so that when I buy an interface it dose not become obsolete with the next release.
    I also would a little better quality connecters and to not have to pay $30 to $50 for adapters I feel I am being taken advantage of ever time I buy one. It bad enouph I have to make a special trip to Apple every time I purchase something from a music store, then having to pay 3 to 5 times what the connecter is worth is insulting.
    Big thanks to app developers the apps are amazing, resonably priced and mind blowingly innovative thank you.

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