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What Are The Musical Capabilities of an iPad?

There aren’t many technical advances over the last fifty years that the music industry hasn’t been hugely affected by. Television and cable, digital radio, computers, the internet. Music is susceptable to change, and by its very nature has to be constantly evolving. Great! Who wouldn’t want the industry to move on and advance with technology, as a great man once prophecised, “the times they are a changin’”.

So here we are in the 21st Century, and the mobile revolution is upon us. Tablet devices are all the rage and Apple continue to dominate. “There’s an App for that” as the mantra goes, but is there an App (or combination of apps) suitable for producing a chart-worthy piece of music? Let’s investigate.

My case study here is Gorillaz. If you didn’t already know, Gorillaz released the first album ever to be composed, recorded and mixed on an iPad (mostly). Gorillaz have pushed the fold over the last 10 or so years, and I have huge admiration for all they have achieved, so would the release of ‘The Fall’ make the world take notice of the technology iPad’s have brought to music?

Here are the Apps they used. Get downloading ;-)

Speak It! / SoundyThingie / Mugician / Solo Synth / Synth / Funk Box / Gliss / AmpliTube / Xenon / iElectribe / BS-16i / M3000 HD / Cleartune / iOrgel HD / Olsynth / StudioMiniXI / BassLine / Harmonizer / Dub Siren Pro / Moog Filatron

The album was made while the band toured, which kind of makes a point, doesn’t it? I think of all the advantages of having an iPad, being able to do just about anything on the move is the best, and I’m sure that’s what Damon and crew wanted us to take from the statement of releasing an iPad album.

I don’t want to turn this article into an album review, that’s not what is intended, but the album was, at least by comparison to their other work, pretty lo-fi. Now I’m a big fan of lo-fi! I love it when a band puts out rough demos or make a video themselves, it’s creativity at its rawest, but the fact that the iPad brought a lo-fi feel is perhaps not encouraging for the technology. Let’s say it isn’t ready yet, I think that’s the fairest analysis, not ready for these purposes anyway, a whole album from an iPad is perhaps asking too much at this stage. However….

Gorillaz made the album more as a tour documentary I think. A collection of ideas. What it served to do is to show the amazing capabilities of the portable pal that is the iPad. I think at this stage you’d simply need to combine it with your PC (or ideally iMac) in order to create a polished piece of music, but how amazing is it that you can compose and record melodies and play with sounds while you’re on the train or waiting for an appointment? The iPad definitely has some amazing tools, and the list of apps above should definitely be explored by the aspiring muso, but asking it to do the job of a recording studio is probably not fair…not just yet anyway…


Ben is a former record label owner, BBC featured music producer and journalist from the UK. Check out his music business blog. You can also contact him about any writing opportunities, or to guest on his blog.

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