I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a very hip person. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been years behind the times when it comes to owning the newest and coolest technology. Now, for once in my life, I feel like I’m sort of up to speed! The thing? An Apple iPad.
It is an incredible tool that I find I’m using more than I thought I might. Checking email, making reminders, and organizing a calendar is made into an easy and fun task on an iPad. Not to mention all of the third party apps that allow you to do just about anything.
Here is a handful of some of the useful music applications I’ve found to be helpful in my ‘ukulele journey.
Obviously the heavy hitter in this roundup, GarageBand for the iPad is similar to what you would find on any Mac. The only difference is the simplified layout and lack of certain features. With iOS GB you can only record one track at a time with either the plain audio recorder or the guitar amp models. Audio quality is really good and as long as you have a good audio source, making the necessary overdubs shouldn’t be a problem. You are limited to a max of 8 simultaneous tracks and any space you need beyond that has to be achieved by merging two or more tracks together.
Editing is limited in the iOS version of GarageBand – all you can do is control volume and pan, along with delay and reverb levels. The lack of an EQ section is the biggest drawback I’ve found since most low budget recording doesn’t provide the best sound source. You can, however, export the files onto a Mac with GarageBand and do further editing there.
What iOS GB does best is integrate the software instruments and programming abilities of GarageBand with the touch screen interface. Say goodbye to “musical typing”. Now you can just play the virtual keyboard, drums, bass, and guitar to record your parts.
The Appogee JAM is the simple interface I’ve been using to get a 1/4″ signal into the iPad. It’s $100, but for another $50 you can buy the Alesis iOS dock that provides 1/4″ and XLR inputs along with various monitoring options.
I haven’t tried any other tuner apps outside of the poor one the GarageBand provides, but this one came highly recommended to me so I forked out for it.
Cleartune is as simple or complex a tuner as you need. It’s accurate and has a big giant display that would make it great for setting on the floor during a show. Cleartune has the ability to sense pitches from the built in iPad mic or to use an input signal from the headphone jack. The many options on Cleartune allow you to use special tuning presets to alter notes by a few cents. This can be used to consistently find “sweetend” tunings. To speak for the accuracy, I recently used Cleartune to set intonation on my Kamoa electric ‘ukulele. It was a breeze. I’ve never been able to see how clearly where the pitch of a string was before.
Many jazz players are probably familiar with the “Real Book.” It’s a songbook comprised of simple lead sheets that show the basic timing of chord changes and melody. The iOS version doesn’t show or allow editing of the melody, but for making chord charts it is great. By laying out the measures of chords in your song and identifying the different sections, iReal b creates a backing track at whatever tempo you like that plays back your chord changes with keys, guitar, bass, and drums. This is great for working out the lead part in a song or just to help you get the timing of a tricky chord change down. In addition to viewing the charts and playing them back on the iPad, you can export the charts to PDF for access elsewhere (I like to send them right to Dropbox).
Dropbox is a universal media storage site that lets users keep up to 2 gigabites of their content “in the cloud” for free (to get more than 2GB you have to buy space). You can access your content from any device that has an internet connection.
The Dropbox app for iPad lets you upload, download, and share files easily. Many music apps have an “open in Dropbox” option for sharing. This is a lifesaver since many times it is a challenge to move files out of your iPad.
Since I’m not a big fan of iTunes and their sometimes ridiculous pirating protection measures (I am against pirating, but iTunes goes overboard with their Fort Knox-like protected files, IMO), I’ve never bought any music that can be played in the iPad “iTunes.” Though not the best music player ever, Dropbox allows you to “favorite” – or save – files directly to your iPad via the Dropbox app. This means you can have music playable on your iPad without being a slave to the Apple empire.
The title says it all… Any ‘ukulele chord you could consider “basic” can be found in the Basicchords charts. Major, minor, 7th, diminished, 6th, suspended, etc… Plenty enough chords to keep me busy.
The layout is simple: pick a root note, chord type, and inversion, and Basicchords blows it up on a big virtual fretboard showing the frets, fingering, and note degrees. Pretty high tech seeing as I cut my teeth on a real chord book… You guys learning ‘ukulele in this era are spoiled rotten!
Free. Upgradable to remove ads.
Click, click, click. The tap of a metronome is many people’s worst nightmare, showing the honest truth of where your timing stands. As challenging as it can be, working with a metronome does wonders for your timing, so it should be used for what it is – a tool.
The Pro Metronome app has a very basic layout, but many options to help your practice. You start and stop the click with a big play button and change the tempo by turning a big virtual knob. That alone is enough to keep a musician busy for the rest of his or her life, but to make the app even more useful there are options that affect the time signature and feel, a way to change the sound of every beat so you can create accents, and with an in-app upgrade you can even have the app vibrate your iPad in time.
Free. More options available via in-app purchace
Finding new music can be hard. Pandora radio has exposed me to some new artists I had never heard of and some old songs that I had forgotten. A cool way to practice honing your ear is to play your favorite Pandora station and just jam along, figuring out the chords, melody, and riffs as you traverse a genre or two.
GarageBand does a lot of things really well, but misses several very key tools that are needed to fine tune a recording. DAW Multitrack steps in as a simple multitrack recorder with the raw audio editing options that GarageBand lacks. It doesn’t do sampling or software instruments, but it does have EQ, delay, reverb, and compression for each track as well as more detailed editing options like fades. The app handles 8 stereo audio tracks (expandable to 24 via in-app purchase) and can simultaneously record on all of them.
DAW is a bit harder to figure out than GarageBand, but there is a detailed help guide that walks you through each section and feature. It supports 24 bit/96.0kHz recording quality and is definitely quite an upgrade from GarageBand for pure recording capabilities.
$9.99 ($7.99 for the upgrade to 24 tracks)
There is a better full-on recording program for iPad called Aura, but it costs $40 and I haven’t had a chance to try it out. At a certain point you might as well put your money towards a setup based off of a computer since it is so much easier to edit and share files from a real OS.