Monday, July 11, 2011

FL Studio Mobile Review

FL Studio proper is pretty much my favorite PC audio production suite. I use it almost daily and have been using it for years. I was super excited when Image-Line announced FL Studio Mobile for iOS and have been working with it for a few weeks now. Jump over to to see my impressions and for a few tips and tricks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beatmaker 2 Review - A Challenger Appears

Hey everyone! I am working with a new group of bloggers over at and I just posted a review of Beatmaker II for iOS over there. Let me know what you think of the new site!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Future DJ, Primitive Review

It's alright for $1.99
 I stumbled across this new entry into the iOS DJ game and it is coming at it from a new angle so I thought I would give it a once over. Turns out it really isn't that bad, but is missing one key feature. This seems to sort of be the way all iOS music apps are. They all do a lot right but it is tiny omissions that make them relatively useless for real world application. Anyway, if you want a spoiler, this one is missing timestretching and only allows you to pitch tracks to beatmatch them. Other than that it is pretty intuitive and simple.

This app features stacked waveforms which I really think is the way to go. It can most closely be compared to Touch DJ, one of my previous faves. But Touch DJ edges Future DJ out due to some key features. However since Future DJ is coming in at just $1.99 as compared to Touch DJ's $9.99 it may fit someone's budget and deliver similar experience.

Looks kinda familiar,
but does it beatmatch Journey?
Importing tracks from the iTunes library was painless and the tracks even start playing during the first-time-only waveform analysis the app performs. This allows you to immediately play a track without waiting for the BPM analysis. Scratching and seeking on the waveform worked well and the looping system is actually really cool for quick loops and doing progressive stutter looping and getting out quick and on beat. The app seems to track dance music beats pretty well and even held up well under some older tracks that weren't necessarily synced to a beat. It also has the requisite split headphone option which is a must for any real beatmatching, looping or matching. It has some simple effects, delay and beatjump and allows a cue point. Still, all pretty elementary

The coolest feature this app offers is one I haven't even tried since I don't have the required iPhone4 or iPad2. It is called "Motion Playing" and basically allows you to put the iDevice on a real turntable and manipulate the platter to seek and scratch within a track. Pretty gimmicky, but no one else has done it so cheers to the Devs at Xylio, you get an A for creativity.

Just like just about every other iOS DJ app, this isn't going to replace Serato or Traktor yet, but maybe with iPad 2 we will see some DJ apps that push limits and deliver a full DJ experience...

Ok, probably not...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh Crap... GarageBand for iPad...

It sorta sounds like this looks.
A week ago, I was really excited about this. Like really excited. Now I am so bummed out I can barely write this. GarageBand for iPad is out... and it sucks. Don't get me wrong, there are some really cool things going on here, but the lack of a piano roll or any way of editing programmed tracks pretty much renders it useless. This seems to be a very common complaint, but I am sorry, it must be said again. How apple could let this thing go without this very critical functionality I am not sure, but it takes a potential game changing app and makes it a toy.

Like this only worse.
The smart instruments are a great idea. The training wheels that they have built in to GB are really useful for songwriting. However, none of that matters because no matter what you do with these things, the recordings are set in stone and cannot be manipulated post recording. On the flipside, these smart instruments are going to introduce us to a whole generation of Owl City wannabees with synth guitars that sound like banjos.

You may as well just get one of
these and play the demo tracks.
Another major flaw is that for some reason everything sort of ends up sounding the same. Like a demo track on a Yamaha keyboard with built in speakers that was purchased at Service Merchandise in the 80s. Or the theme song to "My So Called Life". Or like a band of dudes that all work at Guitar Center. The inability to edit anything locks this horrible aftertaste in and doesn't allow its manipulation to remove the funk.

I wish I could like this thing. I really do, but I don't. It has nothing on Nanostudio or even iSequence or Xenon. I will just have to sit back and wait for FL Studio Mobile. Maybe that will surprise me in the other direction... Until then, here is the best this thing could hope to sound like.


Update: I decided to give GB another try. I have a remix to do for La Chansons and I thought I would give it the wonky flavor only GB could provide. I hadn't even tried to import audio into this pOS but naively assumed it would be possible. As most of you probably know, it isn't. Well, it is, if you want to spend an hour renaming files and tricking iTunes into letting you import aiff files, but I didn't want to. Strike 18 GB... I think you are totally out...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Holy Crap! GarageBand for iPad!

Audio and Sequences together at last
Apple hit the iPad music community with a huge surprise announcement of GarageBand for iPadyesterday and I can't believe how excited I am, especially considering it is GarageBand. For some reason, I have never taken GB very seriously. Some of my friends use it as their main sequencer and it always kind of made me chuckle. This really isn't warranted since I use FL Studio as my main sequencer and it used to be called Fruity Loops. There is just something about the fact that it is included with every mac that made me never take it seriously. However, my friends swear by it. Ryan who runs kindercore with me used it for his band The Buddy System and that shit was great.

When you start looking at everything this app is going to have, it gets really exciting. The timeline appears to allow both audio and sequencing which is something no other iPad app can do yet unless you count beatmaker 2 which I don't because it is really sampling and not proper multitracking. It also has drumpads, controllable synths, and all the other stuff the fans of GB are always claiming are awesome.

This looks stupid, but it is built in to
the app!!
This is why I have always thought
Garage Band was lame.

Synth Controls - thank you Apple

Not pretty, but it probably works.

So basically, I am sold, however it looks like it is only going to be available for the iPad 2. I am not sure about this, but that seems to be the scuttlebut. If that is the case I am totally bummed because this is the only reason I can see for getting the new iPad. However, a year ago I was all like "I don't need an iPad, it is just a big iPhone". Now I can't live without it and take it with me almost everywhere I go.

Anyway, if someone can verify this app is iPad 2 only so I can get really sad that would be great. 

UPDATE: It looks like there is hope!!! A few sources, including a tweet by Danny Patterson (@Coupler), claim confirmation that the Garage Band may work on the original iPad. 

FL Studio Mobile on the Way!!!

I have been waiting for an announcement from Image Line (FL Studio's Publisher) concerning and iOS version since the day the iPhone was announced. I have been using FL Studio from day one (back when it was still called Fruity Loops) and I have been longing for my favorite step sequencer and synths to pop up on the iPad. Last week my hopes were answered and I have to admit, I am a little worried it won't live up to my huge expectations.

Maybe this is gonna be
better than I think.
According to a post on KVR, JMC, one of the main voices behind FL Studio stated: "FL Studio Mobile was indeed developed in collaboration with Xewton". This is VERY disappointing. I am not a huge fan of Xewton to begin with and it looks as though FLMobile may just be a reskinned verion of Xewton with additions as follows:

- a step sequencer
- drumpads for the drumkits
- Image-Line (sample, synth & drum) content
- an export module to allow import in FL Studio
- a new UI

While I am REALLY excited about the step sequencer and the ability to go out to FL Studio I was really hoping for the workflow I have been addicted to in FL Studio. In addition JMC went on to say "All instruments (including our synths) are sampled". Samples are all right for some stuff, but I was really hoping for some deep synthesis options like in Nanostudio. The only things I am really miss in Nano are the step sequencer and an arpeggiator. It looks like there is not going to be one complete solution to all my needs any time soon.

Don't get me wrong, I will be the first in line to get FL Mobile as it will still likely prove to be a powerhouse for drum programming and sequencing. I was just really hoping for them to just port an early version of Fruity Loops over to the iPad with some touch controls. I made my first three albums using Fruity back when it was in versions 3-4. I bet the iPad could totally handle that type of processor load. It would be amzing to see 3XOsc or Wasp or (god willing) Sytrus make it over to the iOS version some day. I still feel limited by what the iPad can do and almost always end up finishing tracks up on the PC. I would love to knock out a track on the iPad and be done with it. FL Mobile could be the key to making this happen if they bring over some of the legacy functionality of its big brother.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

iPad Live

Download it for free
I had a show this past weekend in Minneapolis with my band Ruby Isle. We just released a cover to cover electronic remake of Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction which you can download here. Alot of it was actually done on the iPad using Nanostudio. We had to pull it from iTunes thanks to some legal bullshit so we are giving it away.

Anyway, back to the story, I am in Georgia and I fly up to Minneapolis all the time to play shows. In the past I have taken several different keyboards in addition to some midi gear for my performance. Every time I have flown up there something has been broken in transit. Last time it was a brand new Korg R3 that was amazing but now no longer works as the knob stems were all pushed in and the board broke. I packed everything in a very secure kevlar reinforced suitcase but when homeland security inevitably opened my bags to examine everything they ignored my careful packing and ended up damaging my gear. Not to mention this system required me to check a bag and pay additional fees.

Blurrycam of the setup. I forgot to take
pictures. Luckily Mallman didn't.
This time I decided I was going to drastically cut down on my gear load and eliminate the potential for damage and the need to check a bag. The key to the plan was, of course, my iPad. My setup for this show consisted of my iPad, the Line 6 Midi Mobilizer a Roland SPD-6 drum pad and an Electroharmonix Iron Lung Vocoder pedal. Anyone who has seen any of my bands knows I am vocoder obsessed and this was a crucial part of the setup. the entire rig fit in a little 14" x 14" kevlar reinforced roller bag I got for free when I bought the big useless one I mentioned earlier.

I have several requirements for any setup I use live in Ruby Isle.
  1. It must have a keyboard - I used the soft keys on Nanostudio and Bebot for this.
  2. I need drum pads that trigger samples of my design - The SPD-6 was used for this with the Line 6 Midi Mobilizer to trigger samples in Nanostudio.
  3. I am so happy I
    didn't have to bring a keyboard!
  4. It must have a vocoder with pre-programmed loops for the carrier so I don't have to worry about actually playing the parts live. This allows me to jump up and down and breakdance and do all the normal stuff that makes a good live show. - This was the fun part. I split the signal from the ipad into left and right channels. One went to the room and carried all they keyboards and samples I was playing. The other channel went into the vocoder as the carrier. Since Nanostudio now has channel panning in the mixer I was able to pan each signal to the appropriate channel. It worked like a charm!!!
Things went great, the buttons on the TRG-16 of Nanostudio were great to trigger samples. When the keys were set to medium I was able to play every part I needed to with the double keyboard. Bebot was great for solos when the custom key function was used. Basically, it was a total success. My next goal is to figure out a good way to set the gear up. There are a lot of cables in this setup and it got pretty messy.