Apple iPad – killer music production tool?


So, Apple has announced the long awaited and expected big touch screen-thingie. A lot of people was hoping and thinking it would be a computer but from the looks of it it’s a huge iPod Touch. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

First of all, it’s not a computer. This means you don’t have a lot of USB or FireWire ports, probably not a very powerful processor or tons of RAM, and you won’t be able to install your Pro Tools HD system on it. This is not good because you won’t be able to take advantage of your favorite DAW and plug-ins, at least not directly.

On the other hand, we’re likely to see that it’s fast and quick to work with. I just can’t imagine the same loading and startup times as computers got considering that this is an iPhone/iPod Touch-like device.

But how can we benefit from it? Actually, there are quite a few cool apps out there already. On my iPhone I have a modular synth for instance. Imagine it being scaled to the size of the iPad! Or how about running something like the ProRemote app with it?

We’ve already seen quite a few plug-in developers making apps for the iPhone – latest in line is Spectrasonics – if the iPad is a big success we could see an explosion of cool apps that work standalone or integrates with our DAW’s. Again, imagine ProRemote expanded. It could end up being like using a Lemur without the price tag that comes with it – iPad is only $500. Or what about something like Novations Automap feature? (well, one that actually works as advertised)

Multi-touch is still a relatively unexplored area when it comes to music production and mixing, often narrowed down to soft keys. I’ve said this so many times I’m getting tired of typing it. We don’t need to get rid of our beloved faders and knobs, I want them too, but a multi-touch screen could be a great compliment.

There are already rants about the iPad being a closed product. I kind of agree with them, but using Apple products has always been a compromise. You get a closed world, but it’s a world that works – kinda. At least that’s my personal love-hate relationship with Apple.

Personally I don’t care that much about apps being locked to Appstore for instance – a lot of small developers are already there – but the lack of connection ports is a bigger deal.

What’s cool?

  • It’s not a computer. I won’t have to boot bloody OS X, launch Pro Tools, do this and that before I’m going. I expect it to be fast and instant.
  • The touch screen. If it’s anything like my iPhone, the quality of the touch screen is good.
  • The price. $500 isn’t bad in my opinion, especially not considering it’s an Apple product.
  • Tons of apps are already available and there are more coming every day.

What’s not?

  • It’s not a computer. Hoping for lots of connections? For apps as powerful as those on your MacPro? Don’t count on it.
  • Closed architecture.

Finally I’d like to say that I see great potential here, but it’s all up to the app developers. I recently did an interview with Jordan Rudess who, besides his work with Dream Theater, is an avid iPhone and multi-touch endorser. He sees a very bright future for music when it comes to multi-touch and it’s very hard not to feel that passion.

Oh, yeah. The iPad will no doubt replace my MacBook as a blogging computer too.


  1. ericdano says

    Exactly. It works as a perfect replacement for a laptop. I mean, 90% of people don’t do more than email/chat/web browsing on their laptops when away. Plus, some of the iPhone/iTouch music apps (or apps in general) are really functional. The demo of the iWork stuff was very cool. You could type a paper on this. Plus the art app? Can you imagine a Tenori type app for it?

    I dunno, I love it. All the nerd sites like gizmodo and Engadget are panning it. But then again, they did that to the original iPhone as well…..and we know how that is doing.

  2. says

    - No Multitasking. Only one application runs at a time according to official documentation.

    That is kind of an issue for me personally.

  3. says

    Man… this thing would make a KILLER ghetto time-code slate for shooting music videos. Take your audio track and make a quicktime video of it that’s just a full screen of timecode running; chop it up into verse, chorus, etc.

    Play it on the slate and bluetooth the audio out to your lip-synching sound system. Pre roll a bit, film a second or two with the slate in the shot, start the performance when the slate guy ducks out.

    If you can’t afford “real” time code on-set, you can quickly synch your video takes to the original audio this way, visually. You can do it on a laptop, but this thing’s a slate… perfect for ghetto time code.

  4. @ndy says

    A Joke? I guess a Bugatti is just a car, no more no less. I think the people who are disappointed in the iPad expected way to much. This is not a replacement for laptops, nor was it ever meant be. We will see who is laughing all the way to the bank. I can’t wait for the new apps to start rolling out. How about a surround panner app for HD that is equal in size and quality as the Icon’s? Ask any of the ladies out there, size does matter! How about a JP-8000 style ribbon controller or the obvious kaoss pad x-y controller? The possibilities are there, let’s see who steps up.

  5. phase90 says

    Hardly a joke. It’s just the beginning.

    Maybe we’ll see a stripped down, USB 3.0 version that interfaces with macs as a control surface. “iPad Control” or something like that…

    However this plays out, it’s going to get interesting.

  6. says

    It absolutely without a doubt ‘will’ be a valuable tool before too long. My concern is the average user who might not be happy with the initial release. I’d be bummed if Apple didn’t continually give it the big push.

    I’d say by ipad vs. 2 the thing will be rocking!

  7. says

    Multitasking needs to be addressed…

    Jobs has had some notable failures, but lately he’s been pretty good at figuring out what the public wants (before the public does). His last two major successes (iPod and iPhone) have changed the culture and created new industries to support them, and those new industries create feedback loops that move more of his hardware. Within one month of the iPhone release, every damn ad on cable was for iPhone knock-off. In that case, he completely revolutionized something that had been evolving at a crawl for decades. And who would have thought that phone apps would be a big new industry?

    Look at what percentage of people use their laptops for blogs, twitter, watching video and reading web sites vs. really “working”. First off, this will be the ultimate coffee-shop hang-out guy machine. If it’s instantaneous in launching things, so much the better. Doesn’t make me want one (but see my ghetto time-code post above… if my revenue from shooting goes up this year, it’ll be a no brainer for me – but that’s not really a “market”).

    This isn’t as “wow” an announcement as the iPhone… but when the iPod was released, plenty of tech writers wrote it off as another newton. Time will tell.

    (I have about seven macs and one PC. I’ve used ‘em all my prof. life, but I’m not one of those wait-in-line freaks and I personally don’t know any. Hell, I still don’t have an iPhone – or any other smart phone. I drop them too often to spend more than $30…)

  8. ericdano says

    The iPad doesn’t need to have a USB 3 port on it. The dock connector (the 30 pin thing that it and the iPod/iPhone share) can supply this. So, why couldn’t you have a mixing application that can work either over bluetooth/wifi and over the connector?

    Plus, a single page PDF reader? And maybe if the PDF reader had a hook for a blue tooth button you could use to flip pages? It could replace that expensive and lame Music reader screen thing.

  9. Ze Dark says

    Lack of connections…

    I see more than that, yes ‘touch’ is new to the generation of digital music. However despite the closed system, due to apples ‘control’.. I still see tons of connections. What about app’s that run on your MacBook/iMac/Pro Machines, that mac wireless and or bluetooth connections?

    As long as the system seeks to send and receive packets like any wireless signal does, then the potential to ‘sync’ to programs and apps are there but of course with varying GUI based on what would be capable on the iPad/iPod/iPhone.

    Anyways, why on a hand held device would you want to be ground by a cord, when the technology for wireless/remote control is 100% there..

    -Ze Dark

  10. Owensoundstudios says

    Imagine having several ipads running as controllers instead of procontrol or mackies… All nicely laid out beside eachother, pick them up and wander the studio with them, configure each on the fly to do everything from production to storyboarding videos and score sheets.

    The iPad will change computing the way laptops did.

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