The democratization of content production has steadily resulted in independent bands and artists, other than large studios, using DAWs in different stages of the content creation process. Music composition, live band playing, at-home and self recording are some examples that have really been made easier because of this.
With technology, DAWs have been brought on mobile devices in one way or another. In case of REAPER, despite its capability of setting up a web remote controller using local WiFi, it has no standalone app for consumer level mobile devices. So if you need production and recording software for laying out your ideas and you only have your trusty iPad with you, what do you do? Well, there are a few options available, let’s take a look at them one by one.
Because of its ease of use, GarageBand has been a staple for mobile recording with iPads and iPhones since quite some time. There are a lot of tutorials on how to record a song using only your iPhone or iPad, and it’s a great music exploration app aimed mostly at musicians.
One could say that the biggest advantage of GarageBand is the ability to port your projects to Logic Pro. However, for REAPER users this feature is not as compelling since you’d need to export each track and re import it from REAPER either way. Still, GarageBand supports lossless audio exporting.
You can create up to 32 tracks including audio or MIDI tracks. If you want to create a loop, you can use the Step sequencer, but in order to put it in the timeline, you need to record it post creation. One of Garageband’s most attractive features is the wide variety of virtual instruments available for basically anything you can think of (piano, synths, guitar, strings and drums). You can also add more instruments such as EZdrummer or Addictive Drums. Among the selection of effects, you can find a simple EQ, gate, compressor, a few reverbs, delays and even guitar amp emulations.
The UI is really good, largely aimed at people that just want to start getting some ideas out real quick. It seems to me that Apple struck a really great balance between functionality and ease of use, however if you’re a seasoned music producer you may find it quite limiting after a while.
BandLab has been getting some traction as a great tool for musicians who like to write and develop their ideas on the go. It’s available for free on iPad, iPhone and Android devices, as well as every web browser, making it extremely handy for anyone in any situation.
The mobile version supports up to 16 tracks, including audio recording using your iPad’s built-in microphone or a portable audio interface for connecting guitar or bass, as well as Virtual instrument tracks to record a MIDI performance.
To import Samples, connect to the online sound library where you can find oneshots and loops separated by genre, tempo, key, etc. Once you select the audio sample, Bandlab will download it and place it in a new track. Loopers integrate different loops of various instruments and allow you to enable each loop at will, creating full soundscapes with just a few touches.
BandLab supports automation, editing, and even audio effects for processing. I think they nailed the user experience, making this app nice and simple for everyone. I have a few musician friends that use it constantly because of its versatility and convenience. It’s definitely worth a try.
First, you should know that Cubasis is a paid app unlike the other suggestions in this article. However, it’s also much more powerful and reminiscent of a DAW since it’s aimed at producers and audio engineers rather than musicians. In addition to iPads, it is also available for Android devices.
Cubasis supports unlimited audio and MIDI tracks where you can load diverse virtual instruments, samples, loops and even record with effects. You can use different input methods depending on your preference, be it full keyboard or preassigned pads, and even using an interface for up to simultaneous 24 channel multitrack recording.
The editing workflow is quite advanced and comfortable, including moving, cutting, quantizing, and even time stretching. The mixer is fully functional and resizable. It supports automation, full paragraphic EQ, compressors, reverb, delays, as well as complex routing like send effects and even side-chaining.
If you’re not inclined to buy the full app right from the get go, you can try the DAW using the free ‘lite’ version, Cubasis LE. It gives you 30 minutes of testing with a maximum of 4 audio tracks and 4 MIDI tracks, as well as some other limitations. However, for the price I must say I’m impressed, this is a very powerful inexpensive entry DAW or complementary tool for many producers and podcasters out there.
The tools are getting better and better each year, and the smaller devices are getting much more powerful. I wouldn’t be surprised to see studios or bands creating full song recordings on an iPad with a small interface, I hope REAPER hops on that train soon. In the meantime, take a look at these tools and play around with them, all of them support export in WAV format if you need to move your tracks to your main recording system running REAPER. Happy producing!