At less than a year old, the iPad has already become a major player in the electronic music scene with its impressive music production apps. Alternative band Gorillaz recently released a free digital 15-track album made completely with an iPad. With intuitive apps from big names like Korg, Akai, Line 6 and even Moog, it’s no wonder why more and more music makers are taking interest.
- Akai SynthStation49 - With the introduction of iOS 4.2 on the iPad, Apple allowed support for MIDI keyboards using the USB iPad camera connector. I’ve successfully tried this out with a midi keyboard but had a hard time finding a place to put my iPad. Akai solved this issue with the SynthStation49 (bigger brother of SynthStation25 for the iPhone) by adding a dock that charges the iPad while you play. It also features velocity sensitive drum pads and keys, as well as a modulation wheel.
- Korg iMS-20 - One thing I’ve noticed about music apps on the iPad is that the interfaces don’t seem to change too much when they’re based on original hardware. The apps usually try to replicate the hardware that the app is trying to emulate, and this holds true with the Korg iMS-20, right down to the yellow patch cords. With the recent update adding midi support, you can now connect a midi keyboard like the SynthStation49 above. When you’re all done creating a song you can even upload it directly to SoundCloud.
- OMGuitar - Music instrument apps on the iPad usually sound pretty flat and expressionless. However, OMGuitar produces some pretty realistic guitar sounds that have some dimension. The app also has an interesting ergonomic way of playing the iPad like an actual guitar. It may look a little silly at first but if you’re going to play a guitar on a touch screen, it’s hard to imagine playing it any other way.
- Tascam Portastudio - If you’re a DIY musician like I am, you might be familiar with the original cassette multitrack recorder that Tascam based this iPad version on. Portastudio’s nostalgic interface even features a virtual cassette tape. The app is pretty bare bones next to some of the others on our list, but it definitely allows for an easier learning curve if you’re familiar with an old school 4-track recorder, since everything in the app emulates its physical counterpart (knobs, buttons and sliders act as they would in real life). Even if you don’t know your way around a multitrack recorder, Portastudio’s simple interface could be a nice starting point for beginning DIY musicians who want to learn some recording basics.
- Korg iElectribe - I own the Korg Electribe ESX-1 that the iElectribe for the iPad was modeled after, so this was one of the very first apps I downloaded on my iPad. Right now the app is on sale for $10 (normally $20), which is pretty amazing since I spent $500 on the actual hardware version. iElectribe has a simple 16-step sequencer and with the update to 1.1, you can now record live sessions and export it to your computer. Out of all the apps on our list, I’d recommend this one for people starting out in music production.