It’s getting warm enough that a laptop (or a fan-happy desktop) is a nuisance do deal with, which together with an increased propensity to fall asleep on a couch means I’m back mostly using my iPad mini during weekends.
As it happens, I got myself more music gear (about which I’ll write in the fullness of time as first impressions make way for more factual takes), which means I spent a fair amount of time messing about with various setups.
My Musical Nirvana
Ideally, I’d like to have a non-desktop, minimal maintenance device to do all of my music dabbling in, with the ability to run a variety of software synths and sample libraries and, despite my constant messing about with Cubasis and other iOS DAWs like NanoStudio 2, preferably running Logic, because it is so much better than anything else on the Mac for my taste.
And yes, I’m obviously looking at you, Apple, because the current crop of M1-powered iPad Pros are ridiculously powerful (which, incidentally, is the actual tagline atop the Logic product page) and definitely more than able to run something better than GarageBand.
There is no shortage of people running Logic with hundreds of tracks on M1 Macs, so I am pretty sure a form of M1 iPad (perhaps less ludicrously priced) is in my future. Maybe even over Summer break if there is any hint of an improved iPad OS in WWDC, as for that I would even risk running a beta.
But right now, my iPad Mini 5 is perfectly capable of running a truckload of audio units simultaneously (including this week’s serendipitously free Moog emulations) and is only a bit lacking in the real estate department.
This because the screen, although otherwise fine for reading and writing, is a bit too crammed for music production, as it is hard to make out the tiny annotations near virtual synth knobs designed to be rendered in screens 1.5x larger.
So until Apple does something sensible with the iPad that makes it worthwhile to spent a significant percentage of my personal budget on new hardware, I’m patiently amassing tiny, insanely flexible synths and looking at ways of using my iPad mini as an external synth module.
This is the usual way to go about doing it, which is copiously documented and easy to find online (just search for “Audio MIDI Setup Network Session on iPad” or any variation of it).
I spent a little while playing with Audio MIDI Setup on Friday evening, and learned three things:
- Latency on a well-tended, interference-free 5GHz Wi-Fi network is a non-issue (just as I have never had any real issues with Bluetooth peripherals, wrapping MIDI on RTP and IP packets seems to work fine).
- Live routings from the Mac don’t seem to work without a DAW, unlike what I expected (I tried mapping one of my Mac’s USB MIDI controllers to the network session and it only worked when Logic was running).
- However, network sessions work quite seamlessly across iOS devices, especially if you’re using AUM to then route MIDI across various virtual synths.
And it was this last bit that led me further down a hitherto undiscovered rabbit hole that is likely to be much more useful: Using Bluetooth instead.
Turning Your iPad into a Bluetooth MIDI instrument
There are no end of Bluetooth MIDI applications that let your iPad become a MIDI controller (and, amusingly, some serious apps charge a premium for it), but what I’ve been looking for is a way to actually use all of those iOS virtual synths from my desktop.
As it turns out, AUM can advertise your iOS device as a Bluetooth Low Energy MIDI device.
To do so, launch AUM, go to
Settings, scroll down to
Bluetooth MIDI, tap
Peripheral, and then
Advertise MIDI Service–and presto, you can then connect to your iOS device from and use it as a MIDI instrument–including, obviously, other iOS devices, but in my case it was more useful to do so from the Mac.
Then just set up an external MIDI track in Logic, wire it up via an audio input, and record it as you would any external synthesizer.
In my view, using Bluetooth has the added advantage that you can have your iPad set to airplane mode and hence avoid any untoward interruptions from notifications, as well as extending battery life if you’re on the move.
Update: Yes, I know about IDAM and how to get a direct audio feed from a wired iOS device into Logic, but thought this was worth exploring nonetheless because I quite like the idea of networking MIDI devices wirelessly and only recording the audio later.
And that was it for this week. A tremendous amount of stuff has been going on, but these were the fun bits.
Next week, with a bit of luck, I’ll get back to writing about a few coding adventures I’ve been having (or at least ranting about the time I’ve been spending in meetings and not building stuff).