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Music performance apps for the iPad

The iPad is a marvelous tool for musicians. There’s a huge quantity of apps for performers; unfortunately, they’re all mixed in with apps for playing music, so they can be hard to find. This is my personal list of favorite musical tools. These are the ones that I use often, once a day at least or more.

forScore by MSG Development. This app lets you display PDF files. I use it for holding the chord charts that we use in my church music group. It can access files stored in Dropbox and it lets you annotate those documents. For example, if we decide we need to use a capo on a song, I can write that on the chord chart and it will show up the next time I view it. In addition, it lets me resize and crop documents so that they’re easier to read.

AudioBus by A Tasty Pixel. This app is nothing short of miraculous. It lets you link together the audio inputs and outputs of other compliant apps into a seamless whole. See audiob.us for a list of the apps that support it (there are a ton of them). For example, I can set up a drum machine, a bass line, and a synthesizer as inputs, pipe it into an effects unit, and then route everything to a multi-track recorder for mastering. It was only released last November, and it’s been hugely popular since then. You can think of this as the cabling that lets you run multiple music apps simultaneously.

Auria by WaveMachine Labs, Inc. This is a 48-track studio-quality recording system. It’s Audiobus-compliant, to you can pipe the audio from other iOS apps into it. It’s truly an amazing app; when I was first in the studio (in the early 1980’s), a 48-track recording system would have easily cost $500,000 (in 1980’s dollars). Here it’s available for $50. (There’s also a “light edition”—Auria LE—that only costs half as much.) It doesn’t have all the sophisticated effects, etc., of Apple’s own Garageband, but in many ways it’s much more flexible and powerful. With Audiobus, you can add all the effects you need as part of the audio chain.

Animoog by Moog Music Inc. This is superb synthesizer built for the iPad from the grandfather of all synth companies. The user interface takes some getting used to, but you can create some wonderful tones with this.

Guitar Toolkit by Agile Partners. This app combines a tuner, chord reference, and metronome along with support for various guitars, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, and other string instruments.

There are a ton more of great apps out there, but these are the ones I most frequently use.

Glen Campbell
February 11, 2013