Amped columnist Michael Elsner discusses how iOS recording has revolutionised the way he works when he is on the road, and compares the prices of mobile to recording to the days of four-track tape recorders.
I remember back when I was 16, I saved for months and months to buy a Tascam 4-track recorder. At the time it cost me $600. This was one of the old cassette units, and I was so ecstatic to finally have a device where I could overdub multiple layers of guitars. Talk about opening a world of creative opportunities!! I'd come home from school and sit with my guitar and 4-track for hours. I did this for years, and to this day, I still have a box full of all my old 4-track tapes.
However, once I could record myself, I had to figure out how to get good guitar sounds. I went out and bought a Shure SM57 because this was the microphone I always read about in the guitar magazines. Even with my new signal chain, the amp I was recording wasn't much to speak of, so those initial guitar tones sounded more like nails on a chalkboard.
I quickly realized that you can't record a song without decent drums, so the next piece of gear that I needed was a drum machine. So $400 later I had a new Boss drum machine. By the time I had a decent recording system, I was already invested well over $1000, and it still sounded like amateur hour. Now I was finally on my way to writing and recording songs with actual drum grooves, along with the freedom and ability to overdub multiple tracks.
Things sure have come a long way in audio production since those days. The power and flexibility we have these days with simple, low priced mobile recording apps is light years beyond the entry level gear I started with.
One company that has developed some incredible music production apps is Sonoma Wireworks. I have 3 of their apps on my iPhone, and I absolutely love them. Their flagship product FourTrack, their drum programming app InstantDrummer, and one of my favorite combinations for mobile recording, GuitarTone with GuitarJack. For me, these apps make up the ideal mobile recording system.
FourTrack is precisely what the name implies. It's a four track recording app for only $4.99 (USD) that not only allows 4 tracks of CD quality 16-bit, 44.1 kHz audio recording, but also allows you to mix down and sweeten those tracks with compression and 4-band parametric EQ. Bouncing tracks is another feature of FourTrack as well as the ability to export and import audio files. One particular aspect that I love about this app is that the interface and layout is very intuitive, which allows you to focus on creating instead of navigating.
Now, if you want to record with your iPad, they have a larger version of FourTrack called StudioTrack for $9.99 (USD). StudioTrack is their 8 track version with a few extra features including effects on every track such as delay, EQ and compression.