The DIY iOS Musician: Playing Live

IMG_0559Listening to several podcasts about how electronic studio musicians transition their setups to play live can be fascinating.  Many of their stories talk about bringing their computers on stage and determining what they can pull off live and what becomes a backing track.  For many electronic musicians, it is easy playing a synth or two, but when you have many layers it becomes improbable to play them all live because one can’t have 5 people armed with keyboards to make it happen.  Many tracks will get sequenced or triggered.

What does the above have to do with using an iPhone to play music live?  Quite a bit when it comes to the focus of what one plays.  If you only play a single instrument, it is not that bad.  If you play multiple instruments things get fun quickly…  so here we go…

So, I record everything into Garageband as my DAW software.  Garageband includes a img_0611crazy amount of virtual and plug in instruments.  I typically only use the drum pads for making drum beats.  All of my other instruments come from separate Apps.  There are a few concepts I have to throw out to make all of this make sense…  iOS software allows for inter-app audio (IAA) which means that apps can communicate with each other like you were plugging the cable from your keyboard into your guitar processor and then running it out to a power amp.  The other concept that is important is background audio mode which means that you can have one app running in the background while you have a 2nd one open on your screen.

So what does the above jargon mean?!?  For me it has meant that I can switch hit playing multiple instruments live at the same time through 1 iPhone…  Cool, EH?  So on stage, I can have my guitar app (Positive Grid’s Jam Up PRO) running in the back ground while I am playing a synth (Ice Gear’s Cassini Synth or RedShrike) at the same time.  I can literally be playing with both apps running at the same time.  It is super awesome and I have no idea how I figured out how to do it…

My live set up is nearly the same as my studio set up.  First of all, when I need to play keys and guitar at the same time or alternating with in a song, I needed a stand to hold my gear and protect it.  I literately made my stand from a cheap saw horse table and some scrap2016-11-26 08.22.32 wood I had laying around in the basement.  I put in tons of holes to route cables in, out and around.  I power my phone and iRig PRO interface with the IK Multimedia Power Bridge.  My M-Audio Controller plugs into the iRig Pro and my guitar plugs into the iRig Pro as well.  The iRig plugs into the phone and I line out into my PA.  I will generally have the guitar app running in the background and have the synth app running in the foreground so I can change parameters as I go. 

So the next question arises, if you are playing guitar through an app, how do you change your presets?  Unless you play only clean or distorted, how do you switch back and forth with out opening the app while playing and hitting the virtual button to do it?  Simple, there are several Bluetooth MIDI foot-switches on the market that allow you to change parameters…  img_0615I personally use the IK Multimedia BlueBoard and an M-Audio expression pedal.  The Blueboard has an iOS app that allows it to assign MIDI values to your apps.  Most music apps then have the option to be controlled via MIDI so you can set the parameters of each foot pedal to either switch banks, turn on or off and effect or control a wah-wah pedal.  The most important thing is to decide which apps you want to have MIDI controlled.  If you don’t, you could be affecting both the guitars or synths at the same time which would cause serious problems.  To prevent this, go into the settings and either turn on or off MIDI control and the problem is solved.  

So what do you think?  Cool, crazy or way to elaborate?  I can tell you that the set up itself is cheaper than buying 1 decent synthesizer or mid to high end effects pedal…  

Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any of your own stories in the comments below.  I would love to hear how others are making it happen out there!


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