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 early 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!


The DIY iOS Musician: Studio Setup

So before I delve into my recording setup using an iPhone, one question I need to answer is “why”? 

Years ago I went from the exciting world of mini disc multi-tracks and terrible PC software (cakewalk)… it was awesome enough to nearly make me retire.  So… my wife convinced me that we needed to sink a crazy amount of money into a Power Mac G5 12 years ago because our PC was dying after 2 years… I sit down on a Mac for the first time and see an icon for a program called Garageband.  I open the app and everything changed…

So a decade later after taking a break (one of many “retirements”) I noticed that when I was recording guitars at high gain there was a slight hiss that no amount of noise gate or preset tinkering could take away.  It drove me crazy…  At that time we had just upgraded phones and I had picked up an iPhone 5c.  I noticed the iOS Garageband App and said “yeah right…”  The Power Mac (outmoded but working flawlessly like the day we bought it) now sits on its old desk in the basement collecting dust waiting for some one to need to use Photoshop.  Recording on iOS Garageband had won.

So I went through 2 studio variations.

Set up 1:

Not sure how things would work out I initially bought an IK Multimedia analog iRig.  Using the iRig with my phone was as simple as plugging it into the input jack and in Garagend select the mic line as an input.  The set up was not bad, using a noise gate from Amplitube FreeFullSizeRender 2 as an inter-app audio plug in to eliminate hiss in high gain playing I could use all of the presets in Garageband to write and record new songs.  What I found limiting was that my guitar cleans were always muddy and that it was a pain trying to play software synths using a small phone screen…  This set up lasted about half a year…

Set up 2: The current and evolving…

So it was clear that I could pull off a great recording using my phone.  Yes, Garageband 4 years ago was a little limited back then, but it was better than any stand alone multi-track and it had cleaner sound that my old Mac.  My biggest needs were to have better control over audio quality recorded into the phone and to be able to use a physical MIDI controller to play soft synths legitimately.  I upgraded my interface to an IK Multimedia iRig Pro and added some other things to the set up along the way 🙂

So here is the layout and an explanation will follow…IMG_0566.JPG

So, not everything is included  because I would have ran out of space (or I forgot until I was putting things away). 

Bottom left is an IK Multimedia Power Bridge, it charges my phone and powers the IK Multimedia iRig Pro Interface at the same time.  The iRig Pro acts as a hub.  My M-Audio keyboard controller is connected via a MIDI in cable, the mic and guitars are connected through a 1/4″ or xlr depending upon the application.  From there, the iRig Pro is connected to my iPhone through the Power Bridge.  My apps automatically recognize everything where drivers are non existent.  Lastly, through the headphone port of the iPhone, I run sound out to my KRK Rokit studio monitors.

So this is it, my rough set up laid out on the floor so one can visualize what is going on.  In later blogs I will be going over every piece of equipment and then some.  If you have any questions about what I have laid out please comment and let me know.  Thanks!

The DIY iOS Musician: Intro

Hey, I am Drew from Replicant Theory and thanks for taking the time to check out my first blog post!

This blog is about my adventures as a musician using iPhones for recording, Apps for sound and in general being very frugal and trying to do almost everything myself.  I will not only be talking about what I do, but reviewing products, explaining how things work, documenting my instrument rebuild projects and hopefully answering questions other people have. 

What I do is unique but not special.  I have noticed that other artists are shocked that I am not using Reaper, Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, Reason, or any software that costs an arm and a leg.  I am a believer that it is not the equipment that defines the quality of a recording and ones sound but how you use what you have.  There is the old saying that you can have a $5000 guitar and have it sound like garbage yet play a $100 guitar and it sounds better that anything you have ever heard. 

I encourage anyone curious to what the hell I am up to to ask away and I can talk about it in future blog posts.  I am happy to share anything I have learned and hope to inspire others to maybe look outside the box of convention from time to time…

Soooo….  Here are some of the basics.

Here is my recording device, an Apple iPhone 6s Plus (love the background)2017-07-29 09.52.19

Here is my main studio screen shot (page 1) for the main apps I use…

2017-07-26 11.08.03

So this is where is starts…  My next post will go over all of my interfaces, devices, instruments and gadgets on how I make my recordings.  I will have photos of everything and links to all of the developers and manufacturers.  Stay Tuned!