iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

In April, I got a third-generation iPad Air. I was most interested in GarageBand. Of course, I also used this application on an iPhone, but it was painful: even the XS Max screen for such a sequencer is still small.


How iPad Air changed my life in a month

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

Ilya Kichaev

May 24, 2019

My interest in GarageBand is not accidental: I am a sofa musician and once worked as a sound engineer. And this application is one of, it seems, the three “adult” mobile DAWs, in addition to Cubasis and FL Studio Mobile. Earlier, I even showed that I myself came up with GarageBand:

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A post shared by Ilia Kichaev (@iliakich) on May 9, 2019 at 5:03 am PDT

GarageBand has a very good set of built-in tools. In addition, here you can connect third-party musical instruments – both software and hardware.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletVictor Kucher. Photo: Alexey Bulgakov / Wylsacom Media

I looked at the iPad as a serious thing for musicians in April during a trip to St. Petersburg, where I managed to meet guitarist Viktor Kucher, who plays in the band Grizzly Knows No Remorse. He was called as a guitarist for our acquaintance with Ultimate Guitar and its products:


Longrid about Ultimate Guitar: Shots, hatred for Ed Sheeran and rock and roll

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

Wylsacom red

May 31, 2019

On the day of our acquaintance, we uploaded a lot of stories to our red Instagram account, where Vitya also got. Seeing this, one of our subscribers asked: “Could you tell me how to connect the guitar to the iPad?” This topic seemed interesting to me, but I decided to expand it a bit and generally learn how the musicians use the tablet.

Electric guitar or bass

We won’t go far. The first hero was the very Victor Kucher, with whom it all began. I invited him to our studio to show his staff.

Starting with a cup of coffee and discussing Foo Fighters’ favorite songs (Vit, I envy you for their concert) and our favorite music plugins, we moved to the set, where he uncovered his expensive Strat, made to order in Nashguitars, and iPad Pro (2017).

Vitya also took with him iRig HD 2, the very link between the tablet and the guitar. This is a portable audio card designed for guitarists and bassists who play devices with iOS and iPadOS. There is a version on Android, by the way.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletVictor Kucher. Photo: Alexey Bulgakov / Wylsacom Media

Technically, this is the whole kit needed to connect the guitar to the iPad. The guitar model does not matter at all. You will also need something through which you will listen to the guitar. In our case, these are small columns.

Vitya uses several different applications. Its permanent range on the iPad is:



BIAS Amp 2;

Ultimate Guitar



Each application has its own script.

GarageBand is used to record demos. This is a very cool mobile sequencer with wide functionality: you can record real instruments or soft synthesizers, register a drum part, or by pressing a single key select a finished part. And there are many built-in effects. Theoretically, GarageBand might be enough to record songs.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletVictor Kucher. Photo: Alexey Bulgakov / Wylsacom Media

From the point of view of creating the drums, humanity does not seem to have come up with anything more convenient. Of course, after the drum and physical drum pads themselves:

Somehow stuffed a crooked bit, GarageBand automatically arranged everything to the rhythm, corrected something somewhere – and you have a ready-made part!

Victor Kucher


You can tighten other software tools to GarageBand. Third-party synthesizers are recorded, however, as an audio file, without the possibility of editing.

Two other applications from Viti’s arsenal are BIAS FX and BIAS Amp 2 from Positive Grid. They are similar in functionality – both are associated with guitar and bass guitar stuff. The first application allows you to rummage through the entire chain of effects, and the second will give you the opportunity to fine-tune the amplifiers, starting from its tone, ending with the position of the microphone relative to the cabinet speaker and even the choice of lamps.

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iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet


iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

BIAS Amp 2

Vitya noted that he really likes how BIAS is designed from the point of view of the interface and that here you can dig into the “guts” of certain pedals by changing the components in them. This is especially true for some “muffs” where certain capacitors give a sound that is radically different from the previous version. Actually, these modifications are mainly fuzzy.

And here is an example of how Vitya plays on his “strata” by connecting to the iPad Pro (2017):

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A post shared by Victor Kucher (@victor_gknr) on Apr 22, 2019 at 1:18 pm PDT

Amplitude has similar functionality with both Positive Grid applications. This software is developed by IK Multimedia. But here’s the problem: BIAS simply has a better application, both in terms of design and in terms of sound.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletAmplitude

But here it is worth noting the contribution of IK Multimedia: it was this company that made iRig – interfaces for musicians, connected to iOS and Android devices.

In Ultimate Guitar, Victor recalls how certain songs are played.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletInterface Ultimate Guitar

Tonebridge is like BIAS FX and Amplitude, but only one pedal is responsible for the sound effect, combining several effects at once:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletTonbridge

You activate it, and the sound becomes similar to the one in your favorite songs. For example, you can easily recognize the sound of “stratum” in the Can’t Stop song of Red Hot Chili Peppers. It is exactly like him that you will make the sound of your guitar with the help of this preset in Tonebridge.

Acoustic instruments and vocals

The easiest way to record acoustic instruments is to buy USB microphones. For some reason, this bundle works better with the iPad Pro (2018). I guess the bottom line is that USB Type-C has better bandwidth than Lightning. Yes, and with the power of these “bugs” better – they even quietly start adult audio cards with phantom power!

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletBlue Yeti Nano connected to iPad Pro (2018). Photo: Alexander Pobyvanets / Wylsacom Media

But with my iPad Air 3, I could not easily hook up the Blue Yeti USB microphone: the connection constantly crashes, the ipad constantly stops recording and offers to turn on monitoring. But I don’t need it – I turned it off before recording, because listening is through the microphone itself, which acts as an audio card.

In general, on iPads with Lightning, working with a USB microphone is painful. And on the iPad Pro with USB Type-C – it’s nice, because everything works stably and clearly. The main thing here is to find either the right cable or adapter.

In the case of the iPad Pro (2018), I used this bundle:

Microphone Blue Yeti Nano;
Lightning to USB Type-C Adapter

All this works damn fast and pleasant: I launched the application, created a project, connected a microphone to the iPad, and headphones to it. Pointed to GarageBand the right tool and let’s record. In my case, this is an acoustic guitar:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletBlue Yeti Nano connected to iPad Pro (2018). Photo: Alexander Pobyvanets / Wylsacom Media

One of the nicest things about GarageBand is for those who have problems with the metronome. Many beginner musicians do not get into his click. There is a life hack: play under a beat packed by a drummer. The drum part in the Drummer instrument is created in just a couple of tapes:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

Didn’t like the sound? Change the “drummer” to another – a specialist in a particular genre:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletGarageband

Alas, no, under the extremely harsh genres of drummers, but you can find something worthy.

In principle, in the desktop sequencer, all this is done quite quickly: I started it, put the microphone in, connected it to the card, set up the gain, set the metronome, started the VSTi responsible for the drums, waited for it to load, selected the right rhythm or registered it in midi- your editor … Inspiration is gone. All.

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At the same time, I connected the microphone to the iPad, turned on GarageBand and quickly recorded my idea.

A similar bunch of iPad + Blue Yeti Nano, by the way, may well be used when recording vocals. The main thing is to choose a suitable microphone position on the stand:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletBlue Yeti Nano connected to iPad Pro (2018). Photo: Alexander Pobyvanets / Wylsacom Media

Blue Yeti Nano also has the convenience of all USB microphones when working with the iPad: you connect headphones to the Yeti Nano and hear not only what you are recording, but also the sound of the background. This is convenient: there is no delay at which the processor manages to somehow process the sound, and you can also easily navigate the structure of the song, since it plays it.

Our studio Yeti Nano, provided by the Russian division of Blue Microphones, was taken by Ilya Kazakov. He says the recording quality has grown in comparison with the first generation. By the way, it’s on Yeti Nano that Ilya now records all voice-over voice overs for videos on his channel:

I also got this microphone. Firstly, he looks good. Secondly, it copes with its task. And given that it costs nine thousand rubles and at the same time combines both a microphone and an audio card, this offer looks very nice.

In theory, the bundle iPad Pro (2018) + Blue Yeti Nano will be enough for recording some acoustic things, as well as for vocals and podcasts. And since the tablet can work with phantom power, you can connect several condenser microphones at once and record a small apartment. To be honest, for me the fact that the “firmware” is capable of serving phantom power turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.


This is the easiest part, since it has been known for a long time about connecting midi keyboards. Many musicians have been connecting through the Camera Connector Kit for many years and playing directly in GarageBand. Although there are many third-party synthesizers.

For example, I often use AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer – it is convenient and intuitive. And also on it you can steer almost any sound.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tablet

Of course, calling it the portable version of NI Massive will be loud – Native Instruments made the synthesizer too cool. However, Synth One is a very cool wave synthesizer. What is pleasant for a beginner, there are a lot of predefined presets, focusing on which you can make a cool sound.

And if for guitarists the choice of glands is very narrow and limited only to different versions of iRig, then keyboardists have a whole expanse: AKAI, IK Multimedia, CME, Korg, some Arturia, Nektar, and Roli.

The last keys are especially interesting to me. They connect to the iPad via Bluetooth. They have their own application. But the key in these keys is not this. The main thing is musical articulation:

The keys respond to pressing force, as well as to the movement of the fingers vertically and horizontally on the keyboard itself. Because of this, the sound takes on a new life and breath. In fact, Roli made a new tool, the progenitor of which was the midi-keyboard.

However, those who tried Roli unanimously say that playing on the device is very difficult. Even in one promo video, which seems to have already been deleted, the musician worked it out. But the difficulties are clear at first glance: the musician needs to immediately pay attention to a lot of factors. But how it all sounds!

But not everyone likes it. In a casual conversation, I learned that Arseny Petrov, known as Diamagnetic, is also a musician. He plays the keys, guitar and drums, and also sings. And he said that Roli is nonsense, but the hammer mechanism of his midi keyboard is it. True, to my question how to make vibrato on the hammers, he did not find the answer.

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However, Arseny has his own case. It also connects the M-Audio Oxygen 88 to the iPad Pro (2018). He says that with the advent of the tablet, he began to make music much more often.

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletArseny Diamagnetic Petrov at his midi-keyboard. Photo from the personal archive of a friend

The reason is simple: the keyboard is in the bedroom, and the macbook is in the office. At the same time, many wires are connected to the computer, which must be constantly disconnected, and then reconnected. But the iPad just picked it up, carried it to the bedroom, connected it – and let’s play GarageBand.

But if you need something simpler than Roli or just a keyboard for some reason is too small, then there is something for such discerning persons! For example, I look at iRig Keys I / O – it is both a midi-keyboard and an audio interface:

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletiRig Keys I / O. Source: IK Multimedia

There is a version of both 25 and 49 keys. Many controls, many settings, as well as a combined XLR-TS input where you can connect both a microphone and a guitar. Phantom power is. It works with any iPad and iPhone, because the keyboard can be connected to the network. On the one hand, unnecessary gestures are no longer such a compact option, but on the other, there is more opportunity to take a walk.

Thus, with the help of this thing, two people can play simultaneously in one iPad at once: a keyboard player and some other musician.

Damon Albarn recorded Gorillaz’s The Fall album entirely on the iPad. And that was more than eight years ago!

Listen to The Fall – Gorillaz on Yandex.Music

In 2019, the tablet became more convenient: many tools appeared, and GarageBand itself became a much more professional tool. The process of writing music on it is fun. And if GarageBand is not enough for you and you want something more serious, then you can turn to Cubasis – that’s where the truly adult sequencer is!

iPad as a tool: how musicians use an Apple tabletCubasis LE 2 Interface

Yes, the iPad still lacks many PC features. For example, I really want XLN Audio to make a mobile version of their XO drum machine. And for Native Instruments to pay attention to the mobile sector – it’s time already!

But the iPad is the music at your fingertips, where you need to appeal not with the mouse or trackpad. To someone, it will seem like useless garbage, but the idea with an iPad, in comparison with my experience in using it, has not changed: it is not about work, but about inspiration. Here I have an outdoor guitar processor. And while you select the desired preset on it, adjust the necessary parameters on the knobs, you will get to the point that you no longer want to invent anything. Or already forgot the idea that came to mind.

The guitarist Viktor Kucher agrees with me: the inspiration overtook you – you quickly connected everything to the iPad and started recording. When the song “arrived” completely, set everything up on the computer and produce the record, without being distracted by the pangs of creativity in the process of recording guitars – everything has already been invented, so you can think about how the track will sound, and not what to play in it.

Can I do without an iPad when making music? Sure. But it makes life a little easier. Someone stubbornly sees in it only a thing for viewing YouTube, but in reality, this is a cool tool. And with it, it’s very convenient to write music.

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Chief editor of the blogErika J. Wells .

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