Tech Know Special - Tablets

How to make music on an iPad, with Roots Manuva
Roots Manuva
When Gorillaz delivered ‘The Fall’, the band’s most recent album which was created almost entirely on an iPad, this elegantly showcased Apple’s plaything as a serious tool for making music and inspired many budding musicians or producers. Whether you aspire to be the next Damon Albarn or enjoy a bit of late-night tweaking, the possibilities are nigh-on limitless. A tablet is, of course, pricier than a guitar but combines the power of a laptop with the more tactile feel of an instrument - and it puts an entire studio into your hands. The iPad is far from the only gig in town yet has the best music-making apps, few of which are on Android, and most of them cost little more than a tenner.

Even with all this clever stuff on tap, just how easy is it to make a hit tune with one? To find out, Clash invited Rodney Smith, AKA Roots Manuva, Ninja Tune’s hip-hop heavyweight, to Air Studios in London - the choice of Laura Marling, Coldplay and Radiohead - to see if he could coax some magic from a blank iPad canvas. Having never used a tablet as a music-making tool before, Roots was starting from scratch with a tune in his head and curiosity urging his fingertips into action.

The Clash iPad was loaded with eight hot apps for him to work with: Everyday Looper (£3.99, iTunes) a simple tool for creating cool loops; Garage Band (£2.99, iTunes) Apple’s own music tool; Improvox (£2.49, iTunes) for vocal effects; Korg iElectribe (£13.99, iTunes) a versatile synthesiser and groovebox; Korg iMS-20 (£22.99, iTunes) a virtual analogue synth; Music Studio (£10.49, iTunes) a comprehensive studio suite; Rebirth for iPad (£10.49, iTunes) an emulator of three classic Roland instruments; and finally Studio Mini XL (£6.99, iTunes) a basic but pro-quality recording app.

The first challenge was to connect the instruments or, in this case, a mic to the iPad. There are many ways to do so but this tablet was placed in an Alesis iO Dock (£160), which instantly provides a bank of inputs and outputs. Left alone with all this digital bounty, Roots holed up in the studio control-room to master his new self-contained workstation. Peeking in every so often, Clash heard frantic D&B beats peppered with squelchy low-end rumbles and glimpsed our man hunched in furious concentration.

Listen to the track Roots Manuva made using the iPad apps for Clash.



Watch our video interview with Roots Manuva below.

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