Audiobus: Use your music apps together.

What is Audiobus?Audiobus is an award-winning music app for iPhone and iPad which lets you use your other music apps together. Chain effects on your favourite synth, run the output of apps or Audio Units into an app like GarageBand or Loopy, or select a different audio interface output for each app. Route MIDI between apps — drive a synth from a MIDI sequencer, or add an arpeggiator to your MIDI keyboard — or sync with your external MIDI gear. And control your entire setup from a MIDI controller.

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Audiobus is the app that makes the rest of your setup better.

Strategies for audio-only working

Whenever I try and work audio-only then it feels a whole lot more freeing. I get the feeling that Loopy Pro may be converting a lot of people to this way of working. The problem is that I still have the urge to keep an audit trail of things such as the MIDI, the apps used, the app settings/presets used. I don’t even really know 100% why.

I see a number of people on the forum who work mainly direct to audio and I feel envious. For people who work like this, do you record any kind of meta information with your projects, even if it is just via good old (electronic?) pen/paper?

If anyone has experience of real recording studios then do you know if the people working on a song would normally record a ton of detail about how a song was recorded? What would a professional music industry song creation audit trail look like?

We have a number of tools at our disposal to make this way of working easier than it might otherwise be - state saving in AUM/AB/Loopy and apps like the new MIDI Tape Recorder which can be used to try and record everything for posterity but managing this is not zero cost. Even going back to MIDI from audio is now much more of a possibility thanks to the advance of pitch detection apps.

I’m trying to find some kind of middle ground between having zero audit trail and trying to detail everything. Maybe I should start trying to use pen/paper to quickly note down production notes, or perhaps use the Session Notes AU for this.

I think it may be telling for me that my most productive app is StaffPad, where everything is stored within the project and you can do little else other than write music.

Comments

  • edited January 17

    I don't think it's worth obsessing over the idea of an audit trail or even keeping things editable. Make a decision, commit, move on. That way you're not going to spend too much time second-guessing yourself.

    The way I work, FWIW, is to keep two version of each project: the first is the recording/arranging stage, where I record the parts, and here I keep guitar amp plugins live, and synth tracks to MIDI, so that if need be I can come back and make changes. This stage is usually done in GarageBand or NS2 (or occasionally Gadget).

    Then I'll export all the stems to audio, import into Auria and mix from there. At this point all the effects and MIDI are printed to disk and I can concentrate on mixing rather than fiddling with the sound design or arrangement (which would have been finalised in the previous stage).

    I have the option to go back and make changes if necessary, but in practice I never do.

    Personally I think it's a good practice to commit and move on, and at the mix stage I like to just focus on mixing rather than tweaking the sounds.

  • I'm in the middle of trying to find some old samples from a project I did mostly on Digitakt, and I wish I'd saved them somewhere more obvious. Or saved them at all.

    Mostly I write my notes on paper, when using devices anyway. In a DAW, it's usually pretty easy to work out what's happening. I rarely come back to a project once it's done, so I'm happy to dump the source material unless it seem like it might be useful again in future. But with the Octatrack, say, I really need a record to just to remember what I did yesterday.

    Also, I like to keep to conventions--eg drums on track 1, bass on t2, chords on t3 etc. That also makes it way easier to work. Loopy Pro makes it easy to pick a color for a purpose. I use yellow for resampling, for example.

    As for midi vs audio, as soon as I have something I like, I record it to audio. Ableton is usually fine about not messing stuff up, but I've had projects in AUM that sound quite different whenI re-open them. Audio clips don't change.

    I'll usually keep the MIDI tracks around in the Daw though. I mean, why not? Just freeze the track and minimize it.

  • edited January 17

    Sometimes when experimenting straight to audio I record video of what I am doing. (Built in screen record on iOS and OBS on desktop). I have gone back and retraced some steps this way. Seeing exactly which preset I loaded and tweaked, that sort of thing.

    For Pros in the studio, not too long ago I was chatting with someone who was lamenting the fact that they could no longer work straight to audio (EDM, Dubsteppy type stuff) as once they hit a certain level everything for them now needed to be programmed/editable.

  • Audio-Only may work fine for those who rely heavily on pre-cooked audio content from Splice, Loopcloud etc..
    ...or don't mind re-recording or replaying after tweaking or changing the preset sound on the synth etc. etc.

    Why restrict the options to audio-only? It's not like we're back in the tape-ages or?!

    I've seen too many 'YouTube Producers' paste kick drum .wav files on a daw time-line and it's a f'king pita to replace the sounds afterwards. It may work fine for 8 bar loops which seems to be the 'goal' for all the 'produce sht music' videos on YouTube :sunglasses:

  • @Samu said:
    Audio-Only may work fine for those who rely heavily on pre-cooked audio content from Splice, Loopcloud etc..

    That's a bit dismissive. Anyone who plays an instrument records audio only. Guitar, piano, whatever. I record speech and chop that up to make melodies and so on. And anyone who uses a sampler like the Octatrack is working with audio.

    I agree on the impossibility of replacing samples later. I quickly put together a track based on a guitar recording into Voice Memos, via the iPhone's built-in mic. I spent hours re-recording the guitar part on a "better" setup, but ended up just using the tinny iPhone version.

  • @AudioGus said:
    For Pros in the studio, not too long ago I was chatting with someone who was lamenting the fact that they could no longer work straight to audio (EDM, Dubsteppy type stuff) as once they hit a certain level everything for them now needed to be programmed/editable.

    Yeah, when you're required to do 20 versions of the same track, having the MIDI is handy.

    @Samu said:
    I've seen too many 'YouTube Producers' paste kick drum .wav files on a daw time-line and it's a f'king pita to replace the sounds afterwards. It may work fine for 8 bar loops which seems to be the 'goal' for all the 'produce sht music' videos on YouTube :sunglasses:

    Pros do the pasting kicks on the timeline all the time. Especially when they don't have time. It's easy enough to remove if you share sessions.

  • edited January 17

    @mistercharlie said:

    @Samu said:
    Audio-Only may work fine for those who rely heavily on pre-cooked audio content from Splice, Loopcloud etc..

    That's a bit dismissive. Anyone who plays an instrument records audio only. Guitar, piano, whatever. I record speech and chop that up to make melodies and so on. And anyone who uses a sampler like the Octatrack is working with audio.

    That is why I added ...or don't mind re-recording.

    I do a fair bit of sampling of everyday objects but seldom play live ie. I record/sample the sequenced external devices.
    For me the few reasons to 'commit to audio' is when re-sampling, recording an external instrument and/or to save CPU resources.

    As long as I can record and keep the midi to control the instruments I'll prefer that over 'direct to audio'.
    If there's no option to use midi or sequence stuff then direct to audio is perfectly fine.

    But then I would really love to have the option to freely warp/stretch/pitch the recording to correct 'human errors'.

    I know a few guitarists who prefer to record the clean DI monitoring thru effects and do the rest in post.

    The most important though is to find a way that works for oneself, there is no right or wrong :sunglasses:

  • edited January 17

    @ocelot said:

    @AudioGus said:
    For Pros in the studio, not too long ago I was chatting with someone who was lamenting the fact that they could no longer work straight to audio (EDM, Dubsteppy type stuff) as once they hit a certain level everything for them now needed to be programmed/editable.

    Yeah, when you're required to do 20 versions of the same track, having the MIDI is handy.

    There is that but also in the case of doing work for picky clients on work for hire projects who want tweaks and changes.

  • @MisplacedDevelopment said:

    do you record any kind of meta information with your projects, even if it is just via good old (electronic?) pen/paper?
    If anyone has experience of real recording studios then do you know if the people working on a song would normally record a ton of detail about how a song was recorded? What would a professional music industry song creation audit trail look like?

    Pen/paper, tablet, phone, session notes...try to develop a process that works for you, and learn to adapt and be flexible when need be.
    Big-name pros have managers (and even shrinks) who 'manage' the artists, since they can be pretty unorganized at times. Gotta develop a process, just like pros develop their own brand.

    @AudioGus said:

    @ocelot said:

    @AudioGus said:
    For Pros in the studio, not too long ago I was chatting with someone who was lamenting the fact that they could no longer work straight to audio (EDM, Dubsteppy type stuff) as once they hit a certain level everything for them now needed to be programmed/editable.

    Yeah, when you're required to do 20 versions of the same track, having the MIDI is handy.

    There is that but also in the case of doing work for picky clients on work for hire projects who want tweaks and changes.

    Yeah, I had a contract that was 'done' last summer, but here I am still working on it 8 months later for less than McDonalds money.

  • I spent decades needing to have all the details recorded. Letting go of all of that was the key that unlocked things for me, but that is pretty specific to my particular circumstances. If I had a permanent studio space I would probably be working very differently. My current save-it-all-to-audio way of using iOS (and also hardware such as the Novation Circuit) has made it much easier for me to make music these days.

    I kind of have two music making modes; Messing about and focusing on a specific project.

    The messing about mode is the most important one and the one where I now commit to audio and move on. Without it I'd never have any projects to focus on.

    I have a little Zoom recorder that I can use to record loops from hardware boxes without having to muck about with recording into a DAW or specific app. It can work as an audio interface too, but it's often much easier to just record the audio and then dump it into a folder later via the built in card reader. It removes so many distractions and reduces the friction even further.

    Once I have an idea for a song I start to put it all together in Logic and then find it much easier to focus on that particular project.

    I think allowing myself to just jam, to just make noise is the most important factor. Saving anything that sounded interesting as audio as I went along is what took simple jams into finished tracks.

    If I feel the need to tweak or change something it’s usually really easy to record it again into Logic.

    Changing details is easy. Coming up with the ideas in the first place is the tricky bit. To stop being precious about the constituent parts was harder for me than it should have been.

    TLDR. if you’re stuck in a rut, try and deconstruct how you make music and try and find the bottleneck. A change in approach might work.

    And everybody has their own way of making music. If they’re enjoying themselves then they’re doing it right. Despite what anybody else thinks.

  • @Samu said:

    The most important though is to find a way that works for oneself, there is no right or wrong :sunglasses:

    ✌️

  • edited January 17

    Been learning a lot from Ken Lewis and his mixing night stream. Highly recommend if you want to learn about the workflow of a producer with a lot of experience in the music industry.

    I asked that question in different ways on his streams multiple times to him and he answered them well. Here's the conclusions I drew from the brief conversations.

    1. Producers produce, mixers mix, and masters master.

    What this means is that the producer will use whatever DAW/workflow works for them, effects, etc BUT whenever they need to send it to a mix engineer (Ken Lewis, in this case), it needs to be printed to audio, and they send a rough copy of what they want their mix to sound like.

    Ken does the legwork of digging through the AUDIO stems only, although there have been a few instances his production skills have been used (e.g. the horn arrangement on Kanye West's All of the Lights song)

    Working with audio means finding the right mix, and using effects to enhance the vision of the producer, scrubbing through vocals to try and enhance the lead vs the background. Ken then sends it off to someone to do the printing of the audio as he works on multiple projects on a daily basis. In my case, I do the audio printout myself.

    1. Print your stems to audio
      It's a lot easier to go back to a track if you print the audio stems. Your plugin and effects may no longer work but the audio prints stay as they were.

    For an iOS specific workflow, I like the following apps for audio

    1. Blocs Wave for storing loops that I get from different sources
    2. Koala sampler for storing drum kits, or using the sequence made in Blocs Wave
    3. Remix Live/Garageband Live Loops for working with the audio loops. Potentially Zenbeats, AUM, Loopy Pro, and Beatmaker 3 but I'm reviewing the apps.
    4. Cubasis 3 (also reviewing the application) or Garageband for mixing the audio stems.

    Hope this helps

  • Thanks everyone for responding, I really do enjoy hearing about how people work creatively.

    @richardyot said:
    I have the option to go back and make changes if necessary, but in practice I never do.

    This may be a key part in persuading myself to move away from trying to document the minutiae. I record a part with one synth and later on I think it might sound better using a different one. Is it really worth going back and re-recording, or would I be happier overall getting stuck in to producing some new music? We only get so many hours to create music in our lives.

    In my last project I had a couple of guitar parts that I had very quickly sketched out, intending on recording more cleanly later on. Once they were in the mix then I didn’t notice the minor mistakes anymore and so I was glad that I had not bothered recording them again.

    @mistercharlie said:
    Also, I like to keep to conventions--eg drums on track 1, bass on t2, chords on t3 etc. That also makes it way easier to work. Loopy Pro makes it easy to pick a color for a purpose. I use yellow for resampling, for example.

    I like this approach, a simple addition but one that adds some consistency to projects.

    I'll usually keep the MIDI tracks around in the Daw though. I mean, why not? Just freeze the track and minimize it.

    Yes, if it is cheap/free to keep the MIDI then sure. Certainly easier to keep all the project state together inside a DAW or groovbox type environment.

    I am hoping that MIDI Tape Recorder will be a big help as a low friction way of keeping an archive of a session when doing stuff in a more modular environment.

    @AudioGus + @ocelot thanks for the industry insight. I suspect if I were doing this for a living then it would make a lot more sense to keep a good audit trail.

    @Samu said:
    Why restrict the options to audio-only? It's not like we're back in the tape-ages or?!

    I find the closer I get to audio-only the more likely I am to keep things moving forward and not get stuck trying to find the perfect sound. I am also wondering whether this could be an unconscious reaction to how complex things can get on iOS (if you let them, and I do!) trying to set up all of the various plugins only to have something not quite work the way you want it to and giving up for the evening without making any actual music.

    Interestingly, if I’m (electronically) composing rather than performing the music then for me the resulting MIDI or StaffPad score then becomes the most valuable asset as that is not normally so easy to recreate from an audio representation.

    @klownshed said:
    Changing details is easy. Coming up with the ideas in the first place is the tricky bit. To stop being precious about the constituent parts was harder for me than it should have been.

    I always like to hear your opinion on this subject. Do you think your workflow is helped by the “sketching” part being in audio form and therefore your sketches are more likely to be developed further as they are in a form that can be consumed more easily later on? I like Gadget for churning out lots of little ideas but the problem is you need to have Gadget open to listen back to them and so I normally don’t bother returning to them.

    @seonnthaproducer Thanks man. Good point about the audio being independent of the software, makes it a bit more future proof! I’ve just started reading the Bob Katz book on mastering so I’m hoping to glean a few nuggets from that. I am keen to hear your take on Loopy Pro as it seems right up your street.

    I unexpectedly saw a couple of mentions of pen/paper for recording notes so I might give that a go for a while and see where it takes me. I am also going to try to stop recording “perfect take” MIDI and instead have MTR running in the background recording everything. The perfect take can happen as audio. As a preset abuser I am in some ways lucky in that I can at the most basic level record the name of the synth or FX and the preset name or number and that is really all I need to recreate the audio.

  • edited January 17

    @MisplacedDevelopment said:

    I always like to hear your opinion on this subject.

    Thank you. I mainly like talking about my process for my own benefit. I’m glad it’s also of interest to others too :-)

    Do you think your workflow is helped by the “sketching” part being in audio form and therefore your sketches are more likely to be developed further as they are in a form that can be consumed more easily later on? I like Gadget for churning out lots of little ideas but the problem is you need to have Gadget open to listen back to them and so I normally don’t bother returning to them.

    Exactly that.

    By getting the audio out of the initial app I’m free to use it in any other app without messing about with syncing or having projects that quickly become unwieldy on iOS.

    I use Blocs a fair bit as it’s so quick and distraction free and is a great way to listen back to sketches and put different loops together.

    So if I was messing around with gadget, I would export the stems when I feel like I’ve hit a wall and then recreate it in BlocsWave. This helps as it’s so much quicker to load and go though tons of projects quickly.

    I will then mess around with the BW project whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I forget ot for a while and one of the stems might just bring itself front and centre through the random buttons.

    The actual process is not that important. It’s the lack of friction for me and also the lack of distractions. I don’t follow the same process every time. Different things inspire a song. Sometimes it might be as simple as wanting to make something a bit like an old school electro song. Other times maybe its a lyric crying out to be vocoded that kicks starts it.

    If the project is in a daw, I tend to get lost messing around with mixing and messing with unimportant details or trying to add too much stuff.

    I like apps like AUM but I often find something I made say 18 months ago stops working for one reason or another. Exporting audio as I go stops that problem in its tracks and stops me worrying about syncing lots of apps and keeping the all working together.

    I liken the jamming in BlocsWave bit to working out a song on an acoustic guitar. You work out the bones then when you go to record it properly you’re more than half way there.

    It certainly beats staring at a blank Logic arrangement for me. A lot of the bits and pierces that start off a new song come from literally just messing about.

    Sorry for the long post. :-)

  • @Samu said:
    ... It may work fine for 8 bar loops which seems to be the 'goal' for all the 'produce sh*t music' videos on YouTube

    I like this Samu incarnation! 👍

  • edited January 18

    @MisplacedDevelopment said:
    I like Gadget for churning out lots of little ideas but the problem is you need to have Gadget open to >listen back to them and so I normally don’t bother returning to them.

    >

    I export all my tunes (from BM3, NS2, Gadget etc) in progress to Cubasis 3 which acts as a sort of index. This way I can also do a rough in progress master, compare lufs, group tracks into categories, color code them and also jot down notes in the Notepad, which is a cool Cubasis feature I wish more apps had.

  • This is a good and informative thread on workflows, and it’s been really interesting so far. Thanks everyone!

  • Not sure if this will help but I often make notes on paper, on blank tab sheets, in AUM, in Notability and in audioshare. Actually audioshare might be a good solution, you can easily make a folder for a track, then have the midi file/files, the audio files, and a text file with info all together. You can add a text based note if you tap the add folder button at the bottom, if gives the option to start new note. Then type in the empty black box.

  • edited January 18

    @richardyot said:
    I don't think it's worth obsessing over the idea of an audit trail or even keeping things editable. Make a decision, commit, move on. That way you're not going to spend too much time second-guessing yourself.

    I have the option to go back and make changes if necessary, but in practice I never do.

    Personally I think it's a good practice to commit and move on, and at the mix stage I like to just focus on mixing rather than tweaking the sounds.

    Exactly what @richardyot said 👍

    I work exclusively in NS2 but commit every single part to wav as soon as I’m happy with it (using the 80/20 rule to decide when “when I’m happy with it” actually is). I then trigger the wav in Slate/Obsidian/AudioLayer.

    Sometimes I keep the midi for that part for a while, but quite often I don’t and that’s deliberate so as to stop the urge of going back and tinkering ad-finitum. If the part no longer works further down the line then I just scrap it and create something new that does work. I don’t get precious about individual parts - it’s the whole song that counts at the end of the day to me and by doing this I’ve found it just improves the quality of my output (in my opinion 😁).

    Committing to something is a bit “old school” (a throw back to recording everything to tape) but I find it’s really liberating and just speeds up the overall workflow - both when writing and especially - as @richardyot says - at the mixing stage.

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