Mobile music creation on Apple's iOS devices

iOS9 — Don’t panic

Apple’s annual operating system update for mobiles devices has been released (iOS9) and as usual I advise caution. There should be no need for iOS musicians to forge ahead, especially given the problems of previous updates. Unless, like me, you have multiple iDevices and are willing to sacrifice the use of such.

iOS9 arrives

So yes, I have forged ahead on my iPad-mini2 and so far the results are rather ho-hum, as in no disasters. Some of the new features are nice, especially Picture-in-Picture and the typing keyboard now shows as lower case by default. The big new feature, split screen, is not available on any of my hardware and that’s okay since it’s not a feature that I need and can’t live without. Although I admit that it would be nice to have…on a regular size iPad though, not the mini.

Apple also announced their new phones of course, but the iPad Pro announcement was the one of greatest interest. The specifications for the iPad Pro are not quite Pro enough for most musicians from what I gather based on comments in forums blog posts. The Pro does look nice and big with enough room for both hands on a music keyboard, and it will have 4GB of memory which is twice as much as the iPad Air2 released last year. I am not sure what specs would be needed for others to accept this with the Pro title. It’s just a marketing gimmick anyway, but it did give people something to complain about.

The real item of interest to iOS music makers in iOS9 is the advent of Audio Units (AU) which will bring more flexibility in the use of multiple apps at the same time. Even though there are no AU hosts just yet, at least on developer has released an audio effect app that is supposedly AU ready. This technology was announced in June at the WWDC and has been a big mystery to us ever since. I’ve a hunch that Apple’s own Garage Band will be updated soon with the ability to host these AU’s. Until we have AU compatible apps or more information from Apple, it is still a big mystery as to how it will function, what apps will work, and what price will we have to pay for the advanced technology.

The iOS Audit Units should behave similar to AU on Mac which are basically the same as VST (Virtual Studio Technology) on PCs. These are also called plug-ins and that is an apt description since a host is required and other developers can create instruments and effects that are compatible with a number of hosts. These are started or plugged-in to the host as needed. We can already do some of this with our current iOS music apps, but it is quite limited. The hope is that AU will open up the music making capabilities of iDevices to a much larger degree.

As I type this in the Notability app, I have an embedded YouTube music video playing in the upper right hand corner, it blocks some of my text but that’s okay, I can move the PiP around the screen and/or resize it as needed. I’m really enjoying listening and watching in one eye (so to speak) as I do this other work. A real use for this is being able to watch some kind of app or software demo and take notes simultaneously. I see this feature as a real time saver.

In iOS9 there are some bothersome additions, especially the app permissions pop-up. When one app opens another, such as when using AudioBus to launch other apps, there is now a pop-up that must be okay’d in order to open the next app. This will get very tiring when going from app to app and can hurt the creative workflow. I’d like to see an option to be able to turn this off.

All-in-all the upgrade to iOS9 has been rather painless, but I still encourage others to wait a bit and let things settle before forging ahead. There will be an iOS 9.1 release with fixes for 9.0 and following a thorough test of that on this iPad-mini2, I will update my remaining iDevices.

New music

I have completed this year’s Halloween song and video and have decided to post it on October 1st. I’ve also finished another music video for a song on my next album; all of the songs are compete but half of them are awaiting mastering, once that task is complete it will be available for free streaming and for download on Bandcamp (

Be seeing you
–- Bourne 19Sep15

Comments on: "iOS9 — Don’t panic" (3)

  1. I don’t pretend to understand half of this stuff, tho I am fascinated by the technology and your ability to create in this new musical genre…however, I am a die-hard fan of ‘number 9’ so had to comment. ğŸ˜Ž

    Related to your device, I’m wondering if you’ve ever used the NOTION app for music score writing? It was a commercial featuring a composer creating a symphony while on tour using the app on his iPhone that got me to looking into the ‘regular’ NOTION score package for use on my computer.

    I love it as it is a cross between Finale and Sibaleus, at only the fraction of the cost of either.

    Anyway, keep on creating.

    • Excellent idea, and Notion is currently on sale in the AppStore…it is under consideration. As one who once used pen and paper to write music, I longed for such software but those desktop prices were out of reach. Not so on iOS.

      • I love hearing that you ‘once used pen and paper’ for scoring music! I found data entry of my hand scored pieces to be pretty easy and the plus with NOTION is that I got to explore all sorts of techie ways of scoring right on the computer. I know you’re either groaning or laughing good heartedly at my primitive techie skills, but all that to say it’s great for musicians at both ends of the techie knowledge scale…
        A brief overview application can be read on my blog, though it’s hardly written from a high level of technicality…I list it here for your perusal.

        I say: give it a go!


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