How to make music with an iPad and a ‘classic’ Swedish synth

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These two will make beautiful music together.
A perfect music-making combo.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

At first glance, the decade-old OP-1 synthesizer from Swedish musical instrument makers Teenage Engineering looks about as standalone as it gets.

The tiny device couples a short, piano-style keyboard with a screen. And it contains a drum machine, several synthesizers, a sampler, a handful of sequencers, a virtual four-track tape recorder and even an FM radio. You can create entire tracks on it with no other gear, or you can hook it up to electric guitars and microphones and bring the outside world in.

But it also pairs surprisingly well with an iPad. You can record audio back and forth, but things go much deeper than that. You also can use the OP-1’s hardware keyboard to play instruments on the iPad, and use iPad MIDI apps to control the synthesizers on the OP-1.

Making music with an iPad and a synth

If you own both pieces of gear already, hopefully this how-to will give you some new ideas about making music with an iPad. But if you only own an iPad, this in-depth article will provide tips for using your tablet with other music gear.

And if you know nothing about the OP-1, or about Teenage Engineering’s work in general, you’ll learn why the company is kind of the Apple of the synth world. Teenage Engineering is known for its incredible interface design — and for having a quirky personality similar to 1984-era Apple, when the brand-new Mac was making waves.

PolyPhase is like having Brian Eno in your iPad

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Who needs a whole band when you have PolyPhase?
Who needs a whole band when you have PolyPhase?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Instead of just firing up that ambient music playlists again today, why not try the PolyPhase app? It’s a “generative sequencer,” which is an accurate but uninteresting way of describing its purpose: to create great music, automatically.

PolyPhase is intended to be used as a creative tool. A music can manipulate its settings, and listen until she hears something worth saving and turning into a song. But the app is equally good as an ambient soundtrack generator. One that will never stop. Ever.

How to move your iOS GarageBand projects to the Mac

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This parking garage could totally have a band inside.
This parking garage could totally have a band inside.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

I can’t tell you how much I love GarageBand on the iPad. But even though it’s a fantastic app, and totally self-contained, sometimes you need to use a Mac. That’s because the iOS version lacks several features of the desktop version. But that’s OK, because the Mac can open iOS GarageBand projects easily. And today we’re going to see how to do it.

Best apps to download now for your new iPad

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Best apps for your new iPad
The iPad, home of some of the best apps in existence.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac Year in Review 2018The iPad can be so may different things. I use mine for reading, writing, making music, watching movies, and if I have any time to waste, I might play a game. The iPad is pretty much the ultimate creative tool, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sit back and “consume” the odd “content” every once in a while.

iPad Pro bug makes music apps stutter and crackle

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IPad Pro one week review
Musicians should stick to their old iPads for now.
Photo: Andrea Nepori

If you bought the new iPad Pro for making music, then you probably already discovered that it’s almost useless for the purpose. I just hope you didn’t sell your old iPad yet. The problem, which is so widespread that it probably affects all of the new 2018 iPad Pro models, causes the CPU to spike, and sound to crackle whenever you use more than a couple of music apps together.

Fortunately, a fix is apparently on the way.

Force Apple’s iOS apps to use Dropbox or any other storage

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Store your Pages and GarageBand files anywhere, not just in iCloud Drive.
Are you exposing sensitive data in the cloud?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

I have a friend who came back to the iPad with the iPad Pro, and the first thing he started whining about was that there’s no way to create a local folder in the Files app. He doesn’t want to store everything in iCloud. Which reminded me of this great feature. All of Apple’s big iOS Apps — Pages, GarageBand, Numbers, and so on — let you choose where they store their files. The default is iCloud Drive, but you can choose pretty much any place you like, from Dropbox, to your iPad itself, to pretty much any third-party storage app. Let’s see how it works.

Roli Songmaker Kit GarageBand Edition adds touch control to Mac

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Any Songmaker Kit can be turned into the GarageBand Edition.
Any Songmaker Kit can be turned into the GarageBand Edition.
Photo: Roli

Roli makes touch-sensitive controllers for music apps, and they come in Blocks, little modular units that can be snapped together via magnets to form bigger, better controllers. They’re kind of like Transformers for music. Now, Roli will now sell you a GarageBand-friendly version of its amazing Songmaker Kit, optimized for use with the Mac version of GarageBand.

But what if you already bought a Songmaker Kit? Should you return it and buy the new one? Nope. The hardware is exactly the same, all you need is a software update.

Today we’ll see what the Songmaker Kit GarageBand Edition can do, and find out how to update your own Blocks to use it.

How to rock out with a GarageBand Jam Session

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Pump up the jam.
Pump up the jam.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Let’s have a bit of weekend fun today. We’re going to jam out on GarageBand for iOS with our friends. Imagine it’s 20 years ago, and you and your friends all get together with your instruments, hook them up to a little four-track cassette recorder, and get to rocking out.

Returning back to 2018, you can do something similar. GarageBand’s Jam Session lets you connect up to four iPhones and iPads together, wirelessly, and jam. All four performances are recorded one of the devices, and everything is in sync. And of course you can use any instrument available in GarageBand. One of you can take care of beats, another can lay down a fat bassline, and so on.

Let’s get started.