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.

Stark is a new kind of guitar amp for iPad

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Stark looks as good as it sounds.
Stark looks as good as it sounds.
Photo: Klevgrand

A new music app release from Klevgrand is always something to get excited about. And a new guitar amp simulation app? Almost as rare as an in-the-wild sighting of an AirPower mat. Combine both, at an introductory price of just $10, and you have a pretty special day. The app is called Stark, and it’s also the first Audio Unit amp sim for iOS.

FretBud is the simplest, most useful guitar-scales app ever

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Fretbud is super-simple, and that’s what makes it so useful.
FretBud is super-simple, and that’s what makes it so useful.
Photo: FretBud

If you’re learning to play the guitar, then you will constantly be looking up two things: Scales and chords. After you get a bit further into it, you’ll add arpeggios to that list. And you will keep referencing them for years, becasue there are a zillion way to play each chord, scale, or arpeggio on the guitar. And here’s the problem. Reference materials for these three essentials are a pain to use. Either you spend more time clicking around an app than you do practicing, or you have to keep a ton of PDFs around, and try to keep those organized. Now, though, a super simple (maybe too-simple) app finally ge ts it right. It’s called Fretbud, and I love it.

Fender Bluetooth speaker looks like a 1950s tweed-covered guitar amp

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Fender Tweed Monterey
This, believe it or not, is a Bluetooth speaker.
Photo: Fender

This is Fender’s new Tweed Monterey. No, it’s not a tweed-covered guitar amp from the 1950s, although it certainly looks just like one. It is, in fact, the sweetest-looking Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen. It might not be the most practical, most portable or even best sounding Bluetooth speaker around. But if you want people to think you play guitar, this is the perfect accessory for your fake sleeve tattoos.

The Jammy is yet another attempt at an iOS-ready travel guitar

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Jammy is air-travel friendly.
Jammy is air-travel friendly.
Photo: Jammy

Truth: Every wireless musical gadget has to have its publicity photos shot in a park. Never mind that the user/model is wearing headphones, isolated from their idyllic surroundings, and likely struggling to read their iPhone display in the hot sun. The Jammy is no different. It’s a 17-inch-long practice guitar that can not only be taken to the park, but splits in two for carrying on planes.

Control your analog guitar pedals with this iPhone app and looper

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DC Pedals Bluetooth Looper will switch your pedals in and out using an iPhone app.
This box will switch your pedals in and out using an iPhone app.
Photo: DC Pedals

There are great guitar effects apps for iOS, apps which take the signal from your electric guitar and process it with weird and/or great-sounding effects. And there are also several Bluetooth gadgets that let you control those apps with your feet.

But what about the other way around? Is there a way to take a guitarist’s collection of old-school analog effects pedals, and control them from your iPhone? Well yes, now there is. It’s DC Pedals’ Bluetooth Looper and VirtualLooper app.

Learn to play a musical instrument with iOS

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learn to play
You don't have to build your own guitar, thank God.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Learning a musical instrument is hard. Really hard. It takes a long time to make anything that sounds like music, and yet still people put in the long hours and the hard work to become great at their chosen instrument.

There’s no way around practicing, but there is. lot you can do to make the practice easier, more effective, and much more fun, and all you need is there on your iPhone or iPad.

This box turns your iPad into the ultimate guitar pedalboard

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iRig Stomp I/O Pedalboard
Nothing can bad can happen to your iPad down there on a stage floor. Nothing.
Photo: IK Multimedia

Electric guitar players have effects pedals. It’s an addiction, and a law of nature. We keep buying little stomp boxes in pursuit of the perfect sound, and of course we don’t even call it sound. We call it “tone.” But the sensible players don’t try to beat the addiction. They switch to software. Instead of buying and trading expensive hardware boxes, they move to something like iOS effects apps, which let you experiment at a fraction of the cost.

And that’s where IK Multimedia’s new iRig Stomp I/O Pedalboard comes in. It’s a hardware pedalboard that provides guitar players with a familiar front-end to all those amazing iOS effects.