In 2009 I got an iPhone 3G, and being a musician, naturally I wanted to see what my new device could do. I started buying apps randomly, and started putting together songs on the go. This was quite a revelation to me, that I could write music away from my studio. A few months later I looked for like minded individuals and communities, and came across a little site named Palm Sounds. It was different, instead of just being slight bits of stale information, this site was healthy, packed with fresh news about this new music scene every day, and run by an incredible individual, Ashley Elsdon. Palm Sounds has run an incredible, indispensable corner stone of the mobile music app scene for 10 years now, 10 years! What an outstanding achievement.
Palm Sounds has been a daily routine for me, like reading the morning paper ever since I discovered it in 2009. Over the years I have started blogging, and developing apps as well, which has led me to be fortunate enough to get to know Ashley. He is super passionate about what he does, and is committed to bringing fantastic content to you, and contributing in many ways to the mobile music scene. I would like to commend Ashley and Palm Sounds for being here for us for the past 10 years, and I look forward to the next 10!
As an iOS musician I have been interested for some time about the apps on the other side of the fence, the Android apps. The one that I have heard the most about is Caustic, and now it is on iOS. Caustic is a self contained studio app, it gives you an assortment of synths, and a drum machine, and a way to sequence them with a piano roll style editor, pattern sequencer, mixer, and effects.
I know the first thing you are thinking, do I need another DAW in iOS? I think you need this one. Caustic hits a lot of the right notes for what I expect out of a mobile DAW. Although it compares more to the self contained rack style DAW idea like Reason rather than a digital audio workstation. It is like having a rack full of synths and a sampler in your pocket.
Caustic comes with 8 synths, a Vocoder, and a Drum Machine. It has a well rounded variety of synths to choose from. The best part is the amazing sound quality of the synths, any of them could easily be stand alone apps. Included are:
Subsynth, a subtractive analog synth that is great for leads and basses.
PCMsynth as it’s name implies is a digital PCM style synth that also has a wide variety of uses, great for recreating some big 80’s sounds.
Bassline which is a Roland 303 style synth.
Padsynth which is a harmonic wave table synth, which is great for, well, pads.
8Bitsynth which is a bit wise style synth, and is great for making great noises from formulas.
Modular, as it’s name implies is a modular synth and is spectacular and deep, just amazing the quality and depth included.
Organ, yep, included is an organ synth with draw bars and all, it sounds decent, not that I am really am organ sort of guy or know the intricacies, but I could get nice sounds from it.
FMSynth and rounding out the stable of synths is a nice rendition of a classic FM synth, great for bell, piano, and chime sort of sounds but also can be used for all sorts of leads, basses, and pads.
Also included is a Vocoder, and a 6 channel drum machine named Beatbox. Beatbox contains mute groups, and also has tune, punch, decay, pan, and volume controls for each channel. You can also load up your own samples.
You can load up 14 instances of any combination of the devices at once. Each of the 14 channels have 2 slots to add effects. Caustic comes with an assortment of 16 good quality but quite simple insert effects. Included are :
While the effects get the job done, I would have liked to see a little more complexity in them and control.
Caustic contains a mixer to mix the 14 channels, 2 send effect buses, and mastering channel strip. Each channel has 3 band EQ, controls for send effect amounts, delay, reverb, pan, width, and of course level. I would have liked to have seen sliders instead of knobs for the volume, preferably long throw, and larger more accurate metering on each channel.
As part of the mastering strip you get built in reverb and delay as send effects on top of the 2 customizable slots, you also get a master bus parametric EQ, and a limiter (great for tightening the mix). Again a knob is used where I would have liked to see a long throw slider and nice tall metering on the master channel.
Caustic also comes with a pattern sequencer that is reminiscent of a tracker. You can select the patterns that you create for each device in the rack and sequence your song quickly. It is quite simple but effective. The only complaint I have is you lose the overall picture of what your note data looks like, if I could see the little notes on the patterns I would be much happier.
Each pattern is edited underneath the respective device in the rack, in its own piano roll note editor. In the note editor there are a minimal of amount of editing options; copy, paste, and, delete. Nice selection options are included, so you can lasso a group of notes, select them all, or select by time in the grid.
One very nice thing that some of the other iOS DAWs lack that Caustic has is automation. You automate any of the synth parameters by recording live automation of the knobs. You can also edit this automation with sliders. Giving Caustic a lot of editing power.
One place that caustic is lacking is in support of some iOS audio app standards like Audiobus, Audiocopy, and Inter App Audio, although thank goodness it has export to Audioshare!
Overall if you are an iOS electronic musician Caustic is a great tool to add to your arsenal, and I Highly recommend it.
Polyphony : 1-Glide
Glide Time : .46
Pitch Bend Range: 1
Send FX : both at 0
LFO1 : Filter Cutoff (set this in the mod matrix)
Sync : Beat 1/16
Aux Envelope : Unused
Mod Matrix :
Source Desination Parameter Amount
LFO1 Filter Cutoff 100
XYPad1X Filter Cutoff 100 (not that important but gives a manual way to control filter)
XYPad1Y Filter Q 100
XYPad2X LFO1 Rate 100 (very important this is controls the wobble)
XYPad2Y LFO1 Amount 100 (very important this controls the wobble amount)
And I have the effects off
On the Performance Page :
Send FX Reverb : to taste
Leave the XY Pad 1 at X 0 and Y 0 unless you want to add some of your own manual cutoff.
XY Pad 2 is your wobble control. start at about X 20-30 and Y 70-80 and move it around to taste, and of course automate this in your sequence or record your automation.
Also one tip, if you want a grungy bass without killing your kicks, make some nice tones with these settings with no wobble, and resample them, then apply high pass filter to them to take the bass out, and use the sample instead of the OSC. and pair it together with a nice deep sine wave on another eden, play the same notes, and you will get that classic dubstep deep bass with wobble. I used this approach here. -(of course with 1.2 we won’t need to resample, just add eq to the fx chain)
After getting a first taste of Beatmaker 2, the exciting new music production app for iPhone from Intua, here are my first impressions.
Before I start I wanted to say that all of the exploration was done without a user manual, because one is not available yet.
The first thing that got my attention was the modular nature of the instruments, tracks, and effects. It feels more like a traditional DAW because of the scalable nature. I really enjoyed the scope and power of the samplers. Especially the 128 pad monster that is the i-DRM31. I also liked the power of having multi-samples across a keyboard in the i-SMPLR keyboard sampler. One drawback is that not all of the sampler parameters are automatable. Only the standard ones like volume, pan, tune. I would love to be able to automate the ADSR or the filters on them.
It is nice that you can place any combination of 3 picking from the 10 effects on any one track. Some of the effects leave a little to be desired, but having all of this power is more akin to a full blown DAW. The effects are fully automatable.
The mixer is a pretty standard mixer and with the ability to add FX only channels it gives some interesting routing possibilities. Although some glaring omissions plague the mixer, like no fader on the master channel. The FX buses are not aux buses allowing you only to route channels exclusively to them or the master.
The sequencer is great, and is very similar to the one in Nanostudio. So I felt right at home. I loved the sample editor, and chop lab for chopping beats, and the addition of time stretch and BPM signature makes it a really nice place to edit my samples.
File management is adequate, but I had some issues with the copy and paste to the general pasteboard. It is with other apps not accepting the copied parts. I hope Intua sorts this out. I wish they would just break down and put in Sonoma audiocopy and paste. Which for me is usually the first standard before buying an app.
Overall it is a great app, with some rough spots ( it did crash on me a few times when adding effects). I hope the developer keeps up with frequent updates and really pushes this app forward.
So you sit down and have a great idea, maybe a beat, or synth line you can’t get out of your head, just waiting to be captured. Once you get that starting point out of the way, you want to build a track around it. Do you just start browsing your preset library for inspiration, or do you have something in mind already, and start looking for a certain sound? Maybe you know exactly what you want and just load up a blank preset on your favorite synth and start constructing your patch from scratch. Whichever way you find your sounds, it is a good idea to make some notes, and list out some characteristics of the sounds you are choosing versus the sounds you have. Use descriptors like “Low Bassy Synth” or “Plucking High Bell Sound”, try to describe the timbre, and where it may fall in the EQ spectrum to start. When you create a list of sounds and descriptions you can start to see what you are missing, to make a nice balanced track.
Once you have everything picked out, it is a good idea to just write some simple test melodies and parts for the instruments. Even if these parts are not going to be in the final track. Then load up a Spectrum Analyzer on the master track and start looking for spikes or big holes in your spectrum. Be careful not to create a big wall of sound. It is good to have some variety and movement in your spectrum, but you need to make sure that nothing is really unbalanced.
Doing this work up front makes it much easier, to not only pick extra sounds because you have a good feel for your spectral footprint, but then you avoid having to work the EQ really hard to remove those spikes on the offending instrument’s sound. It is a shame to have to dump that killer synth line because it muddies up your track.
Sometimes when creating glitched beats, there are rough parts to the glitches that don’t mix well, instead of removing these portions of the beat you can edit them and make them sound really good. I am talking about the portions of a beat that sound like the glitch was overloaded, too loud compared to the rest of the beat. Apply volume sweeps to the sections for interesting effects. Volume ramps from low to high are great ways to make that section sound like it is bringing something in. Volume tails from high to low give a sound a quick fade effect and can also be effective, especially if the glitch that you are applying this to has a stutter effect, then a volume tail can give it a nice delay effect.