Recording Studio Apps – Ready or Not

Technology is Excellent!

When it works of course. This week I am going to explain some myths and realities about Recording Studio Apps. I encourage you all to provide feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

Technology also works when it is used for the right purpose. Have you ever heard the old saying – use the right tool for the right job?

Recording Studio Apps - mixing console
The Real Deal

There is definitely some cool apps out on the market. Many are free (or so we think) and then there are those that will cost you a fee.

In this weeks article I will not be providing you links to apps nor a list of apps that are good or bad. Instead I will be advising you of the concerns you should have regarding apps and recording music. Regardless of whether you have an iPhone or an Android a tablet or a notebook or whatever the newest creation of mobile device is you will want to read this before you start recording.

There is a lot to cover though I will keep it short and sweet as usual … only providing a bit of my humorous fluff. I think the word fluff is humorous on it’s own. 🙂

So here we go – on with the show …

 Ready or Not –

That is the statement or better yet the question, Ready or Not? Why – simple – some mobile device apps are well constructed and able to achieve decent outcomes though mobile devices themselves are not ready for the task in a stand alone fashion.

So I break this down into two forms – the apps and the devices.

The Apps

Currently there is not an app that I found for my Android, or my daughters iPad that had the power and capabilities that I need in my studio.

Now, there is merit to some of the apps I’ve found in that they would make for a decent tool to use for rough drafts or to just get thoughts and sounds down for memory’s sake. Your or my memory not the device memory of course.

Some others I found were simply crap and not worthy of my time let alone taking up precious resources on my phone.

The better of the bunch had a cost to them as well as some of the free ones. Only portions of the app was free or the entire app was free for a limited time or had no saving or exporting capabilities. The latter were Free just to get you in the door and hooked, and at times hooked with a gimmick.

Also the majority of the apps had ads on them and some apps ate up battery like mad.

The Devices

Plain and simple – None are ready for professional recording off the shelf.

The first and foremost reason why is that they do not have high quality studio grade microphones – nor can they with the technology available today. The devices are just too small to provide room for even a decent microphone.

Recording Studio Apps iPhone 6
iPhone 6

OK- yes there are after market mics and even some guitar plugin devices to add to your phone … but … aren’t we heading down a different road when we start adding all these other gadgets to our mobile devices. At this point the cost alone would drive a smart person to invest in better quality dedicated studio recording equipment. Some of which is very small too!

A person buys a motorcycle to get themselves from point A to point B and typically for enjoyment but rarely for hauling bags of groceries from the market or dropping of all the kids at soccer practice. Your phone or other mobile device was intended for a purpose and in a pinch could be used mediocrely for recording but not in place of your home studio.

So Now What

Simple – use your phone or other mobile device for what it was intended for, including using it to record but don’t expect album quality recordings from it without spending a wad of dough on other gadgets and apps to achieve studio quality.

Enjoy your mobile device and experiment with apps out there and possible ways to record or sample. There may come a day when you or I can actually take our smart phones as they are and produce record quality recordings on the spot. For now that day is far from here.

If you really need to get excellent quality recordings on the road, away from home or anywhere other than your studio at an affordable price you should check out my article on Portable Digital Recorders and my review on the Tascam DR 40. Both can be found by click the blue text link which will open another browser window with the article so you don not lose your place here at LRT.

In Closing

I invite you to chime in below in the comments section and let me know what experience you’ve had with your mobile device and recording. I also encourage you to drop a comment about Recording Studio Apps that you’ve had experience with.

You are not alone.

ROCK ON!

E

20 thoughts on “Recording Studio Apps – Ready or Not

  1. I really enjoyed your article! I think an in ideal world using professional equipment or even going to a studio if you can afford it is the best option. However I have had some good success with recording apps. I love using Music Studio. It isn’t free though, I think its 10 bucks. There are also some pretty cool mics to use out there, such as blue and apogee. You should check them out as viable options.

    1. Hey John, those are great mics and there are many other great ones too, some classic and clutch units and some new as well.

      There’s nothing like being in a ‘reel’ studio but in the recent past studio quality sound is proven to be had in a bedroom, garage, closet, car or where ever. Recording gear has come a long way and so have the apps available. The apps have become way better since I wrote the original article not so long ago. Recording Studio Apps – Ready or Not

      Let’s not confuse apps and DAWs though – there IS a big difference. That will be an upcoming article.

      ROCK ON!

      E

  2. Eric, I’m one of the lucky ones!
    Sometimes, snatches of melody or words will come to me at night, where I just want to record them for my own memory.
    Like you mentioned, the apps are able to do this just fine.
    There’s little quality or volume, though, which would limit me if I wanted more…
    Thanks for clarifying about app qualities…
    Cheers and Rock On:-)
    Therese

    1. Yep, a pen and paper by the bed at night time used to be fine to get the anti-sleep bothers from my mind but apps or even small handheld recorders (that’s what I use – only because I fat-finger my phone too much to rely on apps) takes a load off my brain.

      ROCK ON Therese!
      E

  3. You had me going when I first started reading this article. Even hollered at the wife to bring her smart phone. I’m still stuck on my flip phone.

    I know they have apps for everything but I was thinking. There’s no way this little thing can make a descent recording. Reading on confirmed that.

    I’ve taken a song writing spurt as of late. So your post caught my attention.

    Nice post.

    1. Thanks for stopping by LRT while spurting out songs Keith.

      Some of the mobile apps are decent, if you’ve got itty bitty fingers, it’s the interfaces and outboard devices that the apps don’t mesh well with yet.

      I’ve got nothing against geeks but I can see every geek on the block making his/her next juicy (horrible) hit on his iphone or iwatch or whatever. Well, dubstep won’t last long and good old rock and roll will never die … nor will music recorded in a good old recording studio … digital or not.

      Hope to see you back soon!

      ROCK ON!

      E

  4. I have a substantial background in music so I decided to get into a music recording hobby of my own. I purchased a MIDI keyboard that had Ableton Live software on it. However, the MIDI didn’t function too well when I plugged it into my computer. The slight lag from my computer to the keyboard didn’t allow me to be able to record effectively. It was frustrating so I lost the motivation to keep with the hobby. Thanks for the interesting read!

    1. Hey Eric, welcome to LRT!

      You are not the only person to suffer from the effects of what is called “latency” in computer based recording. Latency, or the time gap between devices in a DAW based recording setup, is not only frustrating but is not always easy to isolate and fix.

      There are some simple things that you can do to lower the latency in your rig and then there are more complex ways to attack the issue. Worst case you may not have the right computer for the job.

      I will be writing an article series on latency and latency resolutions so you can stop back and check that out next month if you’ve not totally given up on recording from with a DAW. If you have specific questions in the meantime please let me know and I will help you out.

      Until then,

      ROCK ON!

      E

  5. Hey Eric

    Thanks for this post as I’m probably still using archaic methods to most folks.

    Today I still use my Yamaha AW2816 mixing desk for tracking down my guitars parts. I am very aware of all the Apps and software out there but I’m still using the hands on approach. I love Mic’ing up my SM57 and having my sound come through Genelec 1029a monitors

    Not sure if I’m ready to embrace this new stuff that can be made easy to the smart phone user. It’s needs to give me quality results and better than I have now.

    I loved reading all the comments on this thread as it provides an interesting discussion to who is using what.

    Maybe I should step out of my comfort zone and check out something?

    All the very best,

    Pete.

    1. I’m started out old school too Pete, and frankly digital has come a long way but there are still things that just aren’t there yet and some things will will never be.

      I have tons of software and amp sims and such and they sound amazingly good, even some of the cabinet and mic sims. However, “real” air moving between a speaker cone and a mic is not there yet. The feel isn’t all the way there. Of course I feel this being a guitarist so I feel different than an average listener.

      Also, there is something amazing about analog signals that is not quite there yet either, and may never be.

      All that aside, I prefer combining old school analog and digital techniques. This gives a great amount of control, freedom, mobility and realism that is not allowable with only one frame of mind.

      I can say watching old rock videos are way better than the one man techno light show disc rockey shows today – they are whacked and lack emotion. Yep I said it – right here on LRT.

      As for you comfort zone … take what you know and dive in to todays’ technology and get creative – you may come up with the next big hit!

      Thanks for stopping by LRT, hope to see you backk again soon!

      ROCK ON!

      E

  6. It’s funny, because I don’t even own a smartphone, so I have never used any music recording apps. A friend of mine showed me garage band once, and that looked okay, but I’m not sure if it would be so good for serious music making.

    Personally, I like to use software on my laptop called Reason. Originally I think it was intended for making dance music, but I think now you can use it for making pretty much any kind of music. Have you ever used it yourself?

    What is your favorite music making software? Not a smartphone app, but actual full-blown music recording software?

    1. Hey Marcus thanks for stopping by LRT!

      What … no Smartphone … what century are you living in – kidding of course and actually I envy you for not having one. Don’t worry your not missing anything without one, especially professional recording apps. Though Angry Birds is quite addicting. 🙂

      I’ve played with Reason and several DAWs. I started using Sonar (Cakewalk – now owned by Gibson) about 15 years ago and have stuck with it. I like it but for the most part I am familiar with it. more information on Reason and Sonar can be found at the following links –

      https://www.propellerheads.se/reason

      http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/SONAR/Versions?gclid=Cj0KEQjw04qvBRC6vfKG2Pi0_8gBEiQAAJq0vdcrR5-C5fpqeY-O9iS1MhWMBjWbuIau0OBt29XOAnoaAss78P8HAQ

      Many folks prefer Pro Tools and consider it the industry standard but times they are a changin’ and Pro Tools is losing it’s market grip and folks are tired of paying mega bucks for every little add on. DAWs other than Pro Tools are now showing up in home studios and large professional studios.

      I could tell you how great Sonar is and explain all of the features and such but really the basic process in all the major DAWs are the same – and so are the navigation. But heck – what would you really change in a recording studio anyhow – a mixing board is a mixing board.

      Thanks again for stopping by LRT Marcus and come back soon.

      ROCK ON!

      E

  7. Eric,

    What an awesome platform of information you have created here.
    Thanks so much for advising folks to use their phones as they were intended.

    So many folks walking around with tablets etc. thinking they have a tiny PC. Not even close
    even though there are all sorts of apps and add ons to make you think that way.

    While it may be kool to bring your Android to the last Rolling Stones Concert as I did in Buffalo, I never felt the quality of the video and audio really worthy of doing much sharing.
    Thanks again for the great read,

    CannaGary

    1. Hi CannaGary – thanks for stopping by LRT.

      Don’t get me wrong, the technology in phones and other mobile devices has come a long way and I use mine for several things – but yes – some uses are not feasible due to a lack in technology and or related equipment needed.

      I have seen lots of video an listen lots of audio from phones – some of which was amazing good given the device deficiencies and some of which was completely horrid – none of which was studio quality.

      I’d lover to check out your Stones video! That sounds cool! You’d be surprised at how some bands are using amateur mobile device video incorporated into their own production video. Of course they are not using any of the audio, rather their own produced stuff. Check out Pearl Jam live concerts on YouTube – they do this on many concerts. It’s really kind of neat to see the professional perspective and that of the audience.

      If your interested in getting your own proper studio set up check out this article I wrote – Microphones and Monitors

      I enjoyed your company and hope to see you back at LRT soon!

      ROCK ON!

      E

  8. Hi Eric,
    I think the best way to answer when people are ready or not is on the way they use their devices. Some find in well working for them, but some don’t.
    For doing more quality and more professional work, I believe proper equipment will still prevail.
    As you conclude, I absolutely agree with you. Added features on their mobile devices and apps are still far from what the right equipments do.
    Do you also provide some advise on how to set up a recording studio?

    1. Hey Leo thanks for stopping by LRT!

      You are right, todays apps work fine when used by some folks and at a reasonable limit – i.e. not for production.

      It is always best to use the right tool for the right job and apps and the lack of quality add on gear for mobile devices are not the right tools for quality production of music.

      I do have articles on how to set up a recording studio and will have more coming soon. The link here will get you started Leo Microphones and Monitors

      Keep on Rockin’ Leo and let music be your guide …. until we meet again …

      ROCK ON!

      E

  9. As a singer, director and performer I often use a basic HD recorder app on my iPad. It’s actually ok but I only use it for rehearsal purposes. I would never consider it an option for a professional recording device. I’m not sure how feasible this would be to make a reality. Thanks for sharing this insight.

    1. Thanks for stopping by LRT Neil.

      Some of the apps out there are perfect for what you are using them for. I use them for the same type of thing, rehearsals, rough drafts, capture ideas and so on. Never for material that will be produced – todays apps and lack of equipment are not ready for album quality recording.

      I appreciate your thoughts and hope to see you back soon at LRT!

      ROCK ON!

      E

  10. UHG! It’s so nice to hear a professional echo my concerns over the inferior quality of audio apps online! What is your opinion of Audacity? I realize it’s meant to be a simple program, but it’s the only programs I’ve ever used that’s consistently performed well. I took a songwriting class on Coursera, and we had to use Audacity and Soundcloud for uploading our homework. What is your opinion of Soundcloud, since I mentioned it? Thanks.

    1. Thanks for stopping by LRT Lyn!

      So I am not the only one then. Yeah I’ve not found a decent app yet. The problem is the technology just isn’t there yet.

      Now on the other hand recording software for PC’s and Macs have come a long long way and there is some real excellent stuff out there in the DAW world. For more on DAW’s you can look here: What is a DAW – You Really Want to Know?. I will be doing more in depth DAW articles coming soon.

      I am familiar with Audacity and have used it several times. It’s not a bad program for sure. Personally I use Sonar Producer X3, and have tried other pro platforms as well. I will also have articles on these in the coming weeks/months too.

      I am familiar with SoundCloud though I have not used it first hand. This along with other cloud style sharing sites have idiosyncrasies of there own. I am working on a comparative article to both expose some of the not so nice things about these sites as well as the benefits of several. It is important to read the fine print so you still own your music – that’s just a teaser.

      Keep on Rockin’ and don’t be a stranger – hope to see you back soon Lyn!

      ROCK ON!

      E

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