I was browsing through the Apple app store yesterday and was well chuffed to see Fl Studio HD available as a download for Apple devices. It came in two flavours, for the iPad (currently £11.99) and iPhone / iPod. Thanks to the frickin’ recession I thought it would be extravagant to purchase both versions at this stage. I also suffer from fat finger syndrome so I thought that the iPad might be a better bet. On previous iPod apps like Akai Synthstation or Xewton studio I end up having to resize the keyboard to fit my meaty paws at the expense of range.
So, I opted for the iPad version. First impressions are good.
I’ve been using versions of FLStudio and FruityLoops for more than a decade and was expecting a cut down version along the same lines. In the past you constructed patterns and arranged them in a playlist along with audio clips and automation lanes. You would need to create seperate patterns for each variation of a track and chain them in order. WIth the iPad version you would create a bar or more of music, copy and paste in the track editor and then zoom in and add or subtract notes to create variations.
Obviously they’ve had to simplify the layout to fit the iPad, so there’s less buttons and menus available. This is most noticeable in the mixer workaround – rather than sending audio to different inserts and sends you are given a bank of effect (delay, reverb, EQ, filter and amp/distortion) which you can set individual to select all tracks or just the one’s with the fx button activated. The quality of the effects are good, especially the reverb and fiters which also can be automated, controlled by an xy pad or linked to the accelerometer so that tilting affects the filter settings.
The app also comes with a library of drum loops and a healthy smattering of synth sounds and instruments. The electronic sounds are generally excellent and rich. You can also tinker with the attack, release and volumes. One complaint is that the guitars sound thin and “midi-ish” compared to the guitars on garageband. This is a minor quibble due to the ability to export your projects to the desktop version of FL Studio. You can always use the onboard sounds to sketch out ideas and then tinker and tweak them to your liking on your pc. The iPad also lets you save your own patterns so you can quickly build up your own arsenal of loops.
Recording live is a cinch, with the option of using a keyboard layout or pads. You can also enter notes on a grid of toggles just like its big brother. The app is also compatible with core Midi devices so you could hook up a sythstation to control the app via the camera connection quit. The app also transmits midi out so it could control external kit.
So far, I’ve found the piano roll editor far more fiddly and restricted than it’s desktop counterpart. To enter a note you click on the track editor, pencil tool, place your note, edit it’s duration and then click done. It makes inputting notes a slow process, it would have been nice to have a paint function or the ability to input a run of notes quickly.
The editor also has quantise options and the ability to input triplets and dotted notes.
Again, I’ve found cutting and pasting sction a little awkward and nonintuitive but once you realise what the buttons do (rtfm) it’s fairly straightforward.
The app comes with a strapline along the line of “The Fastest Way From Your Brain to Your Speakers” and its not wrong. Within ten minutes I’d managed to cobble together a decent enough tune, and it sounded pretty good when you consider the limitations of the iPad hardware. This app is a definite must if you already own FLStudio, it allows a quick and easy way of sketching out a tune when your away from your computer. The ability to edit and enhance your exported files on a desktop means that you have far more flexibility in getting the sounds you want and creating more complex arrangements.
Even if you don’t own FLStudio, this app is worth a punt because you are still given enough tools to quickly create interesting sonic doodles as well as complete tracks. I’ve roadtested a fair few music studios on the iPad, Xewton, SynthStation, Garageband, ims-20, but FLStudio has easily the best workflow, flexibility and range of sounds.
It works fine on the original iPad as well, I haven’t experienced any slowdown or stuttering and that’s on low latency settings 🙂