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The John Lennon Education Tour Bus

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September 06, 2011

The iPad: A Songwriting Singularity

Written by Hans Tanner

 

  With Steve Jobs’ recent step down from Apple, I feel it may be an opportune moment to show the team over in Cupertino a little love.  This will be chapter one of an on-going segment highlighting one of Apple’s more recent innovative creations, the iPad.  Along with a set of these device’s for every Lennon bus crew member with extras for people to demo when on-board, Apple has been donating a significant amount of hardware and software
to the bus every year, equipment which has become integral to achieving our daily mission.
  I don’t know about you, but when the iPad was first announced I had extremely low expectations for its arrival.  I initially pegged it as an oversized iPhone, reminding everyone of the fact that tablets had their go some years back and failed miserably.  Man, was I jaded!  After spending a significant amount of time with the “iDevice,”  I’m currently of the belief that this thing is the absolute future of a number of industries, and may or may not lead to the singularity. Most pertinently, however, I strongly believe it can change education forever, and for the better.  Imagine at the start of kindergarten, High School and College that you are given an iPad, complete with all of your lessons, books, homework and projects for the entire year.  Any of which can be updated or added to at any time.  The cut in costs of foresting each year would aggressively decline, the current book selling scam would disappear, each students interaction in class material could triple, the list goes on! 
  That’s one example, but lets now apply it to the bus.  At the beginning of the day, we always spend the first hour getting to know the students that we’re going to be working with.  Part of that hour is spent determining the type of song they want to produce, consisting of its overall feel, tempo, key, and message.  Normally, we just talk about it, and then bring the students to the back studio where we open up Pro Tools and start working our magic.  This is all good, but utilizing the iPad with Garageband, we can put the magic in their hands, and have them determine just with the touch of their fingers what the song is going to be.  Key example: within Pro Tools, setting the tempo of the song involves expanding your Tempo ruler, double clicking the tempo breakpoint within that ruler, and then hitting T to tap the tempo until you have a BPM value.  This is easy and intuitive for those that know the program,  but may seem a tad daunting in the eyes of someone who’s never even seen recording software before.  With the iPad, there is a giant button on the screen that reads “Tap Tempo” with a BPM value being stored right next to it.  All you do is tap the screen to the beat you hear in your head and you’re done.  We could easily teach them how to do it within Pro Tools, but the iPad method is intuitive for anybody without any previous knowledge of engineering or recording software.  It allows us to essentially add a step before going into an HD medium like Pro Tools, and ease them into the more technical aspects of song creation, while maintaining their interactivity with the project.  And at the end of the day, having every student leave the bus with a high sense of contribution to the final result is extremely important.  After setting tempo, it is just as easy to set the song key, and lay down a few riffs on the various built in instruments that come with the app.  When we pass around the device so every student has a chance to add their input, we have a quick and efficient way of working out the initial foundation for a song, from which we would then take into Pro Tools HD and make it sound bangin’!
To see for yourself how easy the process is, watch the video below.  And check back here every week to see more content coming from the boys on the bus.  Check back next time where I’ll be displaying Scorch, a sweet little app from our friends at Avid who have made song transposition on the iPad all too easy.

 

Next entry: Making Midi Magic

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