My year of the iPad: The wrap-up review

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Credit: Kevin C. Tofel

Earlier this year, I wrote about how I expected 2014 to be the Year of the iPad for me. In the article, I focused on two main things: music-making and writing. Today, I’m going to review those goals and see how I stand at the end of the year.

Music-making

This has been a very active musical year for me. My classic rock band became a Social Distortion cover band. I also get together with some friends every few months to jam. My iPad remains at the center of these events.

If I need to leave the house, I will bring my Apogee One, my IK Multimedia BlueBoard, and either plug into my amp or use my iLoud. I still use JamUP as my amp simulator. In addition to sounding great, I love I can download presets other people have created.

My band practices at my house. At this point, I still keep my analog pedal board plugged into my amp. This is mostly for ease since I don’t need to move it. My analog board has the usual components (distortion, wah, delay, and reverb), but the reality is since it mostly gets used for punk, I can use the on-board gain to get the sound I need.

What may push me over the edge and use my iPad as my rehearsal amp is either needing to move it to a different rehearsal space every practice, or if I need sounds that aren’t straight-up distorted guitar sounds. Also a consideration is that my choice of guitars (Gibson Les Pauls) are extremely heavy and usually throw my back out for a few days after rehearsal. Fortunately, I have more than one guitar and my Fender Stratocaster is a candidate as it’s nice and light. However, it has low-output single-coil pickups (Fender Fat 50s) that require some signal boosting – either through a boost pedal or adjusting the amp volume – to get it to levels I like. If it were the only guitar I used, this wouldn’t be a problem, however the songs have different tunings for my parts so I need to two guitars.

Where the iPad can help is I can duplicate the preset I use, but adjust the volume on the second preset to be a little louder. I’d end up with two banks of presets, one for the Strat and one for the other guitar. I’m also looking into harness guitar straps to evenly distribute the weight of the guitar.

In terms of recording, I didn’t do any – either on my iPad or OS X. I’m not sure why, given how active I was musically. Probably because most of my time was spent learning new material. I should get in the habit of recording my practices, though.

Writing on the iPad

Writing on the iPad remains my white whale. I’ve talked a good game about writing more on the iPad, but all told this year I only wrote about 2,000 words on my iPad. This is not due to a failing on the iPad, but circumstances. In previous jobs I took the train to work and I would write on the commute. Now I drive to work. I’ve thought about writing at lunch in the break room, but usually I just grab a quick bite and keep working.

What I do use my iPad for, however, is note-taking. My Windows laptop at work is a pain to undock, so I take my iPad to meetings and take notes in OneNote. I’m getting to the point I don’t really need an external keyboard for note-taking.

What changes I’d like to make in 2015

Most likely, I will need a portable music (perhaps as early as this week), so I’ve been downloading presets for JamUP this week. My band is likely going to be alternating between my house and a rehearsal complex, so I’ll be looking to my lighten load considerably. One of the rehearsal spaces has amps and a PA, so I might just bring my analog pedalboard. The other option I would need to bring my amp, so I’d probably just bring my iPad and the Bluetooth pedalboard.

In terms of writing, I’d like to write more and my iPad is good candidate. I remain in awe of Federico Vittici’s iPad workflows. I write mostly at home, and my 27″ monitor and external keyboard make for a very comfortable writing experience. My main writing program, Byword, works on both iOS and OS X. I’d like to take the iPad to a quiet place in the house and write without distractions. GigaOM’s WordPress setup doesn’t play with external editors, so I’m still not sure I could ever go fully iOS-only for my some of my freelance writing. I do hope to use my iPad more in 2015 to get some personal writing done. The distraction-free environment is very nice.

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