If you make music, I’m guessing you’ve tried making music on your mobile device. There are some great music-making apps out there, from simple sketching tools to start-to-finish DAWs.
Today, we were privileged to talk to the company that powers many of those terrific apps. AudioKit.
App developers found they were wasting time and effort building the back end of music apps, especially when the output of these apps sound relatively similar. What was needed was a uniform solution that anyone could use.
AudioKit provided this solution. They have built an open source toolkit for building music-making apps, incorporating audio synthesis, processing and analysis.
If you’re a developer, you can use AudioKit’s code, playgrounds and ready-made examples to build your own synths, games, or just about anything. If you’re a musician who enjoys composing on the go, look for apps powered by AudioKit. You know they’ll be great.
AudioKit allows developers to easily incorporate synthesis, FX, sequencing and sound analysis into their creations. What’s more, it’s totally free to use.
AudioKit is the power behind some apps you’ll have heard, and probably used yourself. The Skoove piano teaching platform is built on AudioKit’s code, detecting whether you’re playing the right notes at the right time. Then there’s the mobile karaoke game, SingOn, has been featured by Apple, and has many devoted fans. AudioKit provides SingOn with its audio engine, filters, FX and much more.
Perhaps the most famous example of an AudioKit-powered app was McTrax, the totally playable, phone compatible, synth-on-a-placemat unveiled by McDonald’s in 2016. Although it was only available in The Netherlands, it made headlines around the world.
Aurelius Prochazka is the Creator behind AudioKit, the fearless leader of the team. Matt Fecher is AudioKit’s specialist synth designer, the brains behind their newest release, the Synth One app. Let’s find out more about Aurelius, Matt, AudioKit and the future of mobile music-making.
1 – Hi Aurelius. We love the idea of AudioKit. First question, what was the urge that made you create AudioKit? Why is it open source?
AudioKit started out as an ear training application, but that’s hardly important now.
AudioKit is kind of like my child, the real work has been nurturing it along the way and the joy is in seeing what it has grown into. I released AudioKit free and open sourced with the hope that it would help me make AudioKit better. And my hopes came true! I got a lot of users quickly who helped put AudioKit through its paces and a lot of initial bugs were found and fixed. Then some of the users made improvements and contributed back to AudioKit. We’ve amassed a core group of developers around 20 programmers strong, and they’re all super passionate about it. I have the best group of friends I could imagine thanks to open-sourcing AudioKit. Best decision ever.
2 – The McDonald’s playable placemats, McTrax, thrilled the world, even if they were only available in The Netherlands. What other AudioKit-powered apps have made your jaw drop?
That’s a tough question because what impresses me is when someone creates something cool and then shares the code by contributing back to AudioKIt. An example would be Marcus Hobbs’ microtonality work. Here’s a man who is passionate about microtonal music and he was able to extend AudioKit to be the perfect vehicle to continue his work in that field and share it with everyone. Upcoming AudioKit-powered synths will have worldwide appeal thanks to his efforts, which is truly jaw-droppingly cool.
3 – What’s the potential for iOS music production? Are we near to make studio or radio quality tracks on a mobile app? Maybe we’re already there?
You’ve got a supercomputer in your pocket, of course you can make production quality music on it. That’s not even debated at this stage. Radio quality? That’s like asking an iOS game developer if they can do GameBoy level games! 🙂 Sad to say, but audio developers are so behind the times compared to what’s happening in gaming or virtual and augmented reality. We should be rethinking the entire notion of what audio content is, what music can or should be. The creation process has changed, the listening process has changed, the industry and compensation models have changed, and like all change, it is scary until you embrace it.
4 – I saw on your website you produce sheet music of songs by legendary artists like The Four Seasons and The Eagles. I’m a fan of traditional sheet music. Are you still making it? Is there a place for it in today’s digital world?
Yes, thanks for noticing that! While I see potential for huge changes in the future of music, I totally respect and learn from “classical” traditions. Musical notation is still the state of the art way to communicate performance instructions to other musicians. It’s not going anywhere and the smart developers know it – take a look at the gorgeous StaffPad app for instance. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to do it too much anymore, the last time I transcribed someone else’s work was an OK Go song up on Ultimate Guitar, but I still jot down my own musical ideas on standard notation whenever I am inspired.
5 – Final question. What artist would you love to see making music on an app powered by AudioKit?
I’d love to see Marina and the Diamonds using the AudioKit Framework itself – not just an app – and I’ll tell you why. Over the course of three great albums, Marina has proven that she’s a great composer, lyricist, performer, and producer, so I’d think she’d be interested in the next the big thing for her. I wouldn’t expect Marina to program per se, but she’s smart and could dictate what she’s after and the AudioKit programmers could make that happen. That’s AudioKit’s goal – to make audio development fast enough that a musical artist can design sounds and instruments with their own heart and soul baked in from the start.
1 – Hi Matt. You’re currently building Synth One for iOS. It looks like it’s going to be great. Can you tell us a little bit about it? When is it out? What feature are you most excited about?
While the iPad has long been a vehicle for music making, there has never been a completely free pro-level synthesizer until now. We live in a global society. And, there are millions of musicians that have access iPads but can not afford apps. Even a $20 app is out of reach for them. We are hoping to empower musicians worldwide with a free, professional sounding app that can produce high quality sounds.
AudioKit Synth One is becoming one of the largest iOS music open-source projects ever. It is because of the work and contributions of many people like Aure, Paul Batchelor, Marcus Hobbs, and countless other open-source contributors and sound designers who are selflessly working together to make this happen. It is truly inspiring.
We’re hoping the app will inspire musicians and provide an awesome instrument that they can use to express themselves and fill the world with more music and beauty.
2 – A couple more questions about Synth One. Can you use it in your DAW? Is there potential to use Synth One in a live setting?
That is a great question! The app can be used stand-alone on an iPad or as an AUv3 plugin. Meaning, it could be used as a plug-in on your iPad DAWs like Cubasis, BeatMaker 3, GarageBand and more.
You can also use your iPad as an external instrument in desktop DAWs like Ableton. Here’s a video of our new FM Player app. In it, there is a scene of the app being powered by Ableton. https://vimeo.com/244897673/1ade6f328e
We are trying to make our apps incredibly awesome for live use- especially with a MIDI Controller keyboard. All knobs have MIDI Learn, and pre-mapped controls for Mod Wheel, Pitch Wheel, Program Change, Filter, sustain pedal and more working right out-of-the-box.
3 – Can you tell us about your favourite synth in your collection? What is the synth that eludes you, the one you’d most like to have?
I’d love to have a real Jupiter-8. There were only a little over 3,000 made. There’s something about the sound of those original models that no one has been able to replicate. Maybe someday…
4 – You’ve been working in the music industry for a while? What were you doing before AudioKit? How did you get into making synth apps?
One of the more interesting things: I was the co-founder of the MONOLITH Festival at Red Rocks. We brought more than 150 artists to Red Rocks Amphitheatre over several years including: Phoenix, Kings of Leon, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Flaming Lips, Justice, Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Cake, Method & Red, Chromeo, Girl Talk, M Ward, OK Go, Atmosphere, Cut Copy, Silversun Pickups, TV on the Radio, Avett Brothers, Beats Antique, Nathaniel Rateliff, and more…
Before working in the music industry, I was a developer. So, I’ve come full circle. However, I would not be making music apps if it weren’t for Aure and AudioKit. Audio programming is incredibly difficult. Aure and the other contributors of AudioKit have helped me tremendously. The open-source spirit and developer camaraderie makes it fun to make music apps again.
5 – Last question. You are involved in books about mobile music production. Are we at the stage where we can make studio/radio quality recordings on iOS yet? What’s the potential for mobile music making?
I’m the tech editor of several books about Apple devices. Producers are using iOS devices to make songs you hear on the radio every day. And, big tours are using iOS devices in their live shows. We’re right on the verge of a new renaissance of iOS Music making. It’s super exciting. We’re just getting started…
Connect with Audiokit:
Need FREE soundbanks and sample packs?
Join our mailing list and get our latest soundbank inspired by Brooks, Mesto, Mike Williams and Justin Milo for FREE!