The Last Frontier of the iPad…Recorded Music

With iOS 5, Apple made it possible to use an iPad without ever attaching it (tethering it) to a computer.  If you want to deal with recorded audio, you will likely need to still tether your device.  Hopefully this situation will be addressed in iOS 6.

Follow this scenario with me:

I use an app, such as forScore or unrealBook, with my choirs, distributing the music we are going to sing via a Dropbox (referral link) account (for the record, we have purchased at least one physical copy of the music for every digital copy that is in use).  I also take the time (and it does take time) to enter those songs into Finale, so that I can make rehearsal files and export those songs to SmartMusic, where I can use SmartMusic to assess my student’s skills.

I can link my iPad to my computer and upload the audio I’ve created in Finale to my iPad, and link that file to forScore or unrealBook.  This allows me to have an accompaniment (as long as the iPad is amplified) that I can use in rehearsals.  It is wonderful to be able to play music directly within a song, without switching apps. The most recent update of Deep Dish Designs GigBook allows for this, too.

How do I get that same self-created audio file on my student’s iPads?

Answer: You don’t.  Those students need to go somewhere where they can download the audio that I’ve created, save it in their iTunes, and then sync with their iPad.  Through iOS 5, There is no way to upload music between users without using iTunes and syncing/tethering.  And as such, recorded music becomes the final frontier of the iPad.

What if you want to link an audio file to a Keynote presentation on the iPad?  You can’t do it (as I’ve posted in the past, you can create a blank video file with music in the background and link that to a Keynote presentation, but that’s a very complicated process that most teachers are not going to undertake to present in a lesson).

Even if you create a song in GarageBand, you can export it to your iTunes, but it will not go into your “Music” folder on your iPad, without first going back to your computer, saving it out of the iTunes “Apps” directory for GarageBand, adding it to your iPad, and then syncing again.  The same is true for other audio apps such as TwistedWave.

Recorded music–even self-generated–is a real challenge on the iPad.  I don’t have any insider information on why this situation exists, but my belief is that Apple has agreements with the music industry that currently locks out this level of accessibility.  This sort of an agreement would keep people from sharing music illegally between other users on iOS devices.  What it doesn’t account for is music that I make myself.  I should be able to upload a mp3 to Dropbox, open it from Dropbox, and install it directly into my own iPad Music folder; I should be able to make an audio file in TwistedWave, GarageBand, or Notion and save it directly to my own iPad Music Folder.  We would never allow such limitations on our desktop/notebook computers, but we’ve now lived with these limitations on iOS since 2008 (remember that the iPhone 3G was the first device to allow apps, whereas the original iPhone only allowed for web apps beyond Apple’s own stock apps).

If you use iCloud, you can upload your music–including self-generated music–using a desktop/notebook computer, and then download that music on your device through iCloud (it’s a $24.99 service that I recently joined after reading a post on the subject by Paul Shimmons).  But there’s no way to share that music with others, even if it is music that you created.

I wish I could tell you there was a workaround at this point, but I don’t know of any.  Here’s hoping that iOS 6 (probably due in September) has more freedom when it comes to recorded music, and that the final piece that forces “tethering” an iPad will be removed.

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