iPad DJs Cue the Future?

By  | 

When the iPad debuted three weeks ago, the publishing industry commenced praying for rescue. But can an iPad fill dancefloors? Do they need salvation? Is the iPad just an iPod on steroids?

We spoke to Rana Sobhany, a New York-based new media/advertising pro, author and, as far as we can tell, the first out of the block to call herself an iPad DJ. Using two iPads, a Numark M3, and a variety of apps, including Looptastic and Korg Electribe, she’s making like Lewis and Clark, if only they could have plugged in.

Tell us a little about the functionality of the iPad compared to the CDJs. Using the iPad in live performance is more like controllerism than turntablism. With CDJs you can physically move the track to adjust tempo, just like a normal turntable, whereas the iPad is a full screen touch interface. It’s for triggering more than for playback, but the next generation of mobile applications are going to bridge the delta between what you can do with CDJs vs. the loop apps I’m using for my set now.

What are the advantages of the iPad? This is a device that’s able to connect to the Internet. This is a huge advantage over other gear because it means that it can be anything you want it to be. There are over 5,000 apps available for download that are designed for the iPad specifically, and 200,000 iPhone applications that can also run on the iPad. I imagine DJs pulling two iPads out of their backpacks and being ready to go play a show within the next six months.

Its limitations? It’s hard enough to mix beats together when dealing with laptops. Now imagine two independent computing platforms with no ability to sync. The lack of multitasking in the OS makes it really hard to transition quickly between apps. There really is no room for error. There are so many things happening at once that it can be dizzying when you consider the timing and rhythmic elements to making music on iPad. That being said, the iPad handles a lot of the grunt work when it comes to aligning rhythms and matching tempos. Having the ability to monitor sounds through the mixer I’m using also makes it easy to experiment with sonic ideas on the fly and iterate as needed. I haven’t stopped playing music on the iPad since I got it, so I think that’s a testament to the fun-factor of it.

Have you played any iGigs? I’ve played two gigs with the iPad so far, and both were huge learning experiences. I practiced a little bit and got something down that I was relatively happy with and went out on stage. I ended up playing for 15 minutes, but decided to wrap it up thinking that the audience was bored out of their minds by this point, but when I started lowering the levels of the audio, people in the audience were pissed! They wanted more. I was shocked! I ended up playing for about 45 minutes the first gig, and that forced me to innovate a lot. Keep in mind, today is my 6th day with this set-up, and when I played my first gig, it has only been two days that I’d been rocking the 2 iPad rig. This is getting exponentially better with every passing moment so I’m really excited for what my shows will be like in two or three weeks. Geeks love this stuff, but I got a lot of non-techies dancing, so I think that means I’m doing something right.

What mixer you using? Numark M3. I wanted to use the most basic mixer possible while still being able to control and manipulate audio in a meaningful way. I didn’t want a mixer that had built in effects so that all of the effects were coming from the applications and not from hardware.

What are some apps you’re using? I really enjoy IK Multimedia’s Groovemaker series. I use the House and Hip Hop apps a lot, as well as some sequencers and what not. I really am excited to try out this app, Mixr. It looks really robust and seems like it will bring a lot of style to what I’m doing with these iPads. I’m willing to try every music app out there. So far, I’ve downloaded about $250 worth of apps, which is a lot of apps!

What apps do you expect to see coming out in the future? This is where I get really excited. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about it: this thing has been out for two weeks and it’s already this great. Using a first generation iPhone today is abysmal compared to the power of the 3G, and that will happen with the iPad as well. The iPad will quickly evolve into the ideal device for music creation and DJing. Loop libraries will get better. Hardware will get better. More hardware and software companies will build mobile apps and the users will become more savvy about what they want from the iPad. There will be peripherals that support inputs like USB and Firewire. Video remixing will be possible. The iPhone OS is powerful, and I think that people overlook that. This is not just a consumption device. You can create really amazing media with the iPad.

How would you describe your day job? Before this, I built an analytics and advertising company based on the iPhone platform and left in October to write a book. My day job now is iPad DJing, but more from the cultural and technology aspect of it. I’m trying to figure out what these tablet computers mean to the music industry overall. I’m really fascinated by the intersection of technology and music and discovering what the implications of these convergence devices is to the DJ community as a whole.