Using… iFretless Bass

There are plenty of other sites that do app reviews and can do a better job than me of running down all the features of a particular app. I’m not interested in reinventing that wheel. Where they sometimes fall short though is in explaining how to use the app to get musical results. That’s what I hope to do with the Using… series. In some cases, this will be a small snippet of what an app is capable of doing, but in all cases, it will be a “real world” example of how to get something done. In this first installment, I’ll be looking at iFretless Bass.

Music App Blog has a great review of the app and even though it is over three years old at this point, I still agree with the conclusion that “iFretless Bass is as good as it currently gets for iOS bass guitar app and comes highly recommended.” Here’s a shot of my configuration for my latest project:

img_0597

Let’s look at the various settings and why I chose them.

  1. Layout – 7 strings, 6 frets, fourths tuning, with notes displayed- I’ve never seen a 7-string bass but it kinda makes sense given the small number of frets available. On the iPad screen, I find this “minimal” setting to be perfectly adequate in terms of note range and helps cut down on “fat finger mistakes” hitting the wrong fret or string. Fourths tuning is just a natural for emulating real bass playing. Notes displayed? Sure, why not. Can’t hurt.
  2. Transpose and Tuning – for this project, transpose is set to -4 which is unusual in general but matches the baritone ukulele in the project (which is tuned to linear Ab, a half-step up from normal baritone tuning but four half-steps down from C tuning) . This allows me to think in the same key without doing transposition tricks in my head. Tuning is centered as the whole project is tuned to a normal A=440 center.
  3. Instrument – fretless – duh. 🙂 The fretless sound is just awesome with this app and would be worth the price of admission if it were the only tone available.
  4. Performance – I wanted a smooth, fretless sound so dialed down the Volume and Velocity settings and set the Force setting on the low side to tame the extreme snap/pop sound that the instrument is capable of producing.
  5. The rest of the tonal settings I left as default.

Now, how to integrate into my DAW of choice these days, Cubasis? In addition to AudioBus, iFretless Bass supports Inter-App Audio as either an IAA “instrument” or an IAA “generator”. I first tried it as an IAA instrument. As I noted in a previous post, the usual advantage of this is that recording is done in MIDI and can be edited if need be before playing back into the app for eventual audio capture. However, when I tried that with iFretless, the played-back response was nothing like the original performance! Part of the recorded MIDI was very detailed pitch bend automation, which makes sense for emulating a fretless instrument, but playing that back into iFretless was wrecking utter havoc with the pitch! Music App Blog discusses some of the gotchas he encountered using iFretless as a MIDI controller for other apps. But it is puzzling that the MIDI data generated by the app is insufficient for playing the app itself. I don’t know if this is a bug in iFretless, Cubasis, or some combination, but it was completely unusable for me in this mode.

So I then tried configuring as an IAA generator so that the audio output from iFretless was captured in Cubasis. This worked as expected but it meant that I couldn’t really fix anything as far as timing or notes after the fact. I had to actually *play* (gasp) the instrument.

And that’s it. Now that the audio is captured in the DAW, it can be effected and mixed like any other audio track. More details will be forthcoming in a future project log, but I’m not anticipating it to need much treatment. Probably a little compression and EQ to get it to sit in the mix, but no amp sims or pedal boards for this one.

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