Studio on a Cellphone & My Fascination with Creative Limitation

Ok, so I’m not sure how I found out about this little app called “n-Track Studio”, but apparently it is a full-featured DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for iOS and Android. There’s a free version, so I downloaded n-Track to my phone, an Android S10. Usually I record on my desktop PC using a DAW called Cakewalk Sonar, which I’ve used it for over a decade. It’s what I’m most comfortable on, and I can capture my instruments / voice quickly, then edit and mix like lightning.  Most DAWs all pretty much do the same things, so IMO it matters hardly which you use.

Yesterday I went to Google Play and picked this up (free version):

 

 

I watched a tutorial or two about the app, and am very curious about how my experience with it will be. As I said, I’m a fighter pilot on my DAW of choice, and there’s no reason I can think to use anything else for recording- except for one. It would be a very large creative constraint. It would force me to create with a totally new (and frankly, quite challenging) workflow. When recording on a phone or tablet, you have only your fingers and the touchscreen. I’m used to two large displays, a mouse, and a keyboard to type on- not to mention hotkeys to accelerate common tasks.

It’s unclear which features are locked in the free version (paid version says “starts at $0.99 a month”, which is not a big deal). It appears the number of tracks is limited. I assume it probably tops out at 4 or something, which means I could have only one voice and three instruments (if I chose to use the tracks that way). Hey. Another limitation! Usually my songs have upwards of 25 or 30 tracks. What would I come up with if I was limited to only 4?

I should tell you at this point that I’m considering doing February’s RPM Challenge (writing and recording 10 songs within 28 days) entirely using n-Track. I think another fun limitation might be seeing what kind of songs I come up with using only the features included in the free version, and the microphone on the phone itself (as opposed to hooking up a real vocal mic somehow).

Diving a little deeper on the n-Track website, I see that you can’t export audio files with the free or even the $0.99 version. This means that *with the free version* the only way to get the music out into the world is to upload it to the music / social platform Songtree and provide my listeners links to that. At first, that was a hard ‘no’. But now I wonder… should I let that be a limitation as well? Normally I’d be frustrated to have one of my projects not be available through all the standard streaming services. Wouldn’t it though be oddly freeing? (Are you starting to get a hang of creative limitations here?) I just took a spin over to the Songtree site to check it out.

Songtree (which I hadn’t heard of before tonight) is a free platform where artists can upload their music, and meet other musicians. One of its perks is that you can invite other musicians to collaborate on the tracks you upload. A cool thing for sure, but probably not the best idea for the RPM Challenge to rely on other musicians under such a tight deadline. To get to 10 songs, you need to average about one song every three days.

So to learn more, as I’ve been typing this post, I’ve signed up for a Songtree account. First off, it asks you to choose a genre that you fit in. Out of the choices presented, I felt “Alternative / Electronica” fit my style the closest. Oh! I see you can choose more than one, so I also chose “Rock / Blues” (for the rock angle). On the next screen, there are fields for Artist or Band Name and email. I decide to drop my last name, and just go by William.

It’s getting a little late, so I’m going to sign off. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your thoughts / ideas / protests below.

-W

Still here? Read my post Infinity via Limit, about 3 Famous Artists and their Creative Limitations.