Ahead Full Of Steam EP (2015)

An EP of demos I recorded during the summer of 2015, almost exclusively using my “rucksack studio” portable setup. Here are a few notes I made regarding the songs…

Dust And Time

This demo began life as an experiment: to try and compose and record a song using the iPad app Tin Pan Rhythm. This program is basically an “acoustic band in a box” – specify your tempo, time signature, chord sequence (eight bars)and instrumental styles, and the app generates a “band” of brushed drums, double-bass, piano, acoustic guitar and percussion. You can control the relative volume levels of the instruments, which I mainly used in this demo to mute one or more of them at a time.

The TPR backing forms the majority of this demo; I added two tremelo-effected electric guitars, sampled harmonium and vocals, but the other instruments come from TPR.

One catch, is that at time of writing (summer 2015), TPR can only remember the most recent sequence you programmed – there is no facility to save sequences, or to chain them into songs in the app. I had to record the different sequences (chord progressions, instrument combinations, etc.) manually as an audio file, then chop these out in an audio editor and reassemble them in the multitrack recorder (Multitrack DAW on the iPad). Forgive a couple of rather “ragged” transitions, but overall I think this works(-ish)!

I played, sang, programmed, recorded and mixed this demo entirely on an iPad, with the electric guitar (a Ministar Testar) going in via a Sonuus i2M Musicport, and the vocals via a Samson G-Track.

It’s Been Done

For some time, I have been assembling what I call my “rucksack studio”: a combination of instruments, hardware devices (centred round an iPad) and software applications for producing demos, which I can carry comfortably in one go. To cut a long story short: this is one of my first recordings to be produced entirely with the “rucksack” setup, in the kind of setting I envisaged it for (travelling/on holiday).

I played both the guitar tracks on my Ministar Testar “travel” electric, going in via the Sonuus i2M Musicport (USB guitar interface/monophonic MIDI converter). The rhythm guitar part was played through the Tonestack app, using TS’ “ABY” (signal-splitter) feature to effectively “double-track” the guitar signal. One “path” is voiced with one of TS’ own “electric” guitar amp models; the other uses TS’ IAA (Inter App Audio) option, to send the signal to the BIAS Amps app for its “acoustic simulator”. In short: instant double-guitar magic!

More iPad apps: the drum part comes from DM1, whilst the bass track is iFretless Bass, played via the guitar and the Sonuus’ MIDI converter, and processed through a bass amp from BIAS Amps (a great trick with iFB). The “Moog” part comes from iMini – I played the middle solo on the touchscreen, whilst the bit in the coda was the guitar/Sonuus again.

This was an end-to-end iPad production… not bad, as they go 😉


Returning from holiday, I had a couple of hours to kill on the transport home, so I doodled this short instrumental on the iPad with a couple of apps. (its working title was briefly “Phil Time’s Tune” – maybe I should’ve stuck with that…?)

The rhythm-box part comes from Funkbox, with the “pads” coming from Animoog and (from the second “verse”, Galileo Organ), both triggered via SoundPrism Pro. The bass is iFretless Bass (played via the touchscreen), and the solo is the Mellotron simulator Super Manetron (touchscreen again) processed through Vio, which gives it that audible “twinkly” effect.

Thousand Miles Away

This song was written and demoed entirely on holiday, using my “rucksack studio” setup – this being the first trip where I have used the kit in the kind of setting I envisaged it for). I was fortunate enough to have been able to take my Ministar Testar electric “travel guitar”, and this features prominently on the demo.

The guitar parts were recorded via a Sonuus i2M Musicport (USB guitar interface with monophonic MIDI conversion) and the BIAS Amps app. The percussion loop was a combination of Funkbox and DM1; I played the bass part with the guitar and the Sonuus; MIDI conversion feature, triggering the iFretless Bass app through BIAS Amps. The two organ parts come from Galileo (triggered with SoundPrism Pro), and there’s a bit of e-Theremin MkII low in the mix near the end.

This song started out with a bit of an “early JJ Cale” feel to it, I think, though how much of this has survived the demo process, I leave to others to judge!

More (perhaps) to follow…