This week, I heard about one of the latest iOS music apps to add support for the Audiobus audio-routing app, and it was a new one to me. <a href="http://iotic.com/samvada/">Samvada</a> emulates "sympathetic strings" on Indian instruments, allowing you to "process" audio sources through it and give them a kind of sonic "halo". The app can also provide a kind of ambient "drone" (almost organ-like, I thought), and also gives you thirteen "strings" you can strum or tap to give a svarmandal-like effect.
Although Samvada is ostensibly aimed at Indian music (and has a number of scales and ragas pre-defined), I don't think it sounds obviously "Indian", and I've already found it handy as an ambient effect for my iPhone recording setup. Samvada can be inserted in any one of Audiobus' three app "slots" (input, effect and output), which opens up some very welcome options for using it... did I mention it's a free app?
It's hard to explain in words how Samvada sounds and how I use it, so here's a demo which gives you an idea or two. I set out to re-record my arrangement of Joachim Neander's hymn tune "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" for two electric lap dulcimers (the original was on my 2012 album "Lifecourses"), but I didn't have much time, so my playing became a bit more improvisatory as I went along!
I recorded both dulcimer parts on my Tom Yocky solid-body electric, going into the iPhone 4S via a TASCAM iU2 audio/MIDI interface. In Audiobus, I inserted both Samvada and JamUp Pro XT (amp/FX-modelling app) into the "input" slot - this basically allowed me to split the dulcimer signal into two, and process/record them to separate tracks in Multitrack DAW (loaded into the Audiobus "output" slot). JamUp took care of the dulcimer's tone and FX, whilst Samvada added both the "sympathetic strings" effect and the ambient "drone" (the latter begins about halfway through the piece). I recorded both dulcimer parts this way, ultimately giving me four stereo tracks (two of the JamUp-processed dulcimer, two of the Samvada effect sound).
A note on Multitrack DAW: it was a bit "trial and error" to get MDAW to route the two Audiobus inputs to two separate tracks. I found that MDAW would "get it right" the first time, but after this, would only make one of the two AB sources available as inputs. To get it to work, I had to remove MDAW from the Audiobus output slot, return to MDAW, create two new tracks, return to AB and re-add MDAW as an output, before both sources would be routed to the correct two tracks. It worked in the end, though...
To sum up: if you are using an iOS device for music-making, use Audiobus, like sonic experimentation, and don't have Samvada yet, I can't recommend it highly enough, particularly as the app will work in any Audiobus slot, and (I still can't believe this) it's free. I didn't demonstrate the "svarmandal" strings in the app here, but I'll leave that for you to try for yourself...