Recording your song on an iPhone

As an amateur musician, I’m always looking for ways to get a song from my head into my computer. With Sonoma Wire Works FourTrack, it’s easy to compose an entire song, record the basic parts, and then export the audio to your Mac for further editing. Track recording is a way to lay down the basic instrumental parts and to add vocals and other sounds that make up a complete song.

First, grab the app at the App Store—it costs $10 (also check out our review of the app). The iPhone headset works okay for recording, but the cord is a bit short for my taste. I use the Shure SE210 earbuds ($180) and the Shure Music Phone Adapter ($40) because they are good quality and have really long cords.

Here’s how to record your song:

  1. Set your iPhone in Airplane mode to prevent any interference.
  2. Start FourTrack, and press the Song Tools button. On the Song Tools screen, you can configure a metronome to keep you on the beat. The metronome also allows you to later sync up drum loops at the same beats per minute.
  3. Name the song, and press the down arrow (upper right) to close Song Tools.
  4. Press the REC ARM button for track one and slide the Slide to Record button to record your audio. Then, you can do the same for three additional tracks: for example, you can add piano, background vocals, or any other sounds you want. The jog dial near the bottom of the screen lets you scan through the song, or just click on the blue timer.
  5. You have created your first song! It is saved automatically. Now, you can create additional tracks.
  6. To record more tracks, you have to combine (or “bounce”) tracks together. Press the Song Tools button. You can “bounce” all four tracks into a new song with two tracks (just press Bounce, and then To New Song) or from tracks one and two down to just one combined track one (press Bounce, then To This Song). It means you can record multiple tracks beyond just four, with no limits–although the sound quality degrades with each bounce. Press the down arrow to close Song Tools.
  7. Once your song is done, you can tweak the audio so it pans to the left or right. Adjust pan settings for each track by moving the jog dial left or right for each track. This helps make your song sound better by isolating the sounds.
  8. When your song is finished, go to Song Tools -> Song List -> Wi-Fi Sync at the bottom of the screen. On your Mac, start Safari and go to the IP address shown. On your iPhone, press OK. Now your Mac is synced and you can download audio tracks from Safari and load them into, say, GarageBand. Sonoma Wire Works offers a free RiffWorks program that can import iPhone tracks directly. Once connected over Wi-Fi Sync, just click Import, select the song, and rock on.

This original song, recorded entirely on FourTrack, has main vocals, guitar, background vocals and a drum. Thanks to Jamie Larson who recorded guitar, vocals, and wrote the song for this tutorial.

[John Brandon is a 20-year veteran Mac user who used to run an all-Mac graphics department.]

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