Ditching The DAW
The Future of Composing
Many music apps were created with a different purpose other than music or composition (the writing process). FL Studio started as a video game. To make a good music app, you need to start with the basics of music and writing. They help us create and organize ideas and translate the music in our head to the real world. For years, I pleaded with developers of the industry's best apps to leave old design behind. We needed an app that gets the most important things right. Then StaffPad radically changed my life.
The more we have to tell an app how to be musical, the less time we spend writing.
- The realism beats Kontakt
- Tap-to-Swap sounds 😁😁😁
- A voice AI to build templates
- Share Projects + Mobile
- Needs close mics for fast or intimate music
- Needs more synths, solo, and ethnic instruments.
The mic mix and divisi sections in Spitfire's Studio series handle Hedwig-like runs much more effectively. And if StaffPad had Gulfoss, I probably wouldn't need my Mac. Yet StaffPad's workflow is still so profound that I sold all my old gear to switch.
Dorico's engraving is beautiful, but it's like a slow-driving tank with a million knobs. Notion is like a sports car. It has the fastest UI I've ever used, but without the best sounds fully integrated (mapped, swappable, and mobile app), it's like a Ferrari without an ignition. The only app I consider viable for notation + realistic sound libraries is Studio One. It's not mobile and you can't easily swap libraries. In some ways it's a decade behind StaffPad. In others, it's a decade ahead. It depends on your priorities.
How Life changes
1 – Some tools teach you that more control can be a distraction from writing. In StaffPad, the only thing I'm doing is writing music. I don't deal with samplers, maps, busses, channels, track types, faders, knobs, plugin rabbit holes, external hosts, etc. Most of my time is now spent on musical transformations, experimenting, and developing the overall musical form. I spend more time writing an enjoyable listening experience. In the DAW, I was constantly bogged down just trying to get things to work. StaffPad may only have 3 big name flute libraries (I know, I know), but if a flautist can read your notation, StaffPad will record their performance, or an analog synth, an organ, or an instrument that hasn't been sampled.
2 – I didn't need to learn new handwriting. The app uses drawing patterns (i.e. an "m" shape) instead of the whole picture. It can't read nonsense (i.e. "ff" on an empty bar). The tutorials give tips for that. By the time I finished a song, I was flying. A week learning to use a new tool is a joy compared to the days of mapping articulations.
3 – I've written in the park and on the train after having left a recording session. Using an iPad is a different experience. It's not a laptop that gets warm on your lap. It's not a desktop with cables everywhere in a dark cave you never leave. The way I compose has changed. The time I spend looking at samples or plugins has changed. The way I talk about music has changed. I share my music with people more often because I have it with me. With StaffPad, I never miss a beat, nor does anyone else.
"[DAW Mixing] has reduced the time available for pure composition."
"I find my creativity is heightened when using traditional notation because I can work out harmonies, manipulate rhythms in ways I might not be able to intuitively or at a MIDI keyboard, and create counterpoint that is more developed and thought out."