EXCLUSIVE: The Portable Future of Music is Here

Around the turn of the twentieth century, recording a musician’s performance was a relatively difficult chore that yielded lackluster results. Recordings couldn’t be mass produced, so the artist would need to repeat his performance multiple times in front of multiple phonographs to produce only a few hundred copies of his or her work. Mass production, editing, multitracking, and any semblance of post-production were all practical impossibilities.

Now, just over a decade into the twenty-first century, recordings of superior quality can be produced more easily and more quickly—and in just about any environment in which the musician wants to work. Similarly, the product of that work can be enjoyed with the touch of a button in any place the listener wishes. The performance, composition, and production of music have all become far, far handier and more manageable than Edison would have envisioned. Music is becoming more portable as a profession.

Musicians who aren’t getting mainstream exposure and platinum certifications know that the real money will come from their live shows—and that means transporting the act and all of its necessary equipment across the city, the country, or the world. Musical equipment manufacturers have offered a range of smaller, more mobile gear. Roland’s popular Micro Cube RX is a 5-inch battery powered guitar amp. Pignose offers battery-powered portable guitar amps, some of which are rechargeable. Traveler Guitar’s designs are engineered for portability, taking into account the constraints of luggage size and airplane compartment dimensions. Strobel has gone one step farther by offering a guitar that can be partially disassembled for transport. Drums are typically some of the most problematic pieces to move and suffer from much lower quality when adapted for portability. Nonetheless, many companies have made attempts at drum sets that are easy to set up, dismantle, and take along. Among the successes is Pearl’s Rhythm Traveler kit. DJs also have portable options including Numark’s DJ In a Box line and Fender’s Passport Pro series of PA systems.

Those interested in composing on-the-go also have a lot of options. If all you have is a guitar and a phone, you can use the Gibson Learn & Master Guitar app as a tuner, a metronome, and a chord reference. If you’re looking to pick out a melody in your head to remember later, you might try the Master Piano app, which allows you to record piano melodies, play them back, and edit them.

You can also lay the groundwork for a new song with realistic guitar sounds courtesy of the iAmGuitar app. For a more old-fashioned scoring approach to writing, Symphony Pro allows for detailed editing in a sheet music format. Among the numerous lyricist apps is Songwriter’s Pad, which permits the user to structure—and easily restructure—lyrics according to song sections, and includes a thesaurus, a standard dictionary, and a rhyme dictionary. For the slightly-less-portable laptop user, there are dozens of available score-writing programs such as Muse, GNU Lilypond, Overture, and Capriccio, the last of which also has a fully functional in-browser version, making it accessible from any Internet connection.

Arranging and producing music have become easier as well. A surfeit of production apps saturates the Web, including sequencers, synthesizers, samplers, drum programs, and digital audio workstations. A musician with the right inspiration could use Loopmash HD to produce a beat, create a synthesizer melody with Magellan Synth, give it an Arpeggionome backing track, and mix them all together with Auria—and all on an iPad. Or, alternatively, there’s Apple’s own GarageBand app, which can do all of those things to varying degrees. More avid music producers may want to invest in a studio case such as SKB’s Studio Flyer, which is durable, well padded, and travel-ready.

Music and technology have become more closely married over the past several decades. One of the common threads between the two is a greater shift toward mobility—phones and guitars are both wireless. As the microchips get smaller and closer together and the music reaches wider audiences through more channels, both worlds will increasingly rely on the portability of their respective equipment. It’s been only one hundred and thirty-five years since Edison introduced the phonograph and already the successful musician is the portable musician.

—Alex Hansen

Alex Hansen is a writer and freelance journalist. He’s extremely passionate about music, with a particular fondness for Post-Rock. His previous musical project was at RockRoast.com.

© Copyright 2013 Portable Musician, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.


About Alex Hansen