Acapella - Virtual Jam Session App for iPhone: Part 2
Updated: May 9, 2020
As a follow up to my initial post about playing music together online, this post is the next phase of my discovery into the realm of software that facilitates musicians (and others) who wish to play and collaborate online. A few days ago I had the opportunity to collaborate on a musical project with our church worship team. We needed musical selections for Sunday service, and since we could not appear at church in person we used the product, Acapella, which I had never used before but saw on YouTube. It became critical to figure this out quickly because COVID-19 restrictions had just be put in place and travel to church buildings was not allowed.
The Acapella app enabled us to collaborate one-by-one to record songs with video we needed for our upcoming worship service. The end result looked a bit like the Brady Bunch screen with each participant in their own block. I know you've probably seen something like this before. So, this is my general impression of the iOS version of this app. I played my Roland digital drums and used an iRig HD 2 interface to connect to my iPad. Keep in mind that I'm not an "Apple" person so this took some innovation on my part to get it to work, which I'll describe later. An Android version of this program is advertised but it was not supported by my LG phone. In other words... it didn't work.
What would be great is to have this software functional for a Mac and/or PC platform, but there are no options for that right now. Acapella, which is "free" is primarily an iOS app right now. Like most free apps for mobile devices, it doesn't come with instructions. For me, I had to rely on my past IT experience to figure stuff out. I ended up using an iRig HD 2 interface I had purchased previously that connected my digital drums to my iPad, which runs the Acapella software. One of the options for using Acapella was to simply use your earbuds or the mic that's on your iPhone to sing or play into the Acapella app. Maybe that would work for a guitar or banjo (and it did) but there was no way that would have worked on drums or a number of other instruments. For me, as a drummer, I had to overcome my own challenges and learn how to add a standalone drum track and connect my instrument to my iPad, which was something I had never done before.
In the end, I was able to successfully add the drum track. The Acapella app DID work and it allowed five or six worship team members on this project to add our respective parts, one-by-one.
I reached out to the Acapella Tech Support team regarding a technical issue about recording, but their response took about 24 hours to get back with me and the response was not worth the wait. They actually responded to my question with a question of their own - and I still don't have an answer. LOL.
If you decide to use Acapella you should anticipate the normal basic recording options for pre-song/music production, such as volume, reverb, etc... but it cost extra for any options beyond volume controls and faders (left/right). For the post-song/music features, unfortunately this "free" app starts to charge a-la-carte' for conveniences like exporting the finished product, removing their logo or saving in other compatible file formats for use with your DAW or something like Garageband.
SUMMARY: If you're an Apple or iPhone person you'll probably like the ease of use for Acapella. Most folks who are using this app seem to be singers who are totally ok with singing solo with their iPhones. To me, it seems as if the product is intended more for fun or advertising and not serious production, due to the quality of the recording. It's seems more like a cross between a social media app and a karaoke program. The product DOES seem to work advertised if you are willing to add to the project using the one-at-a-time method. There are similar products like Smule, VoiceOver or Splice that allow for music collaboration - depending on what you're trying to do. For example Splice actually does connect with your DAW. So far, all the Android versions of Acapella all seem to have horrible reviews though, so I'll be steering clear of those. See my list of pros and cons for Acapella below:
- It’s free to download, sign up and play/sing - seems like fun
- Thousands of other musicians use the product
- A solo artist can quickly create their own video singing/playing all the parts
- You can spend hours looking at other videos to obtain ideas for becoming a better artist
- There is a 7 day "free" trial period where you can test drive the product's features
- It's relatively easy to create a playlist and follow artists if you want
- The product is advertised as "free" but it's not really free to use "premium" options
- Tech support is not good. I never received responses to the two questions I asked
- There is no simple way to use your current DAW to help create Acapella projects
- Video editing and rendering are poor and very slow. Good for an app - but not good overall.
- You’ll either need to sing/play into your phone or come up with a device to connect your axe
- You can't play together with anyone, if that's important to your project.
Basic instructions are below for my cave man friends who hate to read:
Use Acapella to create movies by yourself or with others who can sing and/or play one part at a time.
- Download the software (for iPhone, iPad or iPod only)
- Sing or play into the app using your earbuds if you want
- Save your Acapella movie
- Join/share with others online to collaborate on your project
Cost: Free (but you have to pay for premium features, like exporting the video.
Ease of use: Fairly Simple if you are an iPhone person
Check out my upcoming reports on Soundjack and NINJAM, for playing LIVE music together on a PC or Mac. I hear both are pretty good, so be sure to check out the next review.
Finally, special thanks to Magic Ray of Magic Ray Jazz for helping to share this information via social media with our local partners. A few of you have shared information about your own experiences with hardware and online music software with me. Please continue to do so and I'll be happy to partner with anyone else who has an interest in sharing information to get more of us playing online in the interim. My email is below if you'd like to send me a note or review the site.
firstname.lastname@example.org - E-mail