Modstep, the step sequencer on steroids on iOS, just got a huge pile of new features. It hosts AU plug-ins (yes, iOS plug-ins). It adds per-track MIDI, for hardware and apps. It has loads of new features for clips and arranging. It is, basically, a MIDI daw with built-in instruments that’s unlike nearly anything on desktop – only it was designed from the ground-up for the iPad. In fact, it does so much that it’s a bit overwhelming. So, let’s take a birds-eye view of what’s new – and then turn to the singular educational force that s Jakob Haq to explain how to use it.

First, what’s new? A big release dropped just last week, called “1.1” – though “2.0” wouldn’t be a stretch.

Here’s the full feature list:

The highlights:

Plug-ins. Work with Audio Unit plug-in instruments and effects on iOS – these are Apple’s new plug-in format that works both on desktop Macs and iOS. You can drag-and-drop instruments to tracks, and chain them together. So that means lots of sound combinations are at the ready (apart from Modstep’s own built-in instrument).

More MIDI. Per-track MIDI routing let you combine hardware and software instruments easily. There is also MIDI file import and export (so you could use Modstep to make clips to use in tools like Ableton Live, or import Standard MIDI Files – the developers were annoying me with endless renditions of the X-Files theme). And, adding to Modstep’s already impressive out-of-the-box support for hardware, there are new templates, too.

Clips and patterns are more usable. There’s a lot here. But you can pull up settings with a long tap, and see a preview of notes inside patterns. There are new options for how you manage and delete clips. Also, you can loop clips and loops and add scene follow action. That’s right – Modstep has added the feature that Ableton Live obviously needs yet still a decade later lacks, in the form of Scene “follow actions.”

More scale and tempo controls. Transposition, here we come: you can set a global scale. Or you can set scale and tempo per scene or scale per track, if you prefer.

Modstep acts as an effects processor. Route audio to and from a computer via Studiomux, or other apps via Audiobus. And you can add any number of plug-ins (until you run out of power) plus make master effects chains.

Play on the main screen. THere’s a global keyboard with pads and velocity so you can use the iPad as a controller, if you want. There’s also a metronome.

Also, a bunch of stuff is fixed.

AU: What is it good for?

So, Audio Unit plug-ins work on Modstep – great, now, where are the AU plug-ins?

Here are a few. Synths:

Effects and so – first, a bunch by Blamsoft:

And more:

  • RP-1 is a really pretty stereo delay processor (nicest of this bunch, actually, visually) with lots of routing options
  • MicSwap is a mic emulator, so very handy as a plug-in

Clearly, there’s nowhere near the selection and depth of what you get in desktop plug-ins – it seems the market just isn’t there yet. On the other hand, one or two of these – or even just a fondness for that great SEM synth – and you’ve justified the feature.


Start with this general overview:

Here’s a look at how internal instruments and plug-ins work – for the all-on-the-iPad workflow:

And here’s how MIDI works – for either apps (desktop or mobile) or outboard gear:

Or, for all the tutorials in one place, here’s a playlist: