08/11/2012 04:03 GMT | Updated 07/01/2013 05:12 GMT

You Might Be Able to Play the Viola, the Tuba and the Concertina, but I Can Play the iPad

It causes consternation among 'real' musicians that, owing to recent advances in technology, every Tom, Dick and Harry can fashion themselves as a songwriter.

When I climb onto the tube each morning and begin tinkering with Garageband for the iPad, I can feel pairs of frosty eyes boring into me. I know what those eyes are thinking. They glower, "that gentleman might know how to correctly fold a pocket square, but he doesn't know a thing about songcraft." While these malevolent musings are underway, I will have composed a short operetta and a handful of atmospheric film scores. In such moments, I will decide that I am a genius until remembering, belatedly, that writing songs on the iPad is the musical equivalent of Damien Hirst playing dot-to-dot: it denotes no technical talent whatsoever.

Nevertheless, the disdain of my fellow passengers aboard the Victoria Line betrays ill-concealed jealousy. I can tell that those wanton churls would like nothing more than to dispossess me of my tablet device, locate their nearest Café Nero, and set about conceiving concertos and symphonies of their own. In fact, I'm yet to meet someone who didn't privately believe that they could outdo Mozart if given access to an iPad, a microphone, and a powdered wig.

The point is, if it is so easy to write music with an iPad, do the results qualify as meaningful art? The answer, my dears, has to be 'yes.' If we start to measure artistic merit solely on traditional draftsmanship and exertion, we will be forced to expel some of our most cherished creators from their respective halls of fame. Imagine teaching Jackson Pollock how to correctly apply a paintbrush, or reprimanding Keats and Nabokov for their abominable spelling. Likewise, it probably wouldn't have harmed Lou Reed to have learnt how to properly pluck a guitar. Remember, art is not always about godlike displays of virtuosity.

In music particularly, there is an important distinction to be made between a composer/songwriter and an instrumentalist. I am certainly the former and I have reconciled myself to the fact that, despite being a monumental show-off, I will never be able to utilise my guitar as a gloating device. In any case, I have little desire to parade my Telecaster as some sort of phallic extension, whilst I strum myself to masturbatory utopia. The image - even for a narcissist like me - is repulsive and I long ago imposed a ban on guitar solos in my band, Kites:

"If you want to play solos," I said "join a band that don't have any decent songs. That way you'll be called upon regularly to distract the audience from poor writing by bamboozling them with musical scales."

Johnny Marr never once played a solo* and what's good enough for Johnny is good enough for me.

Jests aside, the iPad does not lend itself to instrumental showmanship - the touch-screen simply doesn't allow for nimble dexterity. This is good news for me and bad news Steve Vai. Ultimately, as a piece of technology for developing ideas on the move, the iPad is indispensable. I would go as far as to contend that it is the Moleskin notebook for the 21st Century.


I would like to sign-off this missive by announcing that I have recently purchased a new application called Deejay. I won't bother elucidating on what it does, suffice to say that Daft Punk can safely go into retirement: DJ MTTHW PHLLPS has arrived.

*I have subsequently been reminded by my Smiths-obsessed manager that Marr indulged in a wonderful guitar solo in Shoplifters of the World Unite, but one should never allow the facts to get in the way of a leaky argument.