Both in the studio and on stage, we’re seeing more and more professional musicians, songwriters, and performers adopt iOS functionality into their workflow. Without breaking the bank, some of these apps fill needs that would’ve cost a fortune just a couple of years ago; whereas other apps fill needs that you didn’t even know you had! All things considered, when it comes to crafting music digitally, we’ve certainly come a long way from the days of Mario Paint composer. Keep reading to learn more about some of the more exciting and useful music apps on the market today.
Cleartune – Chromatic Tuner (iPhone and iPad) by Bitcount ltd ($3.99)
There’s no denying it: being the only member of an ensemble to play out of tune is straight up embarrassing. Sure, you may have a good ear, but why rely on impatient band mates for your reference pitches? Cleartune is an affordable and incredibly accurate chromatic tuner used by guitarists, string players, flutists…. pretty much anyone who cares to play their instrument in tune. Cleartune’s pitch detection is so good, you could even use it to intonate your guitar or bass (assuming you’re in a quiet enough room for your device’s microphone to accurately ‘hear’ your pitch). Don’t leave home without it.
Impaktor – The Drum synthesizer (iPhone and iPad) by BeepStreet ($4.99)
Impaktor is a groove box type app made for wannabe drummers and table top tappers. It works by turning real life acoustical impulses (i.e. table taps) into an “excitation source for advanced sound modules that simulates behavior of membranes, cymbals, metallophones or strings.” In addition to a library of high quality, usable sounds, Impaktor boasts recording, looping, and sound export features that make it a very usable beat sketchpad. Also: who wouldn’t want a cat powered drum machine?
DM1- The Drum Machine (iPad & iPhone) by Fingerlab (iPad: $4.99 iPhone: $1.99)
Think of any popular drum machine from the past 30 years and you’ll likely find it sampled in DM1’s roster of available drum sounds. It also features an intuitive and attractive step sequencer, dual fx trackpads, mixer, pattern/song recall, as well as a plethora of other immediately useful features. The iPhone version is great for quick beat crafting on the go. The iPad version is a killer studio and live performance tool. DM1 is also a great metronome substitute for guitarists and bassists looking to enrich their practice routine.
Auxy: Beat Studio – (iPad) by Auxy (Free with in-app purchases)
Auxy is more than just a fun groove box. It also makes for an incredible midi companion to desktop DAW setups. Instead of painstakingly programing midi patterns with your laptop’s trackpad, Auxy allows users to draw out their compositions in an attractive piano roll editor before exporting those finely tuned parts into their DAW. Midi capability comes at an IAP cost of $4.99; however, that price is nothing considering the much higher retail cost of similar hardware sequencing counterparts (such as Korg’s SQ-1). Auxy’s impressive midi implementation allows it to function as the center piece for extensive analog set up’s such as this one.
JamUp Pro – Guitar Amp Modeling (iPhone and iPad) by Positive Grid ($9.99)
JamUp is touted as a multi-effects processor and amp simulator, but in reality it’s more of a swiss army knife of usable tools for guitarists, bassists, and electric pianists. It features an 8 track recorder, phrase sampler, tuner/metronome, and more. Like any other amp/fx iOS app, JamUp requires an audio interface (such as Apogee Jam or IK Multimedia iRig) to use your guitar with it. Alternatively, if you have an iOS synth app, you can route that synth signal through JamUp which sweetens up the sound of sterile sounding synth patches.
Garageband (iPhone and iPad) by Apple ($4.99)
You can try, but it’s nearly impossible to deny the appeal of Apple’s Garageband for iOS. The desktop version of Garageband was for many, their first foray into writing and recording. It’s little wonder that the iOS version of this classic would feel instantly appealing and familiar. Virtual instruments incorporate iOS multi-touch beautifully and midi is a breeze to edit. Other iOS DAW’s such as Auria by Wavelab, boast features that are more akin to desktop DAW’s (such as extensive plugin support from pro audio DSP companies like PSP and FabFilter); however, it’s astounding what Garageband offers you for the low price of just $4.99. If you want to jump into recording your ideas in a quick and painless manner, then Garageband is likely to be your best bet.
Geo Synthesizer (iPhone and iPad) by Wizdom Music LLC ($9.99)
It’s a strange time we live in. One no longer needs a degree in music theory or composition in order to garner acclaim as a successful musician. Now, with tools like Geo Synthesizer by Wizdom Music, it’s possible to fake your way through ripping melodic lead parts through just a bit of technical know-how. Geo Synthesizer provides users with a matrix of all the ‘right notes’ (with some of those cool ‘wrong notes’ for flavor) placed comfortably under your fingertips. It also functions as a midi controller so you can control all your fancy software synths stored on your desktop DAW. Great news if you have musical ideas but are worn out from trying to learn piano!
The iTunes app market is so chock full of exciting apps for music makers that a single roundup will never fully sum up all the worthwhile tools available. Some of which are so mind-blowingly useful that you couldn’t imagine life as a musician in their absence. While others might only be useful in recording a symphony of farts. A few other game changing apps that weren’t covered in this roundup but are definitely worth checking out: AudioBus, Music IO, and WOW Filterbox.
What music apps do you find yourself using most of all?