The audio app ecosystem for the iphone is still fairly young, so there’s plenty of apps fighting for attention, and quite a diverse range of approaches to portable music and sound. Below, the fruits of an afternoon’s worth of downloading and testing (and about $73 all up).
– Mobile sampler interface with 16 pads (multi-touch up to 5 sounds at once ). Load or record your own samples or use the built-in banks from the likes of Richard Devine, or from genres such as hiphop, dub etc.
– On-board wave editor to select in/out points of samples.
– Fairly intuitive easy to use step sequencer to play arrangements of those samples.
– Delay, 3-band EQ + BitCrusher FX.
– Export audio and midi.
Touch DJ $23.99
The most expensive app on my afternoon list, this offers scratching, looping, positioning, equalization, effects and pitch controls for 2 simultaneously playing mp3 or m4a files. Claims to offer a ‘new’ DJ technology it calls ‘visual mixing’ – which basically shows the waveforms playing as every other piece of DJ software before it has done for the last 10 or so years. Has an onboard sampler ( limited to 3 samples ),
Interesting radial design for creating drum loops. Sounds placed closer to the centre are more quiet, sounds placed further are louder. A clock hand spins around triggering each sound as it passes over it. Something about the lack of any grids seems to make this all the more fun for making loops work. Lacks tempo control, exporting capacity or ability to load samples. A fun toy anyway, and maybe interface ideas worth noticing by other developers?
JR Hexatone $12.99
More interface weirdness here : load six samples into a hexagonal grid, and start six oscillators by pressing play. These oscillators then ‘travel’ through the grid to an end point, changing position on the beat, and being affected by commands as they travel. Four modes of Play : GRID, CELLS, SND, or SET-UP, allow you to rekindle that feeling of playing Dungeons + Dragons with strange numbered a dice and a manual of elaborate rules. Bizarro, but can import + export, change tempo, so maybe of use to some.
Finger BassLine $3.99
I could say this reminds me of making acid-basslines with the old Roland TB-303 Bass Line Synthesizer – but I’ve only ever played around with Rebirth (RIP: rebirthmuseum.com ), software built in 1997 to emulate the old 303 (and the TR-808 and TR-909 rhythmic composers ). And so, now on my phone: monophonic synthesizer with built-in pattern based step sequencer. Sawtooths. Square waves. Filtering. Modulation. Tempo tap. Kids these days.
Sequencer, sampler and synthesizer modelled on a version made for the nintendo game boy back in 1999.
“It does not simulate the Game Boy’s sound or other functions, but has been fully optimised for the iPhone’s capabilities.”
RjDj Free / $2.49 option
The original augmented reality music maker. Microphone + algorithims + auto-layered beats = fun times. Featured examples include work by Perth’s Chris McCormick ( Girl Science records ). Branching out these days into other apps :
“Experience LOVE by AIR in a new way, through four real-time soundscapes. Record yourself as you become part of the music, and send your own Love message to someone special.”
EveryDay Looper $4.99
“Record yourself, loop it, layer it, mix it, merge it. And do it again.” The equivalent of a loop pedal used by a guitarist or vocalist. Simple to use, lacking any sort of manipulation capacities ( eg changing pitch / speed or moving loops further forward or backwards in time ).
Draw dots on a big grid. Erase some of them. Draw more dots. Move your fingers around the screen. Congratulations, you’ve just made a soundtrack for a Japanese shampoo commercial.
Game Show Sound Board (Free) + Pocket Studio (Free)
Crowd laughter. Applause. Oohs. Ahhs. Bad answer honks. Etc
DrumPad (Free) + Mad Decent (Free)
They’re free. You like hitting stuff, right? A drum kit. And : Air horns, sirens, elephant groans, lazer guns, gunshots, delay. Optional looping, delay and warning siren if someone picks your phone up.
Overall verdict? Lots of little prices add up over time. Necks get sore from hunching over and peering into a little screen for a few hours. And yet, there’s lots of engaging fun to be had. Beatmaker struck the best balance for me, between being fun to use and seeming versatile enough to use for vaguely serious occasions. ( It’s sample bank functions should help get rid of a few sound-board apps too. Except maybe cat piano. That stays for now. )