I’ve toyed around with several iPhone and iPad music apps. Many are intriguing and fun, but few have inspired me into making “real” music. In preparation for the next Disquiet Junto project, I downloaded Nodebeat and tried some improvisation. I like the result:
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The app combines randomness and control in an intriguing way. I also like the fine microtonal control it gives you. You can also use it as a MIDI controller for other software, though I haven’t given that a try yet. If you want to try it for yourself and you don’t have an iOS or Android device, you can snag the desktop version, for free no less.
Aside from Nodebeat, the best three iOS music apps I’ve tried are:
- Animoog — a faithful reproduction of a Moog analog synth. Fascinating, wonderful, versatile, but very complex and I haven’t even begun to plumb its depths.
- Figure — a very stripped-down version of Reason with a beautifully minimalist interface, a sense of humor and wonderful sounds. It also has some maddening shortcomings, however, like not being able to save or export your work (unless you hook up a cable to other recording software from your headphone jack.) Also, nice though the interface is, it would be good to be able to more directly edit your patterns. I presume (hope) they’ll be rolling out more of this kind of functionality in future versions.
- Soundrop — more of a toy than a musical instrument per se, but an excellent toy. If you like quasi-randomness in your music, this offers you tons of gratification. Free, well worth monkeying around with.
I haven’t tried some of the big name iOS music programs yet. I’m told Garageband is pretty great, and the Electribe looks pretty interesting. For the most part, the apps I’ve looked at are too limited to seem worth the while compared to serious software like Ableton, Pro Tools, Reason and so on. But I’m keeping an open mind. If you have recommendations, please put them in the comments.