Choose your weapon
We’ve come a long way since the inception of the first iDevice and one of the most exciting features this has brought us is undoubtedly the app, mini programs more specified in their functions usually just trying to do one or two things, although clever developers are finding more and more ways to cram every bit of code they can into them to further blur the line between your phone and a computer. Surely, it’s true what they say; there is an app for everything (although I am still waiting for my AR pocket monster battle app). When it comes to music creation, there’s no shortage of apps out there with new ones being released almost at a weekly basis. The problem is that they aren’t all great, some just downright suck! So here at ProAudioLand, we’ll be sifting through the huge catalog of the iPhone/iPad, Blackberry and Android apps and will feature a few of the best every Friday that are certainly worth your hard earned cash.
Meteor Multi-Track Recorder by 4Pockets @ $19.99 (iPad only; requires iOS 4.3 or above)
Meteor Multi-Track for iPad
Coming in as the priciest app on the list, but by far the most powerful, Meteor Multi-Track is a 12 track portable studio capable of doing more than most would think. It comes with the usual bells and whistles one would expect from a music creation program such as the ability to record in full CD quality, a multi-effects processor, a mixer capable of splicing, cutting and pasting, and the ability to import songs already on your iPad. Unlike like apps made specifically for the smaller screen, Meteor Multi-Track takes full advantage of the iPad’s bigger screen and HD display, as the app not only looks sharp but never feels cramped, which is probably the biggest flaw pocket studio apps tend to have. Other key features include virtual instruments, a midi editor (capable of import, export to Mac and PC as well as email), background multi-tasking, a sound cloud to back up tracks as well as the ability to split stereo tracks into two mono tracks.
The downside of the app is that if you want effects such as tremolo, compression and distortion, you’re going to have to purchase each at 3 bucks a pop from an in-app purchase along with more instruments and editing features, making the app feel less complete, although it is still very capable without any of the “extra” features. In case you’re wondering, if you were to buy ALL of the extra features, the $20 app can easily run you upwards of $60, but again, the core features are there without the need for in-app extras. So if you’re looking for powerful multi-track recorder but don’t like the cramped feel of phone based studio apps, the Meteor Multi-Track Recorder is definitely worth the $20.
Apple GarageBand @ $4.99 (compatible with iPhone 3GS or above, iTouch 3rd Gen or above and iPad)
GarageBand for iOS
Those familiar with Apple’s OSX GarageBand will find many similarities here but this app is still an iOS affair, optimized for touch controls and a sleeker interface, presumably for recording quickly and on the go. Those not familiar with studio programs and effects might want to give this one a try, as Apple has put their signature ease-of-use flare into the app, meaning it works easy enough for “dummies” without ever making the user feel so; as Apple would say, “it just works.” Core features include an 8-track recorder, a good selection of “Smart Instruments” such as your standard guitar, drums, organ, keyboards and even some wind instruments for good measure. Did I mention a full orchestra you can control with your fingers? You can even plug in your guitar (through the same adapter you would with a PC/Mac) and select from 12 stombox effects and 9 different amp emulators. When taking into account the app’s “Jam Session” feature, it makes things that much more fun as you’re able to seamlessly connect with up to three friends via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, select your rig and effects setup and… jam!
Other notable features include the ability to transport any of your projects to and from your Mac GarageBand as well as compatibility with several other Apple programs. You can send your projects to the iCloud for safe storage or easy retrieve them on any of your iDevices, send tracks to iMovie or even iTunes. Social media addicts can also easily share any of their creations for listening on Facebook. Although this app may not feature the same depth and endless effects that other iOS apps have, for $5, you not only get a fun and intuitive mini 8-track studio, instrument emulator and wireless jam session program, it all comes with that seamless flare that only Apple can bring you. This app is most definitely worth the price.
EasyBand Studio @ $6.99 (compatible with Android 2.2 and above)
EasyBand Studio for Android
Already own a full blown studio program on your computer and are just looking for a better way to sketch down your musical ideas than simply humming the melody on a recorder? If that's you, then this is THE app for you. As a musician dabbling in songwriting, ideas rarely come at the most opportune time and more often than not, your instrument of choice is nowhere to be found. Think of EasyBand Studio more like a practice tool and musical sketchbook made for quickly throwing down ideas as quickly and simply as possible.
You start with a timeline (sadly, it’s kept at 4/4, so all you avant-garde musicians might need to look elsewhere or start using common tempos) then choose your song style, tempo and drum track, all of which only takes a few seconds. After that, add your chords and fills as you see fit anywhere on your timeline. Each of the styles has two variations, two fills as well as an intro and ending pattern. You can mess with up to 8 individual tracks for a given project, allowing you to mute any track, helpful for drummers who want to play along with the rest of the song or if you simply want to single out a certain instrument for more manipulation.
Although it does come with a few studio-esque features, don’t expect this to be a pocket ProTools. If you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to jot down the ideas in your head, this app gets the job done, and then some. Think of it as a quick demo maker for reference once you get home to the big-boy toys. For $7, it may seem a bit pricey for some, but then again, you can’t put a price on remembering a song that would have otherwise been lost forever.
Guitar Studio by LCA Mobile Inc @ $4.99 (supports software version 4.5.0 or higher)
Guitar Studio for Blackberry
Although they might not have the same amount of options as their Android and iOS counterparts, there are still plenty of music apps for Blackberry users that are just as good. Guitar Studio offers plenty of features and options that any musician can benefit from, including a chromatic tuner, mp3 editor, guitar tab downloader and a 30,000 plus chord library. Think of this app as a nice little Swiss Army knife; you can’t really kill anything with it but works well for on-the-go cutting, screwing, magnifying…well, you get the idea. Other notable features include live recording and playback, tempo manipulation, import and export, share via email or Facebook as well as mp3 looping (you can take parts of your favorite songs, loop them, and play or sing right over them). For $5, there’s plenty here to like. The tuner and chord library alone are worth it (considering that back as recently as ‘08, a tuner on phones was about $30, seriously). So if you’re looking for a few tools that fit in your pocket along with a pretty fun music creation program, give Guitar Studio a try via the free lite version if you’re not ready to commit.
And there you have it. Each one is definitely worth your time and money or if you're still not sure, there's always the lite versions! Come back next Friday when we'll be featuring more of the best music creation apps smartphones have to offer. Have a great weekend music fans!