Every single year, it seems as though technology is moving at a much faster rate than our wallets, or our contracts for that matter, but undoubtedly, one of the most exciting features the inception of the smartphone has brought us are apps. Not only that, these mini programs are usually priced much (MUCH) lower than their proper standalone software iterations. Best of all, there truly is something for everyone. Every Friday, we here at PAL have been sifting through the multitude of music apps to give you the musician something that is definitely worth your while. Whether you have an iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry, read on as we give you our weekly recommendations to make sure you not only get the most bang for your buck, but you get something that definitely fits your style.
We’ve featured plenty of mini studios and useful tools such as tuners and drum machines, but this week we will be focusing on the synthesizer and keyboard. Those of you who have never messed around with one of these apps before should be in for a surprise at the amount of features and real-world likeness programmers have been able to cram into these things.
Those familiar with the Korg brand already know that these guys know synthesizers. Being an iPad only app, it’s a bit pricier than your normal app but you’ll definitely know where that extra money went to once you take it for a spin. On looks alone, this app is sharp and detailed while never feeling cramped thanks to the iPad’s large screen. A fair warning to those of you unfamiliar with these instruments as this app is a no compromise port of their MS-20 Analog Synthesizer. The vast amount of options and buttons on a single screen alone is enough to make newbies run for a refund; on the other hand, veterans will have PLENTY to drool over as the app comes bundled with features normally sold as separate pricey add-ons for the physical synth. The sound library alone would run you an extra $50 at the very least on the real deal; comes standard on the app.
In a nutshell, this is a full blown professional synthesizer with all the options you’d expect and then some, as the company has thrown in a drum machine, an analog sequencer and features unattainable on a physical synth such as instant sharing capabilities and online storage via iCloud! Another neat app only feature is Korg’s dual Kaoss Pads which essentially lets you control music and effects by moving or swiping your fingers on the screen. Although not it’s best feature, it’s fun none the less. At $33, you get a portable friendly complete synthesizer packed with plenty of extra goodies - definitely worth it.
One of the first synthesizers for the iPhone and at $2 still remains the best bang for your buck. Since its introduction in 2008 (nominated for the 2008 and 2009 Best App Ever Awards), the core product remains the same but has been updated to stand up with the best of them, so don’t take its dated release as a negative. While it’s not the super synthesizer you’d get with the KORG iMS-20, this little synth is extremely easy to use and allows just about anybody to play around with the multitude of features due to its inviting UI. This is a 48-key, 4-octave keyboard with extra-wide keys that includes 30 classic synth sound presets, although you are more than encouraged to make you own custom sounds and are even able to save up to 20 of your own to presets for later retrieval.
Other notable features include 2 analog oscillators, built-in reverb effects with settable decay and repeat time, built-in recording, playback (also can loop), basic audio file management, customizable skins and even the ability to export and import audio files through either the app itself or a web browser. For $2, there’s no reason any music fan shouldn’t pick up what is arguably one of the best apps the iPhone has to offer.
Although you won’t find the same number of finely polished apps on Android as you would on iOS, there are still plenty of solid contenders and as a whole and Android apps are commonly priced much less than their Apple counterparts. Don’t let that make you feel as though Musical Piano Pro isn’t well worth the price as it ranks right at about the top as far as keyboards on Android go. Think of this app as your standard digital keyboard with all the usual fixings and sound colors such as grand piano, organs, synth, etc, and even a drum pad, but with added features and functionality to take advantage of the phone’s versatility.
One of the more entertaining features included in the app is a pitch pipe fully controllable directly through multi-touch giving you a very intuitive and controllable tool - or a pretty fun time killer at worst. Another great little feature is the included versatile metronome capable of 40-200 beats per minute along with settings for time signatures and subdivisions. Other notable features include a piano learning mode with over 20 songs, a play along piano game, piano recording, wireless piano MIDI, piano/drum multi-touch, and even an autoharp! At $4 it’s definitely worth the cash but those who want to give it a try before they make the commitment can try out the free lite version on the Google Play Store.
Although not as popular as the two top dogs of the smartphone OS world, there are still a few nice choices out there for those with the business minded handset. Sadly, they are nowhere near as feature packed as you would get on Android and iOS and even worse still is that many are priced higher comparatively, so rather than recommend a $5 app on blackberry that won’t honestly do you half as good as a $1 app on iPhone, here are a few FREE Blackberry keyboard apps to play with. They’re nice little distractions with a few great ideas that just weren’t fully implemented, but hey, they’re free!
For those looking for a pocket piano with note name labels on the keys and feedback on which keys are pressed –and absolutely nothing more- than check out Piano. It’s free, multi-touch capable, easy to use and has decent stereo quality sound. Pick up the latest version for the ability to record and playback your sessions. Did I mention it’s free?
Essentially a no-frills keyboard that adds blue dots to wherever you last touched, helpful for those randomly picking away at the thing. All in all, the audio is actually better than most and considering that it’s a music app, that’s essentially the best you can hope for. At zero dollars and zero cents, this app is literally a steal and although it doesn’t do much, it gets its main job done with pretty good sound quality.
And with that ends another Friday. Have a great weekend music fans!