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App of the Week #30 / Music & Sound Production Kit

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Smartphone and tablet device’s now have many apps available for creating/editing sound or producing music.

For serious Producers these apps may not be a replacement for existing equipment & software, but touchscreen and gesture control in particular has introduced new ways to manipulate sound and create samples to use in a mix later on. I have spent some time reading reviews, using some for my own work and here are my 4 best ones.

I would like to point out Im no expert in making music but I do edit existing tracks and create sounds for commercial/personal projects that usually accompany video. The chosen 4 stand out for me for various reasons and reviews from enthusiasts have also hailed these as the “must have” apps. Each one has a different use but together its pretty much a complete kit for creating elements/synths, a beat and then compose a structured & levelled track.

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“ThumbJam is a powerful musical performance experience. You get over 30 high-quality real instruments multi-sampled exclusively for this app. Hundreds of included scales allow you to effortlessly play in any style from rock to classical, whether you are a musical novice or a seasoned professional”

With Thumbjam you can essentially create all kinds of sounds, but what really stands out is the sampling of instruments for melodies and synths. The wide range of instruments available are impressive with the option to download samples that others have created. Its best feature is the ability to interact using multi-touch and motion control. For example below is something I made in one take with a violin sample. Its made up of multiple keys and im controlling the pitch by physically tilting and gently shaking the iPad.

Listen here

This feature makes it more intuitive for controlling/shaping sounds in real time. You can set it up to react to X,Y axis and H tilt with reaction to shake aswell. So you can distort a guitar key or create vibrato on a violin note in this case. The touchscreen itself also has its advantages; as being a truely interactive surface you can customise the elements in terms of scale and size and you can apply sliding/gesture motions for more interesting and fluid sounds. For example a flicking or zooming gesture with two fingers is a nice technique which creates an interesting effects. This app also allows you to build up multiple loops together with ease and apply reverb/compression where needed. The drum machine isn’t great in comparison to others but thats not where its strength lies. You can create a range of musical elements that sound realistic and are not limited by just keyboard presses.

For any serious musicians, you can also connect multiple iDevices together via Wifi and have a live jam together with friends. A fantastic idea which is like Guitar Hero for people who actually know what they’re doing!….unfortunately im not one of them but Im excited about the prospect of this interactive music experience.

See it on the app store. 

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“BeatMaker 2: the most advanced mobile music workstation. Combining music production tools that were behind the success of countless artists, BeatMaker 2 is a powerful, easy-to-use composition interface for amateurs and professionals alike.”

What BeatMaker boasts is its attention to detail and its extensive samples collection. By turning your iPad or iPhone into a professional Drum Machine, you can create beats using your own samples or presets and then build up a score made up of multiple drum machines and keyboard samplers. The convenience of this means that you dont need to buy this equipment and you can create loops on your phone out and about…..you’re no longer confined to the Studio.

An essential feature of this app and ThumbJam is CopyAudio. That means you can copy and paste sounds between your apps without having to export. Without this you will quickly find the limitations of sound production across apps. All 4 reviewed have AudioCopy. The price is quite high but not in comparison to an actual drum machine, and if you’re serious about making good beats then this one of the more intuitive solutions.

Here is two video demos on Beat Maker 2 to show you how its done See demo 1 or demo 2

See it on the app store. 

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“Animoog, powered by the new Anisotropic Synth Engine (ASE), is Moog Music’s first professional polyphonic synthesizer designed exclusively for the iPad. ASE allows you to move dynamically through an X/Y space of unique timbres to create a constantly evolving and expressive soundscape.”

I’ve had a lot of fun with this app as its really easy to produce atmospheric synths and dynamic electronic sounds. The interface visualises the sound as it bounces off waveforms and rotates around the timbres. Unlike the other apps this really helps you to understand the soundscape in physical space and how to alter it. After some playing around with the visualisation and getting used to tweaking settings/rotary motions, you can create some constant and emotive synths or fluid “Tron” like sequences. With this app its less about samples and more about settings and control of timbre’s. You can interact with the elements directly on the screen to alter the sound in realtime while recording. Below is something I quickly created using just two keys but elements was setup prior until I was happy with the overall sound.

Listen here

You can also slide your finger up and down the keys aswell to control the modulation which can produce some nice variations. I purchased this on the day of release at half the price but I do think its worth £20. There is an endless amount of electronic sounds to be made and with so much ease. Its a great tool if you’re an editor and you just want general effects for video or a producer and actually want to build elements for a track. video demo here

See it on the app store. 

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“The power of a digital audio workstation in the palm of your hand. Release your creativity with up to 24 high quality audio tracks. Record multiple takes, harmonies, solos, and experiments. No more worrying about bouncing tracks – each instrument can have its own.”

I wanted a basic sound editor on the iPad similar to Cubase, where I could add multiple tracks, import all my sounds/loops and create my final mix. MuliTrack Daw is the only iPad app that provides up to 24 tracks, which is essential when editing alot of sound clips. Like alot of similar apps, Garage Band limits you to only 8 tracks which poses some issues for me.

Its a very easy and simple interface to pick up and you have everything you need to structure your project, edit and chop samples and apply levels/effects to individual tracks. The most important feature again is AudioCopy which few other editing apps have. To copy and paste sounds between apps is much easier than exporting all of your samples…which can be a long winded process. This app does what it needs to for basic sound editing, but I cant say its anywhere near a direct replacement to existing desktop production software. £6.99 is the cost for the app with 8 tracks and you have to pay for an upgrade to add another 16 (£5.49). From what I’ve seen this is the best editor on the iPad for the amount of tracks you can have and AudioCopy Feature.

See it on the app store.