Since mobile music-making apps appeared a few short years ago, they have moved from simple toys to full-fledged professional tools from some of the industry’s top contenders. Here are 10 of the best apps every beat-maker should own.
Figure by Propellerhead
The first thing you’ll notice that sets this apart is that it breaks from the oft-used setup of drum pads and keys and instead opts for more intuitive controls, which allow users to easily jump between velocity, FX and pitch controls. Propellerhead has created a great notepad for producers looking to sketch ideas on the go while freeing their thought process.
FL Studio Mobile HD
Up until recently, there has been no Mac version for FL Studio—the first incarnation is still in the testing phase. However, the miniature version they made for mobile has been available for both Android and iOS for a few years now. What you get is a very stripped-down yet capable version of FL Studio. Set up to look like it does on the desktop, the mobile version includes many of the features that make FL Studio so easy to use. The step sequencer, drum programming, and FX controls are all there, as well as the ability to create full songs and send them your desktop/laptop for additional work.
GarageBand for iOS is probably the user-friendliest of the DAW-type apps. It was built that way on purpose so anyone could pick it up and create music quickly. There are some expected limitations—including a max of eight tracks. However, the fact that you can use an iRig to plug in a guitar or keyboard and even incorporate your own voice into the mix makes GarageBand another great tool for getting ideas together on the fly.
What list would be complete without a Native Instruments product? While it is a bit tricky on a smaller phone, you can use your phone’s existing song library to mix tracks in minutes. The control over looping while using a touch screen allows users to really isolate specific elements, making it possible to really step up how you play with tracks together. However, it could become daunting to use this on an iPhone for any extended period of time.
Korg has several faithful recreations of many of its iconic hardware products. This version of its famous groove box is accurate both in sound and look. It comes preloaded with 192 beats from the original Electribe R, plus an additional 32 templates for different genres. Of course, there is an “init” one that is a blank canvas for your own creations. If you want an analog recreation in your pocket, this is it.
We’ve covered the Ninja Jamm before, and it deserves to be brought up again. This is set up for you take your hand at hacking up tunes using drum pads or the arsenal of FX tools that sound great and are made just for the iPhone. With most music apps you find the controls are often jumbled together in a way that makes them almost unusable; that’s not the case here. The coolest feature, though, is the access you have to Loopmasters sample packs, as well as a library of Ninja Tune releases, so you can even get your remix on with your phone.
Beatwave is set up similar to a Launchpad with a grid of squares that responds to notes on the vertical axis and where they fall in time on the horizontal. You can layer up to four sounds at once, and you have control over effects and mixing from a drop-down menu for each track. Beatwave lets you create full songs within the app, and you can even use Audiobus, another mobile app, to use your Beatwave sounds within another app.
Out of all these apps, Musyc takes the most interesting approach to the creative process. It’s like building with blocks that have a mind of their own, and it’s your job to figure out a way to contain their power. Using the line tool, you can create walls for the shapes to live in; you can move them around as much as you’d like or completely get rid of them. While using it to make anything outside of the experimental and weird would take some serious practice, Musyc definitely will keep you occupied for a while.
Price: Free version; iPad version $10; iPhone and Apple Watch version $2; Mac/Desktop pro version $50; Android version $3
More info: Algoriddim
Where to buy: iTunes (Mac, iPad, iPhone/Apple Watch, Google Play)
In terms of ease of use in a DJ app, this one has it in spades. A simple set up of two turntables, a pitch control, and a crossfader are all you see upon launch. You also have access to a set of sample pads (available only in the pro version). It of course has built-in sync function and the ability to record your mixes. If you want full access to all the controls, including the ability to mix more than the 15 songs the app picks for you, you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version.
Animoog from Moog Music is one of the coolest apps available for iOS. It’s a detailed professional synth created specifically for mobile use and it has all the beef and thickness of the legendary manufacturer’s analog gear. Using the X/Y pad to manipulate the parameters is quite easy. Since it was designed as a professional app, you can dive pretty deep into this one. It also means some of the parameters may be a little difficult to understand for the average user.