8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

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Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]