I like music. There really isn’t much more to it. I have self-taught keyboard, flute, clarinet, and a few other members of the woodwind section. I don’t consider myself great and I certainly don’t consider myself a professional. I play music because I enjoy it and that, in my opinion, is how it should be. The 10 applications that I’m featuring are my favourite for creating — and not consuming — music. I will mention the UK price and the US price as well as whether they can be used on both or just one. These applications are the ones that I use on a fairly regular basis and are in no particular order.
GarageBand: £2.99/$5 (iPad and iPhone)
GarageBand was my most-anticipated app when iPad 2 was announced. Up until that point, the apps available usually only had one function and, as much as they were all great in their own way, GarageBand brought everything together. It is your typical Apple product and you’ll either love it or hate it. I have managed to record some songs on it and play around with the basic functions, but there is plenty more that could be done with it.
MadPad: £1.99/$3 (iPad and iPhone)
MadPad is a Smule creation and, like other apps that Smule has created, it has its roots firmly planted in the musical field. Smule will be mentioned a few times during this article. MadPad allows you to be creative with sound; you can either download community-created pads, or you can make your own. The whole idea is creating music by interacting with the world around you. The sound of a computer keyboard, keys in your pocket, the gurgle of the water-cooler: music can be made from it.
Soundrop: Free (iPad and iPhone)
The Soundrop app is desperately simple and seriously addictive. You have a dropper that you can place wherever you want on the screen and it will drop one white dot at a steady interval. You draw lines of different lengths to interact with these dots. Every time a dot interacts with another, it makes a sound. I’m sure you could make some music to it, but I find it nice for looping. Chris has shown this app on his YouTube channel (as seen here):
OMGuitar: £2.99/$5 (iPad only)
OMGuitar is the only guitar app I like — even though I can’t actually play the guitar. OMGuitar allows me to play tabs and get the sound of a guitar without the need for the skills to play an actual guitar. As much as I love this app and love the sound quality it produces, you cannot beat the sound of an actual guitar being played by someone with actual skill. I will always respect the person who can play an instrument that requires skill over someone — like me — who uses an app that doesn’t require all that much skill.
Magic Zither: Free (iPad and iPhone)
The zither is a stringed instrument that is played by strumming or plucking the strings like you would a guitar. It can be found in the alpine regions of Europe and within East Asian cultures. The sound of the zither within the Magic Zither app is that of the Chinese zither, and it sounds very nice. You have two options: the first, you can play the zither via tapping on the zither-style screen to have the sound played; the second, you can play the zither with a typical piano style interface.
Shiny Drum: Free (iPad and iPhone)
Shiny Drum is a free app that offers you drum kit sounds in a typical drum pad style. You can pay £0.69 or $1 for more drum kit sounds, but Shiny Drum does offer a nice basic range for you to play around with. I can manage basic drum beats, but I am sure that more complex beats can be made with this app. However, you cannot record the beats that you have produced, which is a shame.
Zampoña: Free (iPad and iPhone)
Pan pipes have an extremely nice sound — in my opinion; they can be expressive in a way that only woodwind instruments can be. These zampoña — aka siku — are tuned to the G major scale. With the Zampoña app, beautiful sound and music can be made just by tapping the top of the pipes. I have never owned a set of pan pipes, but I would certainly be interested in owning a set purely because I love the sound that they produce.
ImproVox: £2.49/$4 (iPad and iPhone)
As much as ImproVox is an auto-tune program and auto-tune is (often rightfully) seen as a bad thing, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying the sound/music that you can create using this program. Even if you can sing in key, ImproVox has a habit of auto-tuning you out of key, which makes for interesting and hilarious listening. I have spent far too long recording a song or even just talking into it only to start laughing hysterically to the sound that comes back to me. I’m sure that it is possible to make something with the sound that comes out, but what that something is, I’m not sure.
Touch DJ Evolution: Free (iPad and iPhone)
Touch DJ Evolution is a strange addition to my article, but it still fits within the realm of music creation — although you are creating music by mixing or re-mixing music together. I bought Touch DJ when it was being sold for £10-£15 in the App Store, probably around 2010, and I really enjoyed working with it. Touch DJ really does allow you to touch and play around with all functions of the music from the beats per minute (BMP) to creating loops.
Ocarina: £0.69/$1 (iPhone only)
Ocarina is my all-time favourite application. I own a real life ocarina and can play it, but Smule has made the Ocarina cool for everyone — not just geeks who love Zelda. I have never played Zelda, but I found out about the ocarina whilst I was in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland. There’s a small jewelry shop there, and there was a classic four-hole ocarina on display in the window. I purchased it, sat in the square, and started playing it. The app is also that of a four-hole ocarina, but it does have a few extra notes that a four-hole cannot play. Smule has tried to give you the best of both worlds with the notes that a six-hole can reach with the ease of a four-hole, and the app has a beautiful sound.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article because I have certainly enjoyed using every one of the apps mentioned. I hope that you’ll give them all a chance or even give a second chance to an app that you thought was completely useless. What apps for music creation do you enjoy playing or playing around with?