Band looking for iPhonium player. Must be between ages 18 and 25, have transportation, 3+ years experience, small nimble fingers, know how to play for the song, and know when to vibrate. If you still use the stock ringtones, forget it, you are lame. Drinking and drug problems are okay, just as long as you don’t lose your phone in a taxi. Please fax all resumes to (555) 555-5555. No butt dialers.
The dawn of the iPhone as a legitimate tool for musicians is already upon us, and as an instrument it is indeed fast surpassing its novelty phase, soon to be appearing in Craigslist ads like the one above. Beautiful, unique music is now being made thanks to a plethora of hi-fi apps, and additionally it can aid the musician in a multitude of non-music-making ways.
The abundance of these apps is of such great magnitude, however, that it’s more a burden than a blessing, as it can be a wretched pain trying to find a decent, professional-quality app amongst a sea of amateur wannabes. For instance, searching under the keyword “metronome” in the iTunes store brings up approximately 455 different apps, most of which are not worth their 30-second download times. Hence the purpose of this article. We’ve scoured the app store for only the finest so you don’t have to.
As a follow up to a 2009 article, here’s an updated breakdown of the best music apps for the iPhone to help shepherd all us thumb-skulls into a musically enriching and mobile 2013.
$19.99 by Yamaha
Starting with what may be the single most musically innovative app on the market is Yamaha’s Tenori-On, a matrix-based composition tool. Modeled almost identically off its predecessor hardware version, this app is a fully functional platform for composing and performing. The compositional quirkiness is its hidden gem, and although it has some musical restrictions, these only instigate different ways of thinking about music making. It features loop making, song making, multiple layers of instruments, a somewhat diverse sound bank of 256 instruments, the ability to change tempos, time signatures, key signatures, and panning. Its only flaws are that MIDI files can’t be exported, there’s no sampling feature, and the platform is mildly confusing at first glance.
If you like electronic music, then it’s guaranteed to provide inspiration at some of the most dismal times (flight delays? Who cares! Let’s write some music!). It’s also a blast to play along to, and a great foundation for writing songs. Want to know what it sounds like? Check out “TENORI-ON Product Demo Performance” on YouTube and be amazed by its breathtaking beauty.
Don’t want to drop the $20 for Tenori? Don’t blame you. How about a cheap and easy substitute like Tonepad or Beatwave, two additional matrix-based instruments that’ll kick-start you into the Chinese-checkers-composing spirit? They’re cheap and fun, so enjoy the narrowed creativity you can squeeze out of them before hitting their Garagebandesque limitations. Also note that there’s Beatwave PRO, which gives Tenori a run for its money but lacks a few basic fundamentals like time signature variations and more than four instruments playing simultaneously.