5 Music Making Apps You Can't Live Without

If you own an iPad, for less than the price of an effect pedal, you can set up an amazing music creation system. There are dozens of great music apps out there with specific appeal for guitarists, DJs, beatmakers, keyboard players and other music creators.

Here’s a quick look at five unique music apps you owe it to yourself to check out, regardless of your instrument of choice, and maybe even if you don’t play at all.

Thumbjam

Thumbjam

Thumbjam

With more than 40 multi-sampled instruments, including violin, upright bass, drum kit, trumpet, flute, piano and organ, Thumbjam places a virtual orchestra at your fingertips. And you can download more samples or record your own. It is easy to play them either with Thumbjam’s virtual keys, which can be set to a slew of preset scales, so you can’t play any bad notes, or a MIDI keyboard. Alternatively, you can sing or play a monophonic musical idea into the microphone, converting it instantly into any Thumbjam sample.

Using your iOS device’s touch sensitivity and gyroscope, the app allows you to add expression by assigning volume, pan, tremolo and pitch control to finger movements, tilting or shaking. Thumbjam also will loop and overdub multiple parts. There is way more, but this should be enough to send you straight to the App Store.

Price: $8.99

Samplr

Samplr

Samplr

Samplr is a useful performance device and/or musical idea machine. The app offers slots for six recorded or imported samples and then lets you manipulate each using your fingers.

You can slice a sample into sections in “Slicer” mode, and then tap on an individual section of a sample to play it: i.e play the snare and bass drum of a percussion loop with your fingers.

“Looper” continuously loops a piece of the sample between two fingers placed on the screen. “Bow” loops a slice around one finger, with a slider determining the length of the loop. In another mode your finger determines the speed, pitch and direction of the sample play, like a DJ manipulating vinyl.

Once you set a loop with your finger(s), the positions can be latched to repeat, or, if you change position, any finger motion can be recorded. You also may arpeggiate samples or play them on a keyboard. Effects like delay, reverb and tremolo are available to add color.

Price: $9.99

Animoog

Animoog

Animoog

Like Thumbjam, Animoog has keys that can be set to a particular scale as it plays samples, but the similarities end there. The samples, called Timbres, are culled from Moog’s rich library of analog synth sounds, as well as digital and spectral sonorities.

Animoog’s uniqueness lies in the way it lets you lets you animate these sounds. For example, you can slide from sound to sound with your finger on the x/y pad or use a set of “orbit controls” to change Timbre by modulating voice location in the x/y space. You also can draw your own path, determining how the orbit travels around the x/y screen and how it moves through the different Timbres within the Path module.

There are multiple ways to modulate, filter and add effects to the Timbres, as well as a four-track recorder. If this sounds complicated, it is. However the ability to create never-before-heard tones and textures makes it more than worth the learning curve, especially for the price.

Price: $29.99

AudioShare

AudioShare

AudioShare

Say you want to create audio samples in your computer DAW and then import them into Samplr or other apps. AudioShare allows you to create files and folders for audio and MIDI, and then transfer files between apps and/or a computer through Dropbox, or use Wi-Fi to transfer files to/from any web browser on your local network. You can record directly into this app from the input on your iOS device or from other apps through Inter-App Audio or Audiobus (see below).

Once in AudioShare, you can preview, play, normalize, trim, apply fades, or convert sound files, as well as process the audio with other apps. This is a must-have utility for app music making.

Price: $4.99

Audiobus

Audiobus

Audiobus

If you want to play Thumbjam into another app, like Samplr for example, then record the results in AudioShare, Audiobus will make your life much easier. This app allows you to drop other apps that support Audiobus, which is most of them, into its input, effects and output slots. You can add as many apps as your iOS device can handle and send audio from one app to the next with ease.

Price: $3.99

Once you begin making music with apps it is hard to stop. Even though they are much cheaper than hardware, or even computer software, those five and ten dollar purchase can quickly add up. But, with just these five apps you can create a musical world of wonders, limited only by your imagination.

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