Are you looking to create some music on your iOS devices? You can now go beyond voice memos with these essential music-making apps for iOS. We’ve focused especially on apps for the iPad, the most popular iOS device for music making, but most apps will also run on the iPhone.
1. n-Track Studio DAW 9
n-Track Studio 9 is a full-blown digital audio workstation, or DAW, that runs on iOS. Record and mix an unlimited number of tracks. Record and precisely edit MIDI. Use built-in instruments and audio effects, or just record your own instruments. It’s as broadly featured as a desktop DAW but with different interface metaphors and a more cramped UI. But it still functions admirably for all that, zooming you in on the most relevant feature of the interface while you make changes. If you have to use a DAW on an iPhone or iPod, n-Track Studio is your best bet. It’s also free to download, unlike apps targeted at professionals.
2. Cubasis 2
Like n-track Studio, Steinberg’s Cubasis 2 is also a digital audio workstation, or DAW. Unlike n-track, it’s largely unusable on an iPhone. But if you have an iPad – preferably one of the roomy models, like the iPad Pro – you’ll find the desktop style interface usable. The price might choke you, but the $50 app is as fully-featured as you can get in iOS land.
This application – “app” can’t contain its complexity – is made for professionals, by professionals. It’s a desktop-scale program that the developers diligently translated to iOS, using every trick in the book to get around a small screen, limited audio controls, and hardware-processing limitations. It’s not software you can learn to use quickly, but it is remarkably complete, flying the banner of “fully featured” proudly and accurately. Only the most obscure features are left out, and only the most niche of audio producers will miss them. But be prepared to digest a complex user interface before you can start getting some work done.
For aspiring DJs and electronic music producers, this app is essential. UVI’s BeatHawk helps you channel your inner Skrillex, with an interface based on beat sequencers and MIDI style piano roll “step editing.” The tap pad, sometimes called a “chaos pad” when seen as hardware, maps various beats to buttons which can be played in the manner of a sound effects piano. You can download UVI sound packs or record and edit your own sample sounds, so you can finally make a sick track with all the noises your Nissan Altima makes. It’s the best of the bunch when it comes to “beat making” apps, a broad category that runs the gamut from professional music software to exploitative mobile games designed to siphon pocket change from poor little children.
4. Audiobus 3
Routing audio might not be sexy, but it’s a must-have feature of any music recording platform. Audiobus 3 unlocks the ability of iOS devices to route audio from various inputs to outputs. Send audio between apps with custom-built routines, providing total freedom for piping audio around your device.
Suggester helps you write songs by suggesting the next chord for your chord progression. As any professional songwriter knows, there are only so many decent-sounding chord progressions in our musical system. Smart songwriters lean on the work of masters, elevating their imitation with expansion, embellishment, and artistry. That’s where you should pour your creativity, not the underlying chord progression. Suggester will help you record the song in your heart, offering various chord progressions until you find the one.
6. Song Memo
If you’re a musician, you’re well acquainted with one of the central facts of musical life: Your best ideas happen when you’re not paying attention. That’s why a quick-draw music notation app is so important to everyone. There are two ways to go about this: Record audio of the idea, or write it down. If you prefer recording audio, then humble Voice Memos is actually your best bet. If you’d rather write down your ideas, check out Song Memos. The best features include the specialty keyboard just for writing chords and the software playback that sounds half decent instead of like the sound effects from a LucasArts adventure game played from a hundred yards away in an echoing hallway.
Tuner apps on iOS are plentiful, but Tunable is our favorite. It has a clever UI that provides visual indicators for how far out of tune you are and draws a line graph of the pitch as it changes to help you target it. The app can also produce pure tones of any frequency if you’d rather tune by matching sounds. It even supports different tuning temperaments, like Pythagorean and well-tempering. And it’s well worth the price tag to not be hounded by pop-up ads during band practice.
Did we miss any of your favorite music-making apps for iOS? Let us know in the comments below.