by Stephanie L. Carlin
In April 2017, Wired.com released an article with up-and-coming artist Steve Lacy. He’s a 19-year-old hip-hop artist who has produced and performed with artists such as Kendrick Lamar on DAMN and Tyler, the Creator. In 2015, his band, The Internet, released their third studio album Ego Death, which was nominated for a Grammy. The site was not just interviewing Lacy about his music, but also how the music was being made. In February of 2017, he’d released a demo album, Steve Lacy’s Demo, on Apple Music, and all of his tracks were recorded on his iPhone.
Yes, his iPhone.
While Berklee students were paying top dollar for equipment and programs, who knew that Apple was starting to become so innovative in the world of music? Many have looked to music-making apps for inspiration. Even long time creators like Reggie Watts have taken note of the iPhone’s music capacity by promoting apps like Keezy. So today, I am going to offer some cheap or free music making apps to make your songs really pop, and to be clear, these are legitimate music apps only on the iPhone. Not that making loops isn’t fun, but not all of them allow artistic liberty. I’ve used all of these personally and I believe that these can be useful for all artistic needs.
For less than $5, you can make a drum beat in your dorm for almost no time at all. I’ve seen plenty of producers online use this app in videos, including Steve Lacy, and you can upload audio or MIDI files onto to any DAW. Also, there’s a mixing station in the app, so if a sound is less than perfection, you can clean it up in the board. If you’re into old school hip-hop and pop, this cute little app may be what you’re looking for.
Free with in-app purchases
Playground is a bit weird. It’s mainly a synthesizer app with a lot of triggers that allow the user to create a song without really thinking about it. The app is great for inspiration and you can share your creations with friends as well as upload them as audio files to other DAWs. However, I think it would be a little difficult to make an album with this app. It’s a good start, though.
(Side note: I’m really digging the sick marketing campaign they have in their ads. I can always relate to a man in a horse mask while I share my “mad skills”).
From Native Instruments, we have an extension of an already popular music app. iMaschine was simple and relatively functional, but now the app is much more user friendly and has more sounds to choose from. The drums are great and it’s pretty easy to customize the pad. As you can see in the ads, the rhythm of the synths are fixed for some reason which is a tad annoying. Just like Funkbox and Playground, you can upload the audio to your favorite DAW as well as MIDI, and since it’s from the same company that makes Kontakt, it’s worth a shot.
Free with in-app purchases
Admittedly, I use this app more than anything else on my iPhone. I don’t think I call or text as much as I make music on this app. Making projects is easy and in one project, you don’t have to make one loop. You can sync the loops to make a structured song if you’d like. It is SO fun and you can not only upload audio onto separate DAWs or websites, but you can upload MIDI as well.
Sadly, you cannot input any audio into the program as far as I know. But, by uploading it into your program, all it takes is a little recording and you’re good to go.
We can’t not talk about GarageBand. I remember using this app when I was nine-year-old. It was a free day in the computer lab and I couldn’t help but think how easy and fun it was to make music on this program. If I knew how user-friendly this program was at 9-years-old, then GarageBand was doing something right. It’s available on the iPhone and you can record soundbites and upload them just the same as you can with these other apps. It is so insane what this app can accomplish and the fact that people don’t use it because of the “poor synth quality” is something I do not understand. I think it’s great for people starting out as well as professional musicians. Don’t deny the power that was under your fingers this whole time.