App me, Amadeus!
December 22, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I want to make electronic music on my iPad. Which apps are best?

I've got high-school musical knowledge (I know what a time signature is, and can tell the difference between a bass and treble clef, I can kinda-sorta read music and know how keys and chords work). I was, once upon a time, a dab hand at Cool Edit Pro (which lets you know how long it's been). I'm a whiz at audio editing for voice and journalism. I'm not a musician.

I've read this thread.

Assume I want to make things not unlike this. I'm fully aware that I will not be awesome out of the gate, but if I wanted to mess around with this sort of thing, where do I start? There are an insane number of apps out there, and most of them are very high rated.

I'm more a "build the composition note by note, then adjust it" person than a "play something live, record it, and mess with it afterwards" person. I'd be building exclusively within the iPad, not recording externally and importing sound.

Bonus points for "real" iPad apps that make full use of the screen, but if the right tool is an iPhone app in 2x screen mode, that's definitely okay.
posted by Shepherd to Technology (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My comment here has a link to good resources for this. Rebirth and NanoStudio are good starting points.
posted by proj at 7:43 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the link to the link, proj. Do you have experience with any of the 21 apps in the linked thread, and if so, which would you recommend for the above purposes?
posted by Shepherd at 9:06 AM on December 22, 2010

I'm no musician but I've always been amazed at the things ThumbJam can do.
posted by chairface at 9:22 AM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: I have MiniDrum Pro and it works pretty well for making beats / sequencing. It's definitely not a $100+ full-featured beat machine / sequencer you might be able to get for a standalone piece of equipment, but for $10 on the iPad I've found it works great for my semi-pro musings. Very nice features for exporting audio to your computer so you can tweak further / use what you make in Logic/Garageband/etc.

I will probably get MiniSynth Pro in the coming days, it looks solid but I can't vouch for it.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:38 AM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: Shepherd: I only have experience with the two listed above (Rebirth and NanoStudio). Both are fully functioning DAWs on the iPad but neither supports VST plugins or anything (as far as I can tell), so you are going to have to use the synths and drums that it comes with (though NanoStudio allows samples to be imported, not sure about Rebirth). NanoStudio more closely resembles a more modern DAW, it has 6 tracks, 4 for synths and samples and 2 for drums, a mixer, etc. Rebirth is much more like Reason (or the original Rebirth) in that it is a virtual replication of the Roland 303, 808, and 909, and you will need to be comfortable with wires and knobs. Either will enable you to make pretty great sounds at first but at some point you will hit limitations on both.
posted by proj at 11:48 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and some googling should produce examples of songs produced with both.
posted by proj at 11:48 AM on December 22, 2010

Be sure to check out reactable. super fun.
posted by soplerfo at 2:15 PM on December 22, 2010

NanoStudio is probably the best all-in-one app you'll find. I don't think it's been "remastered" for the iPad screen. I haven't tried much step-sequencing myself (just got it a week ago) but I'm pretty sure it's an option. Definitely worth the $15 if you ask me.

Another option would be SunVox. The desktop version is free - the iOS version is merely $5. I haven't played with either version, but I'm definitely intrigued.
posted by O9scar at 5:02 PM on December 22, 2010

Best answer: Howdy Shepard,

I've been using NanoStudio quite a bit on the iPad and loving it; it's resampling ability is fantastic (albeit with an appreciable amount of gain loss). That said, I function in both the record-it-live and step record environments. I've been reading great things about about some of the stuff Sonoma Wire Works has been making, and it appears that, using the photo dongle for the iPad, you can use several different input devices (e.g., synths, midi controllers, mics). That's my next big plunge.

However, as people have stated before, iOS composition and recording is in its infancy. My advice would be to just try it out. Compared to the cost of a full blown ProTools or Logic HD + Reason set up, the costs of iPad apps are nominal.

And please! follow up with anything you find!
posted by digitalprimate at 5:25 PM on December 22, 2010

I have heard good things about Beatmaker. Also, the Gorillaz just made an album using the Ipad:

Gorillaz - The Fall: "iPad Applications Used: Speak It! / SoundyThingie / Mugician / Solo Synth / Synth / Funk Box / Gliss / AmpliTube / Xenon / iElectribe / BS-16i / M3000 HD / Cleartune / iOrgel HD / Olsynth / StudioMiniXI / BassLine / Harmonizer / Dub Siren Pro / Moog Filatron"
posted by mecran01 at 3:05 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: Following up because -- well, just because --

I started out with MiniDrum PRO and Multitrack DAW to get my feet wet -- they seemed to provide the best bang-for-your-buck in terms of being both understandable to a newbie and robust enough for ongoing use. I like them both, but Multitrack DAW is a little opaque -- it kinda-sorta comes with a manual, in the form of a FAQ section on the makers' blog. MiniDrum PRO is 90% intuitive (I had to watch some YouTube videos to see how some of the finer points work).

Actually making music has me stymied, though, in terms of a huge number of apps and almost no head-to-head criticism.

This is a good rundown of how ReBirth and NanoStudio both work (from a NS bias, obviously) that helped me understand which might be better for me, but now I'm trying to choose between NanoStudio and Bleepbox and MusicStudio and KORG stuff and Sunvox and so on and so forth. NanoStudio seems to be the most robust, which comes with the steepest learning curve, but I like their forums. No iPad version, which is a bit disappointing.
posted by Shepherd at 9:36 AM on January 5, 2011

Thanks for continuing to update!
posted by proj at 12:45 PM on January 5, 2011

Response by poster: More on the "toy" side than the "tool" side, but both BeatWave and SoundPrism are surprisingly robust, and fun. PatternMusic is brilliant but too deep for me to get into at the moment.
posted by Shepherd at 10:47 AM on January 21, 2011

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