Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Are you interested in mobile music production, but don't know where to start? In this article, I want to share with you my top 5 music apps for the absolute beginner. I intend to introduce you to five apps that are extremely easy to use and will have you making music in a matter of minutes. Oh, and did I mention most of them are free?
It is never too late to start making music and with the technology we now have at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to give it a try. Mobile devices continue to improve at a rapid pace, allowing app developers to create music apps capable of producing professional quality music. Taking advantage of the touch screen, many of the apps in our top 5 list allow you to play in a chosen scale and key, so you don't have to worry about playing any wrong notes, while others playback loops that conform to the same key and tempo, so they all sound good together. With all of these apps, you will be able to learn about music production and use that knowledge as a foundation to build on when graduating to other, more capable music apps.
Figure, by Reason Studios
Figure has been around for quite a while now. It was first released back in the mid-2010s, Figure is an ingenious app that features a lead synth, bass synth, and drum synth. The beauty of Figure is in the user interface, which allows you to play the synths with a single finger. You have options to control the rhythmic pattern, the octave range, and the number of divisions or notes that can be played on the "keyboard". By simply tapping the screen and moving your finger from side to side, you can create a musical phrase in seconds. Other features include a recorder to record up to 8 bars per part, a mixer to adjust the level of each instrument, and onboard effects to create variations to your parts. You can adjust the overall tempo, key, and tonality as well as save your song and share it with others. The best part about Figure is that you can make great-sounding music without having any prior experience and it is so much fun that you will be encouraged to keep experimenting.
iKaossilator, by Korg
iKaossilator is another music app that is extremely easy to use. Like Figure, iKaossilator uses the touch screen to allow you to simply play your part by "drawing" on the screen. It features five individual parts that can be played at the same time, including lead, bass, chord, percussion, and drums. It also includes several sounds, chords, and patterns that can be loaded into these five tracks and used to create your songs. Each of these has variations and effects built into them to add variety to your parts. You can adjust the length of your songs, save your parts, and share them with others. iKaossilator is a lot of fun to play and is capable of producing professional results.
Groovebox, by Amplify Music
Groovebox is another app that is built around a touchpad-type interface. Very similar to Figure, it allows you to choose the key and scale that you would like to work with, so you don't have to worry about playing any wrong notes. It features five different instruments including a drum machine, a poly ambient synth, a mono digital synth, a mono analog bass synth, and a poly analog synth. Each instrument comes with a selection of loops and sounds to help you get started making your tracks and there is a large library of available loops and sounds for purchase as well. With Groovebox you can edit the preprogrammed loops or start from scratch. You also are not limited to a set number of tracks, but you can add as many tracks as you like. You have control over certain parameters of the sounds on each synth and you can create groups of patterns for different sections of your song. You can save your songs and export them in several formats as well.
Launchpad, by Amplify Music
Launchpad is another app made by Amplify Music. This app is a clip launcher-style app that allows you to load up audio loops into the on-screen grid and trigger their playback. There is a large library of loops available to download and you can load your loops with an in-app purchase to unlock that feature. The beauty of Launchpad is that the loops play back at the same tempo and in the same key, so they all sound good together. Basslines, leads, chords, sound effects, and more can be used as building blocks to create full arrangements and all you have to do is tap the screen. Launchpad also includes several DJ-style effects to add your signature to your performances. Your live performance can be recorded, and your loops can be saved to a project file. Launchpad is a fun app to get you started, but when you are ready to start playing and recording your loops, Launchpad is a powerful app for live performance.
Garageband, by Apple
No list of music apps for beginners would be complete without Garageband. Garageband comes preloaded on your IOS device and is a very powerful music production studio. I will say that if you are an absolute beginner, Garageband may be confusing at first. It is built around a traditional linear style sequencer and musical keyboard. If you have no knowledge of a piano keyboard or how to record into a linear sequencer, then you will need to spend a little time getting to know your way around as compared to some of the other apps in this list. However, Garageband is by far the most powerful app on this list. It may be the only app you will ever need. It is capable of reproducing traditional instrument sounds, like pianos, strings, horns, and guitars, as well as synthesized sounds. You can also record audio into the sequencer which opens up the possibilities. It does offer some "smart" instruments which will help you play more automatically, and it also features a clip launcher, similar to the Launchpad app.
The world of music production has come a long way. With mobile technology, you have access to tools that were only available in professional recording studios, just a few decades ago. Today with your iPhone in hand, you can experiment with music production free and find the app that works best for you. I hope this article will give you a few apps to try and inspire you to start making music for yourself. It is so much fun and there is no reason not to try it.