October 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

This Week In Music Apps: Mobile Music Making, Bandcamp + Facebook, and More

This week’s edition is mostly about music-making apps, but it’s also 1/8th about musicals. Speaking of fractions, we’re more than two-thirds of the way through October, which means that (in New England at least) it’s finally starting to feel like fall. Soon, you’ll be holed up in your warm apartment with no better option than to make sweet, melodious music on your smartphone or computer to pass the time. When that time comes, we’ll have you covered.

First, here’s a rundown of Evolver.fm‘s latest full-length app reviews. Check out previous installments of This Week In Music Apps for more great picks running on Apple iOS, Google Android, and the web.

The Week In Reviews

Apple iOS

Korg iKaossilator ($10, pictured top right): I’m pretty excited about this first synth app — but then again, I love any instrument I can pick up without my roommate yelling at me for adding another piece of furniture. iKaossilator riffs off a Korg hardware module I’ve always wanted to own, the Kaossilator, which offers an innovative X-Y pad for controlling expression with touch. This app does the same, letting you tap and swipe to shape your sound, and for a fraction of the cost of the equivalent hardware. This is the app concept at its best. iKaossilator offers 150 sounds, looping options, and scale/key configuration options, with visual effects to enhance the experience. It already runs pretty steep at $10 bucks, but Korg fans would be wise to snatch this up before the price doubles on November 30. (This app is not to be confused with the synth emulator Korg offers in app form, the iElectribe virtual iPad synth, which was used in the making of a Gorillaz album.)

SampleTank ($10): It’s not often I get to introduce apps from Korg and IK Multimedia during the same week — the latter being the force behind popular music-making apps Amplitube, GrooveMaker, and VocaLive. SampleTank is a sound module that lets you build melodies and grooves from 72 included instruments (with up to 400 available through in-app purchases in 16 instrument categories), and set those to over 900 rhythmic and melodic patterns. This allows you to build compositions or perform live with four parts running simultaneously. iRig MIDI compatibility lets you hook up the app to your favorite MIDI keyboard for even more performance options. IK Multimedia offers a free version of SampleTank that lets you try before you buy.

gMusic: a native Google Music player ($2): While an official Google Music app is unlikely to hit competitor Apple’s iTunes app store any time soon, this iOS app offers a solution to the problem of streaming music to an iOS device from Google’s music cloud. GMusic’s streaming client takes on a familiar iPod-esque appearance, despite fetching your music from Google’s servers instead of iCloud. If you’re a Google Music user looking for a way to make your Apple and Google products play nice together, it’s worth a try (more information in the full-length app review by our editor).

MTIshows (free): While I’ll never understand people who don’t care for music — and I’ve met more than a few — I’d be the first to concede that musicals aren’t for everyone, myself included [ed. note: me too]. Still, I would be doing theater-goers a disservice if I didn’t highlight this helpful app, which bundles a ton of useful information about over 300 Music Theatre International-licensed productions. The MTIshows app offers plot synopses and song samples for each musical, as well as author biographies and character descriptions. The app can also search individual shows and display locations where they’re currently playing. Perhaps more helpfully, you can bookmark your favorite musicals to ensure that you never miss a performance in your area.

Looptastic Producer ($10; pictured right) We’ve tested a fair amount of apps for making music, and as far as those go, Looptastic offers impressive functionality for creating loops and live remixes editable in real time. The app includes over 380 professional quality loops, with the option to import or record your own. You can expand the library with genre-themed loop packs, available as in-app purchases. When your masterpiece is complete, the app can export it to a Mac or PC as a CD-quality sound file, or you can post it to SoundCloud from within the app. Looptastic also offers a try-before-you-buy option that includes fewer loops.

Google Android

Su-preme MPA 1.0 ($6) Co-designed by Wu-Tang Clan/Sunz of Man producer A. Supreme Wilder, this app was made for hip-hop makers on the go. A 12-pad sampler handles beat programming and one-shot samples with low-latency limited only by your hardware’s processing speed; a keyboard; and a sample editor for cutting MP3s and WAV files. Su-preme MPA includes a free sample pack with purchase — or you can create an unlimited number of your own samples in each project. Final mixes can be exported as WAV files, which is as it should be. MPA is also available for free in a restricted lite mode.

MusicBox ($1): We like music-making apps that incorporate novel game functionality, like Isle of Tune, which lets you create generative music through Sim City-style town design. MusicBox’s movable note blocks can be placed anywhere on-screen and are activated in pin-ball fashion when they make contact with falling balls (similar to Soundrop on iOS, MusicBox also lets you set the starting point of the balls). The free version is ad-free, or if you can put up with a few banners, you can grab the lite version for free. (To see this app in action, check out the video demo.)

 Web Apps

Bandcamp (free): This week’s edition only features one web app, and it has been around for a while, helping many independent artists sell music and merchandise directly to fans while keeping more profits than they sometimes do with other services. But Bandcamp only recently rolled out Facebook integration, apparently without so much as an announcement (we found a screenshot on their blog). Now, bands can sell their Bandcamp stuff right from their Facebook artist pages.

Check out previous installments of This Week in Music Apps.