We bring you the biggest feature ever on mobile music making where we round up the best apps for music production on your phone and tablet…
It’s one of the biggest features we have ever produced – so huge it has to be divided into several pages! In this initial roundup we’ve got the top DAW apps. Where possible we have tried to include different platforms in each category.
Top Ten DAW Apps
The closest thing to fully-blown DAWS and complete studios for recording or making music…
Apple GarageBand (iOS)
Apple is giving GarageBand away free as part of the iOS package or via iTunes, so it makes two of our Top Tens. If you don’t have it then it’s obviously well worth a download. It only comes with eight instruments as standard but £2.99 gets you the full works, and what an amazing app it is.
GarageBand features ‘proper’ virtual instruments such as guitars and pianos – although you needn’t be skilled in either to play them – and with 250 loops thrown in you can easily be assembling songs in no time, especially with the ‘smart’ options that help you assemble melodies and beats. All genres covered, no experience needed, easy to use and free.
Web www.apple.com Price Free/£2.99
Blip Interactive NanoStudio (iOS)
NanoStudio was one of the first music-making apps on the market. Within it you can combine up to six instruments (expandable to 16) including the rather fabulous Eden 16-voice synth.
There’s sampling and pad triggering via the TRG-16 plus a sequencer that enables up to 64 tracks to be assembled (if you buy the expansion). With a nice range of effects, NanoStudio is well suited to the mid-experienced musician.
Web www.blipinteractive.co.uk Price £9.99
SoundTrends Studio HD (iOS)
This loop-based app is aimed at anyone who wants to get ideas and tunes together quickly and who doesn’t mind using loops to do it.
Sure you can record your own playing – and do this three times per track over eight tracks resulting in 24 playback tracks – but with 900 loops on offer across a variety of genres you’ll be very tempted just to assemble music that way.
There are a decent range of nifty effects that you can use on each channel but there are some limitations in mixing too, although at just £6.99 it’s one of the cheapest options to get some quick tunes together.
Web www.soundtrends.com Price £6.99
Harmonic Dog Multitrack DAW (iOS)
With little in the way of compositional options – that is instruments or bundled loops – Harmonic Dog concentrates on recording and does it well.
It also looks great, the waveforms especially, and there are several effect options both per track and globally. You can even do a little mastering to make your tunes sound more ‘pro’ should you wish.
You’ll want to upgrade to get the maximum track capacity but doing so will only cost you a total of £12.48.
Web www.harmonicdog.com Price £6.99
Image-Line FL Studio Mobile HD (iOS and Android)
With 133 instruments, FL Studio Mobile HD definitely veers more towards quick composition than the likes of Auria and MultiTrack DAW, which concentrate more on recording. You compose either by using a virtual keyboard, piano roll editor or a very intuitive step sequencer.
It’s pretty hard not to get some decent tunes going within minutes and this is probably the app to go for if you are new to music making, as it has everything you need on just a few screens.
It’s arguably more for loop-based composers – within electronic or dance genres – than GarageBand, but for instant rewards there’s little better.
Web www.image-line.com Price £13.99
Steinberg Cubasis (iOS)
Like GarageBand, Cubasis is put together by a company that knows its music software. Steinberg has been at it for years, which definitely shows here.
This is an incredibly slick music production app and more like a professional music-making package than many others on these pages, and Cubasis also boasts incredibly intuitive touch controls.
It is therefore quick to find your way around – create tracks easily and select instruments and effects in an instant. It’s pricey, and could do with more synths, but you really can get pro results and it’s ideal for all genres and musical abilities.
Web www.steinberg.net Price £34.99
Wavemachine Labs Auria (iOS)
One of the first quality recording apps for the iPad and still one of the best. Auria features quality channel strips on each of its 48 playback channels with effects bundled in by high-quality third-party companies such as PSP Audio (and there are many more optional effects to buy too).
There’s little to get excited about on the composing side as this app concentrates purely on high-quality recording – and on that score is the most ‘pro’ app here – and is the ideal choice if you are in a band and want to record gigs or studio sessions.
Web www.auriaapp.com Price £34.99
4 Pockets Meteor Multitrack Recorder (iOS)
With a traditional mixer this is more of a recording app, but there are instruments and effects for producing complete in-the-box tunes.
Meteor is a very rounded music-making package and suitable to slightly more experienced producers in any genre.
Web www.4Pockets.com Price £13.99
Korg Gadget (iOS)
Not strictly an all-round studio app as audio is not an option just yet, but how can you resist a package that enables you to combine 17 synths and drum machines, up to 35 tracks (on newer iPads) and some of the coolest looking, well, gadgets around?
The emphasis is very much on electronic music production and you can’t add audio (yet). Korg will be getting a few mentions in these lists but this is like a ‘best of’ – amazing sounding synths and drums and a very easy-to-use environment to put it all together.
Web www.korg.co.uk Price £27.49
Intua BeatMaker 2 (iOS and Android)
BeatMaker was one of the first ‘proper’ mobile apps, and while BeatMaker2 has extensive drum machine action it’s developed into a complete music making package with instruments, samples and effects.
Web www.intua.net Price £6.99