As a lapsed musician, I find no comment about the iPad more off-base than "it's a device for consumption, not creation." Thanks to the App Store's low price barriers, the ingenuity of app developers and the jumbo touchscreen, I've had a blast creating all kinds of music on the iPad, from instrumental compositions to far-out noise experiments. I haven't sifted through every musical offering on the iPad, but over time I've accumulated a handful of iPad music creation apps that satisfy the occasional urge to be creative. Read on for my favorites.
For $15 and just a little bit of musical inclination, you can be an iPad DJ. Looptastic HD comes with heaps of free beats, riffs and rhythms, and lets you mash them together in a simple interface. But the most fun part of this app is the effects box, in which you can add distortion, echo and frequency filters just by dragging your finger around. Serious musicians can also import their own loops, either from a computer over Wi-Fi or directly from other apps (more on that later).
NLog doesn't have a proper iPad app, but the free iPhone version of this versatile synthesizer, running with pixels doubled, is just fine for messing around. For $2, you can buy the ability to record and save, and here's where it gets really interesting: Using a feature called Pasteboard, you can export those jams into Looptastic, adding some originality to the canned collection of loops.
I use iSequence for composing beats or entire songs. The $15 app is not a free-form sound recorder (for that, there's the $40 StudioTrack, which I haven't tried), but a MIDI-style sequencer, letting you place keyboard and drum samples on tempo. The included samples aren't amazing, but can import your own or record directly into the iPad's microphone. As with NLog, you can also copy and paste beats into Looptastic.
Also known as "drives my wife crazy." If you've got a thing for crunchy synth tones, Mugician will be mildly amusing, but the real treat is for folks with a working knowledge of guitar scales. Each row of notes, daunting as they seem at first glance, matches the intervals of a guitar, making it easy to jam out to major and minor scales. Mugician could really use some recording features, but as a free app, it's enjoyable enough on its own.
More of a free-form game than a musician's tool, Soundrop is the most accessible iPad music creation app in my lineup. As little dots drip from a single point, the goal is to draw a network of lines so the dots bounce between them, creating marimba-like tones that depend on dot velocity. I haven't sprung for the $2 premium version, which adds multiple drop points, more instruments and other tweaks.
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