"My Favorite Must Have iOS Music Apps"

Updated January 20th 2012:

This list has become a bit outdated. It is still well read, so I will make a whole new “Must Have” list updated to both include and or remove music apps based on what I use today, and recommend highest. Check out my new “Must Have iOS Music Apps-2013” post. Ill leave this up in case it remains of some interest. Thank you for reading and all the kind messages.
Cheers.

I seem to have neglected this during the holidays. You know how it is. Anyway, like you I’ve come across some amazing new music apps since this was last updated. So of course there must be new additions to my list. AND a new category. The new Must Have category is for a combination of both Loopers, and DJ type apps. Its a short category to start. Check it out.

I’ve added, Grain Sience, by Wooji. This is one huge synthesizer that shows off some of the more finely detailed programmability options to hit a grain synth, or any synth really.

Also, new to the must have list is Bit Shapes TC-11 Multi Touch Synthesizer. This synth is an amazing work of art itself, taking full advantage of the iOS user interface. It’s a very organic feeling instrument. A 3 dimensional experience allowing a monstrous amount of programming and routing possibilities beyond the traditional synthesizers. TC-11 took the “box” and set it on fire, leaving us the most effective and powerful multi touch synth to date.

The Drum Machine DM-1 has to go on this list. Even with it being slightly off the mark as a truly mobile (waiting for ACP) music app, it really is an amazing drum machine with loads of classic, and modern drum machine styles and sounds. DM-1 is teaching me to be patient. Good development doesn’t happen over night. This is the sole exception to the “must have ACP” rule. Only because it’s so damn good, and it will have ACP sooner or later.

Updated October 31st: I’m adding iSequence HD. I really wish I had this app a lot sooner. It is a fantastic sequencer, great sounds, easy to use. A real delight!

Also, on a related side note. I want to note that I am going to integrate some apps from this list into what will be a small series of blog posts about my iOS creative process. It will help flesh out more about why the apps are “must haves” and how I use them as they relate to my process. I know, I said I’d write about my process for a while, and still shown you nothing. I apologize for that delay. It was harder to explain than I expected. Harder than the process actually is to practice. Then I thought since I get so many questions and requests to write about that process, and also about the apps on this list, why not work that out all together? I will start with step one this week. I’ll give you both the process and talk about specific must have apps.

Updated October 17th:
I have to include a couple more synths recently released. Alchemy Synth because of its huge sounds. Also adding Animoog! Its just to cool for school.

Updated: October 7th. I am adding Xewtons Music Studio to the list. It’s always been an excellent music app of exceptional quality, but it lacked certain fundamental functions that prevented it from making my personal choice list of “Must have music apps”. Now it has been updated to include(among many other great additions)my number 1 required function, audio copy paste. ACP is an absolute requirement for me, and I’m happy to add it to my list.

“How did you do that? What music app did you use? What do you consider must have music apps?”
Those are questions I hear the most from other iOS musicians, especially those just starting out. I am always more than happy to answer and engage in a dialog to learn more about the person asking to better advise them. If I can, of a few apps they might get the most out of.
After several of these friendly email conversations ending consistently with, “You should write about your must have apps on your blog!”
Hmmm? OK.
After a lot of careful thought and not so careful note taking I did come up with a list of my most used, and needed music apps.
The first thing that I want to explain right off the bat is that it should be very clear to you, my friendly reader, that this is only my opinion based on personal experiences, needs and style. Additionally, I use only my iPad and sometimes iPod for every aspect of making music with a very serious approach. Besides obviously needing quality, I also need complete freedom from wires. For me, that freedom defines what I consider a “must have music app”, and it also means they must have (ACP)  copy/paste, pasteboard support. My entire music studio is in my lap, and on my iPad. Not even iTunes file share will cut it when I take my studio to the park, woods, or mountains. I won’t… scratch that…. I cant use anything that needs a cable to move files around through a computer.
So now that I’ve explained where I’m coming from here is my list of what I consider my favorite, must have music apps for iOS. I’ll try to make this simple and clear by app type, but not really in any particular order.Also, how anyone mixes and matches is up to them. You can expect this list to be updated regularly as more new amazing iOS music apps hit the app store.

Must Have synthesizers. NLog Synth Pro, Addictive Synth, Sunrizer Synth, Crystal XT, Grain Bender, Synthtronica,  BassLine, Alchemy Synth, Animoog, Grain Science, and TC-11 Multi Touch Synth.

Must Have samplers / sequencers. SampleWiz, Electrify, SampleLab, iSequence HD.

Must Have beat makers / drum machines. MoDrum, Funk Box, Molten, The Drum Machine DM-1, and iElectribe.

Must Have Audio Editors and FX. Reforge, Hokusai HD with pro tools package, Moog Filtatron and Mixtikl

Must Have Studio, mixer, or DAW style. Nano Studio, Multitrack DAW,*Music Studio, Studio HD, BeatMaker2

Must Have iOS instruments and (or) Virtual Core MIDI controllers. iShred, Thumb Jam, Sound Prism Pro,

Must Have Loopers, or DJ apps. Looptastic HD, Loopy, and Meta DJ HD.

These are all apps I use on a regular basis, and honestly just can’t live without. I realize that it’s not ideal for everyone, and really selecting one or a couple from each category would build a pretty nice iOS studio for most people into electronic music.
But what if you really only want to get started? You’re not sure how serious you want or need to be just yet? Maybe you want to get the best possible set up under $20 that won’t be too complicated?

That’s easy. Get Nano Studio and the 16 track upgrade. It has everything an electronic musician needs covered. Honestly even if you think you have out grown it down the road, you’ll still come back to it for the amazing Eden Synths. It’s not iPad Native yet, but my experience with it on my iPad has been solid and trouble free. It’s a superb, complete music studio type app. My second choice would be Music Studio.

Remember this isn’t a set of rules, or an edict. This is just MY opinion of Must Have iOS music apps. How anyone chooses to make their purchases and in what order is entirely up to them. I do believe you can’t go wrong with any that I named here. I hope this answers some of the questions I hear most and might help someone. Thank you and have fun! Surely we will all see more Must Have iOS Music Apps as iOS music evolves and improves.

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17 comments

  1. Great article. I guess I knew most of your opinion on this already. :)Might elaborate on the apps some more. Like in what circumstances you use them and for what. And for what not of course. But don't get me wrong, this is already very helpful!For thumb jam and sound prism pro: are they just to make writing melodies/chords easier or do they have some other special purpose?

  2. Hi Rodi, you make a great point. I started to do elaborate, but it got really really long. So I thought I'd save that for a series of posts more specific to HOW I use certain apps. The others are for melodies, textures that I want to use more obvious and recognizable sounds like guitars or a cello etc. Sound Prism is also, for the same, and chords, plus the future of Virtual Core Midi is a dream come true!

  3. Hi Rodi, a very interesting list! I have most of these and do quite a bit on the iPad alone – I agree with the portability issues but when I need a keyboard, portability sort of goes out the window with the awkward camera connection kit and MPK mini, I feel like I am in front of a desktop, so where I need keyboards, I usually end up back in front of the iMac with Logic 9. I was surprised that Garageband (iPad) and the Korg iMS-20 weren't on the list though. I haven't tried Sound Prism – might have to give it a look. Recently been playing with Tabletop and Aurora – both very different approaches.

  4. Hi Mike. Thanks for the comment. I left GarageBand off the list because of it's limitations. One of those being you can only paste into GB, not out. Deal breaker. Korgs iMS20 is outstanding! Its just not a must have for me.

  5. I want them all, ha ha! Do you think I could use my iPad 2 as a full music recording studio by selecting apps from this list? Also, sometimes I use some loops, and compose, is that cheating, or considered lazy? I saw something from another iPad guy freesole or something like that rip the use of loops? Thanks

  6. Hey Anonymous…come on at least leave a fake name πŸ˜‰ First, ignore misguided advice like that. There's some very rude, disturbed trolls everywhere on the Internet who know not of what they speak. That said, you do what you feel is right for you! Don't let anyone ever push their rules onto you. Sometimes I use loops, samples, generative pieces, sometimes I don't. I compose note by note mostly now, but started with just samples looped and mixed at first. I still use them on occasion. So do countless others including some of the worlds most respected musicians and composers. It's what you do with them that makes them yours. It's not cheating at all. I would only advise against relying too heavily on them, and explore your inner composer as well. They have their place, no shame in it, and far from lazy. Only the most insecure of musicians will try to shame you. Sorry this is long, but yes you could use your iPad 2 as a full studio start to finish. It's difficult, but I'm doing it with an iPad 1. Expect a challenge. Don't let anyone tell you your iPad can't be used as a studio. Only the worst of the worst haters would argue you can't. If i can do it, You can do it. Keep with it!

  7. Hi, my name is Randy a friend told me about you and your blog. Pretty cool blog, and I love your music your making on the iPad! I am new to iOS music as they call it, and was wondering why no Garage Band?PS I saw that ckmment from that crazy person you posted! That was funny! OMG why did you take it down? It was so funny!

  8. Hi RandyFirst. I only had that guys comment up maybe 30 minutes the other day before I reported & removed it. I took it down because I felt sorry for him and decided allowing his ranting comment to be seen was kinda mean. We shouldn't laugh at people like him, clearly he is very ill and needs help. It was out of place and inappropriate. Not what this blog is about. So I left out Garage Band iPad because ultimately it's limits are just too restrictive it's not at all useful without being able to freely copy paste in and out of it. ACP must go both ways or it's just no go, not for me anyway. Its a fine beginner app, and many very experienced musicians swear by it. Just not my cup o tea.

  9. I saw that post too. It was funny, that guys crazy. I'm anonymous cause I don't have an account, but so what, I leave my name always still. I agree leaving that looney rant up was not a good thing, he doesn't deserve the added exposure. I've listened to several iOS music guys on SoundCloud, most are a bit weak, especially that crazy dude, but yours is the best chill electronica I've heard! e. Anywho….I wanted to say bravo on this list! I noticed Music Studio is on it now, and had also been waiting for what seemed like forever to see copy paste and audio tracks added. Now it's my goto studio app! I'm not sure I see any new instruments though? Do I have to buy them? Thanks…Darren Willows

  10. Hey Darren. I just approved your post and wanted to follow with this comment. Let's not talk about that person anymore please. I want the comments, but I can't edit them. So please let's stick to the topics we are commenting on. If you want to talk about any other things, email me please. Cool? I just want to stay on topic πŸ™‚ & about Music Studio, I am writing a review for 2.0 and should have it posted soon. I think you'll have your answers then. Still working on it. Thanks again for th comments, questions etc! I'm so glad so many people appreciate this blog.

  11. This is amazing! I wanted to do it myself, but man, this is gotta be the ultimate type of making music. I honestly love it!I try to record everything with my iPad, but finally I mix it on Logic. So, bravo! You've made it. You just got a new follower to your iPad-only-religion πŸ™‚

  12. well done .. iv ditched my hardware and pc and now going for ios .. the future is here faster than we new it would .. no latency ,wires and great sounding apps on a machine smaller than a piece of a4 newspaper .. im finding it quite difficult to get used to but i have made a nice piece of music on nano studio .. i own a korg elecribe mx and micro korg synth but i would say the sound quality on the ipad is just as good .if theres any tutorials regarding using the apps combined that would be a great help .. ilsend you my track if you like also .. regards

  13. Mr.Payback. It always makes me smile to hear from people who are excited to take the plunge into iOS music, leaving behind hardware and computers, wires and all. It's not easy, that's for sure, and you'll find many limitations, but theres always some sort of work around. Sound quality is just as good. Digital is digital is digital. There's loads of tutorials on the net, but if you meant from me (?) then I don't really make videos…..yet. But I will answer emails of course, and yeah send a link of your work sometime. Thank you.

  14. Music Studio, NanoStudio, Studio HD, Beatmaker 2 … for a serious musician who plans to try mixing full compositions on the iPad, which one is recommended? It seems they all have their advantages and disadvantages … Interested to hear opinions from various users. My main needs are stability, minimum 16 tracks, sensible UI, efx buses and decent sounding effects more important than loads of 'em. Also, I tend to do a lot of sampling; since it seems like the current iPad limitations mean a lot of real-time efx processing isn't a great idea, I guess I'd be looking for a good sampler to process the samples with delays/reverb/chorus etc. and use ACP to bring the finished results into the main composition. Any recommendations for this? Hokusai? SampleWiz? Again, any & all opinions appreciated!

  15. Music Studio, NanoStudio, Studio HD, Beatmaker 2 … for a serious musician who plans to try mixing full compositions on the iPad, which one is recommended? It seems they all have their advantages and disadvantages … Interested to hear opinions from various users. My main needs are stability, minimum 16 tracks, sensible UI, efx buses and decent sounding effects more important than loads of 'em. Also, I tend to do a lot of sampling; since it seems like the current iPad limitations mean a lot of real-time efx processing isn't a great idea, I guess I'd be looking for a good sampler to process the samples with delays/reverb/chorus etc. and use ACP to bring the finished results into the main composition. Any recommendations for this? Hokusai? SampleWiz? Again, any & all opinions appreciated!

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