Anyone who works in the music industry knows that there’s a lot of work that needs to be put in to produce and sell good music. Decades ago, you needed a lot of money and resources to produce and distribute music. Luckily, several professional interfaces are widely accessible to us today. You don’t need to have the funding to rent a music studio for $30 an hour – at least – to produce professional-sounding music. We’ve created a list of programs even famous artists use for their work, as well as other apps you can use when you’re struggling to form an idea or want to play with sound. Whether you’re a professional musician or a novice still in the early stages of your guitar lessons, there’s something on this list for you.
It’s impossible to make a list of music production apps without including Garageband. Apple’s 16-year-old digital audio workstation (DAW) is well-known to many of its users, and for good reason. It allows users to create tracks with pre-made MIDI keyboards and loops, voice recordings, and a wide selection of virtual instruments.
Even famous musicians use Garageband to demo, record, or even process final tracks. A big part of its appeal is its user-friendly interface, which makes it possible for anyone to use it regardless of their skill level. Rapper T-Pain made his entire debut album Rappa Ternt Sanga using Garageband.
Garageband comes free with and is exclusive to Apple devices. It also has a premium version called Logic, which would set you back $200, but why would you consider purchasing it when Garageband is already amazing?
This is another music creation program that is reputed for its easy-to-use interface. Caustic is available for free download on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, PC, and Android. It boasts a wide array of effects and provides a mixer desk that is simple and straightforward. Users can import file types of .WAV, .MID, and .SF2. Though it works on iPhones and Android smartphones, developer Rejean Poirier recommends using the app on an iPad. On an iPad, PC, or Mac, you’ll have more screen real estate to view the mixer desk and all the other tools available.
Figure by Propellerhead
Part of what makes this app so good for even beginners to use is that its program helps users to stay on-beat and in key. It has a different layout compared to other music-making apps, but is still very easy to use. It allows you to create lead synth, drums, and bass melodies and customize them as much as you want. When you’re happy with your song, you can easily export it to your iTunes library. Figure is available for free only on iOS.
Created by synth manufacturer Moog Music, Inc., Animoog is a polyphonic synthesizer exclusive to iOS. It features an Anisotropic Synth Engine that allows users to toggle across the given X/Y landscape to create and modify their work. Dials can be found onscreen to modify depth, pitch, and many more. Animoog is available for $5 for iPhone and $10 for iPad.
Now that we’ve covered the more serious production apps, here are two apps we recommend for fun. This isn’t to say you can’t have fun on the previously mentioned programs, but the following apps aren’t equipped with a complete or conventional toolset. Though these apps are limited in that way, they offer users simple and unique playgrounds for sound. You can use these just for fun or when you’re desperate to get out of a creative rut.
This is an app made famous by viral videos on the internet. Songify instantly gives any spoken phrase a melody. It’s great for when you have the lyrics but can’t come up with a melody, or simply just for laughs. Songify is free for download for Android only.
This is a fun app that you can even use to introduce small children to music production. It works a bit like a toy and can be addicting in the best way. TonePad lets you plot or improvise music using a 16×16 grid. The grid serves as a music staff of sorts and plays on a loop. Press a dot, and it will play a note that corresponds to its vertical placement on the grid. Its horizontal placement refers to its timestamp. The result of pressing even the most random selection of dots is a beautiful and calming melody, care of each soft, bell-like note. Using Tonepad is a good way to get creative juices flowing and pull you out of your creative rut. It is free for download on iOS only.
You don’t need to rent an expensive music studio by the hour to produce good music. All you need is a device of your choice, any of the apps we listed above, and a desire to make something. With some button-pushing, tweaking, and creativity, you’re well on your way to creating professional-grade music.