TURN ON, TUNE UP AND ROCK OUT
Inspired by the Brit awards, we look at the apps and gadgets that can get you making music
STANDALONE ■ Teenage Engineering OP-Z (£529)
TEENAGE Engineering is a very cool Swedish company making innovative and functional sequencers and synthesisers.
The OP-Z is both – it’s essentially a standalone music creation kit. You can play or program up to 10 songs, controlling every aspect, either with myriad controllers on the device itself, or with the companion smartphone app, which doubles as a screen for the OP-Z.
It’s also tiny, measuring just 21cm long, 5.7cm wide and 1cm deep.
Inside you’ll find 16 sample packs with 24 samples in each, there are eight synthesisers to create your own sounds, and a range of effects. There’s even a built-in mic for recording.
The OP-Z is also great for live performances, even offering control of visuals that can be projected from your IOS device while you play.
IPHONE AND IPAD
IF you want to make music using your iphone and ipad (and they are terrific devices for doing just that), you could always tap tap away on the screen and use the built-in mic.
You’ll soon hit your head on device limitations, though – these controllers and interfaces will help.
■ Roli Blocks and Seaboard
(Lightpad blocks cost £189.95, while Control blocks cost £89.95. Seaboard keyboards start at £279.95)
ROLI has essentially re-thought the keyboard with its Seaboard device. It will be familiar to anyone who can play a piano, but adds a massive array of new ways to control and manipulate sound.
It’s a regular keyboard, yes – but you can also swipe across its surface to bring an extra dimension to your playing. Keys are velocity sensitive, too.
The Lightpad blocks are touchsensitive rubber blocks with built-in light feedback – they can be pressed, tapped, or swiped, and can control a vast array of sounds when connected to you ipad or iphone, either within the Roli apps, or within a wide range of music production apps.
You can even add a hardware control block to gain rapid access to items that may be hidden behind on-screen menus, speeding up the music-making process and allowing you to bring down the barriers between you and the software you’re using to create.
■ Apogee Mic+ (£249.95) and Jam+ (£149.95)
THERE’S more to music than sequencers and samples – sometimes you might want to record something that lives in the real world.
Apogee is one of the best in the world at making mics and interfaces for recording, and its entry-level USB microphone and guitar interface will allow you to record just about anything.
The Mic+ is a proper condenser mic which you can plug straight into your IOS device to record vocals and acoustic instruments with a quality and clarity that can’t be surpassed at this price.
With the Jam+ you can plug your guitar or bass into your IOS device and record them with the same level of precision – battery power delivers a good signal, which can then be manipulated with amp simulators and effects on the ipad to iphone (if you want to record straight out of your amp, use the Mic+).
■ IK Multimedia irig Keys I/O (from £210)
A cheaper alternative to all of the above, it packs in a keyboard, touch-pads, AND a high-quality audio interface in a small and portable package.
You can have a traditional keyboard with either 25 or 49 keys, and both versions feature tappable pads to make it easy to lay down your rhythms. There is also a whole host of control switches and knobs with which you can adjust instrument settings and mix tracks on-screen.
On the back there is a hybrid mic and instrument input that allows you to plug in just about anything to record at 24-bit/96khz.
It comes with a load of software (including Ableton Live 10 Lite if you want to record on a computer) so you can get started right out of the box.
MINI RECORDING STUDIOS ■ Garageband
GARAGEBAND is the most popular music recording app on the planet, and for good reason.
There are versions for IOS (iphone and ipad), and for Mac, and they play nicely with each other… so you can start a tune on your phone and then bring it into your Mac if you feel like extra work is required.
That’s not essential, though – musicians can and do record music with Garageband on iphone which has then been released into the wider world. Everything you need is within.
There are a host of sampled instruments that you can play on-screen, lots of pre-recorded loops to get you started, and some amp simulators and effects for guitar.
There are also some nice studiostyle effects for vocals that you can record with the built-in mic, or via the mic on your Earpods.
All this comes together in a multi-track recording space, where you can mix and edit. A built-in sequencer also allows those who can’t play to programme instead.
All this is enhanced by the addition of hardware such as keyboards and mics. But you don’t have to – Garageband plays nicely on its own.
■ Walk Band
(Android, free with in-app purchases) IF you want a Garageband-style experience on Android, Walk Band replicates most of the features and it’s pretty decent.
There are lots of instruments to try and a full-featured multi-track recording area, where you can piece together your tunes.
Playable on-screen instruments and a built-in sequencer make this a useful alternative. But don’t expect plug-and-play from any of the hardware devices out there.
It’s free to try but extra functionality costs, and you can buy add-on instruments and features in-app, with prices from 65p to £4.49.
The Apogee Mic+ is a condenser microphone
IK Multimedia irig Keys I/O
Roli Blocks and Seaboard
Teenage Engineering OP-Z