In Jeremy Fisher’s music video for Shine a Light, a track off his new record Flood, the Montreal-based folk-pop singer plays the first few bars of his tune with an iPhone app instead of actual musical instruments. One day, he says, he may record an entire record using his phone. Fisher’s video, and others like it, aren’t just fascinating to watch; it proves that mobile phones are changing the way people write and play music.
After watching that video I downloaded a few instruments on my phone and went to town, recording drums beats, playing guitar, and creating synth riffs. There are a lot of great apps out there that could alter the way you write music forever, but here are my top four:
NLog Syntehsizer (Free/Midi version $8.99)
If you want a full functioning synth at your fingertips, check out the NLog. It’s got 96 different sounds, but change the pitch, delay and other parameters and there’s an almost endless amount of noises you can make. The sound quality is top notch — the effects are almost as good as the real thing.
Drum Meister Pro Lite (Free/Full version $1.99)
Want to play drums but your family won’t tolerate all the noise? Drum Meister puts a full kit on your phone. Use your fingers to bang on the snare, or perform a Rush-like fill by tapping the four toms and four cymbals. The free version is a lot of fun, but the paid app includes a metronome, 40 pre-recorded beats and four different drum sets to choose from.
Virtuoso (Free/Pro version 0.99 cents)
There are plenty of piano programs in the app store, but Virtuoso is one of the best because of its simplicity. The free version turns your phone into single-level piano — you can only see one octave at a time. The paid app lets you have two levels of keys, and also includes record and metronome functions. The best part? The sound. It’s about as close to a real piano sound as a virtual keyboard can get.
Pocket Guitar (.99 cents)
While it won’t replace that old Gibson you have lying around, Pocket Guitar is an entertaining app that’s fun to noodle around on. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to pluck notes, play chords and even write music. One of the best features is the tuning option — play Black Hole Sun in Drop D or attempt Start Me Up in open G.