It is increasingly rare to find someone who isn’t attached to a smartphone at the hip. Especially musicians. We love our gadgets! Aside from the addictive ability to check your email any time, browse the web, and play Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, your smartphone also has a plethora of music making apps available. My addiction of choice is the iPhone, so I’m going to be covering the top 10 iPhone apps for musicians (sorry, Android users - feel free to chime in below with your picks). So, without further ado, here we go!
What can be said about Garageband that hasn’t been said before? Available on Mac for ages, it is now available in the App Store (and downloading it nets you copies for any iOS device you own, including the iPad). Garageband is like a mini recording studio in your pocket. It allows you to record up to 8 different tracks per song, has some pretty excellent pre-recorded instruments, and also allows you to record your own audio directly using the iPhone’s decent mic. You can set reverb, echo, and volume for each track, and if you’re feeling silly, you can add some fun effects like “monster” and “robot”. Garageband is perfect for recording a quick demo to give out to the band when you’re trying out a new song, or even to just hear your own sound on a recording.
Songwriter’s Pad (iPhone/iPad/Android)
Songwriter’s Pad is a great on-the-go lyric writing tool, and it can also help you overcome any pesky writer’s block you might encounter. Along with a tool to write your lyrics and record your ideas on audio, Songwriter’s Pad has a suite of features to help inspire your writing. Have an emotion you’re trying to convey, but having a hard time putting it down in words? Use the Idea tool to input the emotion, and generate a host of words and phrases associated with it. It also has a rhyming dictionary, so if you’re having a tough time finding that perfect rhyme, you can just input your word, and the app will generate a bunch of suggestions for you. And it’s available on Android as well!
ProChords is an excellent tool for when you’re sitting down to write a new song. Once you set the key you’re writing in and input your first chord, ProChords will display suggestions of possible chords you could follow with, along with star ratings for each chord. As you write your progression, the suggestions will continue to evolve and change. For musicians with a deep background in theory, this app may be unnecessary, but for someone like me it saves a lot of that initial time spent plunking around on the keyboard. The cost is a bit steep at $8.99, but I’ve found it to be worth every penny (and if you have an iPad, you don’t have to pay twice for the app - it will be available on both your devices).
Cleartune - Chromatic Tuner (iPhone/iPad)
This app’s title says it all. At $3.99, it is probably the cheapest tuner you will ever buy, and it is highly rated on the App Store. It includes both a chromatic tuner and a pitch pipe, and multiple display options. Since you likely already have your iPhone with you at your gig, you might as well use it to tune your instrument as well.
iReal b (iPhone/iPad/Android)
Think of iReal b like a fake book in your pocket. Using their forum, you can search for chord charts for 1,000s of songs by category. In addition, you can transpose the charts right on your phone, loop sections of the song, and export the charts to PDF or JPEG so you can print them out.
Nanostudio is a comprehensive recording studio for your mobile device. Music tech geeks will probably go crazy over this one - a sequencer, sample trigger pads, and advanced mixing tools give you a lot of options in this pocket studio. You can also export your mixes directly to Soundcloud, which is pretty cool. For someone like me, Garageband is a better fit because of its simplicity, but if you have a little more knowledge and confidence around a soundboard, this will probably be a great app for you.
Just heard a song on the radio and desperately want to cover it, but have no idea who wrote it, who’s performing it, or how to find out? Shazam has you covered. Using your microphone, Shazam will listen to the song and then search its database for all the information you need about the song. Isn’t technology amazing?
This one might seem a bit out of left field, but instagram is a pretty superb way to connect with your fans on a personal level. You can also set it up so it automatically posts your photos and captions to both Twitter and Facebook. Take some pictures of the band practicing, or of the crowd at your next concert, and start getting some followers on instagram! Twitter and Facebook aren’t specifically for musicians either, but they are both incredibly important tools for connecting with your fans. Both apps are free, easy to use, and allow you to post live about upcoming gigs or projects from wherever you are. So get those thumbs moving!
If you are on tour, Yelp is a pretty fantastic tool to find cheap places to eat and sleep. It can use the current location of your phone to search for hotels, restaurants, and pretty much any store you might need to find. It also comes with comprehensive user reviews to help you determine how divey a place really is.
- Reminders (iPhone/iPad)Seriously, Reminders is a life saving app for me. Now, every time I’m on the go and suddenly remember I need to follow up on a potential gig, instead of trying to remember to call when I have a chance and then certainly forgetting to do so, I quickly pop the reminder into my phone. I’m also pretty bad at forgetting important things at home, so setting a reminder to go off right before a gig with a list of all the gear I need to bring is super helpful.
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