As technology continues to grow, music making becomes a lot more broad in terms of how we can actually create it. As opposed to needing a four track recorder, microphone and a few instruments back in the day, now we can simply download some software onto our computers, phones or tablets and get going immediately with merely our fingertips. It was tough compiling this guide today because there are so many out there, but we managed to fine tune ten of them. Here are the 10 best music production apps we were able to research in the market today.
How to Choose Your Music Making App
- iOS or Android? The type of device you have is the first step down the app ladder. We made sure to choose a few from both categories as well as apps that are compatible with both. Unfortunately, the popular operating systems for phones aren’t on the same page and continue to offer their own spin to things.
- What type of app? Nowadays, there are a ton of not only music making apps, but different types in terms of what it actually allows you to do. We have straight up DAWs (full on apps to create songs with) with more features than we can count, while others provide simple solutions such as synths, beat machines, effects processors and more. We made sure to choose a few of each of the best to give you some options.
- Your budget – We’re talking apps here, so you’re pretty much good to go in terms of not breaking your wallet. However, some higher-end apps cost almost $20, while some are free — so keep that in mind. We tried to include both paid and free in here to give you some options.
The 10 Best Music Making\Production Apps
Here are the top 10 best apps for music creation. Let us know in the comments if you have questions, comments or suggestions for edits! Also be sure to check out our 10 best music production software or even free music software if you’re also looking for a DAW for your PC\Mac. We also like MusicRadar’s music making apps article since they divide theirs into three types and have almost 100+ of them. We kept ours simple at 10 for convenience.
If you haven’t heard of Apple Garageband, it’s one of the most popular digital audio workstations for Mac in the world at the moment. When it came to choosing #1 for the article, we were having a difficult time going with a DAW, synth or FX type, so we went with what we think is the best all-around music production app. With this thing, you can make full on songs, virtual piano and drums, record your voice with the mic and apply sound effects, use amps\stompbox effects, sampler, and a nice feature we like called “smart keyboard” which helps you create grooves. There are way too many features to name in one paragraph, so check it out for yourself.
If you wanted a quick answer for best music making app that gives you basically all of it, here’s the one. It’s also super cheap. The only downfall is it’s an iOS only (works with both iPhone and iPad), so we’re sorry droid or other smart device users! Check out the video below for a pretty thorough demo of GarageBand.
Steinberg’s Cubase is a very popular digital audio workstation among music producers. Here’s their version(s) of Cubase in the form of an app. For Cubasis, it’s another super app that gives you countless features. You have unlimited audio\MIDI tracks, 24 assignable ins and outs, high-quality resolution up to 24-bit / 96 kHz, mixer with FX, MIDI and audio loops built-in, a sample and key editor, and more.
The list goes on honestly, and although it’s a bit more powerful than GarageBand, we had to put it second because of the price — it’s one of the most expensive apps out there when it comes to music making, but you have to realize why. It’s well worth the money in our opinion so we wouldn’t second guess grabbing it if don’t mind spending $30 on an app.
Image-Line FL Studio Mobile HD
Yet another popular DAW in the form of an app, but this one is definitely legendary! It’s a little cheaper than Cubasis, Here’s some highlight features you’ll be getting: a MiniSynth with 70 presets, 133 instruments (kits and loops), step sequencer (up to 99 tracks), 10 effects, pitch blending, sampling, wave editor (customize individual tracks), and so much more. Once you’re done with your tracks, you upload quickly to Dropbox or SoundCloud, or quickly export it via e-mail to show all of your friends.
We highly recommend this one for beginners as well as intermediate music makers. It’s super fun to use and the possibilities are pretty much endless. This is the last full on DAW we will list in here, since this top 3 are the only ones to look at in our opinion.
Native Instruments iMaschine 2
Now we’re delving into the less-DAW types of apps that really pinpoint a certain approach to music production. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Native Instruments as they’re one of the biggest names in the music equipment world, and their iMaschine is their mobile version of their beloved piece of gear we’ve all come to love. This gives you a handheld drum machine. You have 16 buttons for real-time beat production. There’s a library built-in that gives you around 400 sample sounds (25 kits, 10 projects) so when it comes to assortment, you’re pretty good to go.
You can record some vocals and put it into your track (we’d recommend an external mic instead of your phone or tablet), use a keyboard mode if you’re in the mood, and the live-mode sequencer helps you detect a loop length\complete it quickly. Check this thing out — it’s super affordable, too.
Akai iMPC Pro
Finally, we get to talk about one of our favorite brands of all time! We’ve all heard of the Akai MPC drum machines, right? Well, here’s your app version. Let’s see what we have here: 64-track capability, built-in sampling, huge sound library (1,400+), 3-D performance mode, precision knobs\faders, chop up samples, note repeat, live sequencing, and 3-band EQ. I’m not sure if Akai forgot any feature that’s possible to transfer into an app.
We’ve all heard of the legendary Moog, right? Well if you haven’t, they’re synth pioneers. This app gives you the ability to run a sound through a virtual version of their beloved Moog filter we all love. You can use modulation, delay, and overdrive to really warp your sound. You input sound using a line/mic input, sampler or even their built-in oscillator. Even if you aren’t too serious and just want to mess around, this app is super fun to play with.
You can basically change your voice to sound like something completely unrelated if you get the FX right. The audio quality is OK at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz and you can record samples up to 10MB. It’s relatively cheap as well so if even if you want to grab it just to have, it won’t disappoint.
Propellerhead is responsible for a very popular DAW out there called Reason that many people swear by. This app here is free so that’s a huge plus as we can grab it to merely try it out. It’s geared towards “making music on the fly” because of the super easy interface and ability to quickly create. You can tweak some sounds (comes with a bunch of them in-app) and play around with putting them into a rhythm.
Mess around with their levels, play in different keys\modes, add some drums (comes with some) and there’s synth in there as well. Some of my best music has come from something I barely worked at and it just clicked, so you never know if you have a hit on your hands!
When it comes to synths, you can never go wrong with something made by Arturia. We’re infatuated with some of their products. Their Mini Brute is one of our favorites as well as their collection of VST’s that are extremely prestige. The iMini is unfortunately for iPad only, however the quality is outstanding. You’re getting one of the best synth apps out there at the moment, and that’s literally what it is: a synthesizer in your smart device.
The picture shows you the interface; you get 3 oscillators, octave filters, XY pads (assignable), chorus and delay FX, polyphonic mode and more. If you’ve ever used an analog synth before, you’ll see what they were going for — they were able to basically emulate most features, too. It’s not too expensive so if you want to add this to your collection of music making apps, you won’t be disappointed. Check out the video below to see it in action.
Ah, good ol’ Korg here with their own version of a sweet synth app! It’s a bit more expensive than the previously mentioned iMini; however, this thing is more than just a synth. It comes with a 16-step sequencer so you can do more than just play some keys — creates grooves, mess with the tempo and pattern, 8 FX (delay – short and BPM sync, grain shifter, reverb, chorus\flanger, filter and more).
It’s pretty close to a DAW but is more a synth plus sequencer lacking a few features of the bigger apps mentioned before. However, it’s one definitely worth looking at if you’re into the Korg sounds and want to make some simple rhythms. Apparently Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz used this and only this for an album he released a few years ago.
Casio Chordana Composer
This app was the piano interface you saw in one of Apple’s iPhone commercials. It’s relatively simple and straightforward: a virtual keyboard. Simply mess around with some keys to get some melodies going or you can even learn piano if you haven’t yet. It has this automatic composition feature that allows you to choose a “genre” or “concept” as well as the range\level of the tension and it makes a tune — pretty fun to play around with if you’re bored.
We recommend this for those who want something to play to kill time or aren’t serious, otherwise grab one of the previously mentioned apps if you are looking to make full on songs.