With the “smartphone era” came a great thing for musicians: the mobile tools for composing and playing music on a pocket size instrument with the practicality of touch interfaces. We hear so much about apps for iOS around music composition, notation, and live playing, made by the biggest and famous musical software and hardware companies — but what about Android? Though many of them didn’t look at us, some developers did, and have made powerful and useful weapons that every musician with an Android phone should have, covering everything from simple on-the-go notations to a full sequencer in your hands.
Join in me in this Roundup with the most awesome tools for musical notation, composition and learning, for Android.
Chord! is a chord dictionary for Guitar, Bass and Ukulele. It is a universal tool for learning and tuning your instruments, and gives you diagrams for the chord you want to know, letting you hear how it sounds by simply touching on the chord spot on the diagram.
Also, with its huge database, you can search for chords and create your own ones. It has support for left handed musicians.
This app is probably the best one for beginners; it teaches you the basics of notation through a very intuitive interface. Basically it has four modes: Play, Learn, Read, and Write.
Play lets you play a piano keyboard, with three octaves in vertical and two in horizontal, and support for multi-touch if supported by the device. In Learn, you can study the positions of notes in a live staff, and play the note on the keyboard. The Read mode is the one you will use to practice; it is almost the same as the Learn mode, but this time, the notes will not be highlighted on the keyboard, and if you fail, an annoying sound will play telling that you’re wrong, and should try again. (This is the only mode available in the free version.) In Write the app asks you random notes, and you have to answer by placing the note on the staff — the opposite of the Read mode.
My Piano Assistant is simple gets straight to the point. It has two main functions: one shows the chords or scales of the piano, and the other plays the progression of the same. It is designed for pianists and keyboardists, but certainly will help a lot with anyone wanting to learn to play any instruments, as the piano is the universal instrument preparation for any other.
The app is free; its UI is not so polished, but it does what it is supposed to do, with simplicity. If you don’t want to pay for any other app shown in this roundup, you must download this, it becomes really handy when composing.
This app is a must have for any musician, it is a sequencer with a lot of the features of any DAW in a desktop, along with some social features, like sharing your songs with other composers. It uses data connection to download the samples used on your songs and upload them to their servers.
The features list is really huge, and you can see it in the Android Market, but I’ll talk about the basics. It has a piano roll, a recorder, effects you can add to any loop or channel, and a huge library of instruments you can use. The Lite version has all the functionality of the Pro, but in the Pro you got more instruments and effects to use in your songs. The price for the Pro might sound a bit expensive, but it’s worth every cent.
With a minimalist and beautiful UI, this simple app is one of the best allies you will find for your mobile. This is a simple chord sequencer that you can choose the chord root, type and duration, and add more chords to create a whole song, using the styles presets, going through arpeggios and sequences with a bunch of different instruments (all quality samples made in real time using the Chris Collins excellent General User GS soundfont).
It comes with a few songs to which you can listen, and has some features such as exporting to MIDI or WAV format, and even creating a randomly generated song. This is a must have application and its worth the price. Do at least try the free version – which, as usual, has limited features.
Well, the lyrics are an important part of a song, aren’t they? With B-Rhymes and an internet connection, you can get help with the rhymes for your song. Just type the word you’re you need to rhyme with, and the app gives you a list of all the words it can find. It even gives you the pronunciation of the word, and lets you search for its definition on Dictionary.com or synonyms on Thesaurus.com, or just copy it to the clipboard. As almost every free app, it has some ads, but nothing intrusive. Sadly there’s no ad-free version.
As a groovebox, this app is really simple. With a really beautiful UI, it contains three main features: a mixer, an analogue bassline synthesizer, and a step sequencer drum. The synthesizer is really simple to use, has three wave forms and also has the sequencer from the beats section. The samples used in the step sequencer drum are top-quality and are well designed; each drum piece have a knob for adjusting the punch of each one. In the mixer you can set the tempo of the groove and walk through the four bars for each instrument.
It is simple, but intuitive and beautiful, and can be nicely used at live concerts, using the version for phones or tablets. It have some requirements that you should look for before buying it: at least 550mhz of CPU and a HVGA screen resolution device. It also has a free version of it with ads, no ability to save, just one drum kit (the paid version has 8 kits) and no ability to export the loop.
Price: €3.49 for the main version, €6.71 for the HD version, and Free for the Demo.
Requires: Android 2.1 or higher; 550mhz CPU; HVGA (480×320) screen resolution for the main and demo versions;
Android 2.2 or higher; 800mhz CPU; WVG (800×480) screen resolution for the HD
RD3 – Groovebox,
RD3 HD – Groovebox,
RD3 Demo – Groovebox.
This app is a complete tool set; it has some tools (like a Metronome, Pitch Pipe and a Tuner), three instruments (a piano, a two-octave keyboard and a four- or eight-drum pad), and a Practice Piano for beginners to learn in practice how to play some songs (the same developer has another app just for this tool, the Musical Practice Piano). It has support for multi-touch (depending on your device) and has a pack available for free at the market for HQ samples for the piano. You can record what you play, export MIDI files, and use the keyboard as a MIDI device via wireless, to use in your preferred DAW. It also has a free version with less features.
Price: $3.99 for Pro and Free for Lite.
Requires: Android 2.1 or higher for Pro and Android 1.5 or higher for Lite.
Musical Pro (& Piano)
Lite Musical (& Piano).
Developer: Christopher Souvey
MusicGrid is an application with which you can have so much fun doing some experimental sounds. It’s a step sequencer inspired on ToneMatrix, and its very fun to use and create patterns for you to use in your songs. Choose from Sawtooth, Sine, Square or Triangle Wave, set the tempo, and it is ready to use. Simply touch the piano roll-like interface, and you can create your experiments.
Unfortunately, you cannot export to MP3 or WAV, but the app is free, and these features will probably come with the updates. With a little creativity you can still use it in your live concerts.
TouchDAW is one of the best music tools you will find in the Android Market. It is a simple MIDI controller and keyboard, with many tools to use. This is my favorite app in the whole Market, and even the free version is pretty complete and useful.
It has support for a lot of the most popular DAW for you computer, like Cubase, Logic, Ableton Live, and FL Studio. No other controller on the Market is as complete as this one. The tools include a Mixer, an 8-knob pannel, a Keyboard, Y-X Pads, and other features such as letting you use the device accelerometer as a sensor; all of these are wrapped in a gorgeous UI, simple and straight to the point.
The developer wrote a great documentation page with all of the features explained and even how to connect the app with your DAW on a PC or MAC via Wi-Fi. If you opt for the paid version, you will have the support for recording, saving, automating and other features.
DJs also have their chance on Android — and even if you’re just an enthusiast, you can practice DJing with this app. It gives you two decks, where you can load the songs from your list in your music player or from your SD Card, and then just have fun with three effects – Speed, Pitch and Fast Stop – and crossfading the songs with the crossfader. You can also fade the songs with a visual mixer, and change the pan of the song in the mixer.
The app has skins support, which you can change to low resolution ones so the mixer can do its job faster (a great feature for low- and mid-end devices). At the moment, the Lite version has all the features of the full version, except the second deck has just one effect.
Other apps in this roundup have a built-in metronome function. But if you, for some reason, don’t want or don’t need the other apps, but just a metronome, Mobile Metronome is a great alternative. The application has all the main functions of any real metronome: select the tempo, the time signature, the click sound, and that’s it! You’re ready to practice with this metronome.
Optionally, you can buy the pro version of it, which is ad-free, but the ads in the free version are not intrusive.
Whether a musician, an enthusiast, or just a music lover, there are many valid options for you on the Android Market to listen to your favorite music or compose some of your own.
Even though it’s missing some professional apps that can be found in the iOS App Store, the Android Market has some great options, and hopefully, with the new generation of Android Tablets, the biggest developers should give more attention to the Android OS, and give us more options to look for. Still, for now, we have almost all we need right in our hands.