December 17, 2011 at 10:28 am

This Week In Music Apps: Glitch Tunes, Jingle Bells, and the Recorder

pcm recorderAs you’ve probably noticed, there have been a few changes around here. Evolver.fm relaunched with a new look designed to make finding the best music apps easier than ever, which also means hosting the first curated database of handpicked music apps, in addition to our usual coverage.

One offshoot of this: The apps in our This Week In Music Apps series will be available for you to view and download from our app database with screenshots, descriptions, pricing, platform information, and download links for each one.

(Our new @evolverfm_apps feed tracks all the noteworthy additions to the music app directory.)

With that out of the way, here’s out latest round-up of app reviews since our last installment — and there are a bunch — followed by more great music apps for Android, iPhone and the web. (For other platforms, see the music app directory.)

The Week(s) in Reviews

Apple iPhone

PCMRecorder (free; pictured above): As many musicians with day jobs probably realize, the best song ideas don’t always arrive at convenient times. Just because you can’t get to a guitar or a piano doesn’t mean giving up on those ideas forever (my iPhone has hundreds of voice-notes to prove it). Still, while the native iOS Voice Memo app certainly isn’t optimized for music making. That’s where PCMRecorder comes in, with an interface that will be familiar to anyone who’s used one of Tascam’s portable recorders. It’s nearly identical to the Tascam DR-07 — the same one that has followed me to concerts and rehearsals for years now. The sound quality is pretty good with the iPhone 4s’ built-in mic, but this app really shines when connected to a better quality, preferably portable mic (like the super-small capsule with which we demoed iStrobosoft). PCMRecorder also includes features like equalization and a limiter to help you make better quality field recordings.

glitchmachineGlitchmachine (free; pictured to the right): Live coding — like, with actual computer code — is how this generative music app makes music. The tech slant might put people off but it’s not nearly as complicated as it seems. Glitchmachine looks like a calculator and creates tones based on bytes, by wrapping the numerical result of the output as a number 1-255, and uses the chaotic resultant pattern of said “wrapping” to generate waveforms and beats. Or something. It’s kind of complicated, and definitely nerdy, but if you’re in it for a whole new take on music making, give it a shot.

Mashtone (free): We don’t normally include ringtone stuff unless it’s pretty great. Mashtone’s “Jingler” upgrade comes just in time for the holidays. It uses the remix API from the Echo Nest (publisher of Evolver.fm) to power amusing features like “more cowbell.” The same way that option adds tempo-matched cowbell embellishments to any song, the Jingler, will “Christmasify” any song with the addition of sleigh-bells. (You can get it for a buck through in app purchase, while the basic Mashtone app is free).  Disclosure: the amusing infomercial for this holiday-themed app stars a certain Evolver.fm writer in his acting debut, as a scroogy, speed-metalhead. (It’s the second most embarrassing video of me holding guitar: the most embarrassing one is a mercifully-deleted cover version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” starring me and Lil Jon.)

Laugh Synth (free): Before you ask — I wondered the same thing. Yes, this app synthesizes laughter, itself is a fairly laughable concept. Why are we including it in our list of the latest notable music apps?? Because Laugh Synth uses your own recorded samples to synthesize a variety of laugh styles — to varying degrees of success — and is at the very least good for a…well you get it.

Google Android

Tune Me ($4) or Tune Me Donate (free): iPhone users are mostly familiar with I Am T-Pain, which, irrespective of my personal stance on the abuse of the Auto-Tune plugin as a popular music effect, is one of the most downloaded music apps ever. Tune Me offers the same functionality for Android, allowing you to sing along to your own songs (ad-free with the paid version), or put up with ads limited features in the free “Donate” version.

Piano Master ($2): Okay, this app’s name might be a slight exaggeration. This Android game can definitely teach you a thing or two about tickling the ivories, or at least your touchscreen, but “master” might be stretching it a bit. Still, for two bucks, Piano Master shows you the notes required to play along with Mozart, Chopin. And what’s more, it gives you feedbackm a la Guitar Hero, on your ability to hit said notes.

Web Apps

Songs2see (free as a demo version): This one is is still a work in progress, but it drew some attention as a finalist in the 2012 Midemlab competition (the editor of Evolver.fm will be one of the judges in a later phase of the competition). Songs2see aims to help budding musicians learn music, by providing visual feedback on the notes they play as they jam with whatever songs they upload. According to the developers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Music Technology (the same folks largely responsible for the MP3), the app accurately detects melodies and bass lines in MP3s and automatically converts them to music notation. This makes learning songs on any instrument much easier… so long as that instrument is a recorder.

Yep, the only catch, and it’s kind of a big one: The current version only works for an instrument that many of us gave up after kindergarden. So, while the technology seems promising, Songs2see works best as an early music education tool, for now anyway. Encouragingly, the developers note that the glockenspiel, melodica, and other, perhaps more popular instruments, like the harp, guitar, and piano, are “in the pipeline.” You can see a full demo of Songs2see in it’s current iteration in our directory listing.