We were concerned when we heard from Mode2 Studio about its new iOS app, Remixer, which promises to let users remix any song on your iPhone or other iOS device.
It’s no easy feat to release something that’s easy enough for civilians to use, yet precise and powerful enough not to insult people who actually know how to make music. And while it’s one thing to work with pre-determined songs, like this early remix app did, it’s quite another to handle any song in a user’s library.
However, by keeping things simple, Remixer avoids those pitfalls, and we can safely recommend it if you’re looking for a way to jumble your favorite songs into shareable remixes.
We’re reminded once again of the irony of the phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” because keeping it simple is often the smartest approach. By way of demonstration, here’s a complete list of the steps required to remix a song and share the result with this app (see the publisher’s full list of features):
1. Add a song from your library by tapping the Music button on the top left (obvious).
2. Wait a few seconds for the app to find the measures (usually small chunks of the song where you can count off “1, 2, 3, 4″). Measures are depicted with blocks of color indicating blue for bass, green for voice, and red for drums, so you can get a sense of what each one contains, although we preferred to ignore that stuff for simplicity’s sake.
3. Press the play button to audition the measures, which are represented by little squares in the top pane. If you hear one you like, drag it to the bottom pane where it will stick with you throughout the whole song. At any time, you can tap any square in order to have it play on the next downbeat. Loop any square with the loop button, and unloop it the same way.
4. If you’re some sort of DJ ninja, you might be able to use this to remix songs live, but most of us mortals will want to pre-set some measures in the bottom pane, take a few practice runs, then hit record.
5. You can share a recorded remix in two ways: either as an RMX file (which requires that the person you’re sharing it with has the app installed on an iOS device and the song in question) or as an AIF file (a regular audio format which you can compress to MP3 or share in uncompressed form).
6. That’s it. As with chess, the rules are simple and yet it could take a lifetime to master.
Our first instinct was that it would be a fun way to create simple remixes on the subway for sharing once we got to the office, but again, the truly daring might use it at a club or party. The app even has AirPlay support, which could introduce latency in live performance (although latency diminishes in newer iOS devices)
In terms of how real remix artists work, this app merely scratches the surface. It can’t do mash-ups between two songs. It can’t even work with stems. It sees music in discrete measures (although you can nudge them left or right or switch to eight beats per bar instead of four). You don’t get any effects, or scratching, or filters, or EQ, or anything else — just the ability to reconfigure the song, measure by measure.
However, that limited features set is precisely what makes this app so appealing. You’ll understand how it works the first time you fire it up, and it leaves plenty of room for you to play around — and it makes it simple to share your work, ideally with a boast about how you “made this thing on the subway, no big deal.”