January 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

5 More Apps for Making Music Without Really Trying

microcosm talkapella art jam universe gliss making music appsA few months ago, we posted a feature called “4 Apps For Making Music Without Even Really Trying,” whose basic premise was to highlight apps for making music that are as suited to regular folks as to experienced musicians. None require musical training, and all have interfaces both inviting and effective from a musical perspective.

We had so much fun with those that we’re revisiting the concept, with a list of iOS applications that let anyone (really, anyone) make music. The best are powerful enough for serious music creation without sacrificing simplicity, ease of use, or whimsical appeal. Last time around, one of our favorites featured a singing robot in a tuxedo.

Here are five more apps for making music without really trying, in no particular order, which is the best way to organize such a diverse group:

Microcosm: In the words of its maker Gregory Wieber, Microcosm is a “granular synthesis engine masquerading as a sound toy.” In the words of me, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in beautiful music and visuals while you’re bored and/or stressed at work. Either way, it’s cool: Imagine having a snow globe with little bits of sound inside instead of flakes, and when you shake it up, those sonic snowflakes careen around wildly, producing a mass of constantly-evolving sound. And did we mention it’s free? It is.

Talkapella: If you told us you’ve always wished for the ability to turn anything you say into rich four-part vocal harmonies sung by a chorus of robots, we’d probably just wonder how you go through life wishing for such weirdly specific things. But then we’d tell you to download Talkapella because it does all that, plus making it easy to share your robo-harmonies via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. And it too is free.

art jam universe gliss microcosm talkapella iphone appsArt Jam Universe: This visual music-creation app hasn’t been officially released yet, but it’s impressive enough to include here on the strength of our sneak preview. Each song in the app comes with its own graphical art, which you play by tapping and dragging. These artistic musical elements let you play each song’s stems, making each scene feel like one big sample-based instrument.

Gliss: We concede that Gliss stretches the “without even really trying” part of our premise, with the steepest learning curve of the bunch. But this MSPaint-style music sequencer shares the interactive spirit of the other apps and it has such a nice combination of lo-fi graphics and high-tech sound that we couldn’t resist its inclusion. A working knowledge of computer music helps, but it’s equally interesting just to draw some squiggles to hear how they sound.

mScribble: Many of these apps feel as much like toys as they do like tools for making music, like the man said above. We like the fact that mScribble includes a Toddler Mode as an in-app purchase, making the connection explicit. Like Gliss, mScribble invites you simply to draw whatever you’d like to hear, and yes, kids would probably “get it.” Let your tot play around with this for long enough, and maybe she’ll grow up to be the synthesizer-shredding rockstar you’re secretly hoping she’ll be.