It’s all hands on deck for This Week in Music Apps, authored this time by no fewer than three Evolver.fm peeps — all part of our grand, non-sinister plan to bring you even more great music apps to enjoy on iOS, Android, or your good old-fashioned web browser.
All of this week’s picks — as with those from previous installments of This Week in Music Apps– can be found in our unique directory of music apps for every platform, which we built to help you find the best new music apps regardless of what hardware you’re running.
We’ll start off with a recap of the full length reviews you may have missed since our last edition, then it’s on to the weekly roundup.
- ‘Dubstep Tebow’ Does Exactly What You Think It Does
- eMusic Debuts Impressive Music Player for Android
- Beatonica Turns Your Twitter Pals into a Beat-Making Sampler
- Splash.fm Launches ‘Twitter for Music’ to Public
- Soundrop Spotify App Drops New Version, Making It Easier to Listen with Friends
- SpaceLab Makes Crazy Sounds on iOS for a Dollar
- Raditaz: Like Pandora with More Music and Everyone Else’s Stations
- Spotify Launches Music Player for Web, Blogs, and Tumblr
- SpotiOrg Helps Album-Oriented People Organize Spotify Music for Free
- The Incredibox Remixes a Song Online, Looks Great Doing It
- Introducing All 47 Spotify iOS Apps
- MusicGrid.me: Everyone’s a Critic
- Video: Starmaker Product Manager Shows Off Karaoke Chops at SXSW
Cybertuner ($1000; pictured top): This is definitely the most expensive mobile music app we’ve ever covered, and smart money says it’s the most expensive mobile music app of all time. At a thousand bucks we just couldn’t resist. We do however encourage you to resist, unless you plan on making a career of tuning pianos. Cybertuner carries a 17+ age rating in iTunes for that reason, rather than for objectionable content, but it’s a pretty reasonable assumption that you shouldn’t be dropping a grand on a professional piano tuning app before you’re out of high school.
Bear with us as we explain, unless you can’t handle the truth, in which case skip down to the next app.
The high cost of this app stems from the unique challenges of tuning pianos as opposed to other string instruments. Tuning a piano is not like tuning a guitar; it involves “stretching” certain pitches to accommodate for the slight sharpening of harmonic partials as you go up the piano keyboard. Those are related frequencies that, when taken together, make up the sound of a single note. It’s a compromise from the exact whole number ratios you’d find in nature, and it allows you to play in all 12 chromatic keys in equal tune, rather than having some intervals be slightly off, creating unpleasant interactions even if both notes are technically in tune.
All pianos have slightly different string interactions, with shorter pianos causing the most problems. Nine-foot concert grands are not only louder, but more in-tune than their smaller counterparts. Experienced piano tuners can negotiate how much to stretch these intervals by ear, but because it’s slightly different for every piano, teaching a program to calculate what these pitches should be automatically is not the simplest thing in the world — far from it. For those making a living keeping ebony and ivory in perfect harmony, this might just be a $1000 problem. (If you’re hungry for more piano-tuning arcana, read more here.)
Figure ($1; pictured): Building on their success with the popular ReBirth music creation software for desktops, the folks at Propellerhead have developed an objectively simpler, but nonetheless effective electronic music creation app for those who get more anxious than excited by a plethora of knobs. With a variety of phat beats, righteous synths, and beefy bass tones, musicians and those who want to become them can explore a wide range of combinations with ease. While ReBirth was more directed to the electronically-intiated, “serious” musician, Figure is more of a quick inspiration-driven tool — as well as an incredibly infectious little app that is fun and easy to use, regardless of one’s experience level.
Orphion ($5): This unique music-maker arranges pitch pads in a circle, similar to idiophones such as the Hang Drum or Steel Pan. Its sound is a mix between string and percussion, and the pads can be rearranged to accommodate different scales and modes. Best of all, the latest upgrade includes MIDI, so you can use it to trigger samples in any DAW (digital audio workstation).
Robot Unicorn Attack: Heavy Metal Edition ($1): Adult Swim had a huge hit in their incredibly addicting, fast paced, and colorful game Robot Unicorn Attack. However it was missing one thing: heavy metal! Fortunately, Adult Swim listened to their inner headbanger and released a totally metal edition. The unicorn looks like it was handcrafted by Satan himself, while the landscape is straight out of Metalocalypse. This all, however, pales in comparison to the soundtrack. The kings of all things epic, the band Blind Guardian, lends its biggest and most grandiose song “Battlefield” to fuel the rainbow fire of the unicorn. This app proves once and for all that heavy metal music makes everything better.
Soundtrack (free): Mike Kalombo, a.k.a. KlassicMaster, has provided his music for YouTubers to put in their videos for many moons. Now, he brings his art of the soundtrack to even more people with his new iPhone app, Soundtrack. Filmmakers, be they amateur or professional, can select a wide range of musical styles to use in their films, and everything is royalty free, although he requests attribution. The interface is simple and easy on the eyes — just a button that expands to five genre buttons. From there, users can save their favorite tracks to their phones, to be tacked on to videos after they are shot. The tracks sound great to our ears, offering new possibilities for mobile video shooters looking to spice up their uploads.
Soundgyro ($1): This app taps your phone’s gyroscope as an input for making music. You can trigger notes by tapping, hold for sustain, tilt for pitch shift, and swing your iPhone to shift octaves. It comes with four demos to help you get the “swing” of things, so to speak.
GlitchBreaks ($5; pictured left): This app helps you glitch out your favorite breaks and drum samples, creating new sounds and textures. Glitchbreaks comes with 90 factory loops, and you can import your own from other apps with Audio Cut/Paste. You can tweak sounds with X/Y pads and four different cut or glitch styles. Automatic BPM detection makes adjusting the tempo easy, and reverse and pitch shift options let you take your beats from, as one reviewer put it, “the sublime to the seriously unwell.” What more could you ask for?
Tabla (free): This simple app features two Indian tabla drums and four additional sounds, including gong and chimes. As with a real set of tabla, hitting different sections of the drum produces a different sound. Presets include the Hindustani tabla, the Middle Eastern goblet drum of the same name (also known as a darbuka or doumbek), and Latin hand-percussion sounds. The setup felt a bit cramped, constrained by my tiny phone screen, so those who also own an Android tablet might prefer that — or, if you have an iPad , stick with this similar Tabla app.
TuneWiki Music with Lyrics (free): We covered TuneWiki in our roundup of all 47 Spotify-capable iOS apps, but this music-player-on-steroids is also available for Android and Windows phones, in the Spotify client, and in desktop form. The Android app has a clean interface and easy start up: It adds all the music on your Android phone, and slides from tab to tab with a flick of the finger. The main tab is for lyrics (synced line by line and scrolls as the song plays), while the other tabs provide more information about the artist and song (top fans, artist biography, and dedications, which let you share the lyrics through Facebook or Twitter). It also streams Shoutcast Radio, YouTube, Slacker, MOG, and Rhapsody. Finally, a “trending” section displays the top dedications, a map of nearby users, and a chart of the top songs in your current location. Overall, it’s a good, amped-up substitute for the preloaded Android Music app.
N7Player (free; pictured): As a sleek alternative to the Android music player, the n7player Android app makes it easy to judge your music by its (album) cover. This app is great for those users who miss the days when art and visuals were still key components of the final record album. You can surf your music collection through a collage of album art, or by searching through an alphabetical map of artists that has larger fonts for artists with more albums. Selecting an artist brings up an array of their albums, and you can add songs to your playlist queue from there. Perhaps the most useful feature is easily overlooked: The n7player allows you to conveniently change songs and pause your music without unlocking your phone — a basic feature that is long overdue for Android, and impossible on the iPhone.
Dubstep Drum Pads (free): Dark Blood Studios, which makes a slew of Android drum pads, recently released a set specifically for dubstep. The interface is extremely simple: a three-by-four-button layout featuring a few traditional drum sounds mixed with typical dubstep sounds: wobble bass, wub, and drops. Holding down buttons creates continuous noise that you can overlay with snare and cymbal sounds until you lose your mind.
Thesixtyone (free): Thesixtyone immerses you in music. As you listen to its hand-picked artists, facts and comments pop up over a large photo of the band. You can skip from song to song with a simple click, while a search feature lets you filter songs, artists and users with ease. Like most music sites, thesixtyone has a liking system (in which you “heart” a song) and simple share and download feature.
Some of the newer, up-and-coming artists have songs for free download, scattered throughout the site. Interactive features turn music appreciation into a game: Users can build their reputations by completing various quests, such as listening to four different moods, or following three others with similar music tastes. You gain reputation points when a song becomes popular after you heart it. The site also lets you find songs that are Creative Commons licensed, for guilt-free listening.