As a musician who is as amateur as they come, I find myself appreciating anything that makes it easy to create a song. My glaring absence of skills usually makes my Apple Garageband projects too arduous, with too much editing and looping. I typically spend an hour laying down three instrument tracks, then another three trying to mix them. Inevitably, I end up with 35 seconds of usable material, and abandon the project out of apathy. I feel like I have some good ideas, but they just never come together the way I want them to.
As such, you can probably imagine my jubilation at Hypertunes, a new iPhone app designed to let you build songs by manipulating blocks of sound, “the way a painter might sketch out a piece before filling in the details.”
Its developer, Exploded Views Media, stresses that this is not meant to be from-the-ground-up music-creation software — instead, the only editing it handles is the altering of a pre-existing MIDI song, either by rearranging chunks (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) or by swapping in new instruments.
With that in mind, we offer a few caveats. The lack of in-depth, note-by-note editing means any reworking must be done wholesale. Also, the program only handles MIDI (.mid) files that you transfer from your computer via iTunes file sharing.
That could be a good thing, assuming you compose in MIDI — if only the import process worked reliably. I uploaded three test files (classical keyboard works by Chopin, Liszt, and Bach), with varying results. The Chopin nocturne uploaded correctly and played successfully four out of five times. However, when I added a bass part that came with the app into the mix, it refused to play the resulting mashup no matter how many times I tried — and sadly, that was the best result we encountered. The Liszt etude uploaded but refused to play at all, while the Bach fugue showed up as “Untitled,” with no notes in the keyboard part or anywhere else.
Nevertheless, building songs with the pre-loaded instrument parts proved to be a fun experiment in musical architecture. Perhaps it would work better with simple riffs, rather than the classical pieces we tried to use. I spent a great deal of time testing certain drums with various leads, and my haphazard style of construction actually ended up producing a few interesting results.
If you write music in MIDI, Hypertunes offers a new way to build and rearrange your riffs into songs — an admirable goal to be sure. But for us, it just didn’t work reliably enough.