There is a vast number of music-making apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. While some aim to cram as many ‘pro’ features as they can into a tiny space, others go for the casual market with a fun, light approach. Very few manage to strike a balance between these two markets.
TuneMaker, a new app from Amsterdam-based Makayama, will appeal to novices and pros alike as it manages the rare feat of being simple, classy and great-sounding all at the same time.
As with most iPhone music apps, TuneMaker takes a grid-based approach to arranging your songs. You select an instrument (maybe your drum track, for example), draw some dots on the screen, choose another instrument (a bass guitar for example), draw some more dots and build your song up from there.
If you need inspiration, you can choose from a number of pre-made songs to work on. These include 80s synth pop and classic rock themes as well as one based on Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’.
So far so ho-hum – aren’t most iPhone music apps like this? Well yes, but what will draw in the serious musicians in the fact that this app works like a Yamaha Tenori On. These pricey instruments have developed a cult following thanks to their dot-matrix music making approach. Just check a Youtube seach for Tenori On to see what can be done with these babies.
TuneMaker has the look and feel of an £800 Tenori On in a 59p iPhone app. What’s more it sounds really good.
You won’t be building up whole songs with this. At the moment you can only produce up to 16 bars of music and the only way to export the results is to record them via a line out from the headphone jack into your computer or recording device. The developers are considering the ability to export audio files in the future. That said, it’s great as a sketch pad for musical ideas. You could even use it for live performances if you were so minded.
UPDATE: We’re informed in the comments that an update to the app is planned that will add audio exporting and sharing of tunes in the cloud. It will be a free update for existing users.
Another app has tried to bring the Tenori On to the iPhone. TonePad succeeds in reproducing the beauty of of its inspiration but is far more limited. It only offers one sound and one bar of music so there’s no chance to build up songs with it. An ingenious online sharing option probably makes TonePad a better toy though. You can upload and share your compositions and download the work of others to listen to and rework.
TuneMaker and TonePad are both available in the iTunes App Store, priced 59p each.
Here’s a demo video for TuneMaker
…and one for TonePad.