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Daft Punk to Dylan: The best apps for creating sweet, sweet music

Have you ever fancied yourself as the next Deadmau5 or perhaps you’re more at home plucking out Classical Gas on the guitar? Whatever type of musician you are or aspire to be incredible tools are more accessible than ever before thanks to the power of our smartphones and tablets.

We’ve handpicked a few of our favourite apps, tailor made for music creation and production. Whatever your sound, there should be something in here for you.

Figure – Best for quick ideas

Propellerhead has made a name for itself in the music software business, responsible for popular desktop wares like Reason, however its most accessible app is undoubtedly Figure.

Figure

If you’re looking some quick inspiration or want to make a catchy synth tune in under five minutes, the tools that Figure comes packing are stellar. Split into drums, bass and lead, composition takes place over two main screens using mobile-friendly gestures like taps, swipes and drags.

Controls are naturally finger-friendly and thanks to the simple structure for tweaking timing and tonality it’s hard to create a bad sounding track. We’d have liked the ability to record key changes and the mix between the varying parts, but for a free application there’s plenty to explore and enjoy in Figure as it is. Check it out now.

Download (free): iOS

Keezy – Best for beatboxers

Reggie Watts is a pretty fantastic comedian, able to sculpt what first appears to be an unfiltered stream of consciousness into a semi-coherent and hilarious stand-up performance, but he also happens to be a master of both beatboxing and looping.

Keezy

Whilst his sets often feature a handful of improvised performances with sequencers and the like, off stage he puts forward a pretty convincing case for Keezy; a fantastic little tool for looping that feels most at home with beatboxing.

The simple eight colourful tiles are a blank canvas that the user can record individual audio samples onto by pressing and holding. Tapping on a tile will then play the sample once, whilst holding down on one will force it to loop. Multi-touch also means you can layer the sounds and it’s this that makes Keezy such an addictive app to use.

Download (free): iOS

GarageBand – Best for live instruments

Arguably the most well known app in the lineup, GarageBand is Apple’s own interpretation of a music production tool and despite starting life on the Mac, its transition to iOS has been relatively uneventful, giving you a near flawless copy of the desktop application.

GarageBand iOS

One half of the story lets you create music within the app itself, by way of the included audio loops and samples or by using the wealth of touch instruments; from keyboards and pianos to guitars and even entire string sections. You can also nab more instruments and audio files with in-app purchasing should you wish.

The other half of the coin is the more analogue part of the experience, with the ability to plug in your electric guitar and sample amp sounds from a selection of popular stacks as well as the option to collaborate with up to two other GarageBand users or with other musically-inclined apps on your iOS device.

Being such a feature-packed piece of kit will set you back a modest £3.99 although depending on when you purchased your iOS device, you might find that you’re able to grab it for free.

Download (£3.99): iOS

Caustic 3 – Best for synth/sequencers

If the thought of rack-mounted modules and synthesisers excites every musical bone in your body, Caustic 3 might be the app for you. Made up of 14 different virtual machines ranging from an 8-channel drum pad to a vocoder to an array of different synths, this app is packed.

It’ll likely be a little overwhelming for a first time user as it offers unprecedented control over every aspect of each module, all featuring well-designed touch elements that skeuomorphically marry up with their real-world counterparts, right down to the trailing cables of the app’s routable synth module.

You can kick things off by downloading the app for free to get to grips with the hundreds of functions and sounds Caustic 3 offers, but the privilege of saving and sharing your creations lies behind an additional in-app purchase of £5.99, which we’d say is without question an absolute deal.

Download (free w/in-app purchasing): iOS , Android

Traktor DJ – The best for DJs

There’s no denying that the mixing with a real set of decks and vinyl is a pretty hard experience to beat, however sometimes lugging all that kit around just isn’t an option. If you can hack going all-digital Native Instruments’ Traktor DJ app has all the skills you need to throw together an awesome performance, all using your iPhone or iPad.

The basic experience naturally revolves around importing tracks from your device’s music library (which takes place within the app) and crossfading between the two, but there’s a far greater tool set here for real-time audio manipulation. You can loop, scratch and record your mixes, add effects like reverb and delay or alter the tempo in the moment.

Traktor DJ also has an intelligent feature that will recommend tracks to mix with based on a song’s BPM and it can then tempo sync the two tracks on the decks automatically. Should you wish to keep some element of the physical experience in there too, the app supports other Traktor hardware like the Kontrol Z1, S2 and S4 controllers too.

Download (£7.99): iOS

If it wasn’t clear, it would appear that whilst you can find great music apps on all the major platforms, developers clearly favour Apple and iOS for their music making experiences. Let us know what you think of our top apps and why not send us links to any creations you’ve made using them.

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