This Week In Music Apps: Samples, Synths, and Sketching out Music
This Week In Music Apps: Samples, Synths, and Sketching out Music

Each week, we go hunting for the best and most interesting music apps on Android, iOS and the web, for our This Week In Music Apps series (also worthwhile: previous installments.)

For those of you just joining us, we usually start off with a round-up of full-length app reviews to get the blood pumping, then it's on to the most promising new releases for Apple iOS, Google Android, and the web.

Apple iOS

MoBeat ~ Retro Synth (free): I like free stuff, and I like synthesizers. Throw in a "retro" qualifier, and you certainly have my attention. To that point, MoBeat certainly isn't an earth-shattering "synth to end all synths," but does play cool vintage sounds through an adjustable envelope generator and two separate oscillators. On second thought, maybe I'm most drawn to this app by this disclaimer in the comment section: "Not very easy to make dubstep with this thing." Thank you. ($4): Crowdsourced playlists offer a unique opportunity for unexpected music discovery, which is one of the things that we like about apps like and its various clones. The crowd can also help you discover more about the music you already listen to -- in this case, how to build the a decent playlist out of music you already have. The iOS app generates mood-based playlists from songs in your catalog based on mood ratings from its community of other users. From there, you can edit and save playlists or share them with Facebook and Twitter friends.

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Sync:stream (free): We've covered other apps that allow users to stream music to DLNA-compatible devices (including Windows 7 computers, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360), but most of them are on Android for some reason. Sync:stream lets you play the music on your iOS device from any DLNA-capable device, including the three listed above. With it installed, you can play the music on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad from Windows 7, Playstation, or Xbox 360, which makes a lot of sense if those things are connected to the best speakers in your house.

forScore ($5): If you're a music student or traveling musician, you know all too well the trade-off between bringing all your scores and being able to carry them. ForScore offers another option, allowing you to easily download and store PDFs, tag-able with six kinds of metadata and an unlimited number of keywords to make finding exactly what you need -- even among thousands of pages -- quick and easy. Scores can be organized into set lists and fully notated with drawings, color, and text for easy reference.

Componendo Music Arranger Full ($8; pictured top right): Golfing legend Arnold Palmer once said, "The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done." Golf leaves me mystified, but as far as playing music goes, I see where Arnie was coming from. While I would presume that most reading this post like to listen to music and possibly make some of their own someday, not everyone has the time -- or perhaps, like golf, the patience -- to get to the fun part, where it's fun to try to do the impossible. (I certainly encourage you to try; I know a lot more mediocre guitar players than respectable golfers.)

This app lets you build music with a simplified "arranger" interface that it easy to build chord progressions, melodies, and accompaniments with no prior musical knowledge. It's worth noting that if you're eager to get off the bunny slopes (apparently today's theme is metaphors to sports I can't do), the initial release of this app doesn't allow tempo adjustment for the drum track, and only offers the keys of C major and A minor -- though the publisher claims these features will be added in the future. If don't have a clue what either of those things mean, you're probably the person this app was intended for in the first place. (There's also a free lite version.)

Google Android

SPC - Music Sketchpad ($5): For around five bucks, SPC lets you arrange, mix, and perform loops and sequences to hash out musical ideas with ease. Pads light up rhythmically as you play to make queuing loops more intuitive. The built-in, four-bar sampler and slicer allows you to record samples and assemble your own loops from them. Direct integration with RD3 - Groovebox (below, also from Mikrosonic) offers more options for seamlessly building and arranging compositions.


RD3 - Groovebox
($5; pictured) This app was last updated about a month ago, but we're including it for the way it works with SPC, listed above. RD3 may be one of the coolest, full-featured groove machines for Android. Now, it lets you create throw-back loops and grooves with its virtual analog bass synthesizer (which sounds like a 303) and a retro drum machine that bundles the sounds of eight classic kits from hip-hop and early electronic music (808, 909, 606, CR-78, Linn, KR55, RZ1, DMX). Loops are programmed with a real-time four bar step sequencer and can be exported to the SPC app for editing and arranging. Here's a video of the RD3 bass synth in action; also, if Android grooveboxes are your thing, check out our overviews of Caustic and Gstomper.

Web Apps

Facebook Music (free): Like it or not, the integration of streaming music functionality with the world's most popular social networking site was bound to happen eventually. We're still not completely sold on the change, which invited a critical response from some of Spotify's longtime users for an add-on that requires users to log in to Facebook when using the streaming service. The editor of attempts to sort through all that mess here; in the meantime, if you're more interested in what the change means on Facebook's end, check out our first impressions


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