Three things have recently led to my sudden interest in iPhone Apps: 1) my trusty 20 GB iPod recently ceased to function, 2) my Cingular phone plan is up for renewal, and 3) I discovered the iPhone app store and some of the "iPhone hacks" Google groups.
The growing catalog of iPhone 3G apps is pretty impressive, especially since it’s only the first wave in what will become a stream of new music iPhone software to follow. (Crowdsourced software development rules — thanks Apple) Some of the best iPhone apps are apps for musicians, bands, and music fans that foster great iPhone experiences…and are quite useful as well. Following are some of the key free iPhone applications (and non-free) worth checking out immediately.
iPhone Apps for Music Creation
MooCowMusic Band is iPhone application simulating a bunch of different instruments, including drum kits, a keyboard, bass, and an electric guitar. Theoretically, you arm an entire band with this iPhone app…and aparently, it’s been done (more on that). Costs $9.99. (MooCow also released iPhone Drummer, which is one of many free iPhone apps available.)
The Intua BeatMaker combines beatboxes, loop samplers and software sequencers to become a "mobile music creation studio" where you can compose, record, arrange, and tweak your music through the iPhone touch-sensitive interface. I totally want this…it be great for those ho-hum marketing planning meetings taking place these days… Costs $19.99.
The MixMeister Scratch iPhone application lets you choose vinyl sound samples to scratch with on top of any song you’re listening to. Flip a bird to all the sound engineers trying to sweeten portable music sound quality by tearing up with oh-so-scratchy goodness. Nice. One of many great free iPhone applications.
The Pocket Guitar iPhone App let’s you play guitar on the iPhone by sensing guitar chord fingerings and chord strumming. Instruments include acoustic guitar, electric guitar, classical guitar, muted guitar, bass and ukulele. Also included are effects such as distortion, chorus and delay. Pretty sweet…although I might just stick with the real thing for a while. Or at least with Guitar Hero. (This was originally an iPhone hack, requiring a jailbreak iPhone, but will now be one of several free iPhone apps.)
The Noise for iPhone music app is what it does. (Is "soundfart" a word?) According to Amidio, its synthesizer application can create any kind of noise-based sound including mechanical noises, mystic creatures, space engines, swoorls and swooshes, bizarre inventions, blasters and spindles, eerie whistles, howls and growls, intergalactic swirls, flaps and blips, and seas and winds. How can anyone turn that down? That’d especially be perfect for those ‘undesired’ phone calls you wish you had an excuse to drop. "Oh, sorry, the wind is picking up…I’m losing reception [queue noise generator]…gotta go, bye!" (Cost TBD, likely not a free iphone app.)
Another audio synthesizer application, but a pretty basic one. It’s not actually an "official" iPhone app yet, but keep an eye on it as it gets developed further. (One of several free iphone applications…might as well grab it.)
I talked about MooCowMusic Band, why not Piano? The music app’s name is kind of self-explanatory. Costs $5.99.
iPhone Apps for Listening to Music
Pandora is pretty much my all-time favorite source of streamed music online, as well as where I go to discover new bands. In case you’re unfamiliar with it (shame on you!) Pandora plays constant music based on bands and songs you like. This iPhone music app is a no-brainer. (Especially since it’s part of the free iphone apps brigade of software.)
The AOL Radio iPhone application is what it is — AOL Radio on the iPhone. It includes something like 200 radio stations, some of which are quite good. And it’s also free. Absolutely worth checking out if you ever get tired Pandora’s meanderings into less popular music, or want a playlist that less engine-generated. (As with Pandora, it’s one of many free iphone applications.)
Last.FM, the awesome combination internat radio station, recommendation engine, and social network (now owned by CBS) created its own music iPhone application. It’s actually even more feature-rich than the preceding apps above…scrobbling rules. And, once again, it’s a free iPhone app. Definitely worth checking out.
iPhone Apps for Music Listening Enhancement
TuneWiki kicks serious butt. While you’re listening to any song on your iPhone, TuneWiki displays all the song lyrics to the song in Real Time, like a karaoke machine. This would have come in handy during the grunge era 90s. However, this is less of an iPhone "App", and definitely more of a iPhone hack. You’ll need to "jailbreak" your iPhone first to install it. (Enter at your own risk…)
Midomi is a cool little song identification iPhone application that can name a song by "listening" to you either hum it, whistle it, or recite its lyrics. (Neat.) The core site is also a social network of sorts, where community members find each other based on musical interests. (Throw this one in the desirable "free iPhone apps" category.)
Simplify Media is free software that enables the sharing of iTunes-managed music…it actually provides a "legal" means of sharing one’s home music library with others over the internet. The iPhone app lets you, ta-da, do so with an iPhone. This is actually pretty cool, especially if you’ve completely maxed out the 8-16 GB of space on your iPhone…now you’re no longer limited by the storage space on your iPhone. Very cool. Add this to the other free iphone applications.
SeeqPod is a cool media search engine that presents immediately playable search results in the form of audio and video clips, tracks, and presentations. The media can be played, embedded, or shared anywhere, and even merchandise can be purchased. A good iPhone application if you’re looking for specific music or video online.
A cute little iPhone app that will identify a song that’s playing…but not if it’s playing on your iPhone? You actually hold the iPhone’s microphone up to an audio source for 10 seconds, and Shazam will provide title, artist, and track info. Not quite as cool as Midomi. (Another addition to the free iphone applications catalog.)
iPhone Apps as Music Tools
This may very well be the first iPhone App I’d buy once I get an iPhone. It includes a chromatic tuner with 40 alternate tunings (great for getting beyond the 3 I always use), a chord finder (great for finding Jonathan Coulton-ish chord progressions), and metronome with both BPM (beats per minute) controls and tap-driven sense technology. That’s two less gig items required for gigs for guitarists…sweet. Costs $9.99.
ClearTune is a multi-instrument tuner. Musicians can use its "note wheel" interface to tune any instrument using the built-in iPhone microphone. Definitely useful for non-guitarists. Costs $3.99.
The Sonzea Stay In Tune is yet another tonal iPhone application that provides musicians with tuning capability. Stay In Tune contains 8 pre-set string tuning settings for instruments including guitar, banjo, cello and chromatic. Costs $4.99.
Another guitar tuner iPhone application from Mauvila. (What can I say, I’m a guitar player. I like tuners.) Like Stay In Tune, it provides multiple tuning settings for multiple instruments, including guitar, mandolyn, banjo, and others. Costs $4.99.
Random iPhone App Notes
- My personal picks would include the MooCowMusic Band, Noise for iPhone (or BeatMaker), Pandora, and Guitar Toolkit iPhone applications. But honestly, by the time I make to the nearest Cingular store, I’m sure there’ll be a ton of new iPhone apps to choose from.
- Peter Kirn is doing a great job of tracking new development around iPhone music applications at Create Digital Music (as well as a thousand other pieces of gear, software, and juicy DIY craziness).
- Apparently, there’s already a band touting the fact that they create all their music with iPhones, called iBand. Kind of a cheesy idea…but I wish I’d thought of it first. :)