With Apple’s extensive App Store filled to the brim with apps for whatever you may need, it’s no secret that it’s got some amazing apps for making music on the go, even more so than Android. If you’re not sure what apps to choose from out of the multitude of powerful mobile DAWs that the App Store has to offer, read on; here’s a list of the 8 best music making apps for iPhones and iPads.
Garageband by Apple
Obviously the most notorious of music making apps out there is Garageband. In fact, it was the one app that got me into making music way before I started taking it seriously, and I can fully attest to how great of a tool it is. Apple keeps improving it as time goes on so it just keeps getting better and better.
There are a bunch of different virtual instruments (and their variations) to choose from to compose with, and instead of using a piano roll, the interface for each instrument matches what it would look like in real life.
The drums are especially neat; if you don’t want to play a drum set, Garageband has AI drummers and allows you to customize the complexity and velocity of their drumming. You can mix kits around and take out or add in specific drums and percussive elements.
Garageband has a small mixer area to level the volume of your instruments, and you can also record audio. With iOS 11, Audio Unit Extensions, you can even use third-party instruments and audio effects right in Garageband. There’s quite a large royalty-free loop library as well if you prefer to create music from loops instead.
Garageband is a great tool for people of any skill level. I absolutely recommend it for beginners; it’s extremely easy to use and very straightforward. On top of that, it’s free.
Auxy Studio by Auxy
Auxy Studio is another fantastic, easy to use music making app. It doesn’t look like a traditional DAW; instead it works in what I like to call “arrangement blocks.” Each block has a MIDI pattern for drums or synth instruments, depending on what you choose. Each arrangement block will loop until you select the next block, which plays on the next beat on your song.
There are a variety of customizable synthesizers, pads, and keyboard sounds, along with a fair amount of drum kits. Auxy Studio has a decent amount of sound expansion packs that you get if you pay a subscription fee; otherwise the app is free and you’re limited to some stock presets.
There’s no way to record audio though, so you’re out of luck there, but it makes up for that with the automation feature. The automation is really easy to configure, even for a beginner, and you can automate EQ filters and volume, among other things.
This app supports Ableton Link, which allows you to link up with other users via Wifi and collaborate in real time. You can also export your tracks directly to Soundcloud, or export in WAV, either as a whole project, or individual instrument track stems.
Also offered is a community where you can upload your tracks to your feed for others to check out, and Auxy (the company) posts weekly beatmaking challenges and projects that you can remix.
Auxy Studio would be good for anyone; I’ve used it as an advanced producer and it still fits my needs. However, it might not be suitable for those of you who are into acoustic instruments, as the app focuses mainly on electronic instruments and hip-hop/electronic genres.
SunVox by Alexander Zolotov
SunVox is a complex old-school analog synthesis type of DAW. In SunVox, you can set up your synthesizer chain with different synthesizers and effects. It features a microtonal sequencer, an analog generator, a drum synth that contains over 120 drum samples, a classic FM synth, an FFT synth for more atmospheric/ambient sounds, a multisample virtual instrument, and something called MetaModule, which you can use to make your own synthesizer.
SunVox is extremely customizable; you can edit every parameter to your liking and change up the order of different effects and instruments to experiment with and get the exact sound you want.
The effects included in SunVox are a 3-band EQ, a waveshaper, a side chain compressor, distortion, and echo, among plenty of others. If you want to record audio from an external source, you can do so in the provided Sampler instrument.
The only downside to SunVox being so customizable is that the synth chains can get a little messy and confusing. It’s not very organized and the scattered synthesizer and effects blocks can get pretty overwhelming on a small screen.
It would work well for an iPad user. SunVox works with Windows and Mac as well, so if you wanted to use it on an even bigger screen, you can without any hassle. If you’re into making chiptune music, SunVox works really well.
This powerful application only costs $6.
Beatwave by collect3
Beatwave is an app that’s a lot similar to Auxy Studio. It’s another app that offers the arrangement block feature, allowing you to loop specific MIDI patterns for various instruments. The difference between Beatwave and Auxy Studio is that Beatwave’s instrument library is dramatically larger than Auxy Studio’s.
The app itself is free, and it comes with 15 instruments that you can use for free, but if you buy a subscription, you get access to up to 200 other instruments and sounds. Beatwave also differs in that it has audio recording capabilities.
You also get the ability to automate your instruments and their effects, and every instrument can be fine-tuned to get whatever sound you’re looking for. You can even create your own synthesizer and edit its attack, decay, sustain, and release times, as well as import your own drum and synth sounds.
Beatwave is a nice option for beginners, especially beginners who don’t know anything about music theory. When composing with Beatwave, notes are automatically tuned to the key you’ve chosen to compose in, and the rhythm keyboard and drum generator ensure that you’re always on beat. Intermediate to advanced users would also likely enjoy this app; it really is fantastic and makes up where Auxy Studio falls short.
FL Studio by Image Line
Now that Image Line has expanded to Mac from being a Windows-only DAW, it’s only fitting that they’ve expanded to Android and iOS devices. It’s pretty cheap, coming in at $15, and is a fully functional mobile DAW, even equipped with MIDI control. The mobile version can pretty much do everything that the computer version can do.
With FL Studio Mobile, you can record MIDI, control instruments and knobs with MIDI, preview samples and presets, mix tracks, input notes via an on-screen piano, sequence drums, record audio, add automation, and use different effects.
Image Line offers in-app purchases of various samples and virtual instruments, including Groove Machine Synth, Acoustic Guitar, and Tuned 808 Bass, so you can great sounding, high-quality virtual instruments right from your phone.
I’d say this one is probably better for those of you who are a little more well versed in the world of production and are already familiar with FL Studio. Like all DAWs, FL Studio has a learning curve, and the mobile version is no exception. If you’re a complete beginner, I wouldn’t recommend starting out with FL Studio Mobile.
Cubasis 2 by Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH
If you’re familiar with the DAW, Cubase, Cubasis 2 will be a breeze for you to use. Cubasis 2 is a fully functional mobile DAW, complete with audio effects, a mixer, and plenty of loops and instruments for you to use in your composition.
It features a micrologue virtual analog synthesizer with 126 presets, a sampler for your own instrument creation, 17 effect processors (with one of the most realistic sounding and versatile reverb effects a mobile DAW can offer), a piano roll, and chord and drum pads.
All the instruments can be automated, and the DAW also supports aftertouch if you pair it with a MIDI controller. Audio recording capabilities are also a plus with Cubasis 2.
Cubasis 2 has some features that no other mobile DAW (that I’m aware of) offers: real-time time stretching, pitch shifting, and MIDI note quantization. You can duplicate tracks and import audio files from your music library or iCloud Drive, too.
As far as exporting goes, you can export individual track stems or the whole master track to Cubase, Soundcloud, iCloud Drive, and others. Additionally, you can export MIDI tracks.
First of all, if you use Cubase to make music on your computer already, get this app if you want to make music on the go. Secondly, I don’t suggest it for beginners, especially if you’re not already familiar with Cubase.
It comes with a hefty price tag of $50, but with as much as it can do, it’s worth it. Cubasis 2 is for iPad only, but with as complex and powerful as it is, I doubt someone would want to try to use it on a small iPhone screen.
Figure by Allihoopa
If you want a free, quick, easy way to make music, Figure is a good choice. It’s not DAW based, and composing music is very touch-oriented. Figure offers lead synths, drums, and bass. Depending on where your finger is in the play area for each instrument, the sound and pitch of the instrument change.
For drums, you can either select a certain rhythm that you like or make your own. As far as other instruments in Figure go, you’ll never hit a sour note; you have the ability to play in specific keys and modes, which you can set at any time, and there’s a built-in chord arpeggiator that you can use.
Additionally, you can record individual instrument loops and set the playtime of each loop to either 1, 2, 4, or 8 bars. After recording a beat, you can automate it with different filters and effects.
Figure has a decent amount of instrument presets, all of which are more on the electronic-sounding side. If you’re familiar with Propellerhead’s Reason, you’ll enjoy this app, as it uses Reason’s Thor synthesizer, and the drums are from Reason’s Kong drum machine.
This app has a fairly sizable community where you can upload your full beats or ideas and collaborate with people around the world. Otherwise, you can export your tracks to iTunes File Sharing.
Figure is so simple that even a child could use it. I call this app the “lazy man’s app” because of how simple and easy to use it is. You don’t have to have any prior music theory knowledge to make great sounding beats with it, so it’s a fantastic tool for beginners, as well as advanced musicians who just want to have fun.
Bandlab by Bandlab Singapore Pte Ltd
If you’re more focused on collaborating with people rather than making music on your own, Bandlab is for you. It’s a fully functional DAW that’s fairly similar to Garageband, with a 12-track mixer and audio editor, audio recording capability with the option to import audio from iCloud Drive and other sources, plenty of loops to use, a large drum pad, MIDI instruments (piano, synth, etc), and 30 audio effects for guitar, bass, and vocals.
The Looper section of the app has a few other functions, enabling you to use gating, retriggering, and effects, as well as quantize your beat. Bandlab also features a guitar tuner and metronome so you don’t have to spend time using other apps before and when you record. It syncs with all your devices so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
Bandlab has a large community, and even hosts worldwide beat competitions to win cash and other prizes. Different community events help you discover new artists that use Bandlab, and you can upload your own beats to your feed. You can remix other peoples’ beats that they’ve shared with the community as well.
This app would be good for beginner to advanced music producers. It’s got the functionality and ease that a beginner would like, and at the same time, it’s capable enough to satisfy more advanced users. Bandlab has all of these great features for free.