Spare a thought for the musicians of yore. To get their tunes out there, they would have to find a manager and a rehearsal space, buy and lug around bulky instruments and amps, get signed to a label and mortgage their advances against the cost of hiring studios, producers and engineers, then spread the word by doing their record company’s bidding on gruelling overseas tours. It seems almost laughable that, nowadays, you can do all that on a Samsung GALAXY Note II.
The Note II’s generous amount of screen real estate on that HD Super AMOLED screen renders complex music-making apps, that would otherwise be fiddly, usable – and it has the processing power to run them smoothly. And while it might not enable you to create tracks with all the polish of the likes of Muse or Elbow, it has all that’s required for you to go far beyond mere “demo quality”, compose when on the move, record in the field, provide backing when you play live and get your music out there. And this is how.
A music studio in the palm of your hand
The first app you’ll need is one which will let you arrange a number of musical elements into a coherent whole – the equivalent of a Cubase or Pro Tools. If you already have a selection of samples and loops you want to stitch together, you’re bound to be impressed by Audio Evolution (eXtream Software, full version £4.67). It’s a full-blown multi-track recorder and arranger, which lets you import from and export to a number of audio formats, including some high-quality ones like Ogg Vorbis.
PocketBand Pro (SoundBits, £6.36), AudioTool Sketch (Des Pudels Kern, £2.49) and Reloop Loop Sequencer (Niko Twenty, £2.48) perform a similar function to Audio Evolution, although the latter doesn’t allow sound recording, and the first two also include drum machines and bass synths for creating the bottom end of tracks. You can check them out via free demo versions before deciding which suits you best.
Choose your virtual instrument
If you’re in more of a compositional frame of mind, the chances are that you’ll be able to find an uncannily life-like version of your chosen instrument in the Google Play store. For example, pianists will want to download Musical Pro (Christopher Souvey, £2.48), which mixes piano, rudimentary drums, an autoharp and even throws in a metronome. Chordbot Pro lets you experiment with arcane chord progressions. Robotic Guitarist (Pedrocorp, £2.49) will make you sound like a budding Hendrix or John Martyn, and also lets you tune a real guitar, while Solo (Coding Caveman, £1.25) is more of a conventional guitar emulator.
Emulations of synthesizers abound; our favourites are Mini Synthesizer (Nick Copeland, £1.49), which apes a classic MiniMoog and the awesome Jasuto Modular Synthesizer (Chris Wolfe, £3.10), which basically lets you build your own modular synths – not for the faint-hearted. Nick Copeland has created several Android versions of classic synths, including the ARP 2600.
Go gigging with your GALAXY Note II
What, frankly, could be cooler than turning up to play a gig, pulling out nothing other than your Note II (OK, and maybe a microphone and, say, a guitar) and holding an audience rapt with an almighty racket? There are some great Android apps that offer the perfect backing for your musical stylings.
SPC Music Sketchpad 2 (Mikrosonik, £3.99) almost enters the realms of music studios, except it has an interface geared much more towards live performance – it has a drum machine and sequencer, can import pre-made loops and has a sampler. If you just want a drum machine to underpin you, Electrum (Niko Twenty, £2.47) is your best bet – it can emulate the classic Roland TR-808 and 909. Plus, there are plenty of apps inspired by Yamaha’s Tenori-On sequencer (which Little Boots always uses to accompany her on the piano), of which the best is Sonorox Sequencer (Radiant Silver Labs, Free).
Hunt down those found sounds
One music-making area for which the GALAXY Note II is particularly well suited is capturing field recordings. After all, you carry it with you wherever you go, and it has a particularly good built-in microphone. There are plenty of great microphone-recording apps, but we reckon the best is RecForge Pro (DJE073, £2.45), which lets you save your field recordings in the MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats, manipulate them sonically and share them via Dropbox and the like. Or you can record straight into many of the music studio apps we highlighted earlier, most notably AudioTool Sketch.
If you’re big on field recordings – perhaps if you’re a professional music producer – you might want to hook up a more exotic microphone to the GALAXY Note II: as volume drops off dramatically when you try to record sounds more than a few feet away through the built-in mic. A camcorder audio cable (3.5mm headphone jack to phono), plus a phono-to-1/4-inch jack connector should be all you require, but for even greater control over what you record before it goes into your GALAXY Note II, you could invest in a cheap pre-amp, like the ART Tube MP Studio V3 (about £70 to £80) or even this tiny Behringer Xenyx 302USB, which is actually a mixer, but includes a mic preamp, lets you equalise your sounds and can be found for under £40. Unfortunately, it won’t run off batteries, but it will run off USB power, so it will work in the field if you invest in a USB battery pack.
Market your music
Now you’ve made your music, there’s no point in just having it sitting around doing nothing: get it out there. And luckily, you can do that straight from your GALAXY Note II. Of course, saving in the correct format is a must: pretty much everything plays WAV and MP3 files, and the more sophisticated online music players are beginning to be able to handle Ogg Vorbis, AAC and FLAC.
Perhaps your first stop should be YouTube – an app which comes as standard with your GALAXY Note II – which, of course, is responsible for the success of the likes of Psy and Gotye (whatever you may think about their musical efforts). Although it always helps to have a video to accompany anything on YouTube, it’s very easy to share music you’ve uploaded to that to your Facebook friends.
Of course, you can upload your music straight to Google Play, and then share it via Google+. Spotify , of course, is massively popular, and you can upload a whole playlist of your music to that and share it with your friends. Then, when the news of your musical prowess starts to circulate, you might want to consider a service like CD Baby, which promotes and sells your music for you across all the social media sites, while you get on with composing. Good luck, and we look forward to hearing the fruits of your labours.