Best music apps: Top 20 to download now

Sounding out the music app essentials

Looking for the best music apps for your Apple iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone? Move over iTunes - T3 has uncovered the best music apps on the market

Whether you're a wannabe DJ, a big shot beat maker or simply trying to hone your musical talents, you are likely to find an app to fuel your creativity when devoid of your home-bound kit. Helping to make your music sound all that sweeter, here's our pick of the best music-making apps to load onto your iPhone, iPad or Android device... pronto!

With so many dance music apps on the iPhone, rockers might feel a bit left out. But with great apps like AmpliTube available there's no need to worry. Hook your guitar up through IK Multimedia's iRig connector and your iPhone becomes a fully featured effects unit and amp simulator. The sounds are great and with a variety of downloadable add-ons available you can keep experimenting until you perfect your sound.
Platform: iPhone
Price: £11.99 (also free demo and £1.79 LE version)

The trusty Roland TB-303 is a house music legend for a very good reason: it sounds great. Unfortunately this means that second-hand prices are sky-high for the humble bass synth. At just £2.99, BassLine does a very convincing impression of the 303 with a host of new and updated features to bring it right up to date. Four wave shapes plus effects like overdrive and tape delay make things even more flexible, but the pick of the bunch is the accelerometer-driven filter option which uses movement to shape the sound. Shake it, baby!
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £2.99

This simple app might not seem look like your average synth but the cartoonish graphics hide a serious music-making tool. Drag your finger across the screen and the animated robot "sings" a range of sounds. Dive into the menus and you'll find tons of options to play with. Adjustable echo, overdrive and chorus effects can be added to any sound, while the Scale setting menu allows you to add autotune for more precise intonation. Most importantly, BeBot has that classic iPhone fun factor in spades. Great stuff at a great price.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £1.19

bleep!BOX has become a real favourite since its release last year. Great synth and drum sounds plus a simple programming style make this an outstanding all-round loop creation package. bleep!BOX can be played live or programmed in advance to create more complex song arrangements. The iPad version is a must-have for owners of the bigger device, with the less cluttered interface really opening up the power of the software. bleep!BOX is one of the most well thought-out, complete music apps available.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £5.99

Guitarists, say goodbye to your dog-eared chord book. Select a root note, dial in your chosen intervals and Chordmaster instantly displays the fingering diagram. With the ability to choose from left and right handed diagrams for over 7000 chords, quickly switch between different positions on the neck and play the strings to hear how each chord sounds, Chordmaster is an excellent tool. Sadly there are no augmented chords, but otherwise this well-priced app can't be faulted.
Platform: iPhone
Price: £1.19 (also free LE version)

Ethereal Dialpad
This cool abstract synth allows you to pick from a variety of modes and draw patterns on the screen to play sounds. You don't need a musical bone in your body to get good results. Synth options include pitch quantisation for perfect tuning plus basic delay and flanger effects. Plugins allow you to expand the app with features such as gravitational sensor control. Fun for everyone, regardless of musical talent.
Platform: Android
Price: Free

It's an unwritten rule of smartphones that every touchscreen needs a theremin app. There's just something about the ghostly synthesizer that lends itself perfectly to the hands-on approach (slightly ironic given that the real theremin is as hands-off as you can get!). Etherophone is our pick of the theremins available for Android. Adjustable sound settings, basic amplitude envelope options and cool sliders for adjusting the harmonic content of the sound make this unassuming free app a must-have.
Platform: Android
Price: Free

Proving that relatively basic apps can still be winners, FunkBox is a simple drum machine with intuitive programming. Where it really shines is in its sound sources: samples from seven classic drum machines including the legendary Roland TR606, 808 and 909, MachineDrum SPS-1 and Maestro Rhythm King MRK-2. It'd be nice if you could choose individual drums from each machine and we'd also like to see more than 8 samples from each, but overall FunkBox is easy to use and sounds great.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £1.79

Groovemaker is already a big hit on the iPhone and now it's available for iPad we love it even more. Layer together samples and loops and mix them together to create full songs. Everything takes place in real time so there's no interruption to the groove even if you change the tempo or add new loops. The free demo versions allow you to check out how it works, but if you decide to buy the app you can take your pick from a number of versions with ready-made house, drum n bass, trance and hip hop sample packs.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: From £2.39 (iPhone) or £2.99 (iPad) plus free demos

You can take your pick from hundreds of metronomes in the iTunes Store, but this neat little free app is one of our old favourites. To get started, simply pick one of the six time signatures then choose from the classic Italian tempo markings (andante, moderato, etc) or dial in anything from 40-250 bpm. With a range of downbeat and upbeat sounds and adjustable volume, iTick might be basic but it does the job perfectly.
Platform: iPhone
Price: Free

Jasuto Pro
One for the real tech-heads among us, Jasuto Pro is a ridiculously complex modular synth app. The huge array of options can be a little daunting to begin with, but the friendly online community is a great way of sharing hints and tips for beginners and experts alike. Android users should check it out too, but bear in mind that you'll need a powerful handset to get the most out of it.
Platform: iPhone and Android
Price: £3.99 (iPhone), $4.99 (Android)

Korg iElectribe
Korg's Electribe range of grooveboxes are bona fide dance music classics. With an RRP over £500, the current models don't come cheap but there's an easier and much cheaper option for iPad owners. iElectribe is a faithful virtual model of the real thing, right down to the glowing valves. Build on one of the 64 presets or start from scratch and create your own classic grooves. If you're looking for an all-in-one music making app, iElectribe ishard to beat.
Platform: iPad only
Price: £11.99
Korg iElectribe iPad review

Looptastic is one of our old favourites, a loop-based arrangement, mixing and effect app with a very user-friendly interface and great sound. Arrange your loops into groups, apply effects with the X-Y pad and crossfade between sounds. With a great range of preset to choose from, Looptastic should appeal to the beginner who wants instant results. Things start to get even more interesting when you load your own sounds and samples. You can even remix your own tracks and then upload the results straight to SoundCloud. Fantastic.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £8.99 (Looptastic HD, iPad), £5.99 (Looptastic Producer, iPhone)

A fully featured dual oscillator synth with a great sound, NLog's options make it more versatile than plenty of hardware synths. A number of excellent performance options make this unassuming little app even more versatile. NLog shows just how good an iPhone synth can be. The small screen might not be able to compete with a full-size keyboard, but the sound is easily on a par with much more pricey hardware and software rivals.
Platform: iPhone
Price: £5.49 (also free demo version)

This is not your conventional DJ app! RjDj is an "augmented reality" app unlike anything else. Load a scene and you'll soon discover how the music reacts to inputs such as finger gestures, phone movement and ambient sounds. No musical knowledge is required. Each scene has its own set of sounds, allowing you to create unique arrangements of everything from hip hop to dub. Downloadable upgrade packs allow you to add new scenes, making for practically unlimited options. Music becomes software and software becomes music in an inspirational multi-sensory experience.
Platform: iPhone
Price: Free

Smule Magic Piano
There are plenty of piano apps out there, but Smule's Magic Piano really takes things down a unique and interesting path. With freestyle and song modes plus the ability to duet with other users around the world, Magic Piano is particularly good fun for beginners. Things get really wacky when you start to mess with the advanced layout options. Once you've played a spiral keyboard you'll never look at a piano the same way again!
Platform: iPad
Price: £0.59
Smule Magic Piano iPad review

Sound Scope Space
The name doesn't give much away, but Sound Scope Space is one of our favourite synth apps. Whereas editing most synths involves turning dials and pushing sliders, Space allows you to draw waves directly into the window. Slide along the pitch scale to play your sound and a cool Spirograph-style visual indicator shows the waveform you've created. The range of sounds which can be created is huge. There's nothing else quite like it.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: iPhone (£1.19) or iPad (£2.99)

This unorthodox app converts images into spectrograms (graphs showing spectral density of a sound), which can then be synthesized and played back as audio. Take a photo, apply effects and then hear how it sounds. It's a weird one but the sounds range from the sublime to the ridiculous and we love the possibilities. Embed hidden images into your tracks or just have fun finding out what your friends' faces sound like - Spectral is great fun and won't cost you a penny.
Platform: Android
Price: Free

The iPhone and iPad's incredible touchscreens are ideal for hands-on control of software. TouchOSC is the top choice for musicians, allowing you to take control of just about any music software you can imagine using the OSC (Open Sound Control) protocol. A little techy to get set up and started with, but the customisable layouts and precise control make TouchOSC a great choice. No wonder it's such a firm favourite of thousands of forward-thinking musicians already.
Platform: iPhone and iPad
Price: £2.99

Zaery Keyboard
Loosely modelled on exotic and expensive hardware like the Haken Continuum performance controller and Kurzweil expressionMate ribbon controller, Zaery Keyboard is a simple app which allows you to play an octave of continuous keyboard on your phone. Choose from electric piano, distorted piano, synth lead or even vuvuzela sounds. Things are a little fiddly to get started with but you'll soon find it can be incredible useful for making special effects to add to your tracks.
Platform: Android
Price: Free

To discover more great music-making apps, check out Computer Music Special 43: 101 Amazing Apps, available from