Friday, May 7, 2010

Music Creation for the Untalented, the Untrained, the Lazy, and Those with Some Time to Kill

I've been checking out iPhone and iPad music creation applications. Some are geared for experienced music professionals who already know their way around equipment. But I like the stuff that is intuitive and can produce results in a minute or two. I suppose you could say I was looking for the equivalent of tambourines, finger paints, bubbles, or beach volleyball. In other words, stuff that is so simple to use it is hard to screw up.

Here is some of what I have found. Some are iPhone and iPad apps; others are website-based. (I looked at more apps than I included here, but some of them weren't all that interesting or seemed to make sounds rather than music or musical tones.)


  • Sonic Wire Sculptor 2010: "The Sonic Wire Sculptor turns your 3D drawing into sound. It introduces a simple yet deep connection between visual and audio composition."

  • Squiggle: "Squiggle is an iPad application that allows you to draw lines on the screen which turn into stings and can be played like guitar."

  • Soundrop: "Soundrop is a sound toy application for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch which allows you to create sounds by drawing lines on the screen and have ball bouncing off them. Each time the ball touches the line, a sound is generated. Depending on the location of the line on the screen, the tone of the sound is set."

  • gliss: "Gliss is a new sound application which lets you play sound files and mix them easily by drawing on your iPhone."

  • MusicDraw: Another drawing-based app. More about it here.

  • Artikulator: "While traditional sheet music is cryptographic for the uninitiated, Artikulator is as simple to understand as a child’s toy. A line that curves upward creates a higher-pitched sound. A line that is bigger makes a louder sound." (ADDED 5/19/10)

  • Singing Fingers -- Finger Paint with Sound: "While you drag your finger across the screen, your voice or any other sounds nearby are turned into colors on the musical canvas. The pitch of the sound is translated into a color, while the loudness of the sound determines the size. If you start on a blank white space you are recording. If you start on a colored space you are replaying. Use up to five fingers to play back many sounds at the same time, forwards, backwards or sideways." (ADDED 10/21/10)

  • Bubble Harp: "Bubble Harp draws bubbles around your fingertips, recording and replaying your movements while creating music based on the animated forms. It’s a combination of drawing, animation, music, art, geometry, and games." (ADDED 10/21/10)

  • Reactable mobile: This isn't a drawing tool. Rather it is a synthesizer you control by moving objects around on the screen. (ADDED 10/21/10)


  • Raindrop Melody Maker: This is web-based, so you can go on this site and immediately begin playing with it. It creates beautiful wind-chime-like sounds by clicking on the raindrops.
    Here's the iPhone version. Dropophone (ADDED 6/16/10)
  • Melodica: An app that also allows you to play around with tones.

  • Euphonics: This application is good if you want to create piano-like songs without actually having to know how to play the piano.

  • rain.: "Rain. is a minimalistic audio visual composition app for the iPhone created by Rainer Kohlberger. Tap to create black sound stripes, double tap to create moire phases, shake to create a colored beat, double swipe to change background loop. The longer a stripe the lower its pitch. After creating a stripe, use your second finger to alter the length."

  • SoundGrid: This one is a bit more complicated. "Even if you have never composed music, you will find SoundGrid simple and exciting to play with and will start creating unique compositions in minutes with just the tips of your fingers."

  • Flourish: Seems to be more visually interesting than musically interesting.

  • ToneMatrix: "Simple sinewave synthesizer triggered by an ordinary 16step sequencer. Each triggered step causes a force on the underlaying wave-map, which makes it more cute." (ADDED 5/17/10)

  • Pulsate (ADDED 5/17/10)

  • Incredibox: This website allows you to create an online beatbox a capella group by dragging symbols of instruments, percussion, effects, chorus, voices onto online cartoon singers. (ADDED 6/4/10)

  • Beatwave: Allows you to create patterns, choose from three basic instruments (with others available to add), control tempo and pitch, and manipulate layers of sound. (ADDED 6/10/10)

  • SoundPrism (ADDED 10/21/10)


  • Bloom, Trope, and Air: Three different apps created by Brian Eno and/or Peter Chilvers that produce patterns and melodies. This site (not associated with Bloom) supposedly offers both a web version (though it didn't come up for me) and a downloadable PC version.

  • Lexikon-Sonate: Classical pieces generated by software from composer Karlheinz Essl. "Essl creates electronic and interactive music (with emphasis on algorithmic composition and generative music), and has produced numerous real-time compositions and sound instillations." You can find a downloadable program here.

  • WolframTones: This site generates songs based on mathematical formulas.

  • AMG: Ambient Music Generator: "There are no notes to play, no multitouch, no buttons to play sounds, simply shake iPhone and leave the iphone by your side to fill your space with ambient tones."

  • Aura Ambient Music Generator

  • Melody Generator: This software will generate melodies (in three forms: basic, chord-based, or scale-based) which can be edited and also saved as an audio file and in print form.

  • Musical Images: This is a brand new app that creates music from whatever image you plug in. There isn't anything about the application up on the web yet, but I found this at the website of the organization which created it and appears to be an earlier exploration of the concept. Lotto Lab : Music from colour

  • C O D E O R G A N: Plug in a URL and it generates music based on the text on that page.

  • Chimes: An older downloadable program that generates random sounds based on an African thumb piano and a Native American drum.

  • Marvim Gainsbug: This looks interesting, though I can't find place where you can enter lyrics. So it appears more of a demo of an experiment rather than a working application. "Marvim Gainsbug is a software that acts based on Twitter, implemented to compose and to play songs, with music and lyrics, in real time."

  • The Crooked Road: Build-A-Lyric Song Generator: This site actually produces a song for you, although the melody is set and you have a limited number of lyric options.

  • Synthia: It creates a song from an uploaded image. (ADDED 5/17/10.)

  • Sonic Charge Patternarium: This provides randomly computer generated patterns and rhythms. You can vote on each one to influence which combinations are more likely to develop in the future. (ADDED 6/10/10)


    None of these generate music, just lyrics. But I anticipate that before long lyric generators and music generators will be combined so that you'll get finished songs based on the genres and subjects you select. Will any of them be great songs? Well, think of them like digital photos. You may need to produce a lot to get the right one, but you just discard those that don't work. And if you have something that almost works, you tweak it with the equivalent of a musical Photoshop.

  • Song Generator: Fill in the blanks and the program gives you song lyrics based on what you have written.

  • Love Song Generator: Another fill-in the blanks program by the same creator as above, but this one more narrowly focused on love songs.

  • More sites:

  • Country Song Generator
  • Country Western Song Generator
  • Random Pop Song Generator
  • Alanis Morissette Lyric Generator

  • And consider these for lyrics, too (there are actually far too many poetry generators in Google to list them all, but it should give you an idea of where to look if you're stuck when writing lyrics for a song):

  • Poem Generator
  • Poetry Generator
  • The Genuine Haiku Generator
  • Dada Poetry Generator
  • Love Poetry Generator
  • Another Love Poetry Generator
  • If you want to sound vaguely Shakespearian
  • Poetry Forms

  • Once you have found some lyrics you like, this application will create a song around them.

    Songmaker for iPhone: "... simply speak the lyrics you want into the microphone while pressing the keys to enter the melody you want. After recording completed, SongMaker will play the song with your voice following the given melody along with background music." (ADDED 10/21/10)

    I'm sure I have missed some good applications. So let me know about them. Again, I'm not looking for apps that require much training. This is a list for products which will allow the average not-very-musical person to create something worth listening to and perhaps sharing. I anticipate that as more products and tools are developed, the creations will become more sophisticated.

    Suzanne Lainson
    @slainson on Twitter

    UPDATE 5/9/10
    This doesn't have to do with music, but if you are going start promoting your app generated music, you might need these to help you create your web page. 55 Astonishing Online Generators for Web Designers

    UPDATE 6/29/10
    Here's a video where two developers demonstrate a new, easy-to-use iPad music creation tool. They also explain their motivation. And they mention finger painting.
    CultureLab: The first ever iPad music performance

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.