7 of the best iOS groovebox and percussion apps
19th Aug 2013 | 16:00
Native Instruments iMaschine, £2.99/$4.99
One of the most downright fun and useable applications of Apple's iDevices, in music making terms, is the ability to jam out and program drum and percussion loops on the go.
There's endless fun to be had building hip-hop grooves on the bus, creating pounding techno rhythms at your desk on a lunch break or sketching out percussion parts on the way to a band practice. It's when these ideas can be taken further - by transferring them to a DAW or integrating them into a larger setup - that iOS beatmaking comes into its own though.
Here we bring you a round-up of some of the most useable, innovative and flexible beatmakers on the App Store. From groove sketchpads to classic drum machine emulations, innovative drum synths and more. Starting with...
NI’s iMaschine is less an iOS version of its hardware/software namesake and more a companion app. Native describe it as a ‘groove sketchpad’, which is a pretty accurate description.
It features 16 virtual pads, which can be loaded with 25 different kits featuring a total of around 400 samples (with additional kits available as in app purchases). It’s also possible to record one-shot samples using the device’s built-in mic and import WAV samples via iTunes.
There’s a mixer section too, which features two send effect slots that can be loaded with delay, chorus, flanger and filter effects.
Overall, the app is a little light on deep features in itself, but projects can be ported to the desktop version of Machine, making it a great little tool for playing with ideas for users of the full version.
Korg iElectribe, £13.99/$19.99
iElectribe is an excellent iOS port of Korg’s hardware classic the Electribe-R.
It features a four-part percussion synth alongside four PCM synth channels, all of which can be programmed via the built-in step sequencer. There are eight in-app effects to play with too. In all, it’s a great app, and well worth the slightly higher-than-average outlay.
A special Gorillaz version of iElectribe is also available.
Full review: Korg iElectribe (review is of a previous version)
Akai Professional iMPC, £4.99/$6.99
The Retronyms-developed iMPC is an iOS version of possibly the most iconic beat making tool of all time.
Inevitably, it’s far from being a complete virtual MPC. It lacks the deeper sample editing features, the effects are limited compared to the original, and the controls don’t really capture the natural ‘flow’ of using the classic hardware.
Its biggest asset, however, is the built-in library of 1200 samples, which sound superb and are all very useable.
iMPC can be loaded into Retronyms’ Tabletop workspace, to be used as part of a bigger setup of in-app devices - the downside of which is that it’s not Audiobus compatible as yet.
An iPhone version is also available, which is a little fiddly to use, but is undoubtedly a fun little app for building grooves on the go.
Full review: Akai Professional iMPC
Sonosaurus DrumJam, £5.49/$7.99
DrumJam is the percussion counterpart of Sonosaurus’ much-loved sample instrument ThumbJam.
Designed in partnership with percussionist Pete Lockett, DrumJam allows users to drag a wide selection of sampled percussion instruments into the workspace and then jam along to loops using the touch interface. There’s filter, pitch bend, delay, reverb, lofi and distortion effects available too.
It’s an incredibly accessible and fun app in-use, and it’s loaded with great sounds too. It supports Audiobus too, which makes it great for jamming along with parts sketched out in other apps.
Full review: Sonosaurus DrumJam
Beep Street Impaktor, £1.99/$2.99
Impaktor is a semi-modular drum synth app that can convert you finger drumming (or any rhythmic audio) into a drum line via the device’s built-in mic - which is undeniably cool.
There are plenty of great preset sounds, and up to six percussive tracks can be layered on top of each other to create complex rhythm sections.
The app is now Audiobus compatible too, although we’d still like to see MIDI-in added at some point too.
Full review: Beep Street Impaktor
Fingerlab DM1, £2.99/$4.99
Fingerlab’s DM1 is a nicely designed, classically minded drum machine app packed with a selection of vintage-style drum kits.
It features a step sequencer, playable drum pads, mixer and effect sections and a Song Composer section for arranging your loops and patterns.
It’s fairly straight-forward stuff, but that’s no bad thing. Audiobus and MIDI compatibility make it a highly-useable tool too.
Full review: Fingerlab DM1 (review is of a previous version)
Synthetic Bits Funkbox, £3.99/$5.99
Funkbox is - as its name and UI would suggest - a vintage-style groovebox emulation.
For both better and worse, it’s an unashamedly retro-styled app. On the up side, that means you get a gorgeous interface, plenty of lovely classic drum machine sounds and a reassuringly familiar workflow. The flipside to this, however, is that Funkbox feels a little limited compared to some of the more cutting-edge apps in this round-up.
MIDI and Audiobus compatibility make the app very useable though. And according to the developer both Gorillaz and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze are fans, which surely counts for something.