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How apps are revolutionising music

Iain Gillespie (via SMH) | June 27, 2013
Music apps are revolutionising the way music is made and challenging the very definition of music itself.

"Strange days indeed, most peculiar, mama.'' Apply those words to the way millions of people are now creating music, and they are more relevant today than when John Lennon wrote them shortly before he was murdered 33 years ago.

For example, imagine the Beatles' surprise, as they grappled with antiquated tube mixers and a four-track tape recorder at Abbey Road, if someone had whipped out an iPhone and offered a modern recording studio with 167 tracks and full digital quality.

Not only 167 tracks, but the ability to play back 64 simultaneously using an 85-key polyphonic keyboard, some 65 instruments, plus 60 more as add-ons, a microphone input for vocals, MIDI export and import, and a plethora of effects - and that's not even the half of it.

Music studio app.
Music Studio.

Music Studio for iPhone or iPad, by Austrian developer Xewton, comes with a 55-page manual and sells for $15.99.

A host of other mobile apps like it, ranging from complex to simple, have burst on to the market and they're not only revolutionising the way music is made, but also challenging the very definition of music itself.

For instance, if you croak horrible discordant noises into your iPhone and the sound is converted into harmonic and rhythmic elements with full instrumentation, as apps such as LaDiDa will do for $2.99, the end result might sound great - but is it real music?

The result is a much simpler app named Figure, so simple that a tone-deaf six-year-old could make music using one finger on an iPhone screen by choosing from different loops of drums, bass and guitar, and changing keys, beats and patterns.

Propellerhead has sold 500,000 of the apps at $1 each, but Paulsson still worries if he made the right decision.

''We would have had at least three times as many downloads by now if we had made them free of charge,'' he says.

''That's the gamble, I guess. If you make it free and more people download it, you can potentially make more money by selling add-ons. Although Figure is really great to use, there are quite a few restrictions, so people will still want to buy extra features.''

Not so reckless: James Reyne prefers making music with an acoustic guitar to iPad-based apps.
Not so reckless: James Reyne prefers making music with an acoustic guitar to iPad-based apps.

Jump a world away - in both distance and technology - and you'll find Melbourne singer-songwriter James Reyne at home, where he wrote his latest highly acclaimed album, Thirteen, using nothing but an acoustic guitar and piano.


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