App Review #1 – Music Memos (iOS)

Music Memos.JPG

I thought I’d take break from the usual gear reviews, backing tracks and coffee time posts this week and instead take a look at the latest music app from Apple: Music Memos. Being a musician means much of you life is spent gathering ideas for that next project or release. And as will most creative fields inspiration strikes at the least convenient times. As a result I see from a working musicians perspective more as a convenient lifestyle app then anything else.

For those that who haven’t heard of this app, Music Memos is a free app developed to help composers and musicians quickly and neatly capture audio of there musical ideas. Think of it as an accompaniment for your standard chord chart lyric sheet or manuscript.

The App In Use

To record an idea you simply open the app and hit the center button (and trim the clip after). You can set the record feature for auto which starts recording once you start playing which to my surprise actually works. As you record you will see the waveform being generated at the bottom on the screen. Simply tap the center of the screen to stop the recording, simple.

So far this is a fairly standard recording and plenty of apps out there can do this. Once you have finished recording an idea the app’s algorithms analyze the recording for time signature, accents and chord structures. This allows the app to generate automatic drum and bass parts.

The drums being based on the accents and the established time signature within the recording are a usable way of generating potential part ideas and giving the demos a more fleshed out feeling. I can’t help but find it very pleasing to see the bar lines and time signature placed upon the wave form. You can also manually change the time signature and the feel (normal, half or double) which is useful.

The algorithms for chord analysis are (much like my Digitech Trio review) still in their infancy. Provided you stick to major and minor chords it’s usually right but 7ths and suspended chords are often misread. As a result the automatically generated bass parts aren’t always all that usable.

The trick with the bass part is to edit the chords after you’ve recorded. It doesn’t take long and allows you to also create slash chords and inversions. Once again nothing quite replaces a good bass player or skilled composer but this would be helpful for people just starting out songwriting.

For guitarists you can also add notes on tuning and capo position which saves the frustration of forgetting (we’ve all been there before). The ability to add tags to each piece to help sort through ideas is a blessing. There is also a function to share ideas direct to other apps such as garageband or straight onto the web via soundcloud etc.

Conclusion

Overall I think this is an awesome idea and much better then the other generic voice capture apps I’ve tried and the ability to add drums and bass is a bonus. If like me you tend to have ideas at awkward times I highly recommend this app and it’s free so there’s nothing to complain about. Next week I’m going to review the garageband and a do a brief comparison of both. Thanks for reading!

PS I’m so glad apps like this exist as the make the cost of an iPhone a little less extreme.

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