Making Music On My iPad With Beatwave

by Bill Hartzell

I’ve had an iPad since July and have been making some cool music with it these past few months.  I’ve found some apps that I really enjoy so I thought I’d share my thoughts on them, as well as some sounds, loops and music that I’ve made.

Screenshot of a Beatwave sessionBeatwave

The very first music-making app I ran across when I was exploring the App Store for the first time was Beatwave.  With an interface very similar in design to the Yamaha Tenori-On, Beatwave is essentially a 4-part multi-timbral step sequencer.  I found it to be a very intuitive app.  I was up and making music on my iPad in literally seconds.  The free version has a very limited sound set but the $7.99 upgrade to Beatwave Pro gives you a whole bunch of new sounds that I’ve found very inspiring.

It’s probably no surprise that writing beats and rhythmic loops on Beatwave is very easy.  I really appreciate the fact that it lets you approach programming your music in two distinctly different ways:

  • If you are a very cerebral, thoughtful left-brain musician you can use the grid to map out very precise rhythms and melodies
  • If you are more of a visual, right-brain musician you can simply slide your finger across the screen and hear the results

My favorite feature is the Grid Morpher.  This allows you to create a pattern and then have Beatwave randomize it over time.  Instant generative music, I love this!  I set up a simple pattern and then let Beatwave go to town on it.  In no time I have plenty of material to chop up into new loops and song ideas.  Here are some examples of what I’ve come up with so far:

Beatwave4-barLoop118bpm-V1 by SoundSavant
Beatwave4-barLoop118bpm-V2 by SoundSavant
Beatwave-AmbientLoop-V1 by SoundSavant
Beatwave-AmbientLoop-V2 by SoundSavant

Obviously, no app is going to be perfect.  My only complaint with Beatwave is that timing issues pop up every now and again.  You’ll be grooving along and all the sudden the beat will jerk out of time a little but it isn’t enough to make me want to turn it off and move on to something else.

Beatwave allows you to save your music and export it in .wav and .mp4 formats.  All in all I’m very happy with this music-making app and I’m sure I’ll be using it quite a bit in the future.

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