iOS apps

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Native Instruments

Why: Bang for the buck
Description: Based on the company’s popular beatproduction platform, iMaschine presents 16 pads for CD-quality sample playback, and a keyboard for melodies, chords, and bass lines. The app has 4-track recording capabilities, effects, and a noterepeat function—all the features you need to create pro-level projects. You can even export your work as a project to Maschine or as an audio file to SoundCloud. Includes 100MB of sample content.

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Why: Unusual and inspiring to play
Description: Tenori- On for the iPhone! The mobile version of Toshio Iwai’s unique, grid-based sound sculpture offers 16 sound layers, each of which can work in one of six performance modes (score, bounce, random, push, draw, solo). You can save 16 song patterns and network the app wirelessly with four other players. Compare the price of the virtual version to the original, and you’ll see this is a bargain.

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Line 6
Mobile POD
Free (guitar interface required)

Why: Great sounds, fun
Description: It should come as no surprise that the folks who pioneered amp and effects modeling would offer a great-sounding version for mobile devices. Mobile POD, which requires the Line 6 Mobile In interface, gives you 32 amps, 16 cabinets, and 16 effects that you can configure at your leisure. It even comes with 10,000 presets to keep you busy (and a chromatic tuner to keep you honest).

IK Multimedia
SampleTank Free

Why: Useful and, well, free!
Description: You can’t beat the price of this 4-part multi-timbral sample player. While the basic version comes with eight instruments, the app offers a keyboard, virtual drum pads, a 4-track MIDI recorder, studio effects, and 1,000 patterns. You can add just the libraries you want—drums, guitars, basses, keyboards, strings, and winds—with individually-priced add-ons ($4.99 to $9.99), or purchase them as a bundle.

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Agile Partners
GuitarToolkit 2.0

Why: Essential!
Description: An all-in-one app for any fretted-instrument player (guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin, banjo) that offers a chromatic tuner, a metronome, and an easily readable layout of chords, scales, and arpeggios—even for lefties! It has options for open tunings and capo placement. Add GuitarToolkit+ ($4.99) for interactive chord sheets, more metronome features, and amps and effects. It’s useful for every level of player—from beginner to advanced.

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iKaossilator 2.0

Why: Fun, expressive, great sounding
Description: What could be cooler than playing a virtual Kaossilator with a full-color display from your iPhone? This synth app gives you traditional two-dimentional Kaoss control over 150 sounds, which you can automatically map to scales and keys. The realtime features include five layers of loop recording, breaks and fill creation, and the ability to export your track as an audio file or upload it to SoundCloud.

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Why: Cool, fun, inexpensive
Description: djay lets you spin the songs in your iTunes library using a pair of virtual turntables and mixer. It offers scratching, pitch-bend, looping, tempo matching, EQ, and effects (highpass/lowpass filter, bit crush, echo, gate, and more). Record your mixes, then take advantage of the app’s integrated SoundCloud and AirPlay support. It’ll even create mixes for you automatically when you need your hands free for (ahem!) more important things.

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Ninebuzz Software
Why: Simple to use
Description: This no-nonsense drum-loop app comes with more than 50 beats, in a variety of styles that are ready for demo work and jamming. Each pattern is available at 14 different tempos (from 60–190 BPM), and the basic app includes a dozen beats based on hit songs. Additional beat collections are also available. You can save favorites, as well as randomize your selections. Beats+ even supports AirPlay.