As we move further and further away from vinyl, it’s become apparent that DJs both new and seasoned are looking at the iPad as a tool in their ever-changing arsenal to get your booty shaking. (Remember our interview with Rana Sobhany, the “iPad DJ”?) The touchscreen allows developers to re-create anything from old-school sound boards to fancy new apps that play music while filling your eyes with more colors than a tie-dye factory. While pushing a few buttons to create a bass groove is fun, the wannabe DJ inside each of us compels us to seek out apps like djay, with its virtual vinyl ready to rock your house parties.
We've got high expectations. Not only do we want to be able to use our phones to make calls and send texts, but we also want internet access, games, apps that get us to social media, a music player as well as online music. We want to watch movies and read books and take pictures and -- whew, our little phone is starting to get a little crowded. And pretty much the same story goes for the iPad even with its bigger memory. Streaming music can take some of the load off, but if we could move a few of those episodes of Mad Men off our iOS devices, that sure would free up some space.
A meticulously maintained iTunes library with ratings for each track lets you easily create best-of playlists to keep lame songs off your iPod. That’s great if you consistently rate music as your collection grows, but what if you’ve got a giant unrated library and no time to add stars to all those tracks? Enter AutoRate, a free application that—ahem!—automatically rates music based on current play count and frequency. Despite some limitations, it’s an easy way to start getting more from your music.
Since Apple has added Ping to iTunes, I can’t seem to find the genius sidebar or a way to get recommendations for new songs I would like based on a song in my library. Did the feature get moved or removed?
We have a serious media problem in this country. No, not the state of cable TV news—the fact that today’s mobile devices lack the storage to take all our media with us on the go. Even a mighty 64GB iPod touch can only hold so many movies. Enter ZumoCast, a free service that lets you stream videos, music, and more in almost any format from your Mac to other computers and iDevices. While its price for these features is certainly right, ZumoCast left us wanting more polish and stability.
When we saw the Producer USB microphone on the front of the Avid Vocal Studio packaging, we did a double-take--we bought that mic from an online clearance outlet last year, and for half the price of its current incarnation. But here it is again, headlining a software combo that promises everything you need to create voiceovers, podcasts, and multitrack musical recordings in one tidy package.
When Apple rolled out iLife ’11, it touted the fact that more than 5 million folks are using GarageBand to create music, podcasts, and other types of audio, making it one of the most successful DAW (digital audio workstation) programs of all time. With this newly updated revision, there are even more reasons to really dig this maestro of a music-making app.
Perhaps the single most important new editing addition, Flex Time, has been brought over from GarageBand’s older sibling, Logic. Simply grab a part of a sampled audio track—a guitar lick or a vocal—and instantly drag it to a new position in time, with extremely smooth—and musically useful—results. It’s a study in effortless, clear interface design, and once you drag a guitar lick into place with it, you’ll instantly be hooked. GarageBand is incredibly smart about automatically grabbing the desired audio segment, and adjusting either the head or tail of the waveform based on where you click the mouse.
If you’re a guitarist, Capo is the bionic upgrade you wish you could give your ears. Drag any track from your iTunes library into Capo, and it quickly displays the music as visual data--a spectrogram full of blue smears. Those smears represent notes in the recording; the smears near the top are the higher-pitched notes and the ones below are the lower pitches. Click the cursor on a spectro-smear to hear its corresponding MIDI note. If that note is part of the solo or chord you are trying to figure out, drag the cursor on it a bit and, like magic, a tablature number appears below, showing you exactly where to place your fingers on your guitar.
Since Apple bought Lala, the online music store that lets you upload and stream your computer’s music online, speculation has swirled about when Cupertino will bring the feature to iTunes. If you’re sick of waiting, mSpot lets you enjoy your Mac’s music from a browser on almost any computer. While the service has room for improvement, it also puts your music in the cloud with a minimum of fuss.
SoundHound takes Shazam's pioneering song-recognition approach to a whole new level, letting you not only identify recorded songs, but also use your own vocal cords to generate a result. The ability to sing or hum a few bars of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" or Rihanna's "Rude Boy" and get a correct identification is pretty mind-blowing, and a testament to the power of SoundHound's inner workings.