10 apps to help you produce your next album on your phone

Forget bedroom producer. You can be a waiting-in-line-at-the-airport producer.

A full music studio in the palm of your hand.

In the music industry of even 10 years ago, it was rare to produce an entire album outside of the studio. The launch of GarageBand 6 in 2010 changed that, ushering in a new type of musician: the bedroom producer. Home studios quickly popularized a do-it-yourself approach to music production. Thanks to advances in mobile technology, these bedroom producers are now shifting from laptops and PCs to smartphones. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, making music on your smartphone might seem like a sweet (and rewarding) deal—but it’s no easy feat to figure out which apps will be right for you. Below, we collected a few of our favorites to turn your noodlings into the next big hit.

Voice recorders

When inspiration strikes—whether you’re lucid dreaming or awake—you need to be ready to hit record and lay down a riff. These voice recorder apps should do the trick. Just remember to factor in background noise and your smartphone’s speaker quality, volume levels, and storage capabilities before you start a session.

1. VoiceRecorder & Audio Editor

  • Operating system: iOS
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers
  • CostFree

This voice recorder app is a great alternative to the default Voice Memo app that comes with your iPhone. Cassette enthusiasts will love how each new recording appears in the app interface as its own tape. The ability to export your files in a variety of formats beyond .mp4 is also a nice touch. On the downside, the latest version’s social sharing ability is a little wonky, and because each recording takes up a lot of room, you’ll need ample storage space on your iPhone.

2. Easy Voice Recorder

  • Operating system: Android
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers
  • CostFree

Unlike iOS devices, Android phones do not come with a built-in voice recorder app. The worst, I know. That means Easy Voice Recorder will be your new best friend. Record high-quality PCM and MP4 audio files to save space. And if you’re feeling particularly narcissistic, you can even set your tunes as your ringtone. While the free version of this app has annoying advertisements, you can pay $4 to go ad-free.

Digital Audio Workstations

If you’ve ever dreamed of having instant access to any musical instrument known to humankind, you need a solid Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. This virtual musical playground contains powerful software that replicates all the best parts of a professional recording studio, from microphones to audio mixers to trombones. Best of all, it fits on your PC, laptop…or smartphone.

3. GarageBand

  • Operating system: iOS
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers
  • CostFree—it’s an iOS essential app.

Since 2010, GarageBand has been the entry point for bedroom producers of all stripes, and for good reason: It’s the easiest way to record multiple tracks (of vocals or any instrument) on any device. If you’re already familiar with the desktop version, translating your know-how to the mobile app is a cinch. To get started, simply press the “+” button, choose the type of song or instrument you’d like to record, and you’re off. More seasoned producers can import locally-stored files directly into the app, then chop n’ screw ’em, add filters, or manipulate them in any other way. Unfortunately, the interface can look a little jarring at first, because you have to continuously swipe between the workspace and recording screens to get anything done. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making masterpieces in no time.

4. FL Studio

Better known as Fruity Loops, FL Studio is the DAW of choice for hip-hop producers and DJs looking to go beyond GarageBand. You can expect more advanced features, such as high-quality samples and synthesizers; an advanced FX panel complete with flangers, compressors, low- and high-band pass filters; and even an advanced step sequencer for fast and accurate beat programming. However, everything comes with a price, and for features like these, you’ll have to pay up to $16.

Beats, bleeps, and bloops

From dancey beats to otherworldly bleeps, these apps create a wide range of sounds you can manipulate to create your own music. Use them to become an audio pro without touching an instrument.

5. Beatwave

  • Operating system: iOS
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers
  • Cost: The free version of the app comes with 20 different virtual instruments, but for varying payments, you can download more than 200 additional instruments from the Beatwave store.

As a Beatwave devotee, I consider this app the most creative way to make beats that are uniquely your own. Open it, choose the set of sounds you’d like to work with, and start drawing patterns in the provided grids. It’s quite literally musical finger painting! More advanced producers will love that you can mimic multi-track recording by layering multiple grids together and adding different effects to each piece of your opus. While the app has yet to be updated for iOS 11, a faster, more responsive update is hopefully in the works.

6. Figure

  • Operating system: iOS
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers
  • CostFree

This app’s interface will delight fans of Reason—Propellerhead’s popular Digital Audio Workstation. And you don’t have to be familiar with Reason to play with Figure. Everyone from beginners to more advanced producers will love how simply you can adjust the circular modules (a cheeky reference to the Circle of Fifths) to create truly mesmerizing beats. And musical savants will appreciate that you can tune your creations to any key and adjust the tempo to any BPM. That said, bugs can be an issue: The developers seem to focus more on the app’s social sharing aspect (yes, you can upload your creations to a social network of sorts) than on improving its performance and warding off crashes.

7. Korg Kaossilator

  • Operating systems: iOS and Android
  • Who this is for: Beginning to advanced musicians and producers.
  • Cost: $9.99 on iOS and Android.

The Kaossilator is one of the most innovative pieces of music hardware to hit the market in the past decade. This app completely replicates the best parts of Korg’s freely playable synth, putting a nearly $300 synthesizer in the palm of your hand! Like Beatwave, you can play different sounds simply by stroking, tapping, or rubbing the app’s XY Axis. You can even turn your “musical finger paintings” into loops that you can then “DJ” in real-time. Oh, and it features stunning visual effects that move along with the performance—completely in sync. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with this app, but some people just can’t be pleased. According to some iTunes reviewers, the app interface makes it hard to “consistently hit on a specific note or pitch” during live performances. Other reviewers crave the ability to export tracks as MIDI files, so they can work with them in their digital audio workstations on a laptop or PC.

8. Moog Filtatron

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