Best Music-Making Apps for Android (2018)
Looking for this year’s list? Be sure to read best music making apps for Android in 2019.
Making music on Android? Is that even possible? Oh yes indeed. Apple does seem to monopolize the attention of musicians, but iOS is not the only platform with the capability of mobile music making. When it comes to music apps, the Android advantage of supporting all sorts of hardware configurations and specifications tends to work against it. Routing audio into and out of a device, or generating sounds is really quite hard. It’s easier to accomplish on iOS because the hardware is always known and the same and so the results are totally predictable. Things on Android are a lot more varied. That’s fine for games and productivity apps but when you are monitoring, recording and making music, stability is a lot more vital. However, Android devices continue to improve and the number of decent music making apps has increased to give us a range of options to choose from.
So, don’t assume your Android device has nothing to offer the tech-savvy musician. Here’s our choice for the best music-making apps for Android that are currently available.
Our 2018 Picks
Open Labs Stagelight 3.6
Available for Android alongside versions for ChromeOS, Windows, and MacOS, Stagelight is a superbly versatile DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and loop-building platform. It’s a direct port of the desktop version and doesn’t suffer from any of the limitations often associated with mobile versions. Stagelight is a proper DAW with unlimited audio and virtual instrument tracks and comes complete with a suite of instruments, effects, and loops. You can create freeform on a timeline, or in a LoopBuilder using a step sequencer and drum machine and then mix it all down to a finished product.
Stagelight was designed as a touch screen application for Windows and so is very at home on a touch device. It looks beautiful, the workflow and layout are well thought out, making it very easy to use with your fingers. The Step Sequencer features an auto-fill function where you can throw in notes or create beats with a single gesture. There are a bunch of drum kits, samples, loops and patterns to get the beats flowing. You can play an onscreen keyboard which can lock to a key and scale so you never play a wrong note or wire up an external MIDI controller and start sequencing.
In the basic free version, you get the timeline recording, sequencing, and LoopBuilder along with seven drum kits and five virtual instruments. These include two synths, electric piano, bass, guitar, and organ. On the effects side, you get some EQ, compression, delay, and flange. The $9.99 unlocked version brings in full editing over the virtual instruments, over 180 presets, 14 effects and no limitations on insert and send effects. There’s a further “Ultimate” version but that only really brings in VST and AU plug-in support, but only on Windows and MacOS. So, the $9.99 version is definitely the best option.
Stagelight has all the audio recording, loop building, MIDI sequencing, virtual instruments and mixing you could need. If you’ve ever been jealous of Garage Band running on your mate’s iPad then this will make you feel a whole lot better.
Link to Website: OpenLabs.com
The range of synths inside Caustic is what gives it an edge, plus the effects to add some movement to your tracks. It may not have the comprehensive sequencing of some other apps and it doesn’t support audio recording, but as a little synthesizer workstation, it’s hard to beat.
FL Studio Mobile
FL Studio Mobile comes from the makers of FL Studio, a hugely popular desktop DAW with all the usual complex music-making trimmings. The Mobile version loses a large amount of the clever stuff but keeps enough to make this one of the best music making programs on any mobile platform. There’s no free version; instead for a handful of dollars, you get everything you need for making music.
Multi-track audio and MIDI recording are all ready to go. There are a number of virtual instruments including synths and sampled sounds. The mixer inserts offer 16 effects covering all the usual suspects like modulation, delay, reverb, compression, filter, and distortion. You can sequence in a piano roll or sequence in steps, you can drop in samples, you can drop in patterns. The Drum Sampler is fully integrated with the step sequencer making it so easy to generate beats.
There are on-screen piano and drum pad controllers although you can also route in MIDI control from any compatible MIDI keyboard or controller. The interface works well with fingers, opting for a straight-forward approach to the interface which lacks the flare of Stagelight but certainly does the job.
There are some in-app purchases for loops and additional sounds but otherwise, it’s a fully functioning choice for $15.99.
From Single Cell Software comes a slightly different approach. Caustic is a jumble of synthesizers and samplers you can sequence and mix together in any way you choose.
You create a rack of virtual instruments taken from any of the 14 devices on offer. There are subtractive synths, bassline synths, sample-based synths, pad synths, modular synths, 8-bit, FM and physical modeling synths. There are drum machines and organs, vocoders and more. You are spoilt for choice, really. There’s a piano roll style sequencer for creating patterns and then a song mode where you can lay patterns out along a timeline across all your instrument tracks.
Each instrument gets a channel on the mixer which includes 2 inserts per channel for effects on top of some EQ, delay, and reverb. You can import your own samples for use with the PCM Synth, BeatBox, and Vocoder. The PCM Synth also supports Soundfonts and FL Studio Mobile instruments. MIDI control is available with class-compliant USB MIDI controllers.
The range of synths inside Caustic is what gives it an edge, plus the effects to add some movement to your tracks. It may not have the comprehensive sequencing of some other apps and it doesn’t support audio recording, but as a little synthesizer workstation, it’s hard to beat. The demo is free to use but you can’t save, export or import. The unlock key will cost you $9.99.
Audio Evolution Mobile
eXtream Software has gone for the look of a traditional DAW for Audio Evolution Mobile. It gives quite a professional finish, especially on the Hi-Res tablet screen. You get multi-track audio recording and MIDI sequencing and lots of non-destructive editing in the timeline with cross-fading. There’s a drum pattern editor, sampling and looping. The mixer supports unlimited channels and unlimited groups and looks very much like a proper DAW mixer console. The effects all have pro-looking plug-in interfaces as does the equalizer. They’ve gone out of their way to give you the Cubase experience on Android.
This all gives it a serious vibe that’s somehow unexpected but very welcome. It’s a little light on the virtual instrument side, preferring to support Soundfont instruments rather than any virtual analog or synthesizers. But there’s some decent automation available directly onto clips in the arrangement.
Audio Evolution Mobile is available for free as a basic audio recorder and mixer. The real stuff happens when you invest $6.99 to unlock the full version. Now you get access to the MIDI sequencing and virtual instrument side. You get a lot more effects, EQ and dynamics processing. You get support for external USB audio interfaces and even some auto-tune for your vocals. By all means, give it a try with the free version but you’ll want to unlock everything to find its full potential.
One awesome feature I haven’t seen on other Android apps is Ableton Link support. This allows G-Stomper Studio to sync up to any other device running Ableton Link on a wi-fi network. That means you could run multiple copies of G-Stomper on different devices all in sync, or sync up to a regular laptop, iPad or desktop. It’s immensely powerful.
More like Caustic than a DAW, the G-Stomper Studio has a huge virtual analog synthesizer built-in along with a drum machine, sampler and a whole load of music making tools.
The heart of G-Stomper Studio is VA-Beast, a polyphonic synthesizer drawing on sounds from virtual analog modeling, 4-operator FM synthesis, and multi-sample PCM. There are 2 oscillators (with sync) offering saw, pulse, triangle, sine, noise, dual sine and then PCM waveform options. The FM has 5 algorithms, there are 3 modulation LFOs and 3 envelopes per voice, 2 filter sections with 8 filter types with another 3 ADSR envelopes for filter and amplification. The modulation section goes into differential FM, Filter Frequency and Resonance, Distortion, Ring and all sorts. That’s a whole lot of synthesizer.
You can run 12 tracks of synth plus 24 tracks of sampling using either a grid-based multi-track step-sequencer or the sample-based pattern infused Drum Machine with 24 pads for live playing. This all feeds into a 32-channel mixer with 3 band EQ and 3 inserts per channel. There are 47 effect types covering pretty much every effect you can imagine. The sequencer is a standard piano roll affair but there’s also an arpeggiator for knocking out some quick accompaniments. You can get into the audio editing of samples, setting loop points and envelopes and everything is automatable.
One awesome feature I haven’t seen on other Android apps is Ableton Link support. This allows G-Stomper Studio to sync up to any other device running Ableton Link on a wi-fi network. That means you could run multiple copies of G-Stomper on different devices all in sync, or sync up to a regular laptop, iPad or desktop. It’s immensely powerful. It also plays nice with MIDI controllers and other devices, making it a great live performance sound source and jamming machine.
$15.99 unlocks the full version and it is definitely worth it so you get all 12 tracks of synth (5 in free version) and 24 sample tracks (12 in free version) but you also get a feature which lets you record your performances or export them track by track for use in other Android DAWs.
G-Stomper Studio looks great, has a fabulous internal sound engine and is looking to play inside your larger setup.
Looking at these options it’s clear Android has done some serious catching up and can now offer itself as a decent music making platform. Stagelight appears the most polished while FL Studio offers a step into a larger world of desktop recording. Caustic looks like it can generate tunes with the minimum of fuss whereas G-Stomper is a serious piece of synthesizer goodness. Audio Evolution Mobile is quiet and confident and could be a great little Android DAW studio. You should go and give them all a try.
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