Last month Apple released an amazing app called Music Memos. It’s aimed at people who write music and is one of their most advanced products.
It all came about when Apple noticed that songwriters were using their Voice Memos on their iPhones to record musical idea. There is no metronome and no click track, you just tap the record button and start strumming or singing. You are also not plugged into the iPhone, this app records from the microphone.
So far, none of this is very impressive. The magic happens when you hit the playback. The app can add bass and drum automatically. Music Memos analyzes your playing, figures out the temp and time signature and then creates a virtual drummer that plays along with you. It will even speed up or slow down when you do.
The amazing thing about all this is they have created a software app that can understand complex harmonies. This is tougher than understanding spoken English. There have been apps that can transcribe single-line melodies with only one note at a time but never one that can do multiple notes simultaneously. Pretty cool stuff if you are a musician.
How well does it really work?
If you play something on the guitar that is fairly simple like a blues progression, this app will nail it. As long as you stay pretty much with the primary chords in the key, the bass plays perfectly. If you play something more unusual it may get wrong notes. However, Apple gives you a sheet view that shows the interpretation of the harmonies and you can dial in a corrected time signature or harmoney.
Playback is strained simply because you are listening to it on your phone speaker. Luckily, you can export your music to an app called GarageBand. There you will see the virtual bass and drum tracks as individual recordings which you can edit.
In Music Memos, you can hold your finger down on the Bass or Drums icon and open a panel that lets you control the volume, what kind of bass or drum kit is used and how complex the accompaniment is.
I’m certainly no musician but I had a lot of fun tinkering with this app while I played some piano tunes. I can see some budding musicians flowering with this app.
Right now, this is a free app that frankly has a fairly small audience. That leaves us wondering why would Apple put so much effort into this software. Apple professes to love music and thinks this will help people develop their own music. And, that helps build the iTunes Music store. We may one day see Music Memos for sale there but right now it’s free and a lot of fun for those who are musically inclined.
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