Best iPad apps for musicians

The iPad's big, friendly screen and instantaneous swipe control, not to mention its portability, make it an excellent tool for musicians, whether that's for laying down and mixing tracks, tuning a guitar or simply horsing around on a set of virtual bongos. With Blur frontman Damon Albarn recording the most recent Gorillaz album entirely on an iPad, it's clear that this isn't just for amateurs - Apple's tablet and it's associated apps have opened up a whole new world for musicians.

The selection of music-based apps available is huge so we've trawled iTunes for the pick of the bunch. Without further ado, here are the best iPad apps for musicians.

GarageBand

Originally a Mac OS application, GarageBand was ported over to iOS for the launch of the iPad 2 and is probably the most well-known iPad music apps, as well as being a great all-rounder. Using a whole bandful of virtual instruments - including piano, guitar and drums - GarageBand can be used as a virtual studio for laying down multiple tracks. You can even plug an electric guitar in to record some genuine riffs, while the on-board microphone can be used to capture your warblings.

The beauty of this app is that it's so easy to use, making it ideal for beginners. Priced at just £2.99, this one is an absolute steal. 

HANDS-ON

Pianist Pro

You might recognise this popular piano app from the Apple TV ads - it's the one that enables you to tickle the ivories without even having to lift a piano lid, thanks to its mind-bogglingly reaslistic sound. The app also includes a drum machine and an arpeggiator - a feature that automatically steps through an arpeggio of notes (meaning the notes of a chord, played separately). 

Pianist Pro supports MIDI control of external synths and you can even choose from a selection of scales (such as pentatonic or natural minor) or create your own, then swipe the screen to play back the notes in any key. All very clever stuff and a bargain, at just £2.99.

Piano Accordio Pro

Taking the piano idea one step further, this fun yet functional app recreates the experience of playing an accordion, without the need to invest in your own squeezebox - all you need to shell out is £2.49. Like the real thing, there's a keyboard on one side and a button arrangement on the other and if you've got a sturdy iPad dock, then you can even play the app with the iPad standing up and facing away from you, for an even more realistic accordion experience.

The app enables you to scroll along the keyboard to change the key and you can also play along to music in your library. Pick your tune wisely, is our advice. There are some songs that really don't need to be heard on an accordion.

MiniSynth Pro

Ported over from the iPhone, MiniSynth Pro is a professional-grade virtual analogue synthesizer and is great for both beginners and seasoned musicians. The app includes all sorts of technical-sounding things such as "dual syncable oscillators" and "zero latency sound processing" but the intuitive interface helps to keep things manageable.

The app also includes USB MIDI support for external controllers. The price tag is currently reduced by 50%, making it just £2.99, so get in quick.

Korg iELECTRIBE

This clever app is based on the famous Korg ELECTRIBE-R drum machine, which first appeared in 1999. Converted for use on the iPad, the tablet version is known as the Korg iELECTRIBE and will set you back £13.99. The retro-tinged graphics mean that the app looks like the real thing to make it as intuitive as possible. The 16-step sequencer can be used to build your very own tune using up to eight different layers.

The best part is that you can share your finished work on SoundCloud (provided that you're a registered user).

Drum Meister Grand

This one is fairly self-explanatory - it lets you play the drums from your Apple tablet without the need to find the space to house a drumkit or to soundproof your home. Priced at just £1.49, Drum Meister Grand offers four different drum kit sounds - rock, jazz, dance and electronic - with a straightforward visual interface that puts you in the drummer's seat. There are 10 basic drum components and you can play 12 different sounds simultaneously. 

You can add, remove or even resize components to find the most comfortable setup for your fingers and there's also an optional metronome to keep you in time. There are 40 pre-recorded beats or you can record and save your own concoctions.

MorphWiz

This wacky app was partly inspired by the Haken Continuum Fingerboard, an equally bizarre MIDI instrument used on stage by Jordan Rudess - best known as the keyboardist from prog rockers Dream Theater. Like the real thing, the app is essentially a vertical grid-based instrument that assigns audio waveforms as visual shapes on the grid. These can then be morphed by tapping the screen, while you can also control the initial pitch of any note (you can control up to 10 notes simultaneously). You can also control lots of other elements such as vibrato and tremolo and choose from different scales and chords to assign to the playing surface.

All this can be yours for £6.99 and the good news is that even if you have absolutely no idea what you're doing, MorphWiz is still great fun to play with.

TNR-i

The iPad version of Yamaha's baffling Tenori-on instrument - famously used by electro popstrel Little Boots - looks very similar to the real thing. The 16 x 16 grid of buttons can be used to create tunes with the horizontal lines controlling time and the vertical lines dedicated to pitch. You can record up to 16 layers which combine to form rhythms and melodies. What's more, each sound makes the corresponding button glow, so you'll end up with a virtual light show that plays in time with your tune. On top of that, there are various modes that can be fired up to alter the results.

As well as being a tool for serious electro-tinged music, this one is also good fun to tinker with, even for non-musos and at £13.99, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the real thing, which will set you back several hundred quid.

Reactable

Another app inspired by a weird musical instrument, this one is based on the Reactable - a round tabletop-based touchscreen invention, famously used by Bjork on her Volta tour. Like the real thing, the iPad app version combines sampling with modular synthesis, digital audio effects and combines them via multi-touch control. The app offers lots of flexibility from uploading your own loops and choosing from a large range of instruments to creating distortion, compresson and reverb. 

You can also control basics like tempo and tone or delve further into the world of LFO (low frequency oscillators) with differing waveforms. Yours for £6.99.

Looptastic HD

If looping is your thing, then look no further. Looptastic HD (£10.49) enables you to create your own remixes using a catalogue of over 900 existing loops from styles including hip hop, dubstep and trance. The loops can be downloaded over the web from the Loop Store or you can record your own using the built-in microphone or import AIFF, WAV, or OGG files over a web connection.

You can also record your performance and export to Mac or PC as 16-bit stereo AIFF files or share your remix on SoundCloud. All loops are automatically time-stretched to fit the master tempo, so it really couldn't be any easier.

Studio Track

Studio Track is essentialy an eight-track recorder, in iPad form, meaning that budding songwriters can lay down tracks while on the fly. It's got all the usual bells and whistles that you'd expect, such as a metronome for keeping time and the ability to monitor and record playback levels. 

Audio can be imported into the app via email attachment or by dragging them into StudioTrack's file sharing area under Apps in iTunes - WAV, MP3 and AIFF file formats are supported. You'll also be able to add effects such as reverb and delay to your vocals and instruments, making recording demos an absolute piece of cake. Not bad for £13.99

iShred Live

Designed for use with the Griffin GuitarConnect cable and the Griffin StompBox, this app enables you turn your Apple tablet into a portable guitar rig. The basic offering includes a pedal board sporting a Q-36 space modulator, HK-2000 digital delay (with tap tempo) and buzz kill. You can also switch between clean and overdrive channels and there are six preset effects along with the option to create up to 48 of your own, which are split into eight colour-coded banks.The app is free to download, and you can beef up the basic offering through a selection of in-app purchases including a super fuzz pedal, variable waveform tremolo and a compressor pedal.

This is a great app for indulging in a little bit of guitar time without having to setup your full-size rig and it's worth downloading for the guitar tuner alone. There's also a four-track loop recorder on board.

REVIEW - GuitarConnect

HANDS-ON - Griffin StompBox

StompBox

Not to be confused with Griffin's StompBox iPad accessory, this app enables you to turn your Apple tablet into a digital effects unit for your guitar. Along with a guitar tuner, metronome and loop recording tools, StompBox also includes a rack of 17 stereo effects, along with seven types of distortion effect (including overdrive and fuzz). Once you've built up your own library of patches, you can switch between them using the virtual pedal.

The built-in media player enables you to load up your favourite MP3s to play along to and you can even slow them down, without changing the pitch. You'll need to attach your axe with an iRig, which will set you back about £26, while the app itself has a price tag of £13.99.

Guitarist's Reference

An invaluable point of reference for any guitarist - beginner or pro - this useful app is a one-stop shop for all your axe-related musical theory questions. There's a guitar chord encyclopedia containing over 3000 of the most commonly used chords, including easy to read diagrams, as well as a guitar scale reference with 42 scale types - major, minor, pentatonic, or diminished - they're all here. You'll also find a guide to arpeggios along with a list of the most popular alternate guitar tunings.

On top of all that, there's a reverse chord finder tool for finding out the names of the chords that you've come up with and there's also support for both left- and right-handed players. An absolute bargain at just £3.99.

What's your favourite music app for the iPad? Let us know in the comments box below.