Two Free iPhone Music Apps (and one cheap one!)

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At another site for which I used to write and edit, I published an article about three cool free iPhone music instrument apps. Well, all three are still available; two of them are still free, and the other one is cheap. All three are worth checking out.

Here is the article:

The release of the iPhone and iPod Touch spawned a cornucopia of applications that do almost anything – including making music. The iPhone’s innovative multitouch interface is perfectly suited to control virtual instrument software. The App Store carries a number of interesting musical applications, and three of the best are available for free (well, at least two of them in 2013).

Writing Music With Your Finger Using TonePad

TonePad is a fascinating and extremely easy to use music sequencer application. Writing music only requires a simple finger swipe across the on-screen matrix of small dots representing time from left to right, and pitch from top to bottom. The sequence plays continuously as changes are made, creating an almost minimalist feel to the real-time composition.

There is no control of TonePad’s synth tone. It’s a simple bell-like sound with delay that also adds to the application’s “Steve Reich meets Phillip Glass” atmosphere. In fact, that limitation puts the focus on writing an interesting sequence as supposed to sonic manipulation.

Sequences can be saved and loaded and the current sequence is automatically saved in case the user accidentally closes the application. TonePad is simply an amazing application and definitely worthy of a download.

Twanging on Steel Guitar

Fledgling pedal steel players looking to get their twang on need look no further than Steel Guitar. This free iPhone application does a reasonable job of simulating a host of slide guitars from a six-string lap steel all the way to a ten-string “Nashville” pedal steel. The user simply controls the slide with one thumb and strums or plucks the strings with their other thumb.

Steel Guitar provides good amount of tonal control featuring chorus and reverb effects along with a linear distortion control with four settings. By cranking up the reverb and its feedback setting, it was possible to get something close to the massive pedal steel sound of Yes guitarist, Steve Howe.

Steel Guitar iPhone

Get out your inner Steve Howe with Steel Guitar for the iPhone. Copyright Yonac Inc.

The iPhone’s accelerometer is effectively used as a volume pedal and can even be configured to bend strings. Additional settings control the fretboard dimensions, allowing for more of the guitar to appear on the iPhone screen which is necessary since the interface to scroll the fretboard is a bit difficult to use while playing. Steel Guitar is another highly recommended free App Store download.


Ukulele is a simple, yet elegant virtual instrument, featuring four strings that are strummed while eight buttons are used to switch between chords. The sound quality is bright and clear, even using the iPhone’s internal speaker.

User settings control which chords are mapped to the buttons allowing different chord sets to be used for different songs. Additional settings allow both the strings to be oriented in different ways, and the swapping of the chord buttons with a fretboard. Ukulele is another free App Store application just waiting to be downloaded.

While free at the time of the original article, Ukulele is now 0.99 at the App Store; it is still a worthy download at that price.

The Perfect Price

The multitouch interface opened a new world of virtual instrument control to both application developers and users. These three applications are excellent examples of the innovation possible with today’s software. And they come at a perfect price.

Any iPhone owner with an interest in music should put these free downloads at the top of their App Store shopping list.

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