If you haven’t been paying attention recently, you might think that iOS’s music-making apps mean it’s the only platform suitable for music creation. But that isn’t true—Android is catching up rapidly in this department.
Whether you’re playing an instrument, singing, or creating electronic music, Android has some fantastic apps that can help. Here’s our pick of 10 essential Android apps for musicians.
BandLab is the closest substitute Android has to a proper GarageBand alternative. It’s part DAW (digital audio workstation) and part social network where you can share your creations when they’re finished.
With BandLab, you can make your own music. You can sing straight into the app, where the AutoPitch feature will help you stay in tune, or connect your own instruments to record live. There’s a massive range of beats and loops packs to download to enhance your compositions. Or you can make your own through the more than 100 downloadable instruments.
The app is powerful and a whole lot of fun. It’s accessible even to those who have never made music before. If you’re looking for a paid alternative with a more professional edge, take a look at the excellent FL Studio.
Download: BandLab (Free)
If you want to learn how to play the latest songs, or create backing tracks to play or sing along to, Backtrackit is the app for you.
It takes the music on your phone and breaks it down in several ways. It shows you what key a song is in and which chords are played throughout. You can slow down particular sections when you’re trying to master a solo or riff. It can also remove the voice or lead instrument from a track, allowing you to replace it with your own performance.
Backtrackit is great for learning new songs, or even for just spending an evening jamming along with your favorite artists.
Download: Backtrackit (Free)
HumOn makes it possible to compose an entire piece of music merely by humming it into your phone.
Just sing into your phone, pick a genre (including rock, R&B, and classical) and the app will turn your melody into a complete composition. From there you can play with the mix and arrangement, and record vocals on top. Once done, save your masterpiece as an MP3.
There’s a serious side, too. By tapping the Score button you can see both the musical notation and chords for your tune. You can edit them and add lyrics as well. You’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version to export this as a PDF document. But as an effective way of turning ideas into actual songs, it’s well worth it.
Download: HumOn (Free, premium version available)
4. Pitched Tuner
For most musical instruments, keeping them tuned is a daily job. A manual tuner is good, but a digital one will give you a whole lot more precision.
While most tuning apps in the Play Store are geared towards specific instruments, Pitched Tuner stands out because it works with everything: strings, brass, wind, whatever.
It’s easy to use. Just play a note into your phone and the app measures it, accurate to one hundredth of a semitone. Keep tweaking your tuning until you get it spot-on. There’s also a special Instrument Tuner mode that simplifies the process of tuning stringed instruments.
Download: Pitched Tuner (Free)
5. The Metronome
The Metronome is the best way to keep time while you’re playing. It’s designed in part to work with the Soundbrenner Pulse, a vibrating metronome watch. But you don’t need one of those—the app works just fine on its own.
It’s a great-looking app, with all the features you need. You can select a time signature and dial in your required tempo, or just tap on the screen to set it manually. You’re also able to create more complex rhythm patterns using subdivisions and accents.
The app supports a song library where you can save your configurations, then combine them into a setlist for when you’re performing. You can even set the screen to flash on each beat instead of having to listen for the tones.
Download: The Metronome (Free)
6. Guitar Chords and Tabs
Providing access to an enormous database of guitar tabs for music, Guitar Chords and Tabs guarantees you’ll never be short of something to play.
The app has chords and tabs—a simplified form of musical notation for guitars—for over 800,000 pieces of music. It includes an interactive chord feature showing you the correct fingering when you need it. And if you upgrade to the Pro version, you can unlock the auto-scroll function that keeps your page of tabs moving up the screen as you play.
Each song has a lot of info to cram on screen, so Guitar Chords and Tabs is most useful on a big-screen phone or tablet.
Vocaberry is a bit like Guitar Hero for singers. You get a series of songs of varying levels of difficulty, and you must sing along with them. The app rates your pitch and timing, and scores you as you go.
But despite the gamified approach, Vocal Lessons isn’t a game. It’s a very effective app for learning to sing, or for improving your performance. In addition to the songs, you’ll find a series of vocal exercises that can warm up your voice before you go on stage. It’s packed with tips and guidance, akin to having your own singing teacher.
You can also use the app to measure your vocal range.
Download: Vocaberry (Free, premium version available)
smartChord is an absolute treasure trove for musicians. It’s mostly aimed at guitarists or those who play other stringed instruments, but there’s so much here that almost anyone will find it useful.
The app offers over 15 tools. You get information on playing chords, arpeggios, and scales. There’s a transposer so you can easily change the key of any piece of music. An ear training game helps you learn the sound of notes and chords. The songbook lets you download music for almost any song you can find online. The playground gives you a virtual guitar to practice on. There’s so much here.
All the basic functions are free, and you can add even more with a paid upgrade.
Download: smartChord (Free, premium version available)
You can mix beats, loops, effects, and samples on the fly with Remixlive. The app is easy to get started with, yet surprisingly powerful. You get over 50 sample packs included as standard, and you can buy more as you need them. There’s a built-in sample editor, and support for finger drumming.
When you’re done you can save your work in MP3 or other formats. You can also upload your recordings to SoundCloud, and there’s integration with the desktop music app Ableton Live, too.
Download: Remixlive (Free, premium version available)
10. Hi-Res Audio Recorder
Finally, here’s an app for recording your music. But what makes this one better than all the other audio recorders available for Android? Simple—plug in your headphones and you can monitor your recording as you go. It’s so useful for both music and vocals.
You do need a phone that supports low-latency, like some of the recent Samsung flagship devices. Even if you don’t have one, the app’s ability to record in high quality and export to MP3 make it worth a look.
Download: Hi-Res Audio Recorder (Free, premium version available)
Make Music With Android
Android is growing as a creative platform all the time. Once you move beyond the major music creating apps, you find some very powerful niche tools catering to a more specialist user, including pro-level DAWs like Caustic 3 and Audio Evolution Mobile.