Though I imagine this won’t surprise anyone considering that in my other life I blog extensively about nerdy rap, I am going to go ahead and drop a confession on you — I’m a fan of hip-hop. But as much as I enjoy its strong lyrical tradition I am equally enamored with its producers, its DJs, its beat makers.
I’ve long admired the men and women who cobble together the instrumental backings that make rap such an iconic musical force, and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at it. Unfortunately I seem to lack the requisite artist’s ear. It’s a hindrance that I’ve accepted, but a recent acquisition has helped me overcome this peculiar musical infirmity.
GrooveMaker Cool & Dre, named after the influential Miami hip-hop production duo, turns your iOS device of choice into a mini studio stocked with exactly the kinds of loops needed to pull together distinctly noteworthy beats. From wet bass lines and 808s to punctuating vocal runs and eerie percussion fills, it offers up a smorgasbord of sounds, and then it ups the ante by making it damn-near impossible to mess up the mix.
GrooveMaker boasts a huge library of loops and samples, which for simplicity’s sake is divided among a series of four “songs.” (An additional fifth song is unlocked when you register your user account.) These songs are little more than dedicated sound sets delineated by style and tone, but they go a long way toward simplifying the creative process by providing you with a solid sonic palette from which to draw.
Dedicated beastsmiths will be pleased to know that GrooveMaker allows you to jump directly into these songs and begin assigning loops to eight individual tracks without restrictions or hand-holding. The rest of us, however, will appreciate the apps’ Random Mix option.
With a single gesture GrooveMaker populates five tracks with appropriate loops to get you started. From that point you can easily fine tune these base loops, replace them manually or flesh out the titular Groove using additional tracks. You can also instantly change the feel of the piece by tapping on the prominent Mild, Percussive or Instrumental buttons, which nudge the Groove into slightly new directions without altering tempo or pitch.
The Loops button toggles between the Random Mix interface and the Loop Library, allowing users to adjust the mix loop-by-loop or switch to another random configuration. Likewise the Track buttons display the waveform for each individual loop, as well as things like volume level and pan control. Solo and Mute options let you showcase or eliminate a loop as you see fit, and tempo is masterfully controlled by touch — tap three times to set a manual tempo, or hold the button to bring up a radial control.
The Groove Snap function allows you to quick-save these movements, and multiple Grooves can be arranged using the Sequence pad to create properly dynamic beats. These can then be exported wirelessly as WAV files, which in turn can be imported into your audio editor of choice to be further mixing, mastering and amending as you see fit.
The beauty of GrooveMaker Cool & Dre is that it affords as much control as the individual user needs. Producers looking to experiment on the fly can break Grooves down track-by-track and loop-by-loop to find exactly the sound they’re looking for. Yet GrooveMaker still affords novices like me the opportunity craft and edit beats easily, content in the knowledge that any changes we make using the intuitive real-time interface will be seamlessly assimilated into the mix thanks to the auto-sync feature.
My iDevice is practically littered with music creation apps, from virtual Moogs and Theremins to retro-style 8–bit sequencers, but no application has ever made me feel more like a legitimate, competent electronic musician than GrooveMaker Cool & Dre. From gritty southern hip-hop to trippy, minimalist dub, GrooveMaker encouraged me to seek out and assemble new and exciting soundscapes by rewarding my experimentation.
While one could likely spend weeks investigating its interface and fine-tuning its user-generated (and randomly-created) Grooves, practically anyone can grasp the basics of the app by simply walking through its three-minute tutorial. In fact, the only real barrier to entrance is price.
At $7.99, the iPhone version is a bit on the pricey side, especially compared to its big brother on the iPad that weighs in at a mere $2 more. Still, if you’re in the market for a robust, enjoyable on-the-go music-making tool, it’s hard to beat. It’s also the most recent in the growing GrooveMaker line now 13 applications strong, so even if the Cool & Dre flavor isn’t your thing there are a number of other styles and genres to choose from.
WIRED: intuitive interface with a forgiving learning curve, liberating random mix feature, easy export options
TIRED: should be priced more competitively
Review materials provided by: IK Multimedia