Back in the day, those who dreamed of playing Carnegie Hall or going on international stadium tours had to start their quest by buying time at expensive recording studios to make demos. There were home-recording setups, but if you wanted something that sounded professional, you had to pay the price. Then came desktop software like ProTools that let anyone make decent recordings at home. After that, Apple launched GarageBand, a free program that shipped on every Mac, opening up music making to anyone who could afford a laptop. Now, Apple appears to be upending the recording industry again with Music Memos, a new app that lets anyone with an iPhone easily record songs wherever they are.
Apple has had a version of GarageBand available for the iPhone for a while, but it was pretty fiddly to use on such a small screen. Music Memos aims to simplify the music making process on the iPhone: You press a button to start recording, and press it again to stop. You can export your files to GarageBand to edit them more fully, or send them right to SoundCloud or YouTube if you think they’re ready for the world to hear.
Many musicians have taken to using the iPhone’s built-in Voice Memos app for recording ideas on the fly, and the new app doesn’t just recycle that app’s abilities. Music Memos can be set to listen and automatically start recording when it hears someone making music, and stop when they stop. (That should cut down on the awkward fumbling around noises everyone makes when starting and stopping recording on Voice Memos.) The app can also listen to what you’ve recorded, figure out the arrangement of the music, and automatically add in bass lines and drums to fill out the song.
The controls are simple and easy to use with fingers, and could well be a boon to any hobbyist musician who has an iPhone, but doesn’t have $1,500 to spend on a Macbook. Apple said the app works best for acoustic guitar or piano-based songs, but can be used for any music.
If your Music Memos creation needs more work, or the backing band Apple suggests for your track isn’t up to your liking, it can be exported to heavier editing tools, like GarageBand and Logic Pro. Apple also announced it’s updating GarageBand on iOS, with a new feature called Live Loops that lets anyone create electronic music without any special beat-making devices. But while GarageBand will be there for the more hardcore musicians, Music Memos is clean and simple—something that has been an issue for other recent Apple apps, like Apple Music. While Samsung has been paying musicians to appear in commercials using its phones, it seems that, like Garageband before it, Apple has just made a simple app that musicians might actually want to use.