In the age of the internet, making music has never been so democratic. Long gone are the days of needing a proper record deal and physical tape to track a record- You can create a full song from the comfort of your laptop, PC, and most recently, tablet.
With so many options out there, it can be difficult to find the best iPad apps for music production. As you’ll soon find out, some of these apps toggle physical pieces while others work as fully independent production studios.
Here are 20 of our favorite IPad compatible production apps as well as a couple of handy tips to keep in mind when picking out a tablet optimized for music production.
Top 20 iPad Apps for Music Producers
Here are our top picks for iPad Music production apps.
Image-Line FL Studio Mobile HD
Image-Line has made a mobile version of their full DAW in order to cater to the most dedicated Fruity Loops users. Whether you’re a fan of creating on-the-go or need a place to put down ideas before sitting down at your PC, the mobile app is a fully-functional studio built to get you producing as quickly as possible.
Within the app, there are over 133 instruments, 10 effects, and up to 99 tracks. You can sample and record within the app using an iPad compatible or built-in microphone. Tracks can be exported directly within the app via standard cloud service or by email. Moreover, it’s compatible with a number of midi devices, so if you need a little more room to create, you’re able to do so externally.
Users loved FL Mobile Studio’s level of convenience and wide array of built-in instruments, however, some had issues with the app being able to handle a large number of tracks at once. That being said, it’s important to optimize your tablet hardware when shopping with music production in mind. Overall, the app is more than affordable for offering the flexibility of a completely independent DAW workstation.
GarageBand has long been a staple in the music production world. In addition to being a full-on DAW, it offers a bevy of customizable presets so even if you’re just starting out, you won’t be intimidated.
Unlike some of the other options, GarageBand allows you to seamlessly connect from Mac to mobile app: You have the option to sync data to icloud, which makes this app especially useful for musicians looking to jot down ideas even when they don’t have access to their traditional workstation.
GarageBand comes with over 100 built-in instruments and several standard audio effects including reverb and a full-spectrum EQ for basic mixing. For the musician just starting out, there’s a smart keyboard designed to help you construct melodies and plenty of loops that you can easily plug and play into each track.
This mobile app and software have been around for a while and with good reason- Users love its ability to grow with the user; It’s complex enough to entertain a professional engineer but simple enough that its user interface can be easily understood without a large initial time investment.
Best of all, GarageBand is free on any IOS device.
In some cases, this can be seen as limiting, but if you’re looking for Apple devices anyway, it’s a great tool at your disposal.
Beatmaker 3 by Intua
Beatmaker’s in-app digital audio workstation is very reminiscent of a classic MPC making it a very popular choice among electronic and techno communities. The app is centered around a virtual pad controller and a sampler.
You can easily pitch alter and time warp in the app making it a great tool for DJs. With its sequence-focused interface, the app is notably geared towards improvisation and performance unlike many of its competitors.
In terms of instruments, Beatmaker comes with a sample pack of about 600mb to get you going. From there on, you have the option to import samples of your own or make an in-app purchase in the sample store. There’s also a couple of freebie packs online by the developer.
For those looking to create electronic or sampled music, Beatmaker ends up being a great choice and helps streamline workflow at a very affordable cost. However, those looking to track vocals or create music outside of electro genres may have trouble getting used to this app’s workflow. Overall, it’s definitely a great option to test out based on its sampling capabilities alone.
Medly by Music Maker
Unlike some of the other apps, Medly is completely free! This app offers access to music production for anyone and everyone. With 16 free instruments to start, you’re able to create beats with up to 8 tracks. You also have the option to purchase additional presets within the app for more versatility.
Medly is an excellent DAW for those who want to make music on-the-go. There’s no desktop equivalent of Medly, but the app developers optimize the interface according to your mobile device, so there’s no hassle if you want to switch from your iPad to iPhone, or even your Apple watch.
From Medly, you can export directly to SoundCloud, or as an audio or MIDI file. Songs can be broken down into sections for easy organization. The app links up directly with Abelton Link, making it a great place to start tracks for Abelton heads.
Many users loved how accessible this app was in terms of cost and intuitive layout. Although Medly’s simplicity limits its use for professional use, Medly offers an impressive introduction to common instruments and tools found in the audio world.
For those looking for a DAW substitute, this may not be your app, but that doesn’t mean that using Medly isn’t worth your time. If anything else, this app is a great tool to get your creative juices flowing.
Cubasis by Steinberg
Cubasis is based on Steinberg’s traditional DAW, Cubase. Although this option is relatively pricey for an app, Cubasis is powerful enough to work as a stand-alone piece of music production software.
There is no track limit for Cubasis and the app is notably able to handle up to 24 physical inputs and outputs- Mind you, wiring so many inputs to an IOS device requires a degree of skill on its own, but the flexibility is there in case you need it.
Cubasis comes with over 120 different sounds and a proper mixing panel with 17 effect processors. There is an embedded sample editor, as well as a track and sample view, so you can really get the experience of a traditional DAW at a fraction of the cost. If you’re a Cubase user, you can sync up Cubasis directly for an easy transition from tablet to PC.
Although this app may take up a good portion of your IOS devices CPU, it’s certainly worth the sacrifice, especially if you’re investing in a tablet to make music anyways. Cubasis proves to be a powerful DAW, despite being in IOS format.
Figure by PropellerHead
If you’re looking for an app to simply get you creating, Figure by PropellerHead is an excellent choice. Though simplistic, this app is a fun tool that gamifies the music-making process.
Figure was made for mobile interaction exclusively, meaning that its user interface is friendly and intuitive, with the developer’s stating the app will “help you create a beat while you wait in line for the bus”.
The app is based around three different instrument groups: drums, bass, and leads. Each of these categories can easily be altered to mix and match kits to create a sound entirely your own. Notably, the app employs wheel knobs to edit parameters like bpm and pitch in time; making any user feel like a mad musical genius.
Lead sounds and melodies can also be constructed with the stroke of a finger. The app is designed to be fun, and create bops instantaneously.
You cannot export stems easily or multi-track record through this app, which can be frustrating for users looking to transition into a professional DAW. Although this app is not a substitute for a full-on DAW, it is certainly a fun way to make music, and worth trying out considering it is free.
Audio Bus by PLY LTD
Rather than offer another compact IOS DAW-like solution, Audio Bus offers a whole other component to the iPad music production landscape. The app routes any compatible app (of which, there are over 100 different options, including many from this list) to one another, making it so you can route instruments and sounds from app to app.
This tool is essential for iPad music production, and for its capabilities, is very affordable. Moreover, if you’re looking to use external synths and controllers, Audio Bus can aid in the process, even if your production app of choice isn’t compatible on its own. If it’s on the list of compatible Audio Bus apps, the routing is possible. Bluetooth controllers and pedals can also be integrated through Audio Bus.
Although Audio Bus is not a stand-alone DAW, it serves as an essential tool for iPad creators serious about production. If you’re looking to center your production on your mobile device, Audio Bus is a must-have.
Samplr turns your iPad into a completely new instrument. Based off a traditional sampler, Samplr is designed to splice, rearrange, and alter sections of audio files in real-time. This tool is great for live performance and general creation.
The app comes with 7 different sampler arrangements and 5 different sound effects. You can load up to 6 samples simultaneously and easily alter different parameters like pitch or bpm with the swipe of a finger.
Samplr’s user interface is designed in such a way that you are able to see the transients of your audio sample clearly, which is notable, especially for an iPad app. The app’s live capabilities make it ideal for EDM producers and DJs alike, turning your IOS device into a standard controller.
Overall, customers raved about Samplr’s way to revolutionize music-making. Its intuitive design coupled with the tablet’s touch screen capability made the app very easy to use, even for beginners. Although Samplr can not be used as a substitute for a DAW, the app proves to be well worth its minimal cost and is able to manipulate samples in ways that traditional DAWs cannot.
iMPC Pro 2 by AKAI Professional
The iMPC Pro lives up to its name: It’s essentially AKAI’s classic MPC interface adapted for mobile use. iMPC acts as a fully-functional DAW combined with the unique sampler pad interface. You can use up to 64 tracks at once, each with its own set of pad banks.
Windows are resizable, so you can switch up your arrangement according to preference. This is especially helpful if you plan on using your iPad during a live performance- Traditional track arrangement can help keep you on tempo, but you still have the flexibility to quickly switch to your pad for some improvisational one-shots.
iMPC Pro comes with over 1400+ samples with your purchase. You can record directly into the software using your iPad’s microphone, or by using separate audio attachments. The app also introduces the possibility of 3D imaging, meaning that you can map certain parameters to be altered when the iPad is tilted or turned in a certain way. Exporting from the iMPC is simple, as you can upload directly to most social media sites.
Overwhelmingly, the reviews for this product were positive. Although a few customers had qualms with the exporting process, customer support was quick to respond with proposed solutions and sometimes refunds. All in all, everyone found the sounds built-in this piece to be very impressive for its affordable price.
Noir by Ruismaker
Noir acts as a funky drum-synth to add to your virtual instrument collection. Ruismaker does a great job of coming up with inventive products, and the embedded sequencer on this guy is no exception. With certain swipes, you can totally alter the parameters of the sound in no time at all.
The synth has 3 different oscillators with two different LFOs and one for white noise. It’s underground vibe definitely makes this drum synth more suited towards techno and electronic genres, but regardless it’s definitely a fun tool to play around with.
If you need more room, all Noir’s parameters can be mapped to an external monitor. This opens up the possibility to use the app as a plugin with your traditional DAW and PC.
Despite there being a bevy of included presets and sounds, Noir takes up a relatively small amount of CPU which is extremely helpful, especially since this app does not serve as a stand-alone DAW.
Noir had little to no poor feedback, but some customers wished that the plugin included panning capabilities; However, this can easily be rectified using an audio bus or external routing. Overall, Noir was well worth the affordable cost and serves as a unique synth to electronic producers.
iMaschine 2 by Native Instruments
iMaschine models Native Instrument’s popular Maschine sample pad series. The app is very friendly to beginners and builds songs off of sample and loop patterns. Although it may not be flexible enough to suit users looking for a DAW substitute, this app is a fun tool to play around with packed with Native Instrument’s signature, organic sample packs.
If you have a traditional Maschine controller, this app is its perfect accomplice: You can easily export tracks to Maschine sample format for an easy transition from physical to virtual piece.
The app has a pad sampler with an impressive built-in library. There is also midi support integrated into the app’s built-in keyboard.
Price-wise, iMaschine is relatively inexpensive. It will not replace a DAW however and should be treated as an additional instrument rather than stand-alone software. If you’re not a Maschine user, this may not be the app for you as the developers designed it with its parent software in mind. All in all, if you’re looking for a virtual pad sampler to play around with, this is a great pick.
Music comes with a lot of components outside of music, and SongSpace gets that. This cloud storage space is designed to keep all of your release related documents in one place, so you can easily access your files whether you’re on your PC or tablet.
SongSpace is free, which makes it a perfect solution to test out, even if you’re not sure upfront about committing to it. Essentially, the app organizes your data, from album art to lyrics and audio files, and compiles them by mood, theme, or any configuration you can think of.
The app appears to be especially useful for bands, who need to keep track of songwriting credits pretty meticulously. SongSpace also allows you to send audio files for streaming without allowing the listener to download, making it a perfect tool in the preparation of your release.
A couple of users found the interface to be a bit tricky to figure out at first, but overall, producers and songwriters alike found great success with this app, making it well worth the initial time investment.
Gadget by KORG
Korg is known for making high-quality instruments, and Gadget is no exception. This interface harbors 40 different electronic instruments called “Gadgets” which you can mix and match to create varied track arrangements.
This app is focused almost entirely around its bevy of high-quality virtual instruments. If nothing else, Gadget can certainly be used as a powerful plugin collection to integrate into your music production.
Many of the virtual instruments have an analog arrangement view, to give you a sense of what sound crafting would look like on a physical piece. Outside of pleasing aesthetics, this feature can serve as a teaching tool that can help bridge the gap between producers more accustomed to digital production.
Each gadget has its own theme complete with swanky names like the “Chicago” (a tube bass) or “Kingston” (a retro synth). Not to mention, this can be used as a fully-fledged DAW: Patterns from the various gadgets can be arranged and mixed all within the app. Users absolutely loved KORG’s Gadget, and for all of the included instruments, the relatively pricier app was worth it!
ChordPolyPad by Laurent Colson
ChordPolyPad is one of the best tools around to get your creative juices flowing. If you’re new to music and want to create, the app serves as a perfect introduction to basic and complex chord structures to get you playing in no time.
The ChordPolyPad is broken down into two main components: The launch/sample pad, and the MIDI-compatible virtual keyboard. The app allows you to import chord patterns into the sample pad so that you can play them and test out different combinations as if they were one-shot hits. In addition, the MIDI keyboard serves as a bus that can be used to take sounds from other apps or external hardware.
One of the best parts of the app is the chord randomizer, that gives you a random pattern of chords for you to start building off of; Take that, writer’s block! The app is pretty affordable, and users loved its simplistic design and found it to be very useful in keeping their creation process on track. However, this app is mainly limited to key and lead type sounds, so if you’re looking for something more, it may not be the best fit.
N-Track Studio DAW 9
If you’re looking for another portable DAW, N-Track Studio is a great option. The software is geared towards audio professionals and comes with a bunch of stock plugins to help you craft a perfect mix.
N-Track Studio DAW may be best suited for musicians creating acoustic or more live-sounding recordings. The DAW comes with a couple of plugins made to act as middlemen between your guitar input and device, along with some vocal tuners and live-sounding drum kits.
You can have an unlimited amount of tracks and edit MIDI within N-Track. There’s also a sequencer and piano roll if you’re looking to create more electronic type music. If the built-in instruments don’t satisfy your cravings, there’s also an online store of which you can purchase online bundles from.
Notably, N-Track also has a powerful bus feature, so importing audio from outside the app is no hassle at all. User’s loved N-Track’s simplicity and found it to be a great introductory DAW, but some more experienced producers wished that there were more stock instruments in plugins. Luckily, N-Track Studio is one of the few DAWs that offers an affordable monthly subscription service as opposed to a one-time fee, so you might as well try this one out as you can always back out if it doesn’t work for you.
Filtratron by Moog
Moog is known for its revolutionary synths and filtration is a digital copy of the standard Moog effects panel. This audio effects hub allows you to route sounds in real-time, making it a great tool for live performance.
Filtration has a built-in oscillator and a number of presets to get you to that dense, impressive Moog signature sound. It’s broken down into six main sections: Levels, VCF (Sweeping Envelopes, LFO, Mix, Amp, and Delay.
Within each of these sections, there are a couple of knobs resembling those on the physical synth for easy modulation. Filtration is compatible with audiobus, so you can definitely use this guy with your other apps and external instruments.
Overall, the app is pretty inexpensive for all the possibilities it offers, and this comes through in the user reviews. A couple of customers wish that the app had direct midi support, however, so make sure you have the bussing to support this app.
iELECTRIBE by KORG
iELECTRIBE is KORG’s mobile solution for fans of the hardware beat creator, the KORG ELECTRIBE. This “virtual analog beatbox” is full of retro sounds to give your beats that vintage touch.
The app is broken down into 8 different instrument types, with 4 different synthesizers and 4 different percussive synths. iELECTRIBE notably has 8 different built-in effects including the KORG signature Decimator and Talking Modulator.
Although this app is not a substitute for a DAW, it has an impressive 64 step sequencer for you to test out a bevy of different pattern combinations. The sequence c be set in swung anywhere between the 20-300bpm range, so you’re not limited by tempo by any means.
As for bussing, if you have Apple’s camera connection kit, you’re able to connect midi hardware directly into the synth. iELECTRIBE also allows you to export directly to SoundCloud.
Users loved iELECTRIBE’s presets to be fun and inspiring, but found the app to be a little pricey and clunky for professional use. Regardless, if you’re a KORG fan looking for some classic drum machine sounds, the iELECTRIBE is a great place to start.
iMini by Arturia
The iMini is based on Moog’s famous MiniMoog Model D created in 1971. For a hardware synth retailing for more than $3000, the iMini is a fantastic inexpensive virtual substitute.
The virtual synth impressively packs in over 500 different sounds. iMini offers full MIDI support, so you’re able to connect external hardware or even a PC DAW and use your tablet as a plugin hub.
The synth has 3 different oscillators, and the direct appearance of a hardware piece so you can get a small window into analog production just by using the app. There are a ton of factory presets so if you don’t know where to start, you can still start creating.
For the added retro feel, Arturia included a chorus and analog delay to layer your sounds with. In respect to the original creators, every purchase donates a portion of revenue to the Moog Foundation.
Overall, users found the app to be an impressive simulation of the Mini Moog Model D. However, audio bussing directly from the app wasn’t always the most reliable, so if you’re going to use the iMini, make sure you have an additional audio bus. Regardless, the iMini is a great instrument at an affordable price point.
MV08 by James Milton
MV08 is a sleek drum machine that replicates the sounds of the classic Roland TR-808. It can be used on tablets and phones, so you’re definitely able to take this one wherever you go.
This app comes with over 200 sounds to get you cracking. The iPad interface expands to show a frequency visualizer, so you can see exactly where your drums are hitting. The central pads also include a randomizer making it a great instrument for inspiration.
Within the app, there are also 4 different standard effect panels including EQ, distortion, reverb, and delay. You can record MIDI input directly into the app and export audio as a wav or m4a file.
Users found this app to be super worth the minimal cost and a great addition to their tablet production arsenal. Some users found the embedded effects to be a bit clunky, so it might be worth using this app in conjunction with an external effects panel.
Chordana Composer by CASIO
If you’re looking for a way to easily score your music and melodies, Chordana is the place to be. This app works to translate your music to paper so that you can share your compositions with confidence.
You can add up to 3 melodies or motifs within this app. Once you’ve finished recording your melodies on the embedded piano, you can view the played notes on the staff or as actual note names. With these features alone, Chordana is a great teaching and learning tool.
Files can be airdropped in between phones for easy composition sharing. If you make a mistake while recording your melody lines, you can go back and make edits.
Although this app received some criticism for being laggy or even sometimes crashing, it posses a thoughtful solution for those looking to score. This app may need a bit more work in development, but in time it is sure to be a great asset to the learning and teaching community.
iPad Specs necessary for Music Production
All of these tablet tools are equally fun as they are productive, but without a proper console to run them on, many of them lag or fall short. To prevent this, make sure you’re picking out an iPad that best suits your production needs.
Here are a couple of quick tips for selecting a proper tablet model as well as a couple of specifications we recommend specifically for music production.
Four Factors to consider when picking out an iPad:
CPU refers to the central processing unit of your device and essentially acts as the power behind your computer. Therefore, any device used to produce music should have a considerable level of CPU to run data-heavy synthesizers and plugins. In general, the faster, the better. Apple’s processing cards are labeled simply by “A” following a number. The higher the number, the faster the processor.
If your tablet is your DAW, you’re going to want a lot of disk space to harbor your samples and audio files. As a general rule never settle for any tablet less than 32GB, it won’t be able to handle even minimal levels of production.
Age of Device
In general, the newer the device, the better. Many of the integrated apps update along with your iOS system, so if you have a more recent device, it’s more likely that your tablet will be able to handle your production.
Whenever you produce, it’s always a good idea to back up files. If you’re able to, invest in a cloud service. Not only will this prevent you from losing your files should something go wrong, but you’re also able to seamlessly transition from the IOS device to Mac during your creative process.
iPad Music Production Buying Guide 2020
Whether you have money to spend or a smaller budget, Apple will be releasing a number of new iPads this fall, each with its own price point. Here’s what we recommend.
Large Budget: iPad Pro (2020)
This guy can full-on replace a computer with its minimum 64GB onset storage and A12X processor. If you’re looking for the best music production iPad on the market today, this is the pick.
Medium Budget: iPad Air (2020)
This lightweight slightly smaller iPad still performs very well with its A12 processor and 64GB storage. Plus, this option is ultra-portable for on-the-go recording.
Modest Budget: iPad 10.2 inch (2020)
The 2020 entry-level iPad still has an A10 processor and a 32GB minimum of storage. If you’re looking to produce on a budget, the classic iPad still holds its ground.
If none of these options are available to you, feel free to look around at used and refurbished options; As long as your iPad of choice has a fairly modern processor and a good level of disk space, you should be set to start creating.
Tablet music production is only set to improve as time goes on making getting a jump start on it a great use of your time. Have you tried out any of these apps with success? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!