iPad Music Making Apps: Classics For a Reason – pt. 2

Samplr is a creative performance looping sampler that can take 6 separate channels of sounds that you either load in, or record directly in to the app, enabling the user to creatively manipulate the sounds to come up with some fantastic ideas and gestural performances that can be extremely useful for idea making, and even to a small extent live use if you’re feeling brave.

Marcos Alonso – the creator of Samplr, was part of the Reactable team – the music table made famous by Bjork (review on the Reactable iPad app to come!) He’s now bogged off to Apple.

Samplr is a very good looking app – some would say inspired by the simple lines of Teenage engineering’s OP-1 synth. Bright colors on a dark background, filling the iPad window, but not feeling cluttered. Upon opening the app – there’s a simple and useful tutorial that points out all the elements of the app, and how to use them.

There are 8 different ways of interacting with the samples, which you can switch between by simply selecting from the bank:

Loop Player

Here’s a video of the different play modes in Samplr

They’re all very intuitive and self explanatory; All providing slightly different ways of interacting with the samples. For example Slicer splits the samples into slices, and by tapping on any slice you can play it. Looper plays fragments of the sample between two placed fingers. E bow will play small elements of the sample around your fingers as you place them. And so on. In terms of utilizing the multimode capabilities of the iPad – for sound manipulation, this one’s hard to beat. The characteristics of each method reflect very differently on different samples, and you can get really beautiful sounds with not much effort.

Once you’ve got some sweet samples loaded up, it’s easy to set anchor points for each sample, loop them – record yourself playing the samples, by using any of the playback methods and loop that performance, quantize and tune your actions etc. As mentioned before, there are 6 tracks to really build song ideas on.

This would be enough for a really good scratch pad for your song ideas. But it goes further:

There are 6 effects on each track, and a master effects window. Reverb, comp, delay, distortion, all the usual suspects. All good quality, and in an X/Y window that affects 2 parameters per effect (delay time and feedback for example) One wish I would have is that you could record your movements on the effects window. That would add more dimension to the effects in samplr.


In terms of audio integration, Samplr is simple and useful. You can record directly through the microphone input, Audiobus integration means tight connections with other instruments on the iPad. There’s dropbox support for up and downloading samples. And you can do it the old way of adding samples to the iTunes app on the computer and syncing.

This is my goto tool for inspiration when I’m traveling. I either load up prerecorded sounds that I’ve already saved in the software, or record them live using the inbuilt mic access, or audio copying from another app such as DM1 or Animoog. The immediate satisfaction of this program is unparalleled in my opinion on iOS. There isn’t anything else out there that can compete with Samplr for creative idea making. The GUI is beautiful and clearly laid out with thin, colorful idents that show exactly what’s going on all the time. The only downside I could find is that it’s not really solid in terms of midi sync. Slaving to an external clock causes a few minor issues. I would hesitate to use this in live settings that are any more than fun times. The only other comment I would add to my wishlist for this app would be the ability to record effects with gestures, to create a bit of movement within the effects themselves. But as a scratchpad, for coming up with ideas on the road – this is definitely my number one app in terms of solid creative potential.


…This is my goto tool for inspiration when I’m traveling…

Product page


  • Very very intuitive. The immediacy is very welcoming An absolute dream to create really fun music on.


  • Support for app seems to be dwindling
  • Midi sync issues



Borderlands granular is an award winning sample playback app, that focuses on granular sampling. It’s a simpler app than Samplr to find your way around – more of a one trick pony. Yet what a beautiful pony it is. I think this, alongside Samplr is the best looking music app out in the iOSphere at this point in time. It’s a wonder to look at.

Most of the Ipad screen is your canvas, Thin ghostlike resizeable waveforms drop on as you load them. A double tap of your fingers and you start creating beautiful grain cloud musical ambience. If you’re into ambient electronica, I’d say this app should be an essential element of your recording setup.

Borderlands comes with 4 sounds as standard, and it’s possible through adding sounds to the app on iTunes and syncing, to upload your own sounds. However, it’s a bit of a pain in the arse, and there has been plenty of grumbling, and confusion about this in the user group.

Upon double tapping anywhere on the resizable audio waveforms the cloud point is created. Another double tap, and you can tweak various parameters of that point, such as number of grains, duration of grains, lfo modulation etc. As you play the sounds, you can record your performance, and upload to soundcloud.

Here’s a video of borderlands in action, as played by its creator, Chris Carlson.

This is a very simple app – you can’t really make much more than soundscapes with it, but within that narrow field, you can really create beautiful ambient textures. Borderlands is an exceptional app. There’s promises of a large update coming, but the creator Chris Carlson seems like a very busy chap, and this promised update has already been over a year coming. Hopefully the update will address the one area that the app falls down – the connectivity with the outside world. There’s no audio bus support, and the method of getting audio files into the app is annoying at best. Dropbox support would enable a lot faster import and export of files. More options than soundcloud would be welcomed too. But, the sounds you can create! The immediacy of interacting with audio waveforms, and picking out the area you want to sample directly with your finger is just so inspiring! I really hope the next update is soon in coming – because it could really turn this app into a killer music creation machine.


…The immediacy of interacting with audio waveforms, and picking out the area you want to sample directly with your finger is just so inspiring!…

Product page


  • Beautiful sound. Again, very engaging, simple and intuitive


  • Outside connectivity very very limited, but huge improvements promised with upcoming update

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