by Francis Preve
TALK ABOUT VIRAL. WHEN PROPELLERHEAD REVEALED THEIR LATEST iOS APP,
Figure, it seemed like every tech blog on the Internet caught fire. Based on buzz
alone, it looked like Propellerhead had cracked the code for bringing electronic
groove production to the masses.
While Figure is designed for iPhone, it’s of course
compatible with the iPad. In fact, it’s better on
the iPad because you have lots more room for gestures.
Every Figure groove is exactly two bars long,
with a little progress bar at the top of the screen
to let you know where you are. You have three
tracks—drums, bass, and lead—each of which
you can customize and play in real time.
Creating your own drum track is super-intuitive,
even if you’ve never touched a drum machine. Once
you’ve selected a kit from the 15 or so acoustic
and electronic options, you have four drums: kick,
snare, top part (shakes, hi-hats), and a percussion
element. Each drum has a circle at the top of its
lane; dragging on it changes the number of hits
in the pattern. Even with odd amounts, hits are
always rhythmically correct. You record the drum
by running your finger along its vertical lane, which
morphs the sound and/or volume.
The bass and lead tracks work similarly.
There are two panels for each instrument: Pattern and Tweaks. Pattern lets you play a
riff using one of ten rhythms, ranging from
simple to complex. Dragging over the X/Y pad
plays different notes, you can set the number
of notes in the scale, and it’s impossible to
hit a “wrong” note. Holding and sliding your
finger lets you play continuous riffs, whereas
tapping different areas gives you more control
over spaces (rests) in your groove.
The Tweaks panel accesses two or three different
X/Y pads, each appropriate to whichever
instrument is up. Examples: The “Analogsq” bass
includes a filter pad (cutoff and resonance) and a
“Tweak Me!” pad for bounce and pulse width. The
“Pearl Lead” synth includes three pads: filters,
flutter (an LFO effect), and delay.
Globally, you can add shuffle, adjust tempo,
change key (even after you’ve recorded your groove),
and even add pumping compression to the final mix.
What you can’t do is save your composition or export
audio. If you quit Figure and restart it, you can pick
up where you left off , but to get audio from Figure to
your DAW, your only option is to record in real time
from your iOS device’s output. But all this instant
groove-making fun for a buck? Go Figure!
PROS Requires zero musical
skill to make cool grooves.
X/Y pad interface for melodies
and twweaking. Great collection
of Reason-based synths
and effects. Only a buck.
CONS Musical doodles can’t
be saved or exported.
BOTTOM LINE A tantalizing
glimpse into the future of touchscreen
$0.99 | propellerheads.se