Propellerhead Figure

July 27, 2012

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!

Snap Judgment
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 musical tools.

$0.99 |

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