How to use Apple Music Memos

Apple’s new Music Memos app lets you capture song ideas when inspiration hits, add instruments and more. Here’s how.

Apple surprised us with an all-new app on 20 January, well ahead of its WWDC 2016 developer conference expected in June, which is where we’d normally see new iOS features and apps like this one. Music Memo is an app designed to help musicians and songwriters capture ideas when inspiration hits. Here, we talk you through Music Memos’ features.

How to use Music Memos: Compatibility

Music Memos requires iOS 9.1 or later, and you’ll need to own an iPhone, iPad 3 or later, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, iPod touch or iPad Pro or later.

If your device is compatible with Music Memos, you’ll first need to download the app, which you can do for free from the iOS App Store here.

Read on to find out how to use Music Memos once you’ve downloaded it to your device.

To begin recording with Music Memos, simply open the app and tap the blue circle in the centre of the screen. That circle will turn red and Music Memos will then capture everything you sing or play until you tap the circle again.

You’ll now have a recording called ‘My Idea,’ which will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can tap the name to rename it.

Tap the tag icon in the bottom left corner to add tags that’ll help you when you want to use the ideas later.You could use the tags Riff, Chorus, Verse or Vocal Melody for example, and when you search for that tag you’ll see only relevant clips.

You can also rate your clip by tapping the stars on the right hand side of the app. This will help you find your favourites later.

Music Memos gets really impressive when you start adding automatic instruments into your clip. Simply tap the guitar icon at the bottom of the screen to add a bassline that uses the basic tune of your recording and tap the drumkit to add a beat that matches the tempo.

You can add just a bassline, just drums or both, whichever you prefer. Or of course neither.

Tap the play icon to listen to the results. Sometimes they’re fantastic and sometimes they’re a bit off, but there is a way to edit that.

If you think that Music Memos has got the wrong chord you can tap the chord in question to open the Details view. There, tap the chord along the options bar and then tap on the chord you wish to edit.

You’ll then get a selection of chords Apple thinks will work, but tap custom to choose any chord if Apple’s suggestions are wrong.

You can then preview them to see whether it sounds better.

You can also edit the tempo, signature and downbeat by tapping the signature in that same options bar.

Further still, you can change the sound of the bassline and drums by tapping and holding on either icon when you’re in the Details screen (accessible by tapping the icon in the centre at the top of the record screen).

You can choose between Electric and Upright Bass, and you can move the blue dot around the square to make the bassline simpler or more complex, louder or quieter.

For drums, you can choose a modern or vintage kit, change the complexity and volume, and tweak the drums and symbols.

In that same options bar, you can tap the square icon with circular offshoots to trim clips. You’ll get movable red bars at the beginning and end of your clip that you can reposition. Once you’re happy that you only need the portion between the two red bars, tap trim at the bottom of the screen.

If you want to sit Music Memos to one side in a room and just sing or play when inspiration hits you, try turning on Auto mode. This will mean that recording will only start when Music Memos detects that you’re playing, and it’ll stop when you stop. It can record multiple clips so you won’t need to revisit the app if you stop and start several times. It’s handy, because it’ll mean you haven’t got to sift through minutes of silence to find the clips you’re looking for.

We’d recommend a little practice run here though. We found that from time to time the app wouldn’t detect that music was playing until just a bit too late so it’s worth getting to know the feature before you trust it to record a 15 minute long inspiration session.

How to use Music Memos: Tuner

Music Memos has a built in Tuner, too. Tap the Tuner icon in the top right corner of the app and sing or play a note to find out what that note is.

If you’ve got a clip that you’re particularly happy with and you want to take it further, you can share it by tapping the square icon with an arrow. That will bring up the share menu with options including GarageBand, iTunes and iCloud Drive.

 You can also turn on iCloud for Music Memos to keep them synced across your devices. To do so go into the Settings menu on your iPhone or iPad and tap scroll down to Music Memos, and then turn the iCloud slider on (it’ll appear green).

Read next: 20 best iPhone tricks you didn’t know existed.

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