We love Android, but have to concede that when it comes to serious music-making apps, it’s miles behind iOS. The main reason cited for this is Android’s continuing problem of audio latency. However, Lollipop has reduced this somewhat and developers seem to be taking note, including Open Labs.
The firm’s Stagelight mobile music studio has been available for Windows PCs and phones for a while now, but recently underwent a major revamp. The Android version’s interface looks identical, right down to the odd oversight of advising you to use the keyboard if you don’t have a touchscreen! Since the app is pretty CPU-hungry, a powerful, modern device is recommended – it worked well on our 2013 Nexus 7 once we closed a few other apps.
While offering all the editing features you’d expect from a pro-style digital studio, Stagelight is designed to be easy to use. To this end, it helps beginners to get started with a series of interactive tutorials. The first of these shows you how to build a song using the DJ-style Loopbuilder, selecting various loops to play for each instrument track, or whole song parts (intro, verse and so on) to trigger an entire column.
Naturally, you can record your performance, then switch views to tweak your creation in Timeline mode. The latter is a more traditional setup with a timeline for each track, where you can then move, delete, copy and paste sections, and also split or duplicate them.
In either mode, double-tapping a section of music gives you a close-up look. Here, depending on the track type, you can alter the looping of an audio sample, edit the notes played by a virtual keyboard instrument or change a drum pattern. Alternatively, you can re-record a section using onscreen keys or drum pads, with the option of overdubbing. Extra context-sensitive options in a side panel include quantisation, tuning, sample cropping and key velocity, plus a whole host of effects – which all have their own presets and can even be applied to individual drum sounds. More impressive still, you can add ‘automations’ to a track, to control things like gain, pan and low/ high-cut filters, by moving points to shape a curve.
Effects and filters (and parameters for synth sounds) can also be altered in the mixer panel for each track, so you can adjust them easily on the fl y. Another useful feature for non-musicians is the key lock option that limits the notes available to ensure you’ll play in the correct key for the music.
When it comes to starting a new song, you can do it from scratch or use one of the genre templates.
Either way, you can create song sections by playing notes/beats or using the editor. Or, you can record audio loops or import them from files. One thing to note is that you won’t be able to save or share your creation until you’ve purchased a one-off licence (£7.81/$9.99), via buying store credits with IAP.