Music matters to Apple. You certainly can’t doubt the commitment of a company that makes everything from Logic Pro to Beats headphones to the iPod shuffle.
This week, Apple debuts two software initiatives to serve music creators. An update to GarageBand that emphasizes loop-based song creation gives everyone the ability to become a sampling, mixing producer. And Music Memos lets musicians record and share ideas they’re working on.
Music Memos is dead simple, light on features, and super easy to use. You tap on the screen to start recording and the app records the song or snippet as uncompressed audio. It susses out the chords and tempo and displays simple notation. You can attach lyrics or add an automated drum or bass line. Then you save it or share it. Simple!
Apple created the app in response to a trend it saw in the music industry. You’ve noticed it, too, if you’ve ever heard “I Wish You Would (Voice Memo)”, the 18th track on the deluxe edition of Taylor Swift’s album 1989. Which you have, obviously. In it, Swift explains how she and co-writer Jack Antonoff wrote one of the singles on her record-shattering album. Basically, she took out her iPhone, fired up the Voice Memos app, and played the demo. It’s lo-fi and the mix is all wrong, but it is unmistakably “I Wish You Would.” “Do you like it?” she shouts into the phone at the end of the verse, and the memo ends.
This is how music often is written now: across the world, in bits and pieces, often beginning with a voice memo or a snippet of a song you heard in a coffeeshop somewhere. Swift has talked about the hundreds of snippets on her phone. Eric Clapton once lamented that he constantly loses memos, an impressive feat given that they automatically sync to iTunes. Indie band Years and Years has a song it called “Memo” because it started with a chord progression in a voice memo. Wolfmother, REM, Charlie Puth, Grouplove, My Morning Jacket, TV On The Radio, and dozens of others have credited the app as part of their creative process. (And those are just the ones that told Rolling Stone about it.)
The app borrows from GarageBand tech to help you make your demo into a song without really having to dive in. You can add and customize one of GarageBand’s “smart drummers” or drop in a bass line to give the track a little more oomph. You can share it via email or message (or, the company hopes, to Apple Music Connect), or import it into GarageBand or Logic Pro to start the real work. Or don’t! This kind of raw, one-shot recording has become a new genre of music in the Vine and YouTube era, and Music Memos should make everything a little better without much more effort.