So, you’ve found yourself in possession of a Windows 10 tablet, hybrid laptop or all-in-one with a touchscreen and are wondering what you can do with it for music. Well, first of all, congratulations on choosing a computer rather than a large phone and if you think about it for a minute you’ll realise that, actually, you can run whatever software you like.
For a Windows 10 machine you are not restricted to the Store, to Universal Apps, you can run desktop software like Pro Tools, Cubase, Reason, Ableton Live, Bitwig, Native Instruments Komplete, Arturia synths, Omnisphere and so on.
However, the Windows Store does offer some neat possibilities with all the ease of use, zero configuration and instant action that comes with other apps and other platforms. Have a look at some of the options below:
FL Studio Groove
Created by Image Line, the people behind the full fat FL Studio DAW, this is guaranteed to get you knocking out beats and tunes in no time at all. You have a 10 part drum machine and 5 synth tracks all playable via the onscreen pads or keyboard. You could also use an external MIDI keyboard if you wanted. Using step sequencing or live recording you can create pattern style loops which then can be chained together to form songs. Everything is editable, from the samples being used in the drum machine, filters on the synth engine, modulation, effects and glitch parameters. You can record automation on the fly, copy and paste between loops and mix the whole thing together into a complete song. It’s an awesome way to mess around with ideas and get some tunes down.
Music Maker Jam
This is just a load of fun. It’s not pretending to be a serious bit of compositional software but it actually has a lot going for it. It essentially gives you the stems of a premade song or style which you can then mess about with. You can mix, drop tracks in and out, change key, alter chords and play with the structure, swap out samples and loops. There’s a very pleasing and finger friendly filter which lets you make a load of gratifying sweeps. It makes for a really good time. The free version comes with 4 styles and you can add many more for a few quid each.
Many of the musical instruments found in the store can look a bit ropey and sound even worse. Fortunately Vintage Synth manages to look half decent and sound even better. With a Moog-esque interface it brings you everything you’d expect from an analogue synth. You’ve got a couple of oscillators to play with, filters, LFO and envelopes and it can produce some pretty good sounds.
I guess the first thing to say about yMIDI is that it’s not beautiful, it has a bit of a Cakewalk circa 1999 feel about it, but ascetics aside it’s really rather useful. It’s a MIDI controller in the vein of Lemur or TouchOSC providing you with a touchable interface for your DAW, either on the same or another computer – because of course you can also run your DAW on your Windows computer. You have three pages, the first gives you a piano keyboard, a row of sliders and an XY pad, the next page is a big bunch of drum pads and then the third page gives us something very interesting indeed – it’s a Mackie controller. Apparently it’s a very difficult thing to implement into a software controller and yet here it is offering all the controls you’d find on the Mackie Control hardware ready for direct connection to your DAW. It favours RTP MIDI over LAN which allows you to connect to any PC or Mac on your network for touchy feely control.
No app has demonstrated the awesomeness of the Microsoft Surface platform more than StaffPad. It’s a perfect combination of the Surface hardware, digital pen and some beautifully written scoring software. It’s a simple enough concept of using hand writing recognition technology to allow you to write notes directly onto a stave and have it recognised by the computer. The Surface becomes an amazingly intuitive and natural compositional tool. StaffPad comes with an orchestra of sounds, you can create full orchestral scores, add accents, incidentals, comments and write in expression and modulation so that the playback is as expressive as you want it to be. It takes a little bit of practice to draw notes that can be recognised but once you’re in the zone it flows with all the familiarity of paper and all the functionality of software.
If you’re still feeling hard done by by the lack of music making apps on Windows 10 when compared to the iPad then pop along to www.reddogmusic.co.uk and get yourself a copy of Native Instruments Komplete 10 Ultimate. Then you can stop messing about with little apps and make some real music.
Robin Vincent spends a lot of time messing about with music on a Microsoft Surface and he writes all about it here – www.SurfaceProAudio.com (he’s also running a prize draw where you can win a copy of StaffPad along with FL Studio 12, Bitwig Studio and Stagelight. The competition closes on the 17th December so pop along to the website for more details).
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