First the bad news: despite having a huge installed user base, when it comes to music making apps, Android remains very much the poor relation to Apple’s iOS.
This isn’t because developers don’t want to release apps for Google’s mobile OS, rather that various problems - notably high audio latency and the fact that there are numerous devices and different versions of Android in circulation - have prevented them from doing so.
However, all is not lost. Sonoma Wire Works recently announced that it’s developed a low latency audio solution for Android (though time will tell if device manufacturers will implement this into their products) and more companies seem to be taking a second look at the platform.
What’s more, there are Android music making apps on the market right now: what follows is a guide to some of the best ones available (they’re listed in no particular order, by the way).
If you’re got other favourites that you think deserve to be on this list, let us know about them.
Image-Line FL Studio Mobile
In terms of look and feel this is very similar to the iOS version of FL Studio Mobile, which itself is derived from Xewton's Music Studio. It's a self-contained music production platform that enables you to create projects using a selection of built-in sounds (there's no audio recording option).
These lean towards the electronic and, once you've got used to the way the sequencer works, getting a song together is relatively straightforward. the workflow in general is smooth, and the interface looks pretty slick.
Wizdom Music MorphWiz-Play
This slimmed-down version of iOS app MorphWiz gives you 30 Jordan Rudess-designed presets, plus an easy-to-play interface that means that you’ll be making great sounds on your Android device in no time.
Des Pudels Kern GmbH Audiotool Sketch
This Android version of online music workstation audiotool enables you to make music using a synth and drum machines, all of which are inspired by classic gear from Roland.
The downside is that it’s primarily designed for tablets - it only works with a few phones.
Single Cell Software Caustic 2
Long regarded as one of the best Android music making apps on the market, Caustic is a mini studio that provides you with virtual analogue, PCM and bassline synths, a sampling drum machine, effects, a mixer and a sequencer. Depending on your device, you can even plug in a USB MIDI controller.
Buying the unlock key enables you to - among other things - save and export your songs.
Mikrosonic SPC - Music Sketchpad 2
A pad-based music making environment that enables you to sample, sequence and program beats on your Android device.
You can use the built-in sounds and loops or import/record your own, and the app’s design means that it’s great for jamming ideas around in real-time.
Mikrosonic RD3 - Groovebox
This is the sister app to SPC - Music Sketchpad, which can import RD3 loops. It features a 303-style synth and drum machine that emulates several classic hardware models (including the 909, 808 and 606). You can create tracks via the real-time step sequencer.
If you’ve got a more powerful phone check out RD3 HD which is available for £3.99.
Oliver Wittchow nanoloop
Purists will insist that it has to be used on the Game Boy, but nanoloop is also available to Android users.
It’s a step sequencer-based app that lets you work with six channels, each of which can be either a synth or a sampler. You can use up to eight patterns and two instruments per channel. You can load samples from an SD card, re-sample and make use of the FM/noise/PWM synth.
Alexander Zolotov SunVox
With its old-school tracker interface SunVox might not look particularly enticing, but it’s certainly powerful.
Its modular design enables you to work with a variety of sound generators, and there are also effects and a sampling option. If you want to go a little deeper with your Android music making, look no further.
Christopher Souvey Musical Pro
With a metronome, pitch pipe, virtual piano, keyboards, drums and a tuner thrown in for good measure, Musical Pro has a little bit of everything.
It’s not really a focused offering, then, but if want a fun ‘all-rounder’ virtual instrument app then it’s definitely worth considering.
Samalyse TapeMachine Recorder
A simple audio recording app with basic editing features is a must for capturing interesting sounds or making quick recordings.
TapeMachine fits the bill perfectly. Cheap, cheerful and effective, it’s ideal for recording and editing samples when you’re out and about.
Niko Twenty ReLoop Loop Sequencer
If you want to sequence loops when you’re on the go, here’s a solution. Additional loops can be downloaded for free in ReLoop Paks, and you can also import your own.
Each track offers three insert effects; mixer and effect levels can be automated; loops can be sliced and rearranged; and one-shot samples can be pitched.
Pedrocorp Robotic Guitarist
Turn your Android device into a guitar. You can choose to strum it without having to know where you fingers should go, or make the app sound like a variety of other instruments.
Robotic Guitarist can also be used as a chord guide, tuner and metronome.
Adam Smith Ethereal Dialpad
This cool abstract synth allows you to pick from Flat, Draw, Swarm or Grid modes and draw patterns on the screen to play sounds.
Synth options include pitch quantisation along with basic delay and flanger effects. Plug-ins enable you to expand the app with cool features such as gravitational sensor control.
Chris Wolfe Jasuto
Jasuto enables you to build synths from a set of components called Nodes - connect them together in any way you like.
Jasuto is a fantastic modular mobile environment - just be aware that you’ll need a powerful Android phone in order to run it.
Peter Eastman Etherophone
It’s an unwritten rule of smartphones that every touchscreen deserves a Theremin app, and Etherophone is our pick of the bunch for Android.
Adjustable range and register settings, basic envelope options and cool sliders for adjusting the harmonic content of the sound make this unassuming free app a must-have.
Niko Twenty Electrum Drum Machine/Sampler
This simple drum machine app is based on the classic step sequencer format. With good built-in sounds and free downloadable packs based on classics such as the Roland 808 and 909, Electrum has some great sonic potential.
We highly recommend checking out the excellent sample packs at Synthdrums.com. You can also record sounds into the app and make use of a variety of other processing features.