We’ve all been there. The latest Black Eyed Peas garbage is looping on the radio for the thirty seven thousandth time this week, and you think to yourself: “I could do this. I could make this song. I could be rich!” So you run home, grab the demo of the most complicated music suite you can find mentions of on the forums, and sit down to create your masterpiece.
Thirty seconds later, you’ve got eighty nine windows staring back at you. There’s some crazy virtual piano thing just sitting there not making any noise when you hit the keys, and you’ve flipped so many random, mysteriously labeled switches that you’re confident the application will never, ever work again. You give up on your music career until the next time boredom strikes whilst Will.I.Am tries desperately to convince you that tonight will be a good night.
The $4.99 application is more like the free, web-based MusicShake widget we saw launch last year than its full-blown Windows-based counterpart. In fact, the Widget is a pretty decent means of trying the concept before you buy it.
Speaking of the concept, it’s pretty simple: You’re given a 6×7 grid. Each row is a separate track, with the left most column indicating which instrument is currently selected for that track. Tap the instrument to pick a new one, and then pick any other box in the row to pick a sample from that instrument’s selection. The iPhone app’s sample selection seems to be limited to Hip Hop and R&B, whereas the widget offers up Rock, Pop, and a handful of other genres in addition.
And, playing on the application’s name, you can physically “shake” the Musicshake app at any time to have it string together a song for you.
Truth be told, I expected a bit more from the $5 app. The user interface is visually lacking and often confusing (there’s a volume slider on one of the screens that is in no way labeled a volume slider, for example). Instrument samples seem to be streamed from Musicshake’s servers which, while it keeps the filesize of the app down, makes things like previewing samples take a few seconds longer than you’d expect, even when on WiFi. The load times aren’t terrible, but they’re long enough that they get frustrating when you’re actually trying to string together a song. This also means the app won’t work if you’re not online.
On the upside, it does pack a number of worthwhile features: tracks created can be converted to MP3 and shared via e-mail, Facebook, or Musicshake’s site, and sections of songs can be converted into ringtones. They’ve also got a bit of a community behind it, with built in access to featured songs, the Top 100 creations, and a “Hall of Fame”.
The application is simple enough that a kid could be making their own little jams with it after just a few minutes, and that’s exactly the audience I think they should be going for. If they made the UI a bit more enticing to a child’s eye, opened up the range of samples, and dropped the price down to something that parents might plunk down to keep their kids busy on a road trip, I’d imagine that it would do well.