Plenty of App Store offerings help you create music on your iPhone or iPod touch. But Vectorform’s
SurfaceDJ is one of the few DJing programs available for your mobile device. This $2 app allows you to create music without any musical training. Creating a song is easy and fun, but sharing the finished product with others is a bit of a non-starter.
SurfaceDJ features five different genres of music: ambience, electronica, house, instrumental and techno. When you first launch the app, you’ll find five sample tracks which you use to learn the application. SurfaceDJ divides each track into its core individual elements, each of which can be added to every track you create. These elements include drums, lead, rhythm, guitar, bass, cymbals, and piano. When you open each track or project, you see all the elements at the bottom of your screen.
You create your own DJ tracks by either altering the pre-assembled tracks or by forming new tracks from the available elements. You can create a track with just one element or as many as you’d like. You can also combine any elements together to create a new track.
Once you’ve selected elements for your track, you drag them onto a turntable at the top of the composition screen to create a new track (or edit an existing one, for that matter). You can also adjust the volume of each element, dragging it to center of the turntable to make it louder.
While each track can only hold up to 10 different elements, you can create a track using those elements in almost any combination imaginable. While this does mean that you are limited by the elements you selected at the beginning, the fun of combining those elements to make new songs never grows old. After you create a track, you can save it, and the app will automatically identify it with a genre based on the elements you selected for your song.
The process of creating music with SurfaceDJ is both fun and easy to get the hang of—important qualities given the nature of the app. Right away, you can focus on the elements that go into creating a track, instead of spending your time focusing on just learning how to make things work. That’s a big plus for casual users who just want to launch the app and get down to making music.
SurfaceDJ lacks a way to share tracks with others—you can’t e-mail your creation or upload them to an external Web site. And that’s a disappointing omission, particularly since we live in an age of social networking apps and Web sites.
Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable program, and even the inability to share a finished track doesn’t overshadow SurfaceDJ’s overall polish. If you enjoy creating things or just love music, Surface DJ is worth checking out. Vectorform also offers a free lite version of SurfaceDJ with 30 custom loops to the paid version’s 40-plus.
SurfaceDJ is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[Brendan Wilhide is a contributor to Macworld.com who chronicles athletes and sports on Twitter at Sportsin140.com.]