Unlike many of the android apps for making music Music Riff Studio is a bit different from other music sequencer apps. That’s both good and bad.
The developer advertises this free Android app as “Created by music composers for music composers.” That is, it’s designed more for jotting down quick musical ideas than for producing a finished electronic music product. And at that purpose, it excels.
The main window – pretty much the only window – of Music Riff Studio is separated into four panes, all resizable by dragging the center up and down and left and right. In the upper left, you’re provided with a drum kit consisting of a kick drum, snare, hand clap, open and closed hihats, a crash cymbal, and a tom. Below that is the main grid where you enter notes, pitch on the Y axis and beat or time on the X axis.
In the lower right are play, pause and menu controls, along with controls to change the length of input notes and apply glissando to make a note slide up or down in pitch. Finally, the upper right offers a selection of seven pre-set instruments: fretless bass, finger bass, distortion guitar, muted distortion, acoustic guitar, piano, and saxophone.
While the instrument voices match their descriptions only slightly, they’re serviceable enough to represent a four- or eight-note riff at 100, 120, or 150 beats per minute that pops into a musician’s head. And that’s really what Music Riff Studio appears to be about; after all, “Riff” is right in the name. Placing the notes and drum hits is easy enough on a tablet, though like any sequencer app it can be a challenge pressing exactly where you want on a smaller phone screen. Since you can use multiple instruments on the same grid, you can build a true polyphonic riff right on one screen.
Of course you can save your riffs to play back later – maybe to learn on your guitar, or input manually. What you can’t do is save them as patterns to sequence together into a longer song. There’s also no option to export to .WAV, .MP3, or other standard audio file; you can only send it as a raw Music Riff Studio file, and it’s not even obvious how to import such a file on another device without rifling through the file system.
Users expecting a full synthesizer with effects will be disappointed by the sound options in this app; the seven instruments and one drum kit are all you get. Assembling your riffs into something bigger, either within the app itself or with some other software, is simply not the focus of this app. If you’re determined to use one of your short creations exactly as you’ve built it, you can always record the audio through the headphone jack of your device.
It’s no full-fledged music environment like Caustic, but it’s not meant to be as complex as that sequencer app. For simple, quick composing that can be done quickly and intuitively, Music Riff Studio delivers.
John “jaQ” Andrews is a musician and writer for a software development company. See Author description for more about him and where you can find him online.