Whether you are a musician in your prime, a natural audiophile or just a casual app frequenter with a taste for good vibes, Figure is an excellent place to begin amusing you and your ear drums. What is Figure? Developed by Propellerhead Software AB, Figure is a beat-making application available on the App Store for a buck that allows instant music production in three easy minutes—the app claims.
Before I go into the app, I would like to give readers a heads up: as it turns out, it is often difficult to describe some of the musical terms such as “Squelch Bass,” one variant of an instrument that can be used in this app. The dictionary term of squelch would only be half accurate in describing the vibe of this instrument. I would liken the sound of it to a bass that is being heavily plucked and whose output has a slight reverb. See what I mean?
Let’s examine the interface: flat colors, not a gradient in sight and buttons in basic geometric shapes – nothing out of place. It is so organized and ordinary that no instructional intro screen or tutorial of any sort is needed. It is completely iOS7-ified, although it is downloadable and useable for earlier versions of the firmware. Good for you, those that want more interaction and playtime and less learning and reading. The application is split into five parts, the first being the “Pattern” tab. Here we have three instrument kits: Drums, Bass and Lead, the different musical patterns which constitute the song itself.
The Bass and Lead sounds are tweaked by playing on a given keypad. The keypad is already preset with its own looping rhythm, which then leaves you with the job of creating the melody. The range and scale of the keypad can be adjusted, but those are extra features for YOU, the composer, to figure out. Fair warning, however: the wheels that change certain settings in the app can be unpredictable. Some wheels requires swiping left and right, other up and down and still others in all four directions in order to change them. Again, that is for the user to mix and match and feel for what sounds right for the beat.
To be clear, what instrument does the “Lead” in Figure represent? It is less an instrument, more of a synthetic sound. A few examples of the funky names given to these leads are “James Hook,” “Kamelen” and “Kaseotone.” As I mentioned earlier, my describing these styles of sounds will do no justice in conveying even an inkling of what they actually sound like. Feel free to get creative.
Moving on— the Drums are a little different from the previous patterns we went over. The drum contains four components in and of itself: the Kick, Snare, Hat and even a Cowbell, terms modern composers are most familiar with. Basically, they are the cymbals, kick drums and other sound-making parts of a drum set that regulates the tempo of the song or constitute the “lows” in music. The app itself does not have a metronome, so it is helpful to start with your Drum track and work up to your Bass and Lead. This brings up the REC/record button. When you press the record button, you can begin playing your tune or beat on the keypad or the drum pad, and the tune tapped into the pad will be saved! You must do this manually for each of the three patterns. In addition, extra features will pop out after the REC button is hit, including an undo and erase tool which is useful for cleaning up clamor.
The “Tweaks” and “Song” tabs are pretty straightforward. They allow for tone shifts, pitch shifts, key shifts, frequency shifts and even “Pain” and “Lonely” shifts (whatever those are supposed to mean) to be made to your track. There are a lot of options here to combine, too many to be reviewed. Finally we have arrived at the “Mix” and “System” tabs. “Mix” is just a volume mixer for all your patterns. Say you would like to dumb down your drums and bring out your bass; that is the purpose of the mixer.
The “System” tab is your central hub for sharing, saving and browsing “Figures.” Figures, huh? You can send your creations (in .Figure format) to friends who also have the Figure app, and they can listen to your beat. You can also access a huge library of other Figures from musicians who have uploaded it to the official Propellorhead website which can be accessed here (propellerheads.se/appmusic). A “Figure of the Week” is featured on the main page, and many of these community contributed beats are amazing—for what one can create through a $0.99 app. So hey, do not hesitate and get this amazing beat-making app today. Music professionals and beginners can make the most out of a simple app; it is easy to pick up, play and Figure out!
Link to App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/figure/id511269223?mt=8.
Pricetag as of 4/25/2014: $0.99
By Dmitri Puh