Google’s Android platform has gotten only a fraction of the attention for music making that iPhone OS and iPad have, but that doesn’t mean the OS doesn’t have some advantages of its own. Thanks to being an open OS, it’s also easier to install custom OSes, and repurpose older devices and build cheap embedded computers on a platform like BeagleBoard. The remaining challenge: convince Google that beefing up real-time audio hardware access is important. So, with Google’s own I/O conference this week and me in Berlin next week during DroidCon, now seems like the perfect time to talk about handheld music on the platform.

Why should you care? Hint: having access to the SD card – and the ability to load and save MIDI and audio files to it – means you can do some damage. In fact, you might not even need a computer for loading samples and sequences. Photo (CC-BY-SA) James Nash.

Bradley Berthold (developer “niko twenty”) writes with news that he’s releasing two apps for Android. Electrum Drum Machine is a simple 808-style groove box / sampler. It’s not as pretty as some of its rivals on iPhone OS, but the ability to drop samples right on an SD card – no additional software required – is a big edge. Accordingly, there’s a nice interface for editing waveforms and sample points, and you can export to WAV or MIDI, then pull that SD card and drop it somewhere else. (In fact, that means you should be able to take an SD card and plug it into hardware samplers with MIDI or audio file support, without ever touching a computer. Kick it oldskool.)


Electrum Drum Machine is a full featured 6 sound drum machine with a traditional 16 slot pattern sequencer, along with a step sequencer to sequence patterns into a song. Up to 32 patterns can be created. Each sound can have its pitch, volume, start and end points modified. The drum machine also has a shuffle feature, as well as multitouch pads for playing. Supports WAV/MIDI export.

ReLoop is a music sequencer, which should fit nicely into a workflow with Electrum. It reminds me in look and function of some of the older Palm apps, but that’s not a bad thing.

ReLoop Music Sequencer is a loop-based sequencer for Android devices that allows you to drag and drop loops and one-shot samples onto an unlimited length timeline to compose a track. 8 tracks are supported and are high quality 44Khz stereo sound. Each track can be adjusted in volume, and each one-shot event on the timeline can also be varied in pitch. Loops are stretched to fit the current BPM. The sequencer supports WAV export, and looping mode, as well as an 8 track mixer dialog with mute function.

Best to see how it works in a video:

More info at the niko twenty site:

  • This looks great! I've been on the brink of getting an iPod cause of the vast difference of availability of apps like this on my Droid. Good to know that you are going to be an advocate for the Droid users, Peter. Now if I could just get my hands on a good Android OSC app…

  • I have this image of me going into the audience with an Android phone and this app, sampling the audience for sounds, then building a loop out of it all live on stage. I think that would be cool. However, I'm a broke college student who can't even afford a piece of OSB for a desk right now, so someone will beat me to this, and then nobody else will be able to do the same without being called a copycat. C'est la vie.

  • Glad things are heading in the right direction! I hope to contribute to the list of Android music apps in the next year or so.

  • i'm thinking android tablets with multitrack in-out & midi… :-]

  • nice, hope to see more music apps for android os
    there is one more app I checked out
    android tone matrix

  • Polite

    Still trying to decide on an Android phone, myself. I will get there eventually.

  • The electrum dev forked the drum machine after it was the only android music app for a while, and didnt provide an upgrade path for existing users. Kinda shady, and something to consider when wishing for future functionality.

  • niko20

    Hi Peter,

    Yes I did fork the app because of such large changes in Android 1.5 it was necessary. Part of the reason is because I released the first version too quickly. It was unfortunate but part of the growth of the android platform. For anyone that wanted a refund if they emailed me I gave them one. So if people are willing to contact me I will work with them – also something to think about (why not contact the dev?). For current versions this will not happen again, it was a one time occurence.

  • Never mind about the fork, it was early in Android's versions before they had the AudioTrack API so I guess it would be hard to support older versions because of the new API's..

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