I think the first time I really understood handheld music making was when I first tried Nanoloop on Game Boy. While the more-popular LSDJ tracker is powerful, Nanoloop’s interface was unlike anything I’d seen before: aggressively minimal, it embodies in its interface design the feeling of a blank sheet of paper. Adding an idea feels like composition, like genuinely exploring open-ended possibilities and discovering what melodies may result. Now, Nanoloop – already on iOS – is available for Android, too.

It remains simple stuff, the sense of what a music maker looks like when designed for your hand rather than translated to mobile from desktop, studio-style workstations. There are six fixed channels, each assignable to a synth (FM, noise, or filtered wave) or a sampler. Then, each channel takes eight patterns. There’s a step sequencer, the ability to resample, and song editor with loops. The sampling capabilities are especially nice on Android, as you can now sample from the mic or load samples right onto the SD card. (The mic you can use on iOS, but not the SD card, of course.) You can export OGG files to your library, turning your Android device into a DJ-set-ready pocket music library, or send and receive projects via email. Via iTunes, you can even exchange files with the iPhone version, in case you have an Android phone and an iPod touch or some similar arrangement.

This isn’t a port of the Game Boy nanoloop, developer Oliver Wittchow is quick to note. It’s not for chip music, or emulating game consoles. It’s for … well, Android music. But make no mistake: while the tool feels fresh and native to the new platform, it also carries the spirit of the Game Boy version. And that spirit is handheld music making, not just the aesthetics of the chip, but the feeling of using a minimal device scaled to your hands, something you can use on the go.

Oliver tells CDM that he has used a lot of native code (via the NDK), as he did non-object-oriented C (not Objective-C) in the iOS version. He says it’s about 1:1 C and Java: “I could use the iOS code almost unmodified and get the sound engine and touch input to work immediately. I had an almost fully working nanoloop within few days – without any graphics though.
Now I ‘just’ had to write Java code for GUI, file access, recording functions and the different menu structure.”

The results, he says, are a little strange if you’re looking at the code (lots of getters and setters, C mixed with Java), but it works well.

Android owners, I’d love to hear how this works on your device. Let us know – just be sure to fill out a bug report. As the Market page notes:

Nanoloop works on a variety of devices, including HTC Desire, Motorola Droid and also midrange phones such as HTC Legend and XPERIA X10 mini. However, this is the first release and of course it has not been tested on all Android devices yet. If you experience crashes or other problems, please report them via e-mail or the anonymous bug report form at www.nanoloop.com. Thank you.

Now if we can just have some luck with Bluetooth MIDI at our hacklab tomorrow, this could be another candidate.

Oh, and most of all, I’d love to hear the music you make.

nanoloop on the Android Market (a stunning EUR1 … that’s a no-brainer. Better than an espresso shot!)

nanoloop.de [iOS, Android]

See our previous Android music round-up

For the historical record, here’s nanoloop for Game Boy on CDM – from 2004. It’s actually come quite a ways since that release, but the spirit is the same.

  • JP

    I know you have a personal android slant, but it's probably worth mentioning that it's also available for the iOS, and it's just as awesome.


  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, JP, I'm frankly sick of defending whatever slant I have.

    I left out a segue of the lead, which I fixed. But the story mentions iOS compatibility and even the development process (via Oliver) of porting from iOS.

    The whole news item is that it's out for Android. That's what's new today.

    And my point is that what matters is not the platform, but the interface design, scaling to your hands. I first used Nanoloop on a Game Boy before anyone had heard of Android or iOS.

    And human hands have been around for a bit longer than that.

    I kind of believe that ideas and design matter more than platform.

  • Peter Kirn
  • For thrice the prize!

  • I've tried both LSDJ and Nanoloop, and I'll agree with you. LSDJ is definitely more powerful, but it's also far more confusing for someone not used to making music that way. I was never able to make anything worth listening to on LSDJ, and eventually just got frustrated and quite.

    Nanoloop on the other hand is as beautiful as it is simple. I'm able to make little beats in no time, but most importantly, I'm able to have fun with it.

    It's great that the developer is expanding outward from just Gameboy support. I really hope other developers (maybe even LSDJ) take the hint and do the same.

  • Dang…I needed this 3 months ago.

  • but I'm glad it's on Android now.

  • JP

    I actually wasn't having a dig at your slant.  I was merely trying to be helpful in case others came and assumed it wasn't available on iOS and they had an iphone.  Just trying to help out readers.  #peace

  • JP

    …and just to get everything back on track, Nanoloop is one of those apps that has a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it's one of the best things to have on a long train journey or a boring wait.  It's a time passer, you can create such wonderful compositions with such a basic interface.

    I'm a huge fan.

  • Rob

    As an Android user who has jealously read CDM's iOS app coverage for a long time, this has been a great few weeks for music making on my Droid. Now I'm playing around with RD3, Jasuto, and Nanoloop on my lunch breaks. Keep up the coverage (of any platform!).

  • Peter Kirn

    @JP: Fair enough. I did adjust the text as I didn't make availability entirely clear.

    And yes, always – more platforms!

  • Radiophobic

    Glad they finally made this for android, I was thinking about how much I missed it. Now the only application I am still waiting for from my ipod touch is nanostudio.

  • Radiophobic

    Wow, the implementation of this is fantastic. Don't want to start a flamewar; but the problem I had with the iOs version of this was how difficult it was to manage samples. Android just lets you browse the memory card, its very simple. 

  • Peter Kirn

    No need for a flame war. Some of this stuff is just matter of fact.
    Right now, we get more reliable low-latency performance on iOS than on Android. Worse, Android handsets aren't entirely predictable – some are worse than others. At the same time, it is possible to overstate the issue. For something like a sequencer (as opposed to, say, a soft synth or guitar effect), a little more latency is just fine, making Android usable.

    Apple offer one of way of distributing apps; Google offers multiple ways, and is compatible with GPL-licensed free software, too. On the other hand, Apple's marketplace has tended to be a better business proposition so far.

    Android offers much more flexible use of storage, which is ideal for us "pro" users and doing things like samples, as Radiophonic notes.

    I/O is a bit of a conundrum. Hard-line MIDI is possible on iOS, but not Android. Straight serial Bluetooth is possible on Android, but not iOS. USB audio is possible on iOS, but not Android, though Android can now increasingly do digital audio over HDMI. Both can do network MIDI (via implementations pioneered and championed by Apple) over WiFi and Bluetooth.

    You still can't beat desktop platforms – including stock Linux in place of Android – for flexibility with software and I/O and low-latency performance, at least for now.

    That's the state of things. The differences and competition are healthy, I think. And I do think Android is viable, because we're obviously, you know, using it.

  • Emi

    I never tried nanoloop on other platforms, but I find the android implementation really really great. How come this doesn't have the latency other android apps have? I mean the sequencer visual feedback of the sequencer is in sync with the actual played sounds, unlike, for example, RD3 or Electrum (all these tested on the same device, a Desire/Froyo).

  • this is awesome!
    in fact this is the first app i pay for. must usefull and fun paid apps don't run on my x10 mini pro. nanoloop does.

  • runs smooth on my Wildfire… This is great, I have 2.3 on my GBA, but having it on my phone is just sweet, I was very jealous of the iPhone version! 

    Now.. to figure out how this all works…

  • jp

    I want to know if we could expect to see a native desktop version any time soon, minimal daw style.  🙂

  • DG

    I'm sooo happy to see this article. I've been a nanoloop fan for some time now (I still have a 1.x version gameboy cart), and have been disappointed with the state of music producing apps on android so far. I'd just heard a few days ago that there was a version on iOS.

    I also really appreciate Mr Kirn's update in comments on the state of where the two main phone OS's are with regards to music production.

  • Works great on myTouch 4G. Being able to sample with the phones mic and start messing with the sample right in there is a great feature.

  • poopoo

    Runs great on my desire hd. A filter on the sampler would be nice and a reverb or delay.

  • laul

    I've honestly had dreams about this. It works beautifully on my Defy and sounds/feels as lovely as previous versions. 
    A huge thanks for being the person to inform me of the port!

  • yeah! things are starting to move, or at least it seems so…

  • combatdave

    God damn Android store, payed apps aren't available in this country 🙁 I want this app more than any other app!

  • Finally something usable for my android. Thanks CDM for pointing this out!

  • @JP there is always running Nanoloop in an emulator… it is not half bad at all. The only thing missing is the analog low pass filter from the actual GB witch is also missing on any of the non GB Classic devices. Nanoloop is fun in any incarnation so far.

  • Em Wilson

    Fantastic news, here's hoping LSDJ follows suit!

  • JoshuaB

    This is awesome! I actually like this version better then the one I have for the GameBoy… speaking of which…. I have a Nanoloop cart with a gameboy advanced for sale if anyone is interested….

  • Jørgenstil

    Just jammed out with two friends in my kitchen, recording various samples on various objects 😀 Had tons and tons of fun for 1$ .. And actually it sounded prettty nice! No perfect recordings, shakey grooves, but definitely soulful 😀

  • J

    Awesome post, Peter.
    Esp. cool to hear about the coding / porting!

  • CDM is great for bringing interesting things like this to my attention.  Just bought the app and having a blast.  

    I sense a future experiment or two.


  • Very nice article, Peter.

    The first update with app2sd and Ogg export as background task would be out already if Android Market's developer console wasn't broken again (according to developer comments, frozen upload pages and generic server errors are rather common).
    Maybe tomorrow.

  • revo11

    This app is awesome. Made a little vid here of NL4A: 
    Sorry for the shitty camera quality. 

  • dumafuji

    wow. i figured nanoloop was basically chiptune only. omg no. this is so so great. i haven't had so much fun with mobile music device (iOS) since bjahi on the palm.

  • Bob

    I don't like it, it feels, looks and sounds antiquated. I love retro gear/apps but this feels lazy in it's coding, the minimalist interface feels awkward and unecassery simple. Even the GUI graphics look like someone spent of 30 seconds drawing it… it left me wanting more because I received a lot less than expected at the end of the day.

    Sorry if it sounds so negative but fir me the experience was.

  • I know I shouldnt care, but this hurt me a little. If you don't like/get it, OK, I'm sorry for that. But:

    Lazy coding? Nanoloop is pretty much the only Andoid music app that delivers a useful, complete set of features and stable performance – even on low-end phones.

    30 seconds for the GUI? Even if you're not into this kind of minimalism (what did you expect after seeing the screenshots?) it should be obvious that a certain effort was put into this. Even if the structure doesn't make sense for you, you could notice that the GUI has been designed carefully.

    Retro? Most of the article is about how nanoloop is *not* retro. If you want retro, get one of those sluggish 303-emulations or wait till someone ports a tracker (that will probably be awkward to use because trackers weren't made for touchscreens).

    Expected "more"? What? A 3D-GUI with knobs with shadows? Effects? Presets? 256 realistic, pro-quality instruments? Please.

    I have 2x 1.5's + 2. for the GBA and this is by far the most exciting and easy to use. It's just so intuitive, and being able to use samples in a nanoloop environment is amazing. This app justifies my shitty android phone.
    Thank you Oliver

  • this is fantastic!  i've been waiting for some actually useful android music software, and here it is.  it took me a few minutes to figure the interface, and then i quickly began falling into a workflow.  the layout is very well thought out, and the sampling and resampling is perfect.

    hat's off to you, oliver.  top notch!

  • Wow, this is so fantastic. I got the gameboy cart many years ago and have always loved it.

    It's been a while since I hauled out the actual gameboy to mess with it, but it seems like this is an improvement on the interface – and I've just been messing with it for like 10min. FINALLY an Android app that is worthwhile! This is dreamy…

  • P.S. I am using an original Motorolla Droid handset and so far it has worked perfectly as advertised. If I find any glitches while going deeper I will send a bug report.

  • Mr Ecklie

    Thank you, Oliver, this is great! The Mikrosonik apps are all right, but this is something else. And you're right, you shouldn't care 🙂

  • dave

    thanks for the post, for me its one of the top apps right now.

    does someone know in which programming language it was written? just curious…

  • johan

    Great work Oliver! This sets the bar for other music app developers to follow 🙂

  • Kalipoison

    Nanoloop is amazing. The minimalist style makes it actually FUN to mess around with, unlike some other apps (I’m looking at you Fl mobile). In all seriousness, it’s a very dynamic app and it’s amazing how you can create some pretty complex stuff with such few tools. What I like to do is make a song on Nanoloop then transfer it to Fl studio to add effects and a more professional sound.

  • Kalipoison

    Nanoloop is amazing. The minimalist style makes it actually FUN to mess around with, unlike some other apps (I’m looking at you Fl mobile). In all seriousness, it’s a very dynamic app and it’s amazing how you can create some pretty complex stuff with such few tools. What I like to do is make a song on Nanoloop then transfer it to Fl studio to add effects and a more professional sound.

  • Kalipoison

    Nanoloop is amazing. The minimalist style makes it actually FUN to mess around with, unlike some other apps (I’m looking at you Fl mobile). In all seriousness, it’s a very dynamic app and it’s amazing how you can create some pretty complex stuff with such few tools. What I like to do is make a song on Nanoloop then transfer it to Fl studio to add effects and a more professional sound.