It started with some feedback from a musician and music theorist to a developer. What happened next: this powerful set of Android music tools evolved some new rhythmic chops.
Android doesn’t get a lot of musical love, despite its popularity. But while the assortment of apps is a fraction of what’s available on iOS, some of the choices that are there are real gems. That opens up possibilities in case you prefer Android as your smartphone (some of which already get into tablet sizes), or if you’ve picked up an inexpensive Android tablet.
In this case, CDM reader Jon Stubbs had bought the Planet-h line of apps, and decided to get in touch with the developer about some additional rhythmic features he wanted. The results exceeded his expectations.
I’m recently back on Android myself with a Huawei phone and I do have a tendency to, uh, collect devices, so I found this fascinating. Jon asked if we would reprint his review. And it has everything I love – engineering and music theory meeting to let you do more with music-making. Here’s Jon:
As a life-long learner, composer, performer, teacher
This obsession began with the humble triplet and the music of Zimbabwe. I studied jazz and was accustomed to the well-worn rhythms
Around that same time, I started creating quintuplet (5 steps-per-beat) grooves using a couple of drum machine apps. These apps forced me to fake the beat divisions using 16th notes, but I was still able to get my feet wet. Then I discovered the wonderful Metronomics app by John Nastos, which allowed me to delve into more unusual ideas. [Ed.: That app, dubbed a metronome for “real musicians,” is available on macOS, iOS, and Android, all three – you can also run it on Windows or Linux in an Android emulator.]
The grooves I eventually made with quintuplets, septuplets and nonuplets were serious fun – especially when using the technique of starting out with ordinary rhythms but then shifting them to fit the new subdivisions. The results are glitchy grooves with a new flavor of “shuffle”; these beats are quite natural sounding after only a few listenings.
A Simple Favor
From time to time, I’ve submitted requests to mobile app developers that they expand their step-rate (steps-per-beat) options to allow
I originally asked that he add quintuplets and septuplets to the existing step-rate options. He responded saying, “I have room for six more options”. We settled on expanding the step rates to include 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 16 steps-per-beat! He made this
We worked together on ways to integrate time-signatures so that they look and act the way experienced musicians expect them to. For example, most mobile apps treat 6/8 (if they include it at all) as equal to 3/4– (3 beats, each divided into 2 or 4 steps) but 6/8 should actually be two beats with triplets (3 or 6 steps per beat). It is the same with 3/8, 9/8, 12/8, where the dotted-quarter note is the actual beat (and NOT the quarter, nor the eighth). Andreas had to make a few special cases to reveal more information than a typical time-signature would allow, yet without making it hopelessly confusing for seasoned users of his apps. He found an elegant set of solutions.
Andreas puts great care into the documentation– which is essential for this feature-packed, deep software. The docs were updated to clearly explain the new features. We both had very specific ideas about how to communicate things. We even debated over how to format a table. When there were a couple of button labels that were unclear to me, Andreas quickly adapted the docs to make things more clear. It was a fascinating and fun process.
The apps in the G-Stomper product line include:
- G-Stomper Producer (with step-rates, lengths, and patterns per track)
- G-Stomper Studio (with step-rates, lengths per pattern)
- G-Stomper Rhythm (drum machine), and
- VA-Beast (subtractive synth/SFZ-soundfont player with a step sequencer)
All of these apps provide slightly different features, approaches, and workflows. Yet they all use the same expanded system for step-rates and time signatures. It’s worth mentioning here that every step can be individually shifted by 32 micro steps (separate and apart from the timing system). G-Stomper Producer provides the most flexibility by providing the aforementioned step-rates, 1-16 steps per bar, 1-8 bars, all on a PER TRACK basis. That means the kick, hat, snare, (or user samples) can all have their own timing setup. The other G-Stomper apps use a more standard
If you’re an Android user and maybe you thought Caustic was the only game in town, you owe it to yourself to check out G-Stomper Producer. There’s a whole world of new sounds and rhythms to explore!
G-Stomper Producer is available for $12.99 USD via Google Play or Amazon. A free demo version is also available.
This story was edited from an original version on Jon’s site, with permission: