A new song writing app: Tin Pan (Rhythm)

Once again, my friend Paul Shimmons has posted about a new app before I have…this time, about Tin Pan (affiliate link), an app that was released on Monday. Check out Paul's review, as he has different conclusions than I do (although both of us like the app).

The App takes its name from Tin Pan Alley, a segment of New York City that was known for song writers and music stores, from about 1885. The name is appropriate, as Tin Pan is meant to help people write songs, in a format similar to Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) such as GarageBand. The first time you open the app, it runs you through a basic tutorial of how to use the app. There are several steps:

  1. You (eventually) choose the number of measures (4 or 8), tempo, and key.
  2. You select chords (1 measure each) from a triangle of chords which are labeled in Roman Numerals (each represents the chord built off of that step of the scale, if you are not familiar with this). You can set the program to display chord names, but this is not the default setting.
  3. Then you look at a view of all the possible instruments (Piano, Bass, Guitar, Miscellanous Percussion, and Drums), where you can choose different patterns by swiping on the name of the instrument, as well as changing the pattern of melodic instruments by dragging the event of the instrument up and down. You can also adjust the volume of each instrument.
  4. Finally, you can record the segment and then send it via e-mail, Open In, AudioCopy, or SoundCloud.

Setting tempo, number of measures, key, and chord format.

Ultmately, you aren't going to use this app as a stand alone app for writing a complete song, as you cannot paste various sections together in the app itself. You would have to do that pasting with other apps. For example, you can create various loops in Tin Pan which you can then export to GarageBand with AudioCopy.

The idea is that you can play around with different chord progressions and rhythms, coming up with new materials for songs. This is particularly powerful for pop music which is often limited by form (intro, verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, fade).

Export options for Tin Pan

Currently, Tin Pan can't handle different time signatures (3/4 or 6/8, for example), or loops of longer lengths. You are limited to 10 different chords (not including inversions, however), so it is possible you might want to use a chord that doesn't exist. The record feature is a little odd, as it simply records the looped set of measures as many times as you want it. This can result in dead space before the loop begins (bad for importing) or an off-cut off. I would like a simple “export” feature which would export one precise loop to any of the already existing export destinations.

The 10 chords available in Tin Pan in the major mode

The richness of the app, other than the quality of sounds and educational value of teaching about chord progressions (as mentioned by Paul), is the variety of solutions this app adds for users of GarageBand. Are you tired of GarageBand's stock sounds and auto-chord accompaniments? This app adds 56 different styles of piano loops alone as a starting point, and that doesn't include all the options of the other instruments! The variety of combinations is almost (but not) overwhelming, and I hope that a future version of the app could classify types of piano, bass, and guitar sequences to better help a person know where to start (if that is even possible).

The app is easy to use, sounds great, has educational value, and could really be a great addition to your iPad DAW (even GarageBand). At $2.99, I highly recommend Tin Pan and I am excited to see where it goes in the future.



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