I’ve tried a lot of “anyone can make music” apps in the past, and they’ve not always lived up to the hype. That’s why, at first, I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for three-dollar music app Sound Wand – but I should have been more optimistic. Like a real instrument, you need to spend some time learning how it works.
The concept is very simple. Notes are represented by colored lines on screen, displayed like strings on a guitar. As you wave your iPhone from side to side while holding a finger down on screen, the notes are played. The faster you wave, the faster they’re played.
The screen is divided up into five zones, which add a great deal more scope to what you can play. The central segment simply plays the current note, but surrounding segments add harmonies in octaves, fifths, thirds, and sixths.
It’s also important to remember that notes are only played when you have a finger on the screen. That means you can add space and depth to your music by lifting your finger away at the right moment.
To be honest, the “Blues showdown” video on the front of the app’s website isn’t very representative of what it can do. With a little practice, you can get much more interesting and subtle sounds from this app.
The shape of the music depends on your movements, and it can sometimes be a frustrating experience if you want to repeat a particular note and you don’t quite get the waving motion correct. On a real stringed instrument, you either pluck or you don’t pluck. Here, you can try very hard to wave precisely but it can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to play something up-tempo.
There are some things missing from Sound Wand. There’s no record function, which is a shame. There’s also only one instrument (although many varieties of key and scale to play it in). It might be nice to have more than one instrument to play, and a simple way of flicking between instruments without having to stop playing and open the settings panel.
Those aside, I rather like Sound Wand, more than I thought I would.
Pro: Unusual, inventive approach to zero-learning music making
Con: Some more instruments would be nice, and a record function