One area that hasn’t really been exploited in the app market is that of apps for musicians. And by that, I don’t mean apps for recording and producing, I’m referring to apps for songwriters.
Maybe there’s a reason for that? You could use a simple text editor to write songs, but what if you could also have an app that helped you make the songwriting process more organized, and gave you a few tools to make songwriting easier? That’s what Songwriter’s Pad claims to do. Let’s take a look and see how it fares.
Songwriter’s Pad is advertised as “the ultimate songwriting Mac app”, and at first it seems to have all the features to claim that title. It says it can help you find words that go well with a mood or with other words, it supports chord notation and it can even record bits and pieces of your songs.
Songwriter’s Pad is a paid app ($29.99), don’t let the free version deceive you. All it is is a demo where you can only create one song and no more. Is it worth the high price tag? Let’s take a look at its features.
The dark Songwriter Pad interface isn’t exactly simple, but it is pretty and it’s not very hard to get around. You have the toolbar on the top, where you can find the controls to create new songs and elements within them, as well as a few configuration settings.
Then there’s the main frame, where you are supposed to write the song; but beside it there are two sidebars that can help you accomplish that. The left one is where you can add stuff that might make it on the song (words, rhymes, phrases), and the right one is where you can find the things that you’ve recorded for the song.
The navigation of the app is a little tricky at first, but you can get around it after spending a few minutes with it. To write anything, you first need to add a “Song Block” to your current song. This means you have to add a section, like a verse, intro, chorus, pre-chorus, outro, etc. Once you’ve added one of these, they will appear in your main frame as the type of block that it is. If you double click it, the cursor will appear below it and you can start writing the lyrics for that section.
The main reason behind the blocks is organization. Having your songs broken down into sections can make the whole songwriting process easier. Also, within the app you can rearrange or delete the sections whichever way you’d like them to because of the blocks.
Complementing the Songs
If you run out of creativity, you can use the “Get Ideas” button, which will bring up a small menu where you can find some inspiration. Here you can find rhymes, a dictionary, a thesaurus, phrases, and words. The first three work simply by typing in any word. The last two work by generating the word or phrase from a selectable variety of “moods”, such as love, hate, happy, sad, and a few more. Once you find an idea that you like to explore later in the song, you can select it and add it to the stickies that live in the left sidebar, where you can quickly find them and add them to your song.
You can record from your microphone and add a backing track exported from another app (you can also combine those two features and sing over a backing track, which will then overlap both tracks to create just one). Other cool features include the chord support, which allows you to easily add chord notations inside the lyrics, displaying them as little text boxes.
The Much Discussed, But Never Concluded “Analog vs. Digital” Argument
“Songwriter’s Pad” is a fun experiment and was a fun app to try out, but I don’t think I’ll be using it much. In fact, I don’t think I’ve never really found a “songwriting” app or anything related to it that works in a way that fits my personal process. They all seem to complicate the process rather than simplify it. There are some things where the old way is (at least for now) better, and my personal opinion is that songwriting is one of them. For me, pen and paper are better, at least until someone can truly figure out how to digitize the process of scribbling to put together a song, and without having all these distractions around you.
That’s not to say that this app is useless; some will no doubt find it to be quite useful, it simply doesn’t fit with my personal method of songwriting. I do think because of the chord notation feature that makes it very easy to transcribe songs to the computer, it could work for me as a place to store all of my finished songs as a backup. It could work for you in some other ways, or perhaps you could even adapt your whole songwriting process to the way the app works.
I want to hear from you, what do you think of these sorts of apps? Have you tried any of them, and have you digitized your songwriting process? Even if you aren’t a musician: do you still prefer to do some things “the old way”? Which ones? Discuss in the comment section below!