With the proliferation of digital music technology it is possible to make a wide range of music on computers. There are dozens of DAW (digital audio workstation) programs available and plenty of low cost hardware solutions available for making music right on your computer. But what if inspiration strikes you on the go and you have the next big hit beat currently stuck in your head?


If you don’t have access to your computer the beat could be forgotten or lost by the time you have a chance to dial it in. Fortunately there are multiple programs available to allow you to lay down beats and notes right on your smartphone. As smartphone technology continues to advance, phones become like mini-computers capable of making music on the go. 


What you’ll need first is a smartphone that is capable of handling the processing and real time input demands of music making software. Good examples of smartphones capable of doing this are the Apple iPhone, Google Android handsets, and in some cases the Blackberry line of smartphones. It is worth noting that many mobile music makers use the Apple iPhone as it comes with multiple programs readily available for use built into the phone. 


Use the phone’s built in “app store” to browse for music making software. Much of the software is directed towards making hip hop and electronic beats but you may also be able to find recording software for recording live audio as well as for mixing down your music. 


Download the programs you want to use and pay for them if required. Restart the phone if needed and double tap the program’s icon to launch it if using a touchscreen. Often these programs recognize key presses and taps as notes and this is how you’ll operate the DAW on the mobile phone. 


Also these programs tend to rely heavily on cutting and pasting as well as using presets to make different sounds and effects. The best way to make music on your mobile phone using these programs is trial and error. Tool around with all the various features to learn the ins and outs of the program.


Additionally you can use full feature DAW programs such as Fruity Loops, Reason, Logic Pro, and ProTools to make your own custom MIDI files of beats, sounds, and recordings. You can then use your phone’s Bluetooth or USB connection to connect to the computer and import the MIDI files onto your phone.


Then if the mobile DAW program supports MIDI importing you can choose “Import file” from the program’s menu and begin using your computer created sounds and effects on the mobile phone.


For the most part smartphone beat making is limited but useful enough to lay down basic beats and song structure layouts. This lets you capture the inspiration when it strikes and get the basics of your next piece of audio art down. When you get back home to your studio you can build upon your mobile creation on your full computer workstation.

Picture of an original iPhone cell phone.Credit: By Carl Berkeley from Riverside California [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons