Apple Watch Makes A Pretty Good Musical Instrument

A looper on your wrist

Key Takeaways

  • TimeLoop is a full-featured music-looping app for musicians.
  • You might be surprised how many music apps exist for the Apple Watch.
  • Every musician with an Apple Watch should get a metronome app.
The TimeLoop looper app on an Apple Watch.
TimeLoop

TimeLoop is a looper app for your Apple Watch. You hit record, play some music, and the app will record and loop that phrase, ready for you to record another layer, or just play along. And it’s all on your wrist.

TimeLoop is meant as a practice aid, and is the perfect implementation of a music app on your watch. But there are plenty more weird and wonderful music apps for the Apple Watch. 

"I use it for jamming out ideas on the guitar and crazy table tapping sessions," TimeLoop developer Jack Marshall told Lifewire via email. "But I imagine people using it for vocal improvisations, practicing scales, and chord progressions."

Loops

TimeLoop isn’t Marshall’s first music app. It’s not even his first looper app. Group the Loop is one of the best music looper apps on iOS, or any platform. A looper lets a musician record a snippet of their performance, then loop it over and over to use as a background track.

More advanced apps (and hardware units) let you add layers, and even to separate the song into sections, switching back and forth as you play. TimeLoop is surprisingly powerful for a watch app, allowing overdubbing and saving of different ideas.

You can tap to record immediately, which is good for singers, or you can enable a count-in mode, so you can get your hands ready to play your instrument. And there’s more to come. Writing on the Audiobus music app forum, Marshall says that he plans to add an iPhone companion app for saving and exporting your recordings. 

Music on Your Wrist

We know the Apple Watch can be used to listen to music and podcasts, just by hooking up a pair of Bluetooth headphones. But it also can be used to make music.

You can remote-control a bigger music app on the iPhone, tune into radio stations from around the world, and even tune your guitar. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet found a theremin app for the watch.

Perhaps the metronome is the most useful of all wrist-mounted utilities. You can have the Apple Watch silently tap your wrist so you can keep time. That makes it good not just for practice, but for performance, where a ticking metronome would be annoying for the audience—unless you’re an experimental musician.

This category is so useful that there actually are standalone wrist-mounted metronomes available. The Soundbrenner Pulse, for example, uses haptic taps to keep you in time. The idea is that you can feel the pulse instead of hearing it—also good for noisy live performances. 

The Melody Box app on Apple Watch.
Melody Box

Another neat music-creation app is Rayan Arman’s MelodyBox, a kind of wrist-mounted groovebox. You can pick from piano, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and even vocal samples. You lay down the tune just by tapping on the screen. You might not put together a full song, but it’s a fantastic way to quickly record some inspiration.

"I see [the Apple Watch] as more of a sketch pad to get your ideas down when you’re out and about. Then you can develop them when you get home to your iPad or computer," says Marshall. 

Then again, nobody expected anyone to write an entire novel on their iPhone

Limitations

In fact, it’s not the app makers or the users that are holding back music creation on the watch. It’s Apple. The tools just aren’t available.

Perhaps that’s down to a paranoia about battery life on such a tiny device. Or perhaps it’s just that Apple hasn't yet gotten around to making these tools available.

"Currently we are missing some useful audio frameworks that are available to developers on iOS," says Marshall. "Maybe that's why we're not seeing many watch music apps right now. Let's hope Apple adds them one day."

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