Price: Free to download
IAP: $2/£2 for the full version
Size: 92.5 MB
Developer: Justin Alexander
Update! We first reviewed SoundForest in November 2017. Since that time, the app hasn’t been updated all, but it remains pretty unique.
So what’s new? As we’ve mentioned, the SoundForest app hasn’t been updated at all for some time. That would ordinarily be quite remarkable, but then SoundForest isn’t a productivity service that needs to grow and develop. There’s no hot competitor for it to out-feature. It landed small but more or less perfectly formed, and there’s still nothing quite like it. Oh, and it works great on newer hardware, too – no black bars in sight.
Revised rating: The exact same quirky music toy. ★★★★
Our original review, written in November 2017, is presented in its entirety below.
Pop charts and nightclubs these days are awash with self-made stars who rose to the top with nothing but a laptop and a music-making program, but such tools take considerable skill and patience to wield effectively.
SoundForest strips the concept of music-making software down to its core, making the process both fun and accessible regardless of your musical ability.
Instruments are here represented by animals (both real and mythical), plant-life, and natural elements. These are separated into four distinct themes, so you can instantly create tracks with a harmonious style.
For example, the savannah theme attaches various disco-flavored percussive, synth and stringed instruments to lions, giraffes, and assorted arid landscape shapes.
The aquatic theme, meanwhile, allows you to wring woozy bloops and crystalline chimes out of brightly decorated fish, lobsters, and mermaids. Jungle and forest themes round up the available selection, and all of the icons are beautifully stylised.
In each case, you’re granted a 16×6 grid onto which you can place your sounds with a simple tap. The higher up on this note table you place them, the higher the tone, which allows you to string together simple melodies without much fuss.
Tap the time bar along the top of the screen and your opus-in-the-making will play out on a constant loop, with a double tap speeding the track up if you’re after something with a little more energy.
You can extend this simple note editing screen three times for four in total. A little rudimentary arithmetic should tell you that there isn’t much scope for lavish compositions here, but that’s kind of the point.
SoundForest is about spending 10 to 15 minutes at a time creating snappy ear-worms. Even someone with no musical ability will be able to produce pleasing results in short order.
In that spirit of brevity, though, it’s a shame that there isn’t a function to instantly replicate the notes from the previous editing screen onto the next. That way you could quickly lay down the bare bones of a track, then simply add or subtract as necessary from the following sections.
While we’re pointing out missing functions, the lack of a share or export facility is a real missed opportunity. The developer has included an example track to provide inspiration, but SoundForest is crying out for a community hub to upload your best efforts to – or download the best from.
It would be churlish to complain too much about what SoundForest lacks, though, when it’s so clearly an exercise in simplification and instant gratification. This is a music-making toy rather than a music-making tool.
In musical terms, SoundForest is a two-minute pop song, stripped of tiresome noodling and elaborate orchestration. It won’t redefine your perception of music, but you might just struggle to get it out of your head.