Monday, June 17, 2013 05:17:40

Review: Plasma Sound Is a Fun and Simple Way To Make Music With Your Smartphone

Plasma Sound

I found Plasma Sound on App Junkie's Zen Apps channel, where he described it in these words:

Create an entrancing soundscape and otherworldly feel with this amazing musical instrument designed for the touch screen.

Well, that certainly piqued my curiosity. And when I found out Plasma Sound actually has a completely free version, I knew I just had to try it. Because even if I don't have an ounce of musical talent, I do like to make noise -- and Plasma Sound delivers.

The Keyboard

Plasma Sound is made up of two main parts: The keyboard, and the sequencer. When you first run the app, you'll find yourself looking at the keyboard, so that's where we'll begin.

Plasma Sound

Plasma Sound's psychedelic keyboard looks a bit like a lava lamp.

Plasma Sound isn't another piano app: You won't find black and white keys here, and it doesn't try to look like any sort of physical instrument. Instead, as you slide your finger across the dark screen, mysterious swirls of color will appear, moving, shifting, and slowly dissipating. That must be the plasma in the name.

Thanks to multi-touch, you can also make some chords. They won't necessarily be harmonious (that part does take some talent), but with enough practice, you may end up making noises you like.

Much like a simple physical instrument (say, a harmonica), messing around with Plasma Sound doesn't require you to know musical theory. It's part toy, part instrument -- depending on what you make of it.

The Sequencer

The other half of Plasma Sound is the sequencer. This is a simple, typical looping sequencer: It looks like a grid with eight notes along the vertical axis, and eight spots across the horizontal one. A "scan line" constantly runs across the grid (that's the lighter-colored line in the screenshot). The scan line plays any notes in its column -- in this case, it will play a D#5 note as it whisks through this spot on the grid.

Plasma Sound

The sequencer is nice for making little snippets of music.

The scan line moves at a quick, regular pace, which means it'll be playing a little tune. Each column can have more than one note active at a time, so you can make chords. You can also control the volume of each note -- that's why some of the boxes are nearly full, while others are empty.

Modifying The Sounds

Plasma Sound

Plasma Sound will always sound electronic, but you get to decide exactly how.

Plasma Sound doesn't try to emulate a traditional instrument: It's all electronic. But that doesn't mean it's limited to just one type of sound. You can modify the waveform and octave range it uses, and apply all sorts of interesting effects.

Final Thoughts: Use Earbuds!

Let me be frank: You won't be making masterpieces with Plasma Sound. It's not a tool for serious composers -- it's for having fun! If you enjoy fooling around and making fun noises and little tunes, this is an app you'll appreciate. It's very kid-friendly, too -- young ones may actually have more fun with it than you will.

That said, the final caveat is that it will irritate anyone who happens to be in the room (or on the bus!) with you, so do be sure to use earbuds when you play with it. Happy jamming!