Our smartphones are probably the best music accessories we have — but with over 1,700 apps vying for our attention, most of us aren't even close to using them to their full potential.
You likely know about the big ones (Shazam, Spotify, SoundCloud) but did you know your smartphone could also detect songs for you as you go through your day, tune your guitar and help you write better songs?
Here are 23 apps every music lover needs to know about to get the most out of their smartphone.
1. SoundHound (free)
Move over Shazam — if you're trying to find out what that annoying song you can't get out of your head is, open SoundHound. This app goes a few steps further than Shazam in identifying music all around you. If a song isn't currently playing, you can sing or hum right into the app to find that track you can't get out of your head. The app shows the lyrics of the music it identifies in real time, so if you're listening to something on the radio, it'll display lyrics mid-song. And while Shazam creates a playlist of songs within the app, SoundHound can add songs you find from the app to your personal playlists in Spotify or Rdio.
2. Magic Piano (free)
Still regretting the decision to stop taking piano lessons at age 10? Magic Piano won't turn you into the piano prodigy you always dreamed of becoming, but it will let you play your favorite songs by guiding you to the right keys with beams of light. Add in some notes and a rhythm of your own to personalize the song. The app includes plenty of hits to choose from, and, if you get bored of just playing piano, you can change the instrument to an organ or a harpsichord.
3. Sing! Karaoke (free)
You don't have to wait for a karaoke bar or to be alone in your shower if you want to bust out into song. Sing! Karaoke lets you sing all of your favorite songs any time of day, anywhere you are. You can record videos of your solos and share them with followers on the app. It also has a few helpful features, like vocal enhancement, to improve your voice where it might need a little extra help, and, if you don't want to solo, you can do a duet with pre-recorded tracks from pop stars like Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.
4. Tenuto ($3.99)
This app will help you become a better musician, and it lets you practice wherever you want. With 15 key exercises ranging from ear training to music note recognition, the app is designed to make you a more well-rounded musician by focusing on the basics. Tenuto, created by musictheory.net, also takes the advanced lessons available through their service and condenses them into these select exercises for your phone so you can keep practicing wherever you are.
5. Slacker (free)
If you're not satisfied with your streaming service, you might want to try Slacker radio. It provides custom radio stations curated by music experts. If you're looking to explore a new genre, this is an easy and straightforward way to do it. Check out Slacker's featured stations page to get started.
6. Songkick (free)
Whether you're an avid concertgoer or you just always miss concert announcements for your favorite band, this app will help you see the music you want. Songkick searches your music library of choice — iTunes, Google Music, Spotify or Rdio — and creates a personalized concert calendar. You can set up alerts for your favorite artists so you never miss buying tickets before they sell out.
7. Djay (free, $2.99, $9.99, $49.99)
By far one of the most popular and advanced DJ apps available on both iPhone and Android, djay turns a smartphone into a mini turntable. It can integrate with Spotify (for Premium users) and iTunes, so you can mix your favorite songs right in the app. There are varying levels of intensity depending on how serious a smartphone DJ you want to be, ranging from the free version on Android phones to the $49.99 djay Pro on the iTunes app store.
8. DM1 – The Drum Machine ($4.99)
This app puts a drum set right in your iPad or iPhone (sorry, Android users). Created by Fingerlab, the app lets you play, record and mix sounds electronically. The step sequence, where you can create new beats, and the drum pads, where you can play and record new sounds on your own, are both useful for aspiring or experienced drummers looking to play via phone or tablet.
9. GarageBand ($4.99)
Many people know about the popular music making computer software from Apple for their computers, but the tool is also extremely powerful in app form. GarageBand's mobile app gives users a mini, portable recording studio. You can use Smart Instruments to sound much more advanced than you really are, create songs anywhere and then share those songs over iCloud from a smartphone.
10. Walk Band (free)
Like GarageBand, this music production program gives users a portable band to create music right from their phone. Walk Band includes a suite of portable instruments to make new music or jam on the go. The instrument toolbox includes a keyboard, drum kit, guitar, drum machine and bass. This one's only available on Android.
11. Metronome (free)
For any tried-and-true musician, being able to detect a tempo before you play or perform is crucial. Metronome helps you do just that no matter where you are. If you need to check your tempo before starting a performance, this app will do the trick.
12. Figure (free)
If you want to make a quick beat between subway stops, there's Figure. The app is useful for both beginners looking to play with sounds and more experienced musicians. It lets you create songs with drums, bass and lead synthesizers, and the main interface is easy — just slide your fingers on the play pad to start mixing. You can also share your creations on the Propellerhead network to collaborate with other musicians making songs on the app.
13. Songsterr Tabs & Chords (free, $4.99/month)
While learning to play an instrument, having limitless tab and chord tracks can be extremely useful. With this app, subscription users have access to 500,000 tab tracks and 90,000 songs from a number of popular musicians. If you'd prefer to stick to the free version, you can preview the first 15 seconds of any song without the subscription.
14. Songwriter's Pad ($9.99)
This app is the ultimate antidote to songwriter's block. It incorporates a series of features designed to push you over the inspirational hump, including an emotion-based word and phrase generator to help you come up with ideas, and a built-in rhyming dictionary. It's also just a useful way to keep track of your songwriting lyrics and ideas anywhere you are.
15. Noisli ($1.99)
Need a break from the music? Or just all of the noise around you constantly? A good white noise app can be your savior if you work in an open office space or just need to block out the sound of everyday life happening around you. It will fill your ears with the sounds of a soothing water stream or a bustling coffee shop — whatever background noise helps you focus best. You can also mix Noisli sounds together to create your ultimate white noise combo — and they's available offline, so you won't drain your data plan.
16. Genius (free)
After downloading Genius, you'll never be confused about what a song lyric means again. You can look up any song that's playing around you or that you're listening to on your device, and Genius gives you a line-by-line analysis of the lyrics. You can also add your own annotations to the growing database.
17. Notion ($14.99)
This app gives you all the tools you need to compose a new song in one place. Open up the score setup, and start composing anywhere. You can compose new songs, edit them and then hear what they sound like using audio samples from the London Symphony Orchestra. Notion lets you compose with a piano keyboard, drum pad and fretboard.
18. Dubsmash (free)
By far one of the most entertaining apps on the list, Dubsmash lets you make lip-sync videos to your favorite sounds and songs. The app sucks you in with a random collection of funny clips from music and movies. Before you know it, you're sending videos to everyone in your contact list. There are even separate categories for musicals and memorable ads — enough said.
19. Audiobus ($4.99)
Audiobus is the one app music lovers have to have if they're also downloading a bunch of other apps to make music. This app helps users make sense of all of the guitar tuning, drumming, synthesizing, looping programs that they've downloaded to create their distinct electronic sound. With Audiobus, you can take the sound you make in one app, move it to another app to change it and then finally place it in an entirely different app to layer those sounds over something else. It connects all of your music apps as if you were plugging them into each other, but instead joins them through this app's interface.
20. Bandsintown Concerts (free)
This app also keeps track of all of your concert-related information. Similar to Songkick, it searches through your music library or your streaming service of choice to find what artists you're interested in. You can set up alerts for when your favorite artists are playing near you, and it keeps track of all the concerts you've already bought tickets for. If you are looking for more shows, you can browse tour dates for any artist, buy tickets to concerts in the app, and search through concert listings in any city as well.
21. Guitar Tuna (free)
This app is helpful for traveling guitarists who need a tuner on the go. Created by guitarists, it works for guitar, bass and ukulele and includes a range of tuning sets for various instruments. Musicians can use the built-in tools or purchase a different set for their other instruments.
22. Rode Rec ($5.99)
Rode Rec lets users record, edit and export tracks anywhere. The interface has an easy editing tool that allows edits on recorded audio before exporting. This is another crucial app if your end goal is to become a music producer/singer/songwriter who only functions from a portable smartphone.
23. NPR Music (free)
The NPR Music app combines the benefits of a streaming radio service with all of the latest music news a regular streaming service leaves out. With the app, listeners can tune in to more than 100 music stations around the country, and they can still create offline playlists of their favorite songs and artists. The app also streams all live NPR concerts and music events, so users can watch on their smartphones or tablets shows they might otherwise have missed.
This series is part of a collaboration between Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ and Mic to explore how technology impacts our generation's relationship with music. With a Snapdragon processor powering your phone, you'll experience music with superior surround-sound, and epically-fast 4G LTE. This story was written by Mic's branded content team with no involvement from Mic's editorial staff. For more stories in this series, click here >>