How to use Music Memos app to record, organize and develop your musical ideas right on the iPhone

BY Osas Obaizamomwan

Published 24 Jan 2016

If you have ever had the need to record your sudden musical inspiration, the Voice Memos app was your place of refuge. Many famous musicians have stated that some of their initial studio recordings were derived from random voice memos. iPhones are one of the most popular devices for musicians and regular folk alike, so instead of relying on the very minimalist Voice Memos App, Apple has released Music Memos for easy and efficient musical creation.

Hands-on with Music Memos app for iOS

Beginning with the iPod, music has been the heart and soul of their mobile inspirations. With iTunes, Apple Music, GarageBand, and now Music Memos, Apple is continuing to solidify its place at the very top of the industry leaderboard. You can download Music Memos for free in the App Store right now. I am in love with the logo, but besides that, the app is actually a really great addition to the Apple App universe.

“Musicians around the world, from the biggest artists to aspiring students, use Apple devices to create amazing music; the innovative new Music Memos app will help them quickly capture their ideas on iPhone and iPad whenever inspiration strikes,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “GarageBand is the most popular music creation app in the world, and this update helps everyone easily tap into their musical talent with the powerful new Live Loops and Drummer features, and adds support for the larger iPad Pro screen and 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.”

So, what is Music Memos?

Without getting too convoluted, Apple’s Music Memos app is simplified music creation app that allows users to create short or long samples that can easily be shared and further edited using GarageBand, which was also updated recently. Music Memos is, “is the easiest way for songwriters to capture and organize new musical ideas.”

With a super simple interface, and easy-to-use tools, Music Memos helps those with the music bug easily record and immediately edit the notes, riffs, songs, or chords. Music Memos builds off of that Voice Memos offered, by adding musical tags for recordings, and artificially intelligent bass and drums. If you swipe up from the bottom you’ll gain access to your previously saves ‘ideas.”

Music Memos Screens

How does it work

When you first open the Music Memos app you will be met with an extremely plain interface. There is a record button in the center, a tuning option in the top-right, a folder section, and an auto function. That’s it. There is no menu, settings, or other option function within the app. It’s pure music appeal.

If you tap the Auto button, the app will wait to hear some type of beat, or noise really and will begin recording automatically. The normally blue screen will turn red and will begin recording with visual cues scrolling on the bottom. The saved recording is uncompressed, high-quality audio file.


You can of course, just tap the record button as you normally would to begin recording sound as well.

If you want to find the tune you can do that as well by tapping on the tuning fork icon. It will do its best to approximate the key for whatever you are trying to record.

Tuning - Music Memos


Music Memos automatically splits everything into measures and tries to determine the chords you were playing or singing. I am not a musician in the slightest bit. Singing in the shower is about as far as my musical talents go. But I have a roommate who knows how to play the guitar. And while the “auto-chording” isn’t perfect, it’s pretty damn good for an iPhone app. While my roommate played a few chords on his guitar, the Music Memos app tries to match the tempo.

Once finished recording, you can go in and add drums or bass which have already intelligently built itself into the chord on beat – or at least close to on beat. This is huge bonus for solo artists looking to find the right tempo without have a guitarist or drummer to play off of. While an AI musician will never replace a real one, the ability for Music Memos to closely create suitable timing and tempo is pretty impressive. And if the drums are slightly off, you can tweak the tempo, signature or change the downbeat by tapping and holding on the 4/4 icon. You can also change the style and sound of the drum or bass by tapping on each icon respectively. We will discuss all the editing options a little later on.

Music Memos

Once a recording is done, it will immediately be saved as “My Idea 1″(you can rename this by tapping on the title at anytime).

How to edit your Idea

Inside the editing panel, you’ll see the toolbar. In the toolbar you can edit timing, edit chords, trim your “idea”, edit the type of note, and share your idea.

Toolbar - Music Memos

Edit Timing

To edit the timing of your sample tap on the audio bar if you are on the main recording screen and you’ll be taken to the editing panel seen above. Tap on the timing icon (4/4) to bring up the menu. From the timing menu you’ll see that the Music Memos app has already intelligently guessed the tempo of your sample. This is very relevant if you’ve added drums or guitar in the background.

The sample below was tagged at 70 BPM (beats per minute). So, with that in mind, you can alter that tempo to your liking. If you want the drums or guitar to come in double-time you’ll tap double. This will change the beats per minute to 140 versus the original 70. You can also alter the clip signature, and downbeat. Of course, all of these tools are absent from Voice Memos, so Apple looked to add some basic, but helpful musical editing tools to Music Memos.

Edit Time - Music Memos

Edit Chords

Again, I am not going to pretend to be a musical genius when explaining the adjustment of chords, but I can at least show you how to do it. In the editing panel tap on the second icon (Cm7) and you will see your sample with the chords that Music Memos has intelligently added. The app analyzes your song sample and creates chords and tempos for the artificial band to play along with. You can remove chords, remove the band entirely, or edit the chord type by selecting a section, which will be highlighted blue, and change to your liking.

Chords - Editing


Probably the most basic tool out of the bunch. Tap on the trim icon and move the red markers to the places you want to trim. Editing the beginning or end of the clip by moving either marker. When you are done trimming you will be prompted to save the clip as a new idea.

Trim - Idea

Edit Notes

Edit Notes - Music Memos

You can edit the notes of the background music by tapping the Notes icon. The icon looks very similar to the email compose icon in Mail. In the Note section you can alter the capo position and change the guitar tuning.

Notes - Music Memos


When you are finally done with all the tweaking you need to do to make your clip presentable you can tap the share icon to share it to a bunch of different options. If you want to continue editing your clip with more tools, than tap the GarageBand icon. You can also send the clip to notes to add lyrics or suggestions, upload it to iTunes, or get famous on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Share - Music Memos

Now that you have the basic process down, you can continue recording new ideas and filing them where you see fit. Each new adding can be a piece of one, larger song, or just a bunch of random compositions.

My Ideas

If you are looking to build on saved records, you are not going to find that option. Apple still wants you to use GarageBand, so that’s where you will need to head if you want to start adding layers and including more instruments and tweaks.

That should be all you need to know to really get started with Music Memos. Apple really tried hard to keep the app extremely simple, and straight to the point. While this is obviously geared directly at aspiring or sustaining musicians, the app is easy enough for a newb like me to understand. This is really a great move by Apple, to create something for the YouTube generation of iPhone users that were looking for a decent, free application that would allow them to spontaneously create. While you will not be able to build an entire 12 track album with Music Memos, you can definitely get a pretty good head start. I am excited to see what people come up with using this in the months to come.

Let us know what you think about the new Music Memos app in the comment section.