Making music can be an awesomely fun exercise, but it’s not something we all have the mindset for. If you’re into playful electronica, however, Playground makes it possible to flex a muscle you didn’t even know you had.
If there’s one thing you can say about the iPad, it’s that Apple’s game-changing tablet has certainly had an effect on the music world.
It’s not just about having a portable computer with you capable of so much, because music makers have found new ways to compose and generate sounds with the touchscreen technology found inside Apple’s iPad.
Apple has also had a hand in this, mind you, and pivotal apps like GarageBand have granted enthusiasts the ability to take their music creation skills on the road without needing a MIDI keyboard and electric guitar.
But what if even those things are a little too much? What if you want to play with and create sounds and you know you have little to no skill?
For that, you might want to play around in a sandbox of sorts, which is kind of what you get in “Playground”.
Developed by a bunch of musicians and programmers out of Belgium, Playground is a musical play set made of shapes connected to sounds, with the concept basically asking your fingers to take a walk through this playground of objects to create the music you see and hear.
Imagine if you were in a children’s playground and every object there had a different sound linked to it. The swings played a jingle, the see-saw played a bell, and the slide played an electronic tone, and as you ran to each object a beat played.
Think of this beat and play on the swings to make the beat play a jingle, then run to the slide and play the tone while your feet tap the beat.
That’s much of the idea with Playground, with the shapes and objects set out in the playpen all mapped to certain sounds, and the tracking of your fingers across all of these — and the paths you create — making the music sound different.
Playground does have a sound that each playpen will offer up, but it’s up to you, dear reader and iPad user, to decide how this sound comes out, changing the sound by the simple movement of your finger.
The music can sit on the side of being fairly experimental, mind you, so if you’re not into playful techno or glitchy electronica, you’re probably not going to like the sort of sound Playground offers up, at least not in regards to its free songs.
Ah yes, “free songs”, because you’ll get a few to start with, but if you want to listen and dabble with more music, you’ll need to pony up a little money (under $2) for the privilege. When you do, though, you’ll find access to more playgrounds of shapes and sounds, and the ability to record your work, giving you the opportunity to share these works with friends later on.
Overall, we found Playground to be a good bit of fun, though it does need one thing to make it more like a proper playground of sound: control.
On the one hand, you have control in the playgrounds the developers have set out for you, but on the other, you can’t place your own shapes or come up with your own beats.
You are pretty much always playing inside of a musician’s playground, but you never really get to define your own sound; rather, you’re just tweaking their sound to match what you want.
Is this a bad thing? No, but could it be better with some customised control? Absolutely.
Playground can be found on the Apple App Store for the iPhone and iPad for free, with in-app purchases for other songs.