At last it exists. The perfect application for recreating the Dr Who theme tune - this is Grantophone, in its version 2.0 guise, with extra effects and arpeggiator. It's tempting to call it a musical application, except that even Grantophone's own description refers to creating "all sorts of interesting sounds". So not actual tunes then. Don't be put off though - this is a free application with which you can have enormous fun. And, perhaps, find the perfect sound effects for that school drama or garage band trance track.
Grantophone has its roots in traditional synthesisers, as you can tell from the parameters that (if you're really, really keen) can be fiddled with for each of its dozen presets (any four of which can be active at any one time): 'LFO Amplitude, Rate, Phase, FM Depth, Filter Cutoff, etc. You get the picture. In practice, most users will just experiment with the presets and various combinations thereof.
Of particular note is the innovative tabular layout - traditional piano keyboard emulations have proved too clumsy on screen to cope with more than an octave or two - the layout here manages four octaves and with relatively few compromises. The 'keyboard' here is also fully multi-touch and you can lay on as many fingers/notes as you like, with the caveat that (depending on how many presets are active) as the software processing becomes too much for the application, the audio can start to degrade and distort.
By far the best way to demonstrate Grantophone is on video form, below. Demonstrated in order are:
- attempting an approximation of the Dr Who theme tune(!)
- varying the vibrato parameters according to the phone's accelerometers (i.e. analog control)
- showing the way the octaves are set up on the 'keyboard'
- demonstrating multi-touch response and the beginnings of breakup when it all gets too much for the CPU to handle
The output in the video is obviously from the (excellent) Lumia 920 speaker, but it could equally well be through the standard 3.5mm audio out jack, into headphones, portable speakers, or another (audio recording) device.
Old time synthesiser geeks will love the parameters that can be edited here (oddly all in portrait mode only, so you get the 'sideways' effect in the screenshot below), and the accuracy of the audio generation and the response to touch input is first class throughout.
As a part time musician myself, I don't think I could imagine myself using Grantophone as a serious tool, but it's certainly fun to play with. And, you never know, for that moment in a session or event when someone asks for a particular spacey effect, you can immediately pull our your Windows Phone and perhaps save the day!
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at