By David Thompson
If you’re into making music on mobile devices and you’re aware of the chiptune scene, it’s likely you’ll have come across the work of Alexander Zolotov, or NightRadio. As a lone developer, he has created some of the most impressively powerful and accessible software available on mobile devices, designed solely with one thing in mind – the creation of music.
SunVox is by far his best work. Combining a tracker with a wide variety of useful tools – being able to monitor decibel levels in real time, watch all instruments as individual blocks connected almost like a spider diagram, and of course to import, export, and keep working on Sunvox projects whether you’re using your PC or your smartphone. No, really – if you’re scanning O2′s page for the new Samsung Galaxy S4 and wondering if you’ll be able to produce new music on the move, you’re safe. SunVox is here.
It’s got a hell of a steep learning curve, let’s make no bones about it. If you were used to the accessibility of Zolotov’s Pixitracker, then you’re in for a shock. But anyone who’s been producing music for a while will be surprised to see a full suite of production tools in a single package presented simply enough for a child to pick up and use.
If you’re willing to put the time in, you can see some of the output SunVox is capable of (by itself, and this is important) on the software page itself. Of course, these are examples by Zolotov himself and they showcase the user interface and capabilities of the software very well. Watching it run on a smartphone is surreal, given how complicated the software is.
The most fascinating thing about it is the spiderweb of different effects and instruments in the centre of the user interface. It’s really interesting to see them laid out in a way that provides very accurate information on what runs through what, what connects to what, and of course, whether any of them are making sounds, what the waveform is, and how loud they’re being, all in one go. It’s a huge amount of information for a producer to work with and it means less losing the thread of what you were doing, especially if you come back to a project in the morning that you assembled in the zone last night.
It does cost a little money on mobile platforms, but it’s completely free for Windows, Mac and Linux. That Zolotov could create software like this and offer it to desktop users for the high price of “absolutely nothing at all” is surreal, but speaks volumes about the philanthropic nature of his approach to music software. The best way to support him is to buy the mobile versions of his work, or to donate, and support an important member of the music production community.
Sunvox is a tool that there’s no excuse to ignore, simply because it’s free, not a huge download, and has the potential even to replace the tracker you’re using now, should you be using one. Music just got a lot more colourful and experimental.
About the Author: David Thompson is a freelancer who concentrates on blogging, web design, latest gadgets, gigs and music. He also regularly contributes to a newly-launched tech blog Techiedoodlers.com