iPad Music App Review: GlitchBreaks

by chip on April 29, 2012

APP NAME: GlitchBreaks
PRICE: $4.99
PLATFORM: iPhone, iPod, & iPad
TYPE OF MUSIC APP: Loop Manipulation & Glitch Effects

GlitchBreaks is a loop manipulation tool with an emphasis upon the idea of “glitching” breakbeats.  While it serves this function with a strong focus, it contains a number of additional tools which make it a powerful production and live performance tool.

What Does It Do?
The bulk of the activity in GlitchBreaks happens in the seven pads, which interact with the waveform at the top of the screen.  The waveform near the top of the screen represents the currently loaded loop.  Directly to the left of the waveform, a small window contains the name of the loop currently loaded for playback.  The four pads at the bottom of the screen each contain a different loop, allowing you to easily switch between files.  Simply touch any of the four pads to start playing the loop; once you do, you’ll see a marker follow the playback across the waveform.  The playback switches to the new loop instantly when you touch a different pad, letting you mix and match loops mid-measure.  You can press the triangle button in the upper left hand corner to stop playback.  While the loop is playing, you can “Glitch” the sound by holding your finger on the XY pad marked “Glitch.. The pad is broken into four numbered areas; as you touch each one, you’ll get a slightly different effect.  You can get a little bit more control over the “Glitch” by dragging your fingers between the different ares.  The “Cut” pad lets you stutter across the loop in a defined rhythmic pattern as you hold your finger down.  Each of the four areas of the pad contain a different pattern, which can be programmed to your liking.  The “Loop Modulation” pad triggers the app to play a certain amount of the loop and then glitch at a specific point.  Horizontal movement controls the glitch point within the loop while dragging your finger across the horizontal plane will set the speed of the glitch.  Both the “Glitch” and “Cut” pads simply require you to lift your finger to stop the effect while the “Loop Modulation” pad has a power button that requires a specific tap for deactivation.  These controls form the core of the functionality in GlitchBreaks, providing a wealth of musical possibilities into a collection of pads.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of using the pads to glitch out your loops, you can mix and match loops, record your performances, and export files.  When you want to record a performance, you simply press the circle button in the upper left hand corner, and once you trigger a loop, the app will start recording.  You can either set GlitchBreaks to record a certain number of measures or use unlimited recording to capture your full creative vision.  After recording your glitched out loops, press the floppy disc icon and you’ll find yourself at the file management screen.  Directly underneath the main menu, you’ll see a heading that says “–User Sounds–” which will be followed by your recordings.  Below your recordings, you’ll find another heading labeled “–Factory Sounds–” that is followed by ninety fantastic audio loops provided with the app.  If you want to load one of these loops, press on the name and then tap the pad where you want to store it.  You can also put your own original loops into the pads using the AudioPaste option.  Once you press it, you’ll see a list of files sitting on the pasteboard; after you select it and tap on a pad, the file will load into the pad.  When you’re looking at files in either the User Sounds, Factory Sounds, or AudioPaste, you can tap a file and then select “AudioCopy” – this will place a copy of your selected file onto the pasteboard for use in another app.  There’s a couple of nice file management options on this screen as well that let you rename your recordings or delete them completely.  These functions really extend the functionality of GlitchBreaks, both in and outside the app.

Additional controls on main screen deliver some great options for continuing to turn your audio loops inside out.  Directly above the waveform, a screen wide scroll bar allows you to adjust the pitch of your loop either higher or lower.  There’s quite a bit of room for change and GlitchBreaks handles the adjustments with steady audio quality.  If you want to quickly jump back to the loop’s original pitch, there’s an icon with a circled arrow in the upper left hand corner of the screen that will automatically shift you back to the original pitch.  A series of three circles to the left of the “Glitch” pad under the heading “Time” sets your playback to the original speed, half time, or even quarter time.  Below the “Time” buttons, there’s “Mute” and “Reverse” buttons that will trigger those changes to the loop playback only while you hold your finger on the button.  A vertical scroll bar on the left hand side of the screen controls your master volume while the mixer looking icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen brings up small faders for each playback pad.  The BPM option in the upper right hand corner of the screen automatically finds an appropriate tempo based upon the loops loaded into the four pads; it can be adjusted using the arrows on either side of the number. The Quantize feature in the upper right hand corner directly relates to the “Glitch” and “Cut” pads, determining the when those features will react to your touch on the screen.  The increments are marked as subdivisions of the bar, allowing you to set the Quantize anywhere from 1 to 1,073,741,824.  These features really round out the possibilities in GlitchBreaks, giving you a full spectrum of tools to manipulate your loops.

Pressing the wheel icon in the upper left hand corner takes you to a new screen with a very powerful tool and a couple of additional app options.  The sixteen blocks that line the top pod the screen make up the “Cut Editor,” a tool that lets you build specific cuts.  It works much like a sequencer, allowing you to create distinct rhythm figures and assign them to the “Cut” pad.  The blocks represent sixteenth note subdivisions of a measure, with the larger blocks relating to the strong beats.  You can turn the different points of the subdivision on or off by tapping them, turning them blue in the process; the first block is consistently forced into the blue “on” position.  Once you’ve created a solid “Cut” pattern, the first slider under the “Options” menu allows you to save that pattern to a specific block on the “Cut” pad.  Simply adjust the slider to choose Cut Number 1, 2, 3, or 4 and then press the “Save” button directly above the “Options” menu.  This type of customization turns the “Cut” pad into a much more powerful tool that can shaped by your creative needs.  The second slider in the “Options” menu will limit your recordings to a certain number of measures.  When the slider is in the far left “OFF” position, you’ve got unlimited recording.  Moving the slider to the right will limit the recording to anywhere between one and thirty-two measures, a fantastic tool when you’re creating loops for export.  The button at the bottom of the “Options” menu enables the “Detect and Change BPM” feature, which tells GlitchBreaks to automatically figure out BPM based upon the loaded loops.  In most cases, this is a practical feature to have enabled, but would need to be turned off when using audio loops with a free sense of rhythm.  There’s a lot of power in this screen that can extend the uses of GlitchBreaks tremendously.

What’s It Missing?
GlitchBreaks is a fully functional tool that does exactly what it promises.  Even still, there are a few points that could be addressed in a future update.

  • It would be fantastic to have a way to apply the “Cut” and “Glitch” pads at different points in the measure.  Currently, touching the pads jumps the loop back to the beginning, where the effect is applied.  Having the option to “Cut” or “Glitch” on the second, third, and fourth beats, or even the subdivisions, would broaden the sonic impact of the app quite a bit.
  • It would be nice to apple the Assign Detect and Change BPM feature to individual pads instead of the whole app.  GlitchBreaks is most practical when you are able to jump between loops quickly, but throwing a loop with “free” rhythm into the mix messes with the BPM settings.  So at this point, it’s either use GlitchBreaks for solely drum loops or free rhythms – individual assignments would allow you to mix and match these two types of loops.
  • At this point, you can trigger one pad at a time, but it would be nice to simultaneously activate multiple loops.  You’d need a way to assign where your “Glitch” and “Cut” pads will take effect; the individual volume sliders for each pad could be your mixing tools.  With these features, you’d be leaning towards a DJ type set-up, but the ability to run a drum loop, bass loop, and guitar or synth loop within this interface while adding glitch effects would be awesome.  
  • While the quick change of loops in the middle of a measure allows for new sonic creations, it would be nice to have the option to press a pad and start playback of the new pad at the beginning of the next measure.  This would allow you to pull together longer recordings that reflected different song sections.
  • The blocks on the Cut Editor should reflect the currently saved pattern on the Cut Number chosen in the “Options” menu.  At this point, you just see your work in progress as you switch between the different cut numbers.  This can be a bit confusing, making it hard to keep track of the patterns that you have already programmed.  
  • The Cut Editor should allow you to turn off the first block, opening more rhythmic possibilities for your “Cut” patterns.  By deactivating the first block, you’d be able to create some great syncopated patterns that are currently out of reach.

  • Bottom Line
    GlitchBreaks is an addictively fun and very useful app that will appeal to electronic musicians in a variety of settings.  At its core, the app is holds a clear and singular purpose that it executes with a powerful focus – to add “Glitch” effects to a drum loop.  Once you dig deeply into all the app functions and start combining the different tools, you’ll find that GlitchBreaks is much more – it’s a serious tool for manipulating audio loops.  While the idea of glitching sounds may be the app’s focus point, the wide variety of tools that are built into the app allow for pretty limitless sonic stretching.  The interface is both practical and inviting, cramming a ton of audio manipulation tools into a small space without being cluttered or confusing.  The included loops are top notch, providing a wide variety of solid breakbeat samples recorded with high quality audio.  GlitchBreaks would work great as a performance tool, enabling live musicians to throw audio loops into their music while constantly letting evolve through the glitch tools.  Recording musicians could find the app useful for creating glitched out drum beats for their compositions or sonically altered audio loops that they could place into a DAW.  Beginners with an interest in glitch music will enjoy the instant gratification of the “Glitch” and “Cut” pads, quickly churning out some sounds that reflect the music that they love.  Advanced users will be able to take the app much further, stretching the sonic possibilities of each loop into countless directions that will undoubtedly indulge their creative whims.  Musicians that have any sort of glitch in their music will definitely want to add GlitchBreaks to their tool box, and musicians that simply deal with audio loops will want to give it a serious look.  There’s really something for musicians of all levels that share a love of glitch music – the inherent strength of the tools, the smart design of the interface, and functional flexibility make GlitchBreaks an inspiring creative tool and fluid music making experience. 

    If you’re interested in putting a taste of glitch into your music, then GlitchBreaks is an app that you need to check out. Have you put GlitchBreaks to the test? Have you found that GlitchBreaks has been a strong tool for your music making?  We’d love to hear your opinion – LEAVE A COMMENT below and let us know what you think of GlitchBreaks.

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