"Most people aren't trained in music, and they're intimidated by the idea of creating music themselves," Khush CEO Prena Gupta told me in an interview. "We want to remove that barrier."
To that end, Khush has focused its app-making efforts into products that put music creation tools in the hands of novices. The company made a splash last year with LaDiDa, which it bills as a "reverse karaoke" app that provides pitch correction and accompaniment for your singing. And Khush's latest app, Songify, doesn't even require you to sing - just speak into your iOS device, and the app will turn your words into an auto-generated song.
I put both Khush apps through their paces and found a lot of fun - as well as more than a few flaws - in their approach to music creation. Here we look at LaDiDa; also take a look at our Songify review.
The beat goes on: When recording yourself singing in LaDiDa, you get an on-screen volume indicator and lights that help you follow the beat. The on-screen microphone is just for show
Launch the LaDiDa app, and you'll go to a home screen that features an image of a microphone and volume level readout. (I found the readout to be slightly distracting, as it continually fluctuates even when you're not recording.) Tap a record button and start singing; when you're done, LaDiDa processes the results in just a few seconds and produces a finished track that you can play back.
The track plays with a default accompaniment, but you can go to a settings screen to adjust the style, tempo, and reverb. You're also able to adjust the amount of pitch correction that LaDiDa uses - a feature that will be welcome to anyone whose desire to sing is greater than their ability to carry a tune.
LaDiDa's pitch correction capabilities are quite impressive, actually. I like to flatter myself that I have a respectable singing voice, although my range is a bit limited and I've been known to hit my share of flat notes. Still, LaDiDa did an admirable job smoothing out the rougher edges of my voice. Even when I tried to intentionally sing off-key, the app made my miscues resemble actual human singing.
If you listen to my LaDiDa-created opus "Pants!" - I implore you to not click on that link - there are a few notes in the original version that would have made all the dogs in the neighbourhood howl in protest; in the sweetened LaDiDa version, you can hardly notice their presence.
My results with LaDiDa worked best when I sang original songs - be it improvised words about pants or, if I had more talent and inspiration, actual lyrics an aspiring songwriter might pen. LaDiDa did a pretty good job adjusting the background music and beat to my crooning. The finished product was less satisfying when I tried to sing actual songs; the accompanying music didn't quite match the singing, and the end result was fairly cacophonous. (LaDiDa does feature an a capella mode, which would be useful in those kinds of situations.)
In addition to A Capella, LaDiDa ships with three other musical styles. You can buy Guitar Style and Rap Style packs of additional background music as in-app purchases. In what I'm pretty sure is a bug with the current version, though, I was able to record and share songs using styles from packs I hadn't purchased - my masterwork "Pants!" is just such a track. One of my Macworld colleagues was also able to create songs with unpurchased styles. I imagine the developer will fix this apparent flaw by the time it takes you to read this sentence.
Version 1.5 of LaDiDa actually features a lot of these kinds of quirks. Normally, when you tap on the musical styles, you'll hear a sample to give you a flavor of what kind of background music to expect. On occasion, though, the only thing I heard was the sound of silence; tapping around usually fixed the problem. In other performance bugs, the recording countdown screen would periodically speed up to a breakneck pace - the tempo usually slowed back down once the recording began.