7 Apps for the Writer, Painter & Musician in Us All

Looking to add more color, creativity, and self-expression to your life with your iPhone? I’ve sifted through a sea of choices to find this lineup of creativity-boosting apps geared toward the writer, artist, and musician in us all. Try using any of the following apps to turn up the fun in your life with drawing, painting, singing, journaling, and even karaoke!

Bear (Free, $1.49/month for pro)

I’m an old-school writer who tends to think that writing by hand is superior to typing, that libraries are the best place to get books, and smartphones are mostly for texting friends. Bear, a writing and note-taking app, has changed my perspective. With Bear, writing with your phone can be useful, productive, and intuitive. Bear is a word-processing app with similar features to Microsoft Word. When you open the app, you’re immediately guided through its many features by clever and informative articles, courtesy of the Bear team. Even if you branch out on your own, though, the app is very easy to figure out how to use.

With familiar formatting options like italics, bold, and underlining, as well as bullet points, indentations, and headers, you can experience both the look and feel of a fully functional typing application from your laptop right in the palm of your hand. Bear also allows users to create drawings within the app, attach photos, and add links and calendar dates. You’re beginning to see how versatile it is, right?

I’ve saved my favorite feature for last; you can save and share your Bear creation as a DOCX, JPG, HTML, or PDF file. That means I can write this article in Bear (yep, I’m doing it!) and then convert it to my desired format for submission. Awesome!

Tayasui Sketches (Free, $5.99/month for pro)

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a visual artist, this article is for the creative in us all, so I gave a few drawing apps a try. Sketches is my favorite by far; I like being able to listen to my music in the background as I sketch my feelings with a variety of pen and brush sizes, colors, and other accent features. The free version is a sweet deal for artists who want to sketch a scene on the go or create masterpieces in a different context than the usual canvas on an easel. The paid Pro version offers the option to get upgraded tools such as a smart ruler, wet watercolors, unlimited layers, and color mixing. A cool quirk of Sketches Pro is the recording feature; you have the option to screen record as you sketch and even add your voice to make verbal notes along the way! This option offers a useful way to record your process, to share with a friend, or to look back on yourself.

Smule (Free, $9.99/month for pro)

For vocal artists, Smule is an absolutely fun way to let your voice shine—no microphone required! Smule is more than just a karaoke app, it’s a community that allows you to sing a wide range, from classic songs to current hits in a plethora of genres. With the free version, you get to team up and sing duets with fans and friends from around the world. Smule also offers the option to sing with the artists (I just sang “Say You Won’t Let Go” with James Arthur!). I’ve had jam sessions last well into the night (sorry upstairs neighbors) because I had such a good time searching all my favorite songs and sing along with others who love them too. With the new LiveJam! feature, you can invite friends from Facebook or Twitter to accompany you. To make solo recordings, you’ll have to upgrade to Smule’s VIP membership.

Yousician (Free, $19.99/month for premium)

Whether you’re looking to learn an instrument, enhance your current skills, or train your vocals, Yousician might be the app for you. Yousician offers lessons for voice, piano, guitar, bass, and ukulele. With one free lesson a day, you can pick up that guitar lying in the closet or dust off that old keyboard and quickly be on your way to impressing others with your skills. Yousician uses your iPhone’s microphone to listen for your voice or instrument, then gives immediate feedback on your pitch and accuracy. I’m a piano player already and enjoyed the beginner course (which included a challenge to keep me engaged). As a hopeful singer, I appreciated being able to practice vocal leaps and tuning as well as to learn simple songs within minutes. If you’d like to use more than the free lesson each day, you can upgrade to unlimited lessons for $19.99/month for one instrument or have unlimited access to all instruments and voice for $29.99/month. That’s significantly cheaper than any teacher I’ve tried, and worth the investment if you’d like to learn and improve in the comfort of your own home.

JigSpace (Free)

Artists are also learners, constantly exploring and searching for new ways to experience and interpret the world. JigSpace takes the idea of creative learning into the 3D realm with augmented reality. The app allows you to point your camera anywhere and create a virtual representation of an object from one of dozens of lessons. Subjects include Machines, Science, How-To, History, and Space. You can learn a variety of cool information, from the practical, such as “How to Pick a Bad Egg” to the purely intriguing, such as “Anatomy of a Lightsaber.” The first lesson teaches you the mechanics of how a lock works, with a key that appears before you on the screen and a walkthrough of the inner workings of the process. Learn during idle times at work or project the solar system in your bedroom before you fall asleep at night. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll even take on plumbing with the ever-practical lesson titled, “How to Fix a Leaky Tap!”

Music Memos (Free)

Ever get a sudden burst of musical inspiration? Perhaps a melody pops into your head, or a catchy new beat grabs hold of your hands. Wouldn’t it be nice to save those snippets to work on later? Well, that’s what Music Memos is for. Music Memos allows you to store bits of musical information for later. You can record your own sounds, ideas, melodies, and any inspiring music you hear. There’s even an auto mode, which tells Music Memos to start recording whenever there is music playing and to stop when the music stops. Your stored files create a music library that you can sort through by title or tag, allowing for easy organization of your ideas. Music Memos also has a tuning fork feature, which helps you to be sure you’re hitting the right notes vocally or to tune your instrument to the perfect pitch. This handy app is ideal for those of us who get inspiration anytime, anywhere. Create freely knowing there’s plenty of space for you to store and organize it all.

Day One Journal (Free, $3.99/month for premium)

The last of my recommendations is the Day One Journal app, a great place to jot down what’s going on in your life at the moment. The free version of Day One allows you to password protect your journals and add a selfie to your entry as you jot a quick note. When you upgrade to Premium, you can create multiple journals, back up and sync them across multiple devices, encrypt your entries, and record one-minute audio entries that are automatically transcribed. Day One also has the unique feature of creating a book with your journal entries. Journal every day for a year with Day One, and you’ve written your first autobiography!

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      Author Details

      Melanie Newell's picture

      Author Details

      Melanie Newell

      Melanie has been writing for as long as she can remember, and she loves using words to express ideas, convey emotions, or educate an audience. From speeches and journaling to poetry and screenplays, writing has guided Melanie through various experiences and continuously expands her intellectual and creative horizons.