Modern handheld game consoles are powerful, portable and have pretty good sound capabilities — perfect for making music on the move. There are several ways to make music on these devices– you can work on that killer drum loop on a bus, in a pet shop or while skydiving. Here are a few programs that can help you make music on your portable game console.
The Sony Playstation Portable has PSPKick and PSP Rhythm Composer. PSPKick is a simple drum machine that lets you set up a sequence and play the result or save it to a WAV file. The PSP Rhythm Composer is also just a drum machine, but its interface is based on the Roland TR series drum machines for all you retro freaks out there.
The Game Boy Advance has Nanoloop. “Nanoloop is a synthesizer / sequencer for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. Stored on a normal game cartridge, it allows to produce nice electronic music without further hardware, using either headphones or an external amplifier (home stereo, active speakers, etc) as sound output.” The interface is minimal, but this is probably appropriate for such a small device. Nanoloop has an 8-voice synth — voices can be a rectangular wave, FM synth or noise. There are filters, envelopes and LFO available. It’s all programmed using an 8-track step sequencer. You can even synchronise up to 4 GBAs together for a group jam session.
Even the plain old Game Boy isn’t left out in the cold — there’s Little Sound Dj: “The basic idea is to transform a plain Game Boy/Game Boy Color into a full-fledged music workstation.” There’s a subtractive synth with resonant filters — you can draw your own waveform! — and an arpeggiator. There are also samples available for drum programming and speech synthesis.
For the Nintendo DS, there’s Nanoloop, which works on this as well as the GBA. There’s also the weird and wonderful Electroplankton. Happy musical plankton bounce around the sea, making harmonious sounds as they move. You can set up their environment to help shape and channel the music they make. There are several different types of plankton, each with different movement and sound characteristics. This is more an interactive fishtank than a music-making tool, but the sounds are lovely and the graphics (as you can see) are simple but beautiful.
So the PSP doesn’t have too much going for it yet — Nintendo users have the better option so far. I’m sure more will be in the works. I could see Sony creating a version of Acid for the PSP — now that would be nice.