Beats Trellis may sound like the name of a hip rhythm action game, but it’s actually a barebones digital audio workstation. Designed by Sony Computer Entertainment’s research and development department, the digital download allows you to compose simple audio motifs on the move. It’s designed in the style of Ableton and Reason, in that it favours live production over sequencing – but it’s unlikely you’ll get more than a few minute’s use out of the application.
At just £0.65/$0.79, the software is more simplistic than cowbell lessons. It’s split into three key components: Voice, Drums, and Breaks. The former two tracks allow you to create your own four bar beats and melodies, while the latter offers a selection of pre-defined patterns to help flesh out your tracks.
Composing your own sequences is easy. You simply punch in your notes using the touch screen on a basic 4/4 stave. There’s no option to change the length of notes, or do more complex actions like bends and trills, so you’re stuck with very basic monotone blips. You can add some delay and chorus effects, and change the type of sound you want from a list of presets, but there’s no option to programme your own tones or anything similarly detailed.
Once you’ve created a selection of patterns, you can return to the overarching main menu to perform them. Tapping on a segment prompts it to play in time to the track’s overall tempo, allowing you to orchestrate your patterns on the fly. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, there’s no option to actually arrange the sequences into a complete song – everything must be performed live.
The interface is clunky, with features poorly labelled. The application’s also frustratingly inconsistent – sometimes it wants you to tap on a button, other times it wants you to hold your finger down. This is particularly problematic when you’re trying to perform and the game keeps taking you to the edit screen, causing you to break your flow. Furthermore, the samples are disappointing, with none of the lead synths particularly enjoyable to listen to. The drums are fine, but they’re not worth getting excited about.
Beats Trellis is slow, clunky, and limited. While hobbyist musicians may garner a few minutes of entertainment out of messing with the application’s limited options, more invested performers will be better served elsewhere. There are a bevy of excellent music production tools already available on iOS and Android platforms, and if you absolutely must have something for the PlayStation Vita, Rockstar’s Beaterator still comes highly recommended. This is a confused product that’s too complicated for non-musicians, and far too basic for proper producers.