Appy New Year!
21st century technology is incredible. 100 years ago, I bet nobody would have believed that computers, tablets, Kindles, iPads, and cell phones would exist, and that these devices would connect people across the globe, provide instant access to information, and allow us to have the world available to us at our fingertips. The intersection of music and technology provides endless opportunities for the modern musician. In a series of posts, I would like to outline various resources that I believe are essential to any musician interested in making the most of their personal tech.
Perhaps the century’s most iconic technological invention is Apple’s iPhone. For those who have Apple products, there are several services which make your smartphone a virtual gold mine of musical resources. To help navigate the endless possibilities, I wanted to compile a list of apps I have personally tested and use on a regular basis. These apps are useful for the early beginner to the trained professional and I would recommend them to my own students! The prices for these apps range from $0 to about $7.00, so they are a relatively low-cost investment as well.
To start, I would recommend that anyone who is comfortable with tuning their instrument should invest in the Cleartune app. There are many apps available to help musicians tune, but this one is great because it offers a very clear tuning mechanism. All you do is correctly adjust the strings of the instrument so the dial lights up green on the pitch. For violin, the strings (from left to right) would be G – D – A – E, and for viola they would be C – G – D – A.
If you already have a tuner, this app is still a good investment in case the battery dies or you forget your tuner. For the more advanced player, the tuner can assist in playing drones for pitches chromatically—this would be useful for practice with scales and arpeggios. For sections of music with obscure accidentals or difficult patterns, the tuner can also target intonation.
Pro Metronome, Free
A metronome is an essential part of a balanced practice routine! The beginner violinist can use the “Tap” feature to set a beat. All you do is tap the button with the speed you want and then press the play button. This could be used for rhythm practice or playing beginner songs with different beats. Starting early with a metronome will be helpful to establish a sense of rhythm and pulse.
For the more experienced player, the metronome offers varying speeds, accents, and time signatures. You can set it to help you practice difficult passages more slowly or to make sure you are accurately performing rhythms on more challenging sections of music. I believe you can also purchase an upgraded version of the app for a few dollars, which allows you to use a lot of different settings (such as subdivisions, obscure time signatures, etc.).
The Most Addicting Sheep Game, $0.99
Along with the theme of pulse and rhythm, this cute game can be used by string players of any age to practice developing the concept of internal rhythm. The app plays music at varying tempos and your job is to complete the entire song by tapping the rhythms, which helps the sheep jump with the music. Young kids can enjoy the whimsical theme of the game while unconsciously honing their musical skills and advanced players can use the game to help refine their motor skills and advance to more difficult levels and patterns of music.
The Anytune app is ideal for intermediate to advanced players, where they can check in with their practice. The app allows you to record yourself (I recommend using the voice memo option) and play it back; however, the cool part of the app is that you can slow down various sections and listen to them in a slower tempo. So, you can play your music and slow it down to check your rhythm and intonation.
If you have any music in your iTunes that you want to play/practice, you can also select it in Anytune and use the same slow-down capabilities. This allows you to hear your music at a relaxed tempo. For practice purposes, you can play along with a slowed down piece or you can use it to listen and practice memorization. You can either shadow with your left and/or right hand or try imagining playing the piece along with the recording. I also believe there is the option to upgrade and receive more capabilities to alter the music of your choice.
Practice Journal, Free / Pro 6.99
Finally, the Practice Journal app is one I recommend for very organized intermediate players or advanced players (old enough to type into a phone). This app has a built-in metronome and it helps you document every practice session you complete. You can create folders for different elements of practice—Scales/Arpeggios, Etudes, Drills, Performance Pieces, etc. You can even time how long you play each section, giving insight into just how much you are practicing. You can write reflections on what you worked on, plan different strategies, and keep track of progress in the blank sections provided. The practice journal is great for people who want to be organized, but don’t want to carry around a notebook all the time. The ability to look through your progress is great, so you can see exactly how much you are accomplishing in your practice! The basic app is free, but only allows you to have a certain number of sections. The $6.99 upgrade allows for unlimited entries, which is awesome if you have a lot of goals for practicing!