Monday, November 07, 2011

Apps for Musicians

When I was a teenager and learning a musical instrument, there were several essential tools for practice. First and foremost was the metronome, that unforgiving "tick-tock" that forced one to keep a steady tempo. Without it, you were prone to rush or drag without knowing it. As I remember, a basic metronome in those days set you back about $50.

A tuner was essential. Being able to look at a tuner as you play and see which notes are sliding sharp or flat develops the ear and allow ones playing to be much more pleasing to the listener, especially when playing with others. I felt pretty lucky that technology had advanced to the point that when I started teaching (in 1982), I could purchase a battery-operated tuner for slightly over $100.

Having a piano nearby always comes in handy. Being able to check yourself when practicing sight-singing is just one example. Of course, pianos take up a good bit of room and cost a good chunk of change.

Times have changed. I have all three tools on my BlackBerry PlayBook. If fits in the pocket of a sports coat, and the total cost for those three tools combined is 99 cents.

Metronome

On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Steady-Tick Metronome." The cost for this app is 99 cents. The image on the screen looks just like the old-fashioned metronome from my childhood.

On your BlackBerry, go to App World and search for "Classic Metronome." This app is also 99 cents and presents the same old-fashioned look. This version gives you several options, including the normal metronome click, the sounds of a cowbell, the sound of clapping, or no sound at all. In the no-sound mode, you see the pendulum action of the metronome along with the BlackBerry displaying a flashing red light on each beat. The app will even emit an A-440 pitch for purposes of tuning.

Tuner

On your PlayBook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Instrument Tuner." As you play your instrument or sing, the app will display the name of the note you are playing and give you a reading on whether the pitch is in tune, sharp, or flat (and to what degree). This app is free, which sure beats the $100+ I paid in the early 80's for a stand-alone tool that did the same thing.

Piano

What would you think about having a miniature piano keyboard in your pocket, and for free? On your Playbook, go to BlackBerry App World and search for "Piano." You will find several. This one is free, is currently rated at 4 1/2 stars, and has a range of two full octaves. You can play single notes or chords, and the sound is remarkably good. For a child, this app would prove a great introduction to the piano keyboard.


While these apps are available on BlackBerry App World, you will probably find comparable apps for other platforms.

For those using an iPad, Honeycomb, Galaxy, or any other tablet currently on the market, have you found an app that does what is described here? If so, leave a comment to let me and other readers know about it.
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