Updated: Jan 24, 2022
Did you know that your cell phone can be used to make your practicing more fun and effective? There are plenty of free apps available for download on mobile devices that can help musicians improve the way that they play their instrument. Below are some of our favourite apps that we recommend to our students and see great results. We encourage readers to try integrating some of these apps into their practice routine and are confident that they will see results. Also, consider taking personalized online music lessons or music lessons in Toronto to take full advantage of these apps and help take your playing to the next level.
A metronome is a device that makes a click or an otherwise audible sound at regular intervals. The frequency of the clicks can be set by the user and are measured in beats per minute (BPM) and may include a synchronized visual motion like a light or a pendulum swinging back and forth. Musicians use metronomes to practice playing to a steady beat. You can find plenty of free metronomes to download and some of them are more advanced than others, but at the end of the day, any metronome you choose to use will be helpful. The best metronome is the one that you’re going to use, so experiment and find the one that you like the most. At GTMS, our personal favourite is called Pro Metronome and it is available for Android and iOS.
You might look for a metronome with the ability to change the click to a voice that counts “One, two, three, four, one, two, three four…”. Hearing the beat numbers will help students keep track of where they are in each bar. The ability to give beat one a little more volume, or ‘accent beat one’, is helpful as well. One of the more advanced features to look for, especially as students continue to learn and improve, is the ability to change time signatures. This helps students who are practicing in 7/4, 11/8 or other complicated odd time signatures strengthen their time and not get lost. There is a common myth that only drummers need to play to a metronome since they are keeping tempo for the band, but that’s not true. Every musician should be playing to a metronome to develop a better sense of time.
Moises is an app that allows musicians to create, practice and perform anywhere. Users will upload a song or search for one that is already in the Moises library. Once a song is selected, the user can then separate tracks, remix each part and master the whole song. The user can then download the new and edited version, creating a play along track to use during practice time. This is an invaluable tool for musicians looking to learn from their influences and take their playing up a notch. Back in January drummers were taking part in the Everybody Wants to Rule the World Challenge, where they would remove the drums and play along to the Tears for Fears song, adding their own spin. A common approach was to add in metric modulation, which occurs when the player regroups a division of beats, effectively modulating or shifting to a new tempo. An app like Moises will let musicians express their creativity and add their own flavour to classic songs that they love. In addition, it has the option to slow down or speed up a track. Musicians who might want to start learning a song or solo that they love but find it hard to play or hear at faster tempos will benefit from this feature. By slowing down a song, hearing a difficult phrase or playing a difficult part won’t feel like as much of a struggle. Musicians can gradually increase the tempo as they become more and more comfortable and confident with a part until the original tempo is reached. Moises Premium subscription costs USD $3.33/month and allows for unlimited uploads, up to 20 minute duration per track and more.
Frettable is a revolutionary tool for musicians who want to create sheet music or MIDI mapping for their own music. There is no need to buy and install any additional hardware, any instrument will become a midi instrument. Just upload a recording and Frettable will provide the MIDI to import into your favourite digital audio workstation (DAW) for music creation and synthesis. Musicians can also play their instrument and have Frettable’s advanced artificial intelligence (AI) instantly transcribe what they played to sheet music. Frettable can handle both notes and chords and will generate TABs for guitar and other stringed instruments. Audio, MIDI and sheet music is stored securely on the cloud and synced across each of the user’s devices. Users can keep their ideas private to remember them or make them public to share and collaborate remotely with band members. Currently, Frettable supports electric guitar, acoustic guitar, trumpet, trombone, piano, vocals, tuba, French horn, saxophone, clarinet, flute, oboe, recorder, English horn and bassoon and they play to add more instruments soon. Frettable is available on Android and iOS and ranges from $0.99 to $4.99 USD/month, depending on the plan. There is a free 7-day trial period as well.
Garage band is an app that allows users to turn their iPhone or iPad into a full-features recording studio. The app features a large collection of touch instruments that allows musicians to create music anytime and anywhere with nothing more than their device. Users can also use the library of live loops to create music like a DJ and have a blast doing it. Using a dongle for connection, musicians can also use GarageBand to play, record and mix any third-party instrument or effects right on their phone and then easily share with friends and family. GarageBand comes installed on most Apple devices and is free for iPhone, iPad and Mac owners and makes it easy for anyone to sound like a pro, regardless of prior experience. For a musician beginning their journey into the world of recording and production, GarageBand is an excellent place to start as there are some great features and it is free. More experienced musicians and producers might seek a more powerful DAW as the limitations of GarageBand may get in the way.
RhythmBot is a new app created by drummers JP Bouvet and Jamie Howard. Unlike the other apps that we have discussed, this one is accessed from the browser and does not require a download. For the best experience, RhythmBot should be used on a tablet or laptop. The app is a rhythmic vocabulary trainer and it aims to help musicians strengthen their rhythm and unlock their creativity by providing randomized rhythms to practice. The user can set different parameters, including mode (loop, trade, click, etc.), rhythmic subdivision, complexity and more and based on these settings, the app will generate rhythms. Bouvet says that, “our speaking vocabulary is smaller than our comprehension vocabulary.” What he is talking about is how we can understand many words, but don’t use all of them in our daily speaking. When you read a book, there are lots of words that you might not normally use, but you understand them all. This app is designed to help musicians increase their rhythmic vocabulary. RhythmBot is free for anyone to use and users will require some basic knowledge of reading rhythms,
Do you have any favourite apps that you use for practicing that we left out? Please let us know in the comments of this post! Always remember that there is no substitute for an experienced and qualified teacher. Contact Greater Toronto Music School to meet a teacher for online music lessons or in-home music lessons in Toronto. Using a variety of methods (including some apps!), students will work with their instructor to develop a deep understanding of your instrument and reach your goals in no time!