What's more natural in today's world than playing an instrument that was at the height of popularity nearly 500 years ago, while reading music from a tablet computer on your stand!
Even if you'd rather read from old-fashioned paper, your smart phone or tablet can come in handy and even save money when you use it to satisfy many of your musical needs:
- Read music on your iPad and turn pages with a foot pedal
- Check your tuning digitally
- Use your iPhone as a metronome
- Log your practice time
If you've never downloaded an app to your smartphone or tablet before, see the directions below. If you're old hat at this, here is our listing of some apps that are used or suggested by members of the ARS Board of Directors.
This list is far from exhaustive, and new apps come along all the time. Consider this a sampling of apps that we've used or have heard about, and examples of some of the ways in which your phone or tablet can help you become a better, or more efficient, musician.
There are many choices in both stores, but the "Clear" favorite of our board members is:
This is both a tuner and a tone generator, with a large, easy-to-read display and accurate pitches.
Again, there are many choices in both stores. Here are some of our favorites:
Among other features, you can tap a series of beats to set the tempo ("OK, that's 84 bpm!")
A more complicated metronome, that allows you to create setlists with stored tempos for each piece, and includes a tone generator.
This one includes a feature which will cut out the audible beat, mid-practice, and let you see how well you keep the tempo when you don't hear the metronome. It also allows for subdivision of beats (triplets, sixteenths, etc.).
Practice Timers (depending on your approach to practicing!)
Stopwatch - many varieties available. You may already have one pre-loaded on your phone.
Great for keeping track of how long you've been practicing.
(iOS - ask Siri to set timer, free)
For when you want to know when you can stop practicing. (Or if you've got to move along to another engagement.)
(Android, free, be sure to type "JustPractice" without a space!)
List pieces you're working on, and log practice time and tempos. Both of these include a metronome.
An interactive fingering chart with typical baroque fingerings, including alternate fingerings and trills.
Record Your Practice
There are many audio recorders available, but both of these allow you to select recording quality, and send recorded files (to your teacher? Consort mates?) via email, Dropbox, etc.
Both of these apps allow you to play back and change the speed and/or pitch of prerecorded music files, so you can play along with your favorite recordings - but more slowly, or on your modern-pitch alto!
Read Music on Your Tablet
Carry your music library on your tablet! Both of these apps read .pdf music files, such as you can download from IMSLP or CPDL. Of course you can upload scans of your paper music as well. Prop your tablet on your music stand and play away. Both apps allow you to make annotations on the page, create a library of music scores, save setlists, and - using separately purchased hardware - turn pages with a foot pedal.
Foot Pedals for Page-Turning
(iOS and Android $69-$149) Make sure you choose a compatible app for your device.
(iOS and Android $89-$109) Also requires a compatible app on your device.
(iOS $4.99, Android $5.00, Chordbot Lite free)
This is a chord player/composer with hundreds of mixable instrument patterns and styles. Set it up to play a ground, and improvise over it.
Learn Chord Notes
Learn chord scale relationships in any key, using this quiz-like tutorial. It will also sound the chords.
Learn Note Names
Like flash cards, these are quiz apps for naming notes on a staff. You read the note on the staff and touch the corresponding letter name. Most similar apps are piano-oriented, and some allow you to touch the note on a picture of a keyboard.
Similar to those above, but with many clefs beyond treble and bass.
These apps actually use microphone input to determine if the pitch you're playing matches the note that's displayed on a staff. However, they are optimized for piano pitch ranges so the notes displayed may not be playable on your recorder. Also, the recorder sound doesn't always register correctly in the app, in my experience.
Is there an app developer out there who could make an app like these, designed for other instruments, including recorder, where the user could specify a range of pitches, and select a clef?!
Use your phone camera to photograph a (partial) page of music, and the app tries to play it for you, not always successfully. Still, it's a bit amazing to think this can be done at all!
Serious Music Composition
Write music with your finger or stylus, anywhere. Playback, edit, print, notate for different instruments. With in-app purchase of PhotoScore Add-in, take photos of printed sheet music for playback and editing.
For less experienced smartphone and tablet users:
Phones and tablets come in two basic varieties: Apple (or iOS), which sells the iPhone and iPad; and Android, which is a format developed by Google and used by many manufacturers, including Samsung, Nokia, LG, Motorola, Amazon, and others. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you'll find apps for your phone by clicking on the icon for "App Store." If you have an Android phone or tablet, you'll find these apps by clicking on the icon for "Play Store." On the Amazon Fire tablet, click on "Apps and Games." You may need to enter a credit card number, which will be saved in your store account, much like other online shopping stores, although many of the apps listed below are free.
Once in the store, you can type the name of the app you're looking for in the search box. (Or, if you're reading this on your phone or tablet, you can click on the links in this email.) Some apps are available only in the Apple Store, some only in the Android Play Store, and others in both. The store may display a number of apps with similar names, and you may need to scroll to find the one you're looking for. Tap the name of the app you're interested in, and you'll see a description of the app, illustrations of what it does, and reviews from users. If you like what you see, click the button to Install (or Purchase) the app, and your device will begin downloading it. Once the download is complete, you will see a button that allows you to open the app. Often, the first thing you'll see will be instructions. Otherwise, you may need to find the menu icon for help, though many apps are simple enough that you won't immediately need instructions.
Once you've downloaded and installed an app, you should be able to move its icon to a place on your device where you'll easily find it again, perhaps even grouping all your music apps together. (Ask your spouse, friend, child, or grandkid how to do this, if necessary.)