We live in amazing technological times. Technology is moving so fast and changing how we interacting with each other, how we work, and play. Many don’t like change and I often here the negatives about technology. And while I also cannot stand being asked to like a picture if I remember a tv show or being asked what kind of Beauty and the Beast character I’m like. There are more positives than negatives with technology. It’s up to us to maximize its potential and take advantage of the resources available to us. As musicians we have so many tools that the great jazz musicians just didn’t have access to. So I decided to share with you a few of the apps I use on a daily basis to make me into a better musician.
iRealPro is my number one must have app as a jazz musician. For those who don’t know this app is essentially a backing track to every tune in The Real Book. Yes there are a few chords that may be off or a few tunes not found in the app that are in The Real Book, but overall it’s fantastic. Also you can edit and create your own backing tracks so you can edit or change arrangements and make your own. It comes with a few standard styles for accompaniment such as medium swing, uptempo swing, Latin,and straight eight. If you pay you can add different styles. The base price for iRealPro is 7.99 which is expensive for a app, but if you are a serious musician it is definitely worth it. I use this app everyday so for me its well worth the price.
Ear training is a integral part to any musicians development. The faster we can process the information of what is harmonically and melodically going on the better we will be as musicians. Ideally we want to cut out as much vocal communication and communicate through music, hearing the hits, hearing chord alteration, and understanding what modes the soloist is using so we can accompany them better. This is a lot to do and it can be very daunting for any musician. Normally the best way to improve is to transcribe. Listening to recordings, figuring out the chords, the melody, and writing it down. Still, if you have a long commute and are just standing around idle why not spend that time working on some Ear Training. While not a substitute for transcribing, these apps are good for warming up or just using in-between transcribing.
Harmonic Ear Trainer is one of my favorite apps for ear training. It lets you practice chords and intervals melodically and diatonically. The trainer session is good to use and the melodic and interval challenges are very good. You have to get 20 out of 25 correct to advance the level. This helps give you a challenge and a reality check if you are unable to advance on a certain level. It’s priced at 1.99 so for me this app is a no brainer. Tenuto is one of the more popular apps, its very sharp looking and covers so many bases From Key signature Identification, Interval, scale, and chord Ear training, it even has a Analysis calculator. For 3.99 it’s hard to argue that the app is over priced with all it does. For me it is very good, but I prefer the simplicity of Harmonic Ear Trainer. Still for all it does Tenuto is definelty a app you should have available to you. For Rhythm exercises I use Rhythm Sight Reading trainer. It’s a solid app. I like that it has a metronome on the side, and you can do even and swinging eight notes, but I still feel there are better ways to work on Rhythm. It still seems to be one of the best apps for working on rhythm on a smartphone and at a price of 2.99 it’s worth checking out if you feel you really need the work.
So far I’ve mainly discussed the practicing aspect of music. Let’s not forget to listen to music. I already blogged on this extensively so I’ll just briefly summarize the main stations to have on your phone. Pandora and JazzRadio are great for just exploring different types of styles and genres and both are available free with the option of a paid subscription. For listening to entire albums Spotify and Rdio are the best, but to listen to them on your mobile device you need to have a subscription which cost 10 dollars or 5 dollars with a student discount for Rdio. Without the discount both apps work similarly to Pandora and JazzRadio.
You may have noticed I didn’t really mention recording devices. That is mainly because I don’t use them or know them well enough to recommend. So if you want to have Soundcloud, or Garageband type of recording apps I’m not the one to talk to. I do believe you should record ideas when you have them though. I think we’ve all lost a great progression or a riff because we didn’t write it down or record it. For me I use a actual recorder or the iPhone voice memos app. Perhaps on a later date I will explore these recording and production apps. Any recommendations or questions feel free to comment below. So there you have it. These are my must have apps that I use on a daily or nearly daily basis. Remember technology is our friend. We have the ability to study, listen to, and practice so many elements of our craft right in our pockets. Let’s use technology to our advantage to practice our music faster and more efficiently than ever before.