Recommended Music Apps (iOS)
Technology has dramatically changed how we learn and teach music! Apps (applications) that can be easily downloaded and used on any smartphone and tablet are a great way to improve your musical training and knowledge!
Below I've included a list of my favourite apps, which I use on my iPad when teaching my students in the classrooms, lectures or even on a one-to-one basis. Students always respond positively to these teaching tools, which are very engaging and fun! I use these particular apps to help my students understand music theory or improve their aural skills. Although I'm sure there are many other apps which are just as good, I recommend these apps because of the very specific things they can do. They are extremely useful for anyone doing ABRSM theory or aural exams. If possible, you should try the free version of each app (if there is one) and see if you like it before purchasing the full versions. Click on the links or the pictures to take you to the relevant websites where you can purchase them.
Real Piano by Cookie Apps, Inc. (£2.29): a great, easy-to-use piano app which has a full 88-key range, pressure sensitivity to get different dynamics (degrees of loudness), pinch and zoom capability to make the keys thicker or thinner, slide up and down capability to get lower and higher notes, recording capability, and a range of top quality sounds.
insTuner by EUMLab (£2.99): without doubt this is the best chromatic tuner I've ever used and it even includes a tone generator too, which you can use to help you sing individual pitches. It will work with any instrument you play and is far superior to any tuner I've ever bought, with a whole range of features and displays, and only a fraction of the price.
Tempo by Frozen Ape Pte (£2.29): another personal favourite of mine, this app is the best metronome I've ever used with tempo ranges between 10 to 800. It includes 35 different time signatures, including compound time and irregular time signatures, 6 rhythmic patterns for simple metres and 3 for compound metres, customisable accents, tap tempo function, visual feedback from pulsating LEDs, pendulums, flashing screen, Italian tempo markings and much more. You should never need another metronome.
VoiceTraining by Learn to Master Ltd. (£2.29): a great little app to help you sing better! Simply listen to the notes and phrases that are played and highlighted on a piano (which you can also play!) and sing (or play!) into your iPad or iPhone and the app will show you how in tune (green) or out of tune (red) you are! Good app if you wish to improve your intonation.
Magic Stave by Farnell Computer Service Ltd (£2.29): similar to the Voice Training app, in so far as it listens to you singing or playing an instrument and displays the notes on a piano. However, this app goes even further and also displays the sounds you make as notes on a music stave, as note positions on the guitar fretboard, or as note positions on the violin fingerboard. It can even record what you play as a MIDI file, which you can play back in the app and share using Airdrop, Dropbox or email. There are other cool features with this app (such as note history, automatic key signature detection, built in tuner to see how flat or sharp you are, automatic transposition for transposing instruments), so it's an absolute must for anyone practicing their sight-reading or sight-singing. Check it out!
RhythmLab by Jonathan Ensminger (£2.29): you simply will not find a better app for improving your understanding of rhythm. A rhythm is displayed and you have to tap the rhythm on the screen, keeping in time with the metronome speed, which you can adjust. The app gives immediate sound and visual feedback with a display of number correct, percent correct, “hit”, “miss” sounds and visuals with red, green and orange markers. There are hundreds of patterns to choose from, including 10 levels of single-handed patterns and 10 levels of two-handed patterns. The first exercises begin with basic note patterns using a mixture of note values (between semibreves and semiquavers). As you progress through the levels the patterns become more challenging and include rests, ties, triplets, quintuplets, cross-rhythms (2 against 3, 3 against 4) and unusual meters.
Rhythm Calculator by JET Powered Apps (£2.29): like RhythmLab except it approaches rhythm in the opposite way. You create your own rhythms in any time signature, and this app will play them back for you at any tempo you wish on a range of instruments and sounds. The app will always try to group the notes for you (in compound time it can make one or two minor mistakes), and it will always let you know when you try to put too many notes in bar by highlighting the mistakes in red. This app will improve your understanding of rhythms, including note and rest values (from semibreve to semihemidemisemiquaver), compound and simple time signatures, multiple dotted rhythms, note and rest groupings, ties and note articulations. This app, together with the RhythmLab app, will also dramatically improve your sight-reading abilities. They are the only apps you should ever need regarding rhythm.
Tenuto by musictheory.net (£2.99): this is the best music theory app available for iPad or iPhone. It includes staff-based exercises, keyboard-based exercises, fretboard-based exercises, and ear-training exercises. Particularly useful for any musician will be the exercises in which you identify displayed notes, key signatures, intervals or chords; exercises in which you identify the note name on the piano key, identify the note by pressing a piano key, identify the intervals of the highlighted piano keys, identify the chord of the highlighted piano keys; and exercises in which you listen and identify the played note, the played interval, the played scale, or the played chord chord. The app also comes with five useful calculators: the accidental calculator displays the accidental for a note and key; the interval calculator displays the interval for a note, type, and key; the chord calculator displays the chord for a note, type, and key; the analysis calculator displays the chord for a symbol and key; and the matrix calculator displays the twelve-tone matrix for a specified tone row. This is my favourite music app for teaching music theory. It's worth every penny and invaluable to any music student.
FourTrack by Sonoma Wire Works (£3.99): simply put this app will allow you to record yourself again and again, one recording on top of the other. If you're a multi-instrumentalist or you play in a group this app is for you. It's great fun! The recordings are digital quality, which means you could record your own albums with this app, and never set foot in a recording studio! There is a whole range of tools which come with this app. I've yet to use them and still my recordings sound great. It's so easy to use.
ScoreCloud by DoReMIR Music Research AB (£0.79): what if you want to play a melody (or even compose a melody) and have it notated down for you? With this app you can play, sing or whistle any melody and instantly turn it into music notation. The app automatically finds the correct pitch, time signature, rhythm and tempo! Then you can edit score, change playback sound, save the notated tune in the app, print it off or share it with others. This app works for any style of music (not just classical!). ScoreCloud also offer free notation software on their website, which is definitely worth checking out!
Essential Music Tools for School & College Students
There are some things you just can't do without if you're a student studying music at secondary school or college. In my opinion, there are at least three music tools you will definitely need: access to Oxford Music Online (which includes the Grove Music Online, the Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music), Finale NotePad (a free music notation software programme) and IMSLP (an online collection of music scores).
Oxford Music Online: If you live in the UK you can login to Oxford Music Online for free using your Library Barcode (in Northern Ireland this is through LibrariesNI) or through your local library. If you're a university student your institution will almost certainly be able to provide you with free access.
Oxford Music Online has three main parts:
- Grove Music Online contains more than 50,000 signed articles and 30,000 biographies contributed by 6,000 scholars from around the world. It offers the full texts of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition (2001), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992), and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd edition (2002), as well as numerous updates and alterations.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 2nd edition (revised 2006), which supplements Grove's more extensive articles with content geared toward undergraduates and general users;
- The Oxford Companion to Music (revised 2011), which offers more than 8,000 articles on composers, performers, conductors, instruments and notation, forms and genres, and individual works.
Finale NotePad: Finale are responsible for a whole range of music notation products (Click Here), but perhaps the best thing they offer is a basic music notation programme you can download for free! You can notate for a whole range of instrumental combinations up to 8 staves (from guitar tablature, to piano solo, from jazz combo to classical quartet and so many more). You have complete control over the normal things you would expect from any professional music notation programme, such as instrumentation, number of bars (unlimited), page layout, note values, time signatures, key signatures, dynamic markings, articulation markings, tempo markings, lyrics, chords, etc., but there are a few additional goodies:
- the programme automatically handles instrument transposition, clefs and key signatures;
- you can enter notes using any MIDI device (like a keyboard) if you have one;
- you can hear your notes as you enter them, and press play to hear how the whole ensemble sound together;
- with Human Playback you can hear how your music sounds with all the feeling, phrasing, expression and nuance of a real musician;
- and you can print out your work to professional standard or share with anyone else using Finale NotePad, or share your work as a MusicXML file so it can be imported into any other music notation programme (like Sibelius or other Finale products).
IMSLP: stands for the International Music Score Library Project, which began in 2006. The library is named after Ottaviano Petrucci, who was responsible for publishing the very first printed book of music, the Harmonic music's Odhecaton, in Venice in 1501. The website contains the world's largest collection of music scores, freely available to download or print off or save to one to the dozens of music apps that organise your sheet music. To date, it has over 312,000 scores of over 90,000 works by 12,583 composers and over 34,000 recordings.
Once a composer has been dead for 70+ years (some countries differ on this) his or her work enters the public domain - so the works by all the major Baroque, Classical, Romantic and most early 20th Century composers will be on this website. Not only that, but in addition to the standard scores you will find many arrangements for different instruments (such as piano arrangements of symphonies). You may even be able to track how a work may have changed over time between one published edition and the next.
It should be noted that it's not just music scores in the collection: dictionaries, treatises, biographies, tutor books, manuals - basically any published historical work on music you could imagine is probably on this website. So if you fancy reading the old 19th-century editions of Grove's Dictionary or experiencing what music students in the 1750s had to read to learn figured bass, then this website has it. In any case, if you need the work of any major composer, you can use this website and it may save you a small fortune!