Thursday, September 27, 2012

Some Great Apps for Musicians and Music Students

I'll admit, I'm a huge iphone fanatic, and I use my iphone for everything.  Seriously, I think once Apple adds a photon laser to their phones, they will officially have created a Star Trek blaster/data scanner/communicator.  But some of the things I use most on my iphone, or the ipad that I have in my studio at the Frisco School of Music, are music apps. Here are a list of some of my favorite music apps, all of which are very useful for music students, their parents, teachers, or even professional musicians.

1. Musebook or Tempo Advance: 

These are metronome apps, and both do a good job.  I use musebook on my personal iphone, but tempo advance is on the ipads at my job, so I've been using it there.  I have to say, tempo advance has grown on me, since it's easy to use and has so many settings.  

2. Cleartune:

This is my tuner--it's versatile, but easy to use. It can play a tone for you if you'd like a tuning note or need a drone, but it has a needle-tuner that indicates the pitch you're playing as well. You can adjust the calibration to 440 or 441 or whatever hertz you like, and you can adjust the temperament as well.  In fact, it has settings for just, meantone, and well-tempered temperaments.  (I know I just lost non-music nerds, but bear with me).  

3. Flashclass

This app is designed to help students learn to read music.  Basically, it's like digital flash cards--it shows a student a note on the treble or bass clef, and the student has to identify the note name.  Its settings allow a teacher to customize the notes or key that the student are learning.  I've tried this app with several of my students who are struggling to read music, and I think it has helped.  However, I'm careful to have students show me the fingerings for a note on their violin, not just touch the note name--I think that makes finding the notes more directly relevant to their instrument.  I do like the fact that it sounds the correct note when students touch it--I think that helps to develop their ears. But I wish that they made a version of the app that used alto clef, instead of only treble and bass, so I could use it with my viola students.  

4. Better Ears

I found this app when I was studying for listening exam in music theory.  It's an ear-training app that can test you on intervals, chords, scales, pitches, tempo, and key signatures.  You can customize the settings to focus on the sounds that you struggle to identify the most.  I found it helped develop my recognition of chords and intervals dramatically.  It's probably a bit advanced for beginners, although you can put it on easy settings if you'd like.  

5. Pluto Music

I didn't think I'd use this app very much, since it's mostly a fairly simple game.  However, I often teach very young children, around three or four years old, and they can get tired quickly.  Now, when one of the little ones seems overwhelmed, I let him or her play with the adorable Pluto the Penguin for a few minutes.  I think it has really helped them--sometimes giving a young child a quick break allows them to recharge while having fun, then when you return to the lesson, they are happier and learn more effectively.  Some teachers even use Pluto Music as a reward for students, but I prefer to limit the rewards I give to kids.

Related articles on Suzuki Method and Violin/Viola teaching or performing:

Suzuki Method--a Violin Teacher's Perspective

Suzuki Philosophy: Every Child Has Talent

Suzuki Techniques--Listening is the key

Violin Life Lessons

Inspiring Practice

Practicing Violin Effectively

Great Apps for Musicians

Excellent Supplemental Books for Suzuki Violin and Viola Students

Inspiring, Helpful Books for Violin and Viola Teachers

Suzuki Method for Adult Students

For Parents: How to Support your Child's Music Practice and Development

Overcoming Performance Anxiety: How to Help Music Students Prepare for Recitals, Auditions, and other Performances

Music Lessons for Children with Disabilities 

Seven Ways to Develop Listening and Aural Skills in Music Students

Persistence--The Most Important Aspect of Talent

Pascale Method for Violin--A Review

More Apps for Musicians and Music Students

Classical Music Isn't Dying--It's in a Recession

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