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Great Apps For Music Students and Educators
As a senior music education student, my education has taken place in an interesting period of changing technology. When I started school in 2009 I did not have a device with "smart" capabilities. I have run a windows computer my whole life and continue to. Christmas 2011, I received an iPad as a gift, which has truly been a gift of education. Many people my age use their smart devices as glorified facebook machines with games, and while I admit that I do use those features of the iPad, those are the least distinguishing parts of having an iPad. There are many advantages to having a smart device, but for the sake of this hub, I will highlight apps that are great for learning music, and teaching music.
My music app folder is usually kept pretty small. I have tried out many apps and know which ones are most useful to me now and which ones will be useful in the future. I keep only the strongest apps and ones I am still working out how to operate efficiently.
Metronome: The free metronome app that I use is easy to operate and is good for basic meters. My favorite features are the tap for tempo screen and the preset tempos. The tap for tempo screen allows you to tap the beat that you want and it will show you a tempo marking. This is great for setting tempos for your accompanist, and also for practicing your ability to be right on a tempo for conducting classes. The preset tempos are another great feature that I have used, particularly right before I am about to get up to a podium and conduct. If I am conducting a piece or a movement where I have set a preset all I have to do is click that tempo and it will beat it for me. I do this while my iPad is silenced so that I see the bar marking time without the sound being distracting.
ProTuner: This happens to be the free tuning app that I use to find out where I am, however if I am playing a string instrument I tend to use a guitar or string tuner app which allows me to hear where I need to be rather than seeing where I need to be.
Karajan Pro: This is one of my favorite apps of all time! This paired with rhythm reader are the mother lode of music education apps. The app is completely customizable to what you are working on in class. The topics range from music fundamentals up through college theory and beyond in some cases. The major categories it offers are: intervals, chords, scales, pitch, tempo and key signatures. The app drills you, like a musical flashcard and will keep score for you. For example if you are in the scale bracket you will hear a scale and you can answer in two ways. The first way is to select the scale name on the side of the screen. The second way would be to play it back on the included keyboard/fretboard on the bottom of the screen. This is great for being able to identify modal scales by ear as well as the other non traditional scales that stump a lot of college music theory students. While this app does not teach the skill it does allow the student to drill in order to practice for an exam or to learn better musicianship. The only part of the app I would change is the bracket "pitch," for me drilling individual pitches (it plays a note and you guess what note it is) is not helpful. If I were designing the app I would perhaps use this to drill pitch notation or maybe even identifying if a note is sharp or flat for beginners. I use this app to keep my ear training sharp and to continue to improve my skills. I highly recommend it
GarageBand: This app is an amazing compositional tool for all ages. I have watched my fiancés two year old cousin jam on the drum machines without any training and I have used it in a young composers workshop to great effect. I love that you can get to making music right away. Editing your music takes finesse, but once you understand the system it becomes pretty easy. The iPad version of this app contains built in, playable instruments such as the drum kit, drum machine, bass guitar, string orchestra, guitar, piano, and audio import. These instruments have great playback, and features for learning music theory skills. With this app you can select a specific mode or key to play in. You can also select chords that you want the auto accompaniments to fill. It is also effective for rehearsal scenarios where the director doesn't have time to play individual parts or give pitches. In these instances I have used the garage band piano to give me starting pitches and to check intervals in the song that I might have questions about.
SndMeasure: This free app is a basic sound dosimeter that gives a decibel reading for the surrounding area. This is helpful for finding a good practice space and to keep your hearing in tact. This is also good for making sure that your students ears are safe.
ReadRhythm: This is a fun way to to practice reading rhythms in various meters. Not only does this app drill, but it also plays the correct rhythm for listening. The adjustable metronome helps to bring difficult rhythms into an easier context. This app is also customizable for various difficulty levels.
Anytune: This app has many features. I have been using the free version to slow down songs for transcriptions. I think it would have been incredibly helpful in ear training classes for dictation exercises. I plan to get the professional add on, with higher audio quality, when I have time to start making arrangements.
Notion: I use this app for notating music when I am away from my computer. While it is possible to write a full song on this app its features are not as extensive as finale software. I have noticed in the past that the audio can lag, but I just installed a new update which hopefully fixed that bug.