One of the most amazing aspects of the present age is the ability to carry useful tools for concert preparation and teaching in our pockets. In this article I’ll introduce but a few of the best of the current crop, with emphasis on inexpensive mobile applications (“apps”) for iOs devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch).
Need a full-featured tuner? I recommend two apps that utilize the iPhone’s excellent built-in microphone. Peterson, one of the leading names in professional tuners, offers iStrobosoft (on the left). As the name implies, this is a full-featured, very accurate strobe tuner (also available as an iPad app). Another, fun approach is the TotalEnergy Tuner by Sonosaurus (below). A Swiss Army knife of sorts, the app includes a moderately fancy metronome, drones, two temperaments, and the ability to record among other colorful interface details and levels.
As far as dedicated metronome apps, the Apple App Store contains hundreds. The hardest part is finding the really useful ones, and the best way is to search for them is by name. My personal favorite is Musician’s Metronome by Stefan van den Oord.
This ingenious app allows us to program complex contemporary scores with shifting meters and subdivisions quickly and easily. Everything is customizable, down to the pitches and intensities of each beat and sub-beat. Practice loops are easy to set up, tempi can vary by bar, and an entire piece can be sped up or slowed down globally. To top it all off, each piece can be saved and shared with others who have the app. (A rough Android counterpart is called Metronome Orchestra by GeoActio.)
Another useful metronomic tool is Accelerando Metronomo by Sean Luciw. As the name implies, this one will allow you to gradually practice difficult passages faster and faster until tempo is reached. You can take 45 minutes or one minute—it’s up to you. Sounds are very customizable. This tool allows more concentration on the music rather than on constant metronome setting changes.
Finally, another jack-of-all-trades app is Practice Center by Gil Estes (iPad only). This is fun to use, especially while teaching, as it boasts five simultaneous screens, one each for timer/stopwatch, full-featured metronome with drum loops, drone center with intervals, audio recorder that can email recordings, and, the pièce de résistance, a recordable video screen. Having all of that available at once is very useful indeed.
There are many other apps that are useful in our preparation and teaching, including those that can record and share high-quality audio (such as Recorder by Retronyms, on the right), and ones that can change tempi and/or pitch (such as Jam Player by Positive Grid, below). Don’t forget that you can also carry virtually your whole music library on your iPad with an app such as forScore by MGS Development.
I recommend taking the time to browse the App Store and to read tips for other tools, both for music and a myriad of other pursuits. The creativity of app developers is unlimited, and we are the beneficiaries.