The modern musician has access to many tools that those in the past didn’t have. Some of these tools can increase the efficiency of our practice sessions. This holds especially true for those unable to attend weekly jam sessions or those that have no one else to play music with. Some tools facilitate learning by ear; we no longer need to sit with a Record player, trying to get the needle in the exact spot. In this post I detail some music apps, computer programs and online resources that can perhaps make your musical life easier.
Here are a few tools that every musician should know about:
1)Audacity=This is a free Program that you can use to record yourself. You can also input sound files from a recording and use it to slow the recording down, thus allowing you to learn by ear note-to-note. I sometimes use this over Youtube’s built in one because I can better zero in on a phrase with Audacity’s loop. It’s certainly a step up.
2)Logic Pro/Pro Tools/Your favorite Recording software=In today’s world, recording yourself has a low barrier of entry. You can even record yourself on your cellphone. However, for around $200 you can have a professional recording program with loads of features. Logic Pro X is my personal choice. It’s relatively easy to use and not expensive for all that you get. It’s also an easy switch for those that have used Garageband. Pro Tools is still one of the industry standards; if you find yourself working with others in a professional environment a lot, you might consider spending a bit more and getting into it. Learning to use basic recording software is a great investment of your time as you can record demos and use the interface to compose songs. Lots of times I’ve written a song and had it in my mind how I wanted it to go only to change my vision for the song as I got into recording and laying down different parts.
3)IRealB=This is an App that most of my musician friends are using. This app allows you to import play-alongs and chord charts to standards and many songs from a wide variety of genres. After you download the app all you have to do is visit their forum; create a username, login and you’ll have access to thousands of charts/play-a-longs. I use the jazz and bluegrass playlists often to practice with. Features allow you to change the tempo, backup instruments, key, and more. What a great tool! Every musician should have this one on their phone/ipad/computer
4)Metronome=No musicians tool kit is complete without a metronome. There are way too many to mention. You can download an app or visit a website to get one. I’m not sure why, but I really like the Flutetunes online metronome and tuner. Mostly because I prefer simple and easy to use. I like the online ones because I can turn them up loud enough to be heard over my banjo.
5)Tabledit-I use this to make my TABS with. It’s also useful for standard notation, chord diagrams, and more. It’s a great tool for the music teacher looking to make professional looking handouts and sheets. Once you type the TAB or sheet music in, it can play back the notes at a desired tempo.
6)ITablaPro-This is more off the beaten path. This is an app I use sometimes to practice my odd meter time signatures. Tabla is an indian percussion instrument, so you certainly won’t get a traditional bluegrass or jazz background with this. However, it’s a great tool for the advanced student who is interested in world music and odd meters.
7)Youtube Slowdowner=Some people still don’t know that youtube allows you to slow down the music to half speed and slower. This is great for learning solos by ear.
How do you use the Youtube Slowdowner?
Go to the video you want to slowdown; at the bottom of the video is an asterisk looking symbol. Click on this, it reads “settings.” Click on “Speed” and if you want half-speed then click on “0.5.” You are now on your way to learning things by ear, phrase by phrase at a slower pace.
8)Canva.com=Now you are probably wondering what this website has to do with music. However, promoting your music is important. This website allows you to create nice graphics, add text to pictures, and more for Free. For some graphics you have to pay but it’s cheap and I personally haven’t needed those tools. I use this to create my book covers, facebook posts, and blog graphics. Visual appeal is important when marketing and promoting so this is a fantastic tool to help you out there. Even if you aren’t a full-time musician, you might get a lot out of this tool in other hobbies and projects.
9)DropBox-Here is another one all musicians need, a great place to store your work and share it with others. Once you upload your materials to dropbox you have access to them anywhere in the world you can get on the internet. I’ve used this to communicate with multiple band members at a time.