When I was a kid, learning music was a matter of an instrument, a book and a teacher. And if I was lucky, friends who wanted to practice together.
These days, there are so many wonderful learning apps that I use in my daily lessons with my students, and I wanted to share a few of them with you:
Every musician needs a metronome to speed up and slow down time in music for practicing. I use the Pro Metronome app, which allows you to change the speed, change the type of notes that get counted, create unusual rhythms, and store different songs for practice later. You can also change the sound of the metronome; some of my students find traditional metronome sounds painful. Because this is an app, you can wear earphones or earbuds for practicing, which makes the clicks easier to hear and follow.
- NOTE READING
It’s true that you can spend an entire lifetime as a totally fulfilled musician and never read a note of music. My father actually hid the fact that he could not read music until the very end of his life. But if you want a deeper experience of music, then learning to read music is your ticket into a wonderful world of composers and their thinking.
I love the Music Tutor app because you can set it to test you on Treble Clef, Bass Clef, Treble and Bass together – and for those who need it, Alto Clef (you know who you are!). One of my ingenious students figured out that if you play in Airplane Mode, you don’t see the ads. Clever!
- NOTE READING AND MUSIC THEORY
One of my favorite note reading and music theory game sites is MusicTheory.net. It has been around forever, and has evolved into a wonderful tool. Again, just a few minutes each day will make a big difference in a short time. There are free and paid tools.
- PRACTICING WITH THE MASTERS
In Victor Wooten’s excellent book, The Music Lesson, he suggests that you “jam with the masters.” While it’s probably not possible to get most masters to come to your home, you do have access to thousands of recordings that you can learn from.
But what if the master you are listening to plays the piece too fast? Or in another key?
Answer: The Amazing Slow-Downer app. You can import almost any song into the Amazing Slow Downer, and slow down the song to a pace you can play without changing the pitch or key. You can also change the pitch or key without changing the speed of the song. And you can create loops, little bits of the song that need more practice. That way you can practice with the loop without hunting for it each time.
- PRACTICING WITH YOURSELF
Once you have mastered working with the Amazing Slow Downer, it’s time to use yourself as the master. Using a simple Voice Memo app, you can record just your left hand, and then play the right hand with your recording. And vice-versa. It’s a great way to train your ears to hear correct rhythms while keeping the playing simple
What’s your favorite music learning app? Post a comment, and I’ll go test it with my students and let you know what we think.