Greetings and welcome to another edition of Flute Friday!
I am fascinated by the world of iPhone apps. How amazing is it that we have so many programs quite literally at the tip of our fingers? I spent my week this week reviewing various free apps targeted primarily at classical musicians and must say that I am a little disappointed that we do not have more tools at our disposal. There are, however, 1 or 2 or, let’s say, 5 apps that I found to be must haves for the music makers of the world. I must note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies (aka nobody is paying me to like these things). I am just a savvy flutist looking for free, easy ways to use technology to enhance performance skills and streamline time spent in the practice room. I hope you find these apps as useful as I do and please let me know if you have a favorite free app that is not on this list.
- Pro Metronome. Pro Metronome is a customizable metronome app that allows users to change the tempo of a beat using a standard dial function (similar to the old school style metronome of yester year) but also features 13 different metronome tones (including a voice option). This metronome app can be programmed for a variety of time signatures (4/4, 3/8/ 12/16, etc.) and includes a beat visualization at the top of the screen. Finally, Pro Metronome comes with a timer enabling users to set practice time limits using a set beat domination. For a few extra bucks ($2.99) subdivisions are available for purchase. MY TAKE: As a penniless graduate student, I saved up my TA checks to purchase a beautiful BOSS metronome with customizable subdivisions, beat sounds, visualizations and numerous time signature capabilities. A few months after my big purchase, my metronome was stolen from a practice room never to been seen again. Little did I know that years later I could have these same features and many more on an iPhone app purchased for FREE. I love this app. One of my biggest gripes about traditional metronomes is the one-size-fits-all beat sounds. I need to be able to still hear the metronome when I am practicing in the highest register but find the harsh sounds of a louder metronome too abrasive in the lower register. This metronome app lets me program different sounds for different pieces. As a visual learner, I also appreciate the visualizations at the top of the screen to help me see as well as hear the beat. Overall a great app!
- n-Track Tuner. The n-Track Tuner app is a program that recognizes a note using your iPhone’s microphone and, using visualizations, shows you if the note is sharp (green bar) or flat (red bar) and by how many cents. The spectrum analyzer at the bottom of the screen displays a small arrow to highlight the harmonic whose pitch the tuner is tracking. The tuner calibration may also be changed in the settings menu if you wish to alter the Hz on the pitch. Basically this functions like every tuner you have ever owned and paid waaaay too much money to purchase. MY TAKE: I would not be telling the truth if I said this is the best tuner app on the market because the ones that cost a few more dollars contain features that will show you fantastical color changes corresponding to how “in tune” the pitch is which is quite helpful when you are performing or recording and really only have time to catch a glimpse of the tuner in the corner of your eye. I will say, however, that this is the best free tuner app out there due to its simplicity and user friendly features. I use this tuner app to practice sustaining a steady pitch throughout all dynamic levels and find that the app is far more accurate and easier to use than my old school Korg tuner.
- Flute Fingering Chart. This app is a handy look up tool for all standard, alternate and trill fingerings on the flute ranging from B4 to G7 and, according to the product description, “Makes finding and learning fingerings quick and easy.” Simply select the note from a drop down menu and the app will show you what the note looks like on the staff and all fingering or trill fingering associated with the note using a straight forward system of visual key instructions. MY TAKE: This is a flute blog after all and it is only fitting that I discuss an app specifically designed for flute players. In the good old days many of us would lug our copies of the James Pellerite fingering charts to and from rehearsals, lessons and practice sessions to consult whenever there was a note or trill fingering that we could not remember off the top of our heads (or needed an alternate fingering that worked a bit better with our music than the standard fingering). This app puts that look up process in the palm of your hand. Again what attracts me to the app is the straightforward design. When you are in rehearsal and need to look up a fingering for your section ASAP, shuffling through the Pellerite book is far more time consuming than simply entering a few clicks in your iPhone to obtain the same information (and the conductor will be less likely to scream at you for not paying attention). I also think this is a great app for younger students who are eager to learn new fingerings or simply want a handy way to look up fingerings while they are still in the learning process.
- piaScore. PiaScore is an app that allows users to browse and download free digital music scores. Essentially this is a sheet music viewer with a very extensive library of scores. Turn pages with a simple tap of your finger. PiaScore supports IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project)/Petrucci Music Library therefore users may search and download scores from 70,000 works and 7,800 composers for FREE. You can even place your own scores on the app using a camera capture feature making it possible to leave all of your music in your phone or iPad for emergencies. MY TAKE: I have seen other musicians use this app and I must admit that I have been a bit apprehensive about storing music on an iPhone or iPad (what if my device runs out of battery in the middle of a rehearsal?!??!?! PANIC PANIC PANIC) but I think keeping “back up” copies of music on your phone is a brilliant idea just in case you leave your score on your music stand accidentally before heading out to a lesson, rehearsal or, God forbid, a concert. What I love most about this app, however, is the sheer volume of free flute music, namely the volumes upon volumes of etudes and solo sonatas, available on the device. I use this app when I want to sight read something new or peruse new duets or studies to use in lessons with students. The possibilities for new music are endless with this app. How handy is it that it fits, again, within the palm of your hand?
- Classical Masterpieces Free. This app allows users to listen to recordings of famous classical pieces and read the biographies of each composer. The app functions without the use of the internet and users can create customizable playlists from the works on the list. You may also share what you are listen to with your Facebook and Twitter community. An additional $2.99 gives you access to 180 more pieces by 55 additional composers. MY TAKE: Full disclosure: I am actually listening to this app as I type today’s blog. My students should all be terrified because this app makes it quite easy for me to assign listening assignments requiring students to listen to the work and read the composer’s biography with a touch of a button. The app is very easy to use and the free version features 20 works by various composers and biographical information for every composer under the sun. Of course this makes it quite a bit easier to put program notes together for recitals or simply for performance preparation and practice. I am a big fan of this app not only for the educational opportunities but also for its access to practical biographical information and simple listening access to some of the most integral works of classical music in our modern canon.
I understand this a relatively short list and that there are literally hundreds of exceptional apps available on the market today. I will have a Part II to this blog in coming weeks where I will explore the best for purchase apps for musicians where I will look at apps such as Garage Band and Cleartune. For now I am hoping you love these free apps as much as I do and I hope they help you streamline your music making, learning and understanding process in the new year.
Do you have a favorite free iPhone app you use in your daily music practice? Do you enjoy features on the apps listed above that I did not metion? Please comment below.