SingTrue for Vocal Ear Training

SingTrue is an ear training and singing app from Easy Ear Training. It bills itself as an app that can help anyone sing in tune. It seems to be marketed to people who think that they might be tone deaf, which is unfortunate. (This company does have an app to test for that though.) Makes me remember those poor people in sight-singing sessions who couldn’t match the note that they were given. I always felt so bad for them. Once they missed the first one and got nervous, it was all downhill.

The ear training in SingTrue starts off very simply in the “Ears” section with questions about whether a note is lower or higher than another, whether a pitch is the same or different, and whether a sweep tone is going up or down. The “Voice” section starts off by asking you to sing anything so that you are starting in a comfortable range that you have chosen. After that, you practice keeping the note steady. You do need to complete certain trials before other exercises open up for you. If you make too many mistakes, you lose a heart. If you lose too many hearts, you either have to pay for more, or come back later. This is true even if you pay to unlock all of the Modules. For me, the most interesting thing about this app is that it is a really great ear training tool. It may teach you to sing in tune but it won’t make you a good singer by itself. I had to remind myself to hold the device out in front of me so that I wasn’t trying to sing hunched over while trying to see the screen. But I love that instead of just randomly testing intervals, the training is in context of a scale and builds up to exercises that ask you to randomly sing any of the scale tones after only giving you the tonic.

Relative Pitch

Ears – Voice – Mind

The best ear training in this app is the exercises that ask that you to sing pitches. If you can’t read music, it won’t matter because the exercises are in solfège. I like that the notes are not all in a line across but situated vertically. I think that it helps to remind a student which are the higher notes. You get a visual helper as well as an aural reminder of the scale that you are working on.

Pentatonic Scale

Pentatonic Scale Practice

Every once in a while during an exercise, the app will replay the notes or scale that you are working on in a different key and then asks you to identify the notes again. In the beginning voice exercises, you have a “tuner” with the circle that you are supposed to hit and you’ll see if you are too high or low. You do get a chance to correct yourself but only if you do it quickly. I think that’s great. Either you know the note to sing or you don’t. No fishing around for it.


Practicing with tuner target.

When you first start working on a section, SingTrue will play you the whole scale before asking you to identify notes. From there, you’ll be asked to sing “blindfolded” and you won’t have the target tuner anymore. The last exercise from each section, called “From the root” will only give the tonic and ask that you sing or audiate (hear in your mind) the notes yourself. I really appreciate how they build up to that. Practicing picking the notes off from just the tonic is so good for increasing your ear’s abilities. I love it. Right now, the only exercises are do-re-mi, major pentatonic, and minor pentatonic.

Vocal Practice

Vocal Ear Training Section – iPhone

For me, having to sing the notes of the scales is the best thing about this app. The “instrumental” sections under “Ears” where you are supposed to select the notes being played are good because they are also in the context of a scale. However, having to sing forces you to actively participate in the learning. For me, this will always be a better learning experience and you and your students will get more out of that section.

I really like this app but there are a few things about it that I think could be better. First off, the user interface is a bit strange. Once you go through the first section and sing your pitch and get tested, you probably won’t want to see that again. Why not have the “Relative Pitch” section be the first thing that you see after having finished the “Pitch” section? That is where you are going to want to spend most of your time. I’d also like to see syncing through iCloud. If you have this app on more than one device, you’ll have to start from the beginning again the first time that you use it. Those are minor issues though. The one thing that I find the most fault with is that when the keys change in the exercises, your singing range doesn’t seem to be taken into account. By all means, help me stretch my range but the app doesn’t accept octave displacement as a correct answer. Therefore, if you are struggling to get up to a pitch, the app should give you a lower key much sooner than it seems to currently or change it so that I can choose to have it accept octave displacement as well.

Here’s a video from SingTrue if you want to see it in action:

SingTrue is a plus app from Easy Ear Training and is free to try. There are in-app purchases if you want to add the vocal exercises. You can buy them individually or pay a one-time fee to get them. This is what I did but keep in mind that the last app update was in January of 2015 so I am not sure when or if more updates will be coming. I really hope they do because I’d love to see vocal training on chord inversions as well as more scale types to train on. If you want to contact them, they are on Twitter.


My Top Apps Added in 2015

Trying to do something a bit different at the end of 2015. I wanted to give a shout out to the ten apps that are new to me this year that I really liked. They aren’t necessarily music apps but ones that I think are great, that I really like, or that I use a lot. The list is in no particular order. I hope that you have lovely holidays and that the new year will bring great opportunities. Cheers!

1. Omnifocus 2 from Omnigroup

Omnifocus 2 on iPad

I use this all day everyday. It’s the only way that I stay organized on projects and to-do’s. I have it on all of my devices and am including this app because they released a new version this year.
Omnifocus is what I use to follow (or try to…) the GTD ideas of David Allen. If you haven’t read that book, and you are a musician with lots of rehearsals, concerts, reedmaking, teaching, etc. to do, you might want to give it a look. Getting Things Done – David Allen

The great thing about Omnifocus is the same reason that some folks have a hard time using it, you can adjust it to what works best for you and you may have to tweak things depending on your area of focus. As a musician, there are certain things that I have to do every day and this is a great way to track that as well as more ambitious projects. Highly recommend. And yes, it’s more expensive than your average app and yes, it’s completely worth it.

The basic version of Omnifocus is a plus app for $39.99 on iOS and the basic Omnifocus for Mac is also $39.99. Also note that they have a free trial download available for the Mac version.

2. Reps & Sets
Reps & Sets on iPhone

I really like this app because it tracks both what weight you are using for an exercise and timing between reps. I used to have to use a couple of apps for tracking workouts like this but with Reps & Sets I only have to use one app. It also has some nice feedback for you in terms of charts and history. I’m not saying that you’ll go to the gym more often but you’ll be able to see how you are doing and more easily track what you are doing while you’re there.

Reps & Sets is an iPhone app available for $1.99 on the app store.

3. Steve Reich’s Clapping Music

iPhone showing main rhythm notation

I wrote a post on this app in 2015. It’s free and really fun. A great example of connecting with your audience in a fun way while teaching and testing them at the same time.

Clapping Music is a free plus app in the iTunes store

4. Pixelmator

Pixelmator brush picker on iPad

This is another app that I have both on iOS and Mac. Edit your photos, Paint digital pictures. Easy to use and amazingly inexpensive for all that it can do. You can work with vector art on the Mac version. Pixelmator continues to get better with every update.

Pixelmator is a plus app for $4.99 on iOS and is also available for Mac for $29.99

5. Star Walk 2 from Vito Technology

Star Walk 2 iPad

If you enjoy looking at the stars or you ever wonder what planet or constellation that you see in the sky or wonder where the space station is currently located, this is the app. It is so cool to move the device around and see the constellation overlay move with you. This app makes you remember why you think today’s technology is so amazing.
Star Walk 2 is available for $2.99 and is a plus app.

6. Tempo Advance from Frozen Ape

iPhone 32nd, dotted-16th rhythm in portrait.

I reviewed this one this year not long after I got it. I use this metronome almost every day. Being able to program rhythms in is so helpful to practicing. I really appreciate being able to save practice playlists as well. There’s a lot of depth to this app and it’s well worth exploring.

It is a plus app for $3.99 from the iTunes store

7. Fiddlewax from Adam Kumpf

E-Major in Analog mode on iPhone...notice the Eb diminished chord

This one was also reviewed this year. It’s got a lot to offer and I use it quite often when I’m working on transcribing or composing.

A free download on iTunes

8. Paprika Recipe Manager from Hindsights Lab

Paprika iPad

If you like to cook, this will be a great app for you . This is another one that ended up on all of my devices. It’s so easy to save recipes from websites and it will easily make a grocery list from the recipes that you choose. It has timers to use while cooking and the sync between devices is great. It’s very well made. I highly recommend.

It is a plus app for $4.99 on iOS but you can get it for many other devices, Mac, Windows, Android, Kindle, etc.

9.  Monument Valley from UsTwo

Monument Valley on iPad

This game is so pretty and it so cool to see the way things move and how your brain gets tripped out by the Escher qualities of the paths. They wisely make it really easy to take screenshots that you can use as wallpaper on your device. I plan on buying the second installment of this game. My overused word for this year is lovely but I’m going to use it one more time about this app. I highly recommend this lovely app.

Monument Valley is a plus app priced at $3.99.

10. Workflow from DeskConnect

Workflow iPad

I still haven’t learned all of the ins and outs of this app yet but I love the possibilities for making workflows using multiple apps. Also being able to get to the workflows on the Notifications screen is great. Often, only a tap or two will get you what you need even if the workflow is using multiple apps. Plus many of my favorite apps are starting to take advantage of Workflow and making it easier to automate their app.

Workflow is a plus app available for $2.99.

See you next year!

Clapping Music: Rhythm Game and Music

Clapping Music, the app, is based on the Steve Reich piece of the same name. It includes a video of a performance of the piece, a video of Steve Reich discussing the piece, and access to more info about Steve Reich and his music. This is a different video than the one in the app but includes Steve Reich.

First and foremost, this is a fun and challenging app. You don’t need to know a thing about music notation or minimalism. You can just get in and play. I think that’s a great way to make it accessible to anyone. In addition to this, it’s being used as a research tool by Queen Mary University of London and a way for the London Sinfonietta to make a greater connection with their fans and potential fans. The Sinfonietta had a mini-workshop and contest event that they held for the highest scorers to come to and perhaps get a chance to perform the piece with them. I believe this kind of connection to be invaluable to keep our art form relevant. It’s always kind of bothered me that in Classical music we tend to tell people, sit there in your seat and we’re going to give you some culture. Compare this to a popular music concert where people are engaged and singing or clapping with the group on stage…in other words, participating. This may not always be feasible with Classical music but I believe that we need to find a way to have audiences own a performance more than they currently do.

A little aside here, at the moment, I think that the London groups are really getting a handle on this more than other places. The English National Opera had an app to go along with their staging of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. The app was called Play Ligeti and had car horn samples to play and background information on the Car Horn Prelude from that opera. I’d give you the link to the app but it isn’t available anymore.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE)  is also trying new ways to reach their audience including playing different concert series in bars and really trying to reach out to where the people are.

They even included members of their diverse audience in one year’s brochure.

In the United States, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra has started having orchestra members reach out more to the public. I think this can only bring good things to the groups that engage in them as long as the music is still the foremost thing.

Now back to the Clapping Music.

iPhone showing main rhythm notation

iPhone showing main rhythm notation and counting down to start.

It has three levels to play at and a practice mode. I actually like the practice mode best since you can crank the tempo all the way up to 180 and that makes it even more fun.

Clapping Music Practice Info

Adjusting your practice session

If you’ve ever played a rhythm game like Guitar Hero, you already know what to do. The app keeps the first rhythm for you and you work your way through twelve patterns and back to the first pattern. If you get off, you have time to recover but there is less leeway on a harder level. If you are off, the pattern starts to move away from you, and the dots that make the pattern light up to try and help you get back on track (or make you panic, one of the two). Get too far off and the app will stop and give you a chance to restart or quit. In the practice levels, you can choose to go through the whole piece or just work on sections where you are having issues.

Choosing sections in Practice Mode iPad

Choosing sections in Practice Mode iPad

I like the fact that you can choose as many or as few patterns as you want in practice mode. As in most music, the trouble spots are where you have to switch from one pattern to another. How far the line goes across tells you how accurately you tapped that rhythm. I didn’t do as well on the 7th rhythm. The one thing that I wish for this app was that it could listen to you actually clap rather than just tap the screen.

Clapping Music is free on the iTunes store and it’s made by Touchpress. There was an issue with the latest iOS software but they have updated and it’s fixed.

I’d love to see more of these kind of apps that don’t just teach you about a piece but give you a way to experience it in a first-hand way. Maybe some Vocal Rhythm Etudes from Bill Douglas (Formerly known as Rock Etudes)?

or maybe Living Room Music from John Cage?

Both would be harder to make work for sure but I’d love to see more apps that move you from playing on your device to engaging with others in music making or being an actively engaged audience member

iStrobosoft Tuner

iStrobosoft is the tuner that I probably use the most. I find strobe tuners are much easier to read quickly and I like that they are showing you more than just the fundamental pitch. The app has been greatly updated since my first post about it and is now a plus app so that you only have to buy it once for all of your devices.

iStrobosoft in landscape Full Screen on iPad

iStrobosoft in landscape Full Screen on iPad

The first thing to know about a virtual strobe tuner, is that alas, unlike the mechanical strobe tuner, it cannot show you the true harmonic overtone series. Basically, it can only show you the fundamental pitch and whether the octaves in the overtone series are in tune. From Wikipedia:

“However, there are limitations to the virtual system compared to the disc strobes. Virtual strobes display fewer bands to read note information, and do not pick up harmonic partials like a disc strobe. Rather, each band on a virtual strobe represents octaves of the fundamental. A disc strobe provides “one band correspondence”—each band displays a particular frequency of the note being played. On the virtual strobe system, each band combines a few close frequencies for easier reading on the LCD display. This is still extremely accurate for intoning and tuning most instruments—but, as of this writing, no virtual strobe tuner provides detailed information on partials.”

The tradeoff is that iStrobosoft is much less expensive than Peterson’s physical tuners that can show you those overtones and it’s easily portable in the form of your iPhone or iPad. (It’s also available for Android but that version has less features.) You also don’t have to worry about replacing any bulbs or mechanical service on your virtual strobe tuner.

Quick change screen on iPhone

Quick change screen on iPhone

The features of this tuner that I really like and use often are:

  • The ability to do manual tuning. Meaning that you can choose to tune only that one note. This extends even to the correct octave only. It can be very helpful if you are working on a phrase that has broad leaps or if you have to pick out a note in the extremes of your range and only want to focus on that note.
  • Being able to display tuning in cents, by frequency or by MIDI.
  • Full screen mode which is even bigger in landscape.
  • Having a decibel meter…although on the latest version, this is obnoxiously small even in the less cluttered landscape view. If you are really trying to check how loud you can play something, Audio Tool is a better choice now.
  • Recently added are multiple tuning temperaments. To use these, you will have to pick a key but very helpful to practice in Just intonation or on a period instrument.
    • The temperaments available are:
      • Just Major Intonation
      • Just Minor Intonation
      • Pythagorean Temperament
      • Quarter Comma Meantone Temperament
      • One Sixth Comma Meantone Temperament
      • Kirnberger III Temperament
      • Werckmeister III Temperament
      • Young Temperament
      • Kellner Temperament
      • Vallotti Temperament
      • Rameau Temperament
The tuner in Just Intonation - major

The tuner in Just Intonation – C major

By default, the tuner is in Equal temperament. This is the standard when playing with a piano or other fixed pitch instrument.  Usually, when you are playing with other orchestral instruments, you’ll use Just Intonation. (If you’ve ever been asked to lower the third in a chord, that’s Just Intonation.) I do practice my long tones in Just Intonation to be sure that my embouchure and ears are flexible enough to put any given pitch where I want it to be. I often do this by looking at the cents marker and putting the tone where I know it should go but having a tuner that will do this for you is quite handy. What tuning system people use is a whole giant can of worms that I’m so not going to open. There’s actually a book on my to-read list called How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) by Ross W. Duffin. But if you want to explore more and hear some samples of different tunings, here are some sites to check out:  Just Intonation Explained and Scales:  Just vs. Equal Temperament

Getting back to iStrobosoft, it also the ability to transpose for your instrument’s key or where your capo is. Lucky for me, my main instrument is in C so I don’t use that. You can also change the colors of the tuner to whatever you wish. It also has an input boost, which I don’t use because this messes with the decibel reader and a noise filter in case you are in a loud room environment. Lastly, you can show the tuner on a tv quite easily with an AppleTV. This would be quite nice if you were in an ensemble environment and wanted someone to check their own tuning.

Choosing a pitch manually

Choosing a pitch manually

Now to the part of the post that I’ve been dreading. The extras. There are so many in-app purchases that you can make here that I had to make a chart for myself. But here’s the thing, unless you are a guitarist who often uses “sweetened” tunings or a professional in audio, you might not need most of these in-app purchases.

They do have all of the extras available in one package for $59.99 if you need all that iStrobosoft offers. Or you can buy just what you need individually.

The extras:

  • Tuning sweetners
    • The sweetened tuning for orchestral instruments are Just Intonation which the app already has and some fourth & fifth tuning for strings.
  • Tuning tools scopes
    • Oscilloscope
    • Spectrum Waveform Analyzer
    • Spectrum Bar Graph
  • Harmonics Tuning
    • Has bands that tune the fundamentals in octaves
  • Extended Frequency Modes

I am definitely interested in some of the extras.  The Harmonics Tuning has a series of octaves (not overtones but fundamentals in octaves.) They suggest that it is good for tuning or checking old strings. When I asked them about it, they said that there are no user settings for this yet but there might be. If they make it so that you can pick your own, I’d be all over that. The extended frequency mode might be great if I have to start practicing contrabassoon again. And the spectrum waveform analyzer might be great if you were recording and wanted to try and figure out where a hum is coming from. (FYI. Tunable has a type of oscilloscope and it’s also a great app.) So far, I haven’t gotten any of the extras but I’m glad to know that they are there.

Even if you only need a tuner, this is a great one that I use very often and I highly recommend it. iStrobosoft is available on the app store for $9.99. It’s a plus app that requires iOS 7.0 or later.

Ear Sharpener – Ear Training in Context

I have always liked this app because of the unique way that it approaches ear-training. It hadn’t been updated in a while and I was afraid that it was going to be gone shortly. Nope! In a big surprise, it was recently updated and I love the changes that were made in it. It has much more depth now and I look forward to seeing it get even better.

Many ear training apps are just interested in whether you recognize intervals or chords. Important but they aren’t always in context. That is THE thing about Ear Sharpener. All of the ear training that you do is in the context of the key.

The first level in note training starts off in the key of C and you hear a cadence IV-V-I and all you need to guess is whether the note played is a C or a G. Tonic or Dominant. The rest of the scale is shown but greyed out. I like that this keeps the overall context for inexperienced students. I love that the ear training is in the context of a key. I think that this is a much more real-world way to train your ears. (I’m not going to give up any of my other ear training apps though. I’ve covered quite a few of those in this blog. It’s something that I think is very important. I also believe that it’s important to change things up as you can get too used to an app and stop really listening to it.)

iPhone Beginner Chord Level

iPhone Beginner Chord Level

You can practice hearing the root note of chords as well. The first exercise there is almost exactly the same except instead of hearing individual notes, you hear the chords in root position.

For each level, you have to answer 20 questions correctly in a row before you move on and not to make it too easy, you have to answer within one second. There is a bpm/timer circle on the upper right above the chords, answer too slowly and you’ll get the message that you were right but too slow and the number of answers remaining goes back up to 20. Miss the answer and you’re back up 20 answers again as well. Kind of reminds me of the penny pile practice trick. I like the reinforcement.

There are four different levels for practicing.

Notes practice starts in the key of C with just I or V and goes to the key of C with all twelve notes of the chromatic scale within a one-octave range
Chord practice also starts in C with a I or V chord and goes to a Major or minor chord on any of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale.

Note practice begins with only notes in the key of C major but covers a two-octave range instead of just one. The last exercise here is all twelve notes through eight octaves.
Chord practice starts just as the beginner section ended except now the chords are in 1st inversion. It ends with an 8 octave range, Major or minor chords on any of the chromatic notes in root, first or second inversions and with closed or open voicing.

Note practice goes back to one octave only in C major but now you have to recognize two notes at once. This then works it way up to end at the ear numbing finale with all twelve notes, an eight octave range, and 11 simultaneous notes. A bit crazy but give it a go. At least it’s entertaining. There are no chords under the Advanced menu

This has chord exercises that include augmented and diminished that work their way up to that eight octave, chromatic scale, all inversions and all voicings.

There is also a custom menu here and that’s the thing that I really like for scales and note recognition. If you have a piece that you are working on in a particular key or scale, you can set that up as a custom level and have practice that is applicable to what you are currently working on musically.

iPad Custom Level Maker

iPad Custom Level Maker

You can also make custom levels for chords.

iPhone Chord Custom Level Maker

iPhone Chord Custom Level Maker

This I find a little more awkward. I really like what they’ve done with this app but I do hope there are some changes in a few areas. The chord practice is one of them. I would find it much more helpful to hear the chords within the context of the key. So in the key of C major, I would expect to hear the chord based on e as a minor chord. I don’t mind trying to stretch my ears and hear a major or minor chord for each note of a major scale but it just doesn’t usually happen like this in an actual piece of music. Also available in the custom levels, is the ability to regulate how often you hear the cadence. I’m glad that’s there because it tends to get a bit annoying to hear it between every preset exercise.

There are a few other things that I would like to see for this app to be really great. If you make a custom level, you cannot edit it. If you make a mistake, you have to delete it and start over again. Also, the iPad version is just the same as the phone version. This means that you are holding your iPad in portrait and this puts the speaker on the bottom. I’m usually leaning the iPad on something to use it and it tends to muffle the sound. I’d also like to see syncing so that you can see any custom levels that you’ve made on any of your devices without having to make them fresh for each device.

Go get this app! It’s one of the only ones that has this in-context practice.
I look forward to seeing where he is going to go with it in the future.

Ear Sharpener is a plus app from Justin Francos get it for $1.99 from the app store.

Orphion iOS Synth

Orphion is one of those cool little apps that are a lot of fun to play with and generate ideas with. I love the way that different touches will bring out different sounds. One of which has a very Shamisen sound to it.

The user guide only shows three gestures but I find that you can get a fourth more thunky percussion sound if you are in the right spot.

Orphion Touches

Though you can hear in the recording below that it is hard to get that sound consistently.

There are both iPhone and iPad versions of Orphion, the iPhone version is called Orphinio. I prefer the iPad version because you can buy in-app a way to make your own pad layouts and use whatever notes or scale that you want to experiment with. Including how they are tuned. This is helpful as a way to arrange the chords and scales into a setup that makes sense to you, your hand size and the piece you are trying to play. You can share these layouts or download other people’s. I do like the fact that in your own layouts, you can change the tuning of a note. The sample below is showing you a Hungarian minor scale which is basically a minor scale with a sharp four and sharp seven. I didn’t like the way the C chord was sounding so I lowered the e-natural tuning a little.

iPad Orphion Build your own

There are some pre-loaded layouts available that include a piano-style layout and a blues scale layout. On the iPhone, the piano layout is helpful to working out or generating ideas. I think it is much more accommodating to a person’s hand than a really teeny-keyed piano app.

iPhone Orphion Piano Layout

There is an option only on the iPhone to select notes and have them play by shaking the phone. The sound that you can get with that is interesting but not something that I use often. The iPhone comes with 9 layouts. You cannot add any others.

One of the nice touches in Orphion is that in transposition, the layout holds it’s place so if you change the key, the pad that was the tonic will remain the tonic…just in the new key. One little gripe here is that the key name changes might give you some odd note names. For example if you are in c minor, the e-flat could be called a d-sharp. You can change the labels in your own layouts though.

One very cool use of Orphion is as a MIDI device and another app as the sound source. This is especially great with the Animoog app. The small keys there can sometimes be an issue but with the different gestures and glide available, you can set yourself up nicely to use Animoog’s great sounds with Orphion’s great gestures. However, be aware that this is not the easiest thing to record on the iPad itself. You can record within the Orphion app and export it but these are rudimentary controls at best. Once you start involving another app as a sound source, it might work and it might not. GarageBand for example, would not take more than 3 simultaneous notes while trying to record even through inter-app audio. Best to try and record directly into the computer if you truly want to record Orphion using the Animoog sound.  You will lose the easy editing of MIDI if you do it this way but keep the Animoog sound. You may also have to adjust some of your settings. I found that I really had to bump up the levels while recording the Orphion app straight into Logic. In terms of using the Orphion sound, you can record that directly into something like GarageBand on the iPad and it is compatible with the Audiobus app as well. It is quite easy to setup a network session with your desktop DAW and record Orphion directly into that either as audio to keep the Orphion sound or MIDI to keep all of the gestures intact. This works best with a software instrument that uses all of the MIDI information available. Otherwise, I would just use a regular MIDI keyboard and not go to the trouble of hooking up Orphion.

Recorded MIDI from Orphion into Logic. I did tweak it a bit but that is the great reason to use MIDI. The sound is from the Sculpture Synth, a very fun sound generator.

I like the Orphion app. It’s a lot of fun to play with and with the right equipment, can be used as an interesting sound source.

Orphinio is available for iPhone for $0.99 from the App store. Orphion for iPad for $3.99 plus $0.99 in-app purchase for the layout editor which I highly recommend.

Orphion is from Bastus Trump and you can connect with him on the Orphion website.

Tempo Advance Metronome

I decided to try Tempo Advance because it looks a lot like the Cycles metronome. I love the Cycles metronome but it hasn’t been updated in a while and some graphic issues introduced in the last update haven’t been fixed. I find it hard to blame any developer for quitting or finding other stuff to work on when people who will routinely pay $5 for watery coffee get offended by an app that costs more than 99¢. But I also love having the ability to practice against rhythms and not just straight 8th’s or 16th’s and wanted to have something else in place just in case Cycles disappears or stops working.

There is a lot to love about Tempo Advance. Like Cycles, you can view the beats in a ring. But you can also have a more linear view if you turn your device to landscape. They refer to this as rotary and linear on their website.

iPhone 32nd, dotted-16th rhythm in portrait.

iPhone 32nd, dotted-16th rhythm in portrait.

iPhone 32nd, dotted-16th rhythm in landscape.

iPhone 32nd, dotted-16th rhythm in landscape.

Due to the setlist options, I can program in all of the rhythms that I use to practice and just pick those by name without having to program the device every time.

iPad setlist

iPad setlist

When you save for a setlist, it takes everything you’ve set included the metronome sounds that you’ve chosen. There are quite a few to choose from too. You can change them as a set or choose to set each of the three possible accent/unaccented sounds individually. This can be especially helpful when it comes to polyrhythms. If you need to practice polyrhythms, I can’t think of a better app that I’ve seen yet. If you have headphones on, it is preset to have each rhythm in a different ear. Like almost everything about this app, you can tweak these settings to what works best for you. It’s very easy to select the polyrhythms that you want to work with. When you bring up the polyrhythm selector, you have two columns of 20 numbers. Want to work out your 11 against 20? Knock yourself out.

Choosing your rhythm or polyrhythm on the iPad

Choosing your rhythm or polyrhythm on the iPad

When you make a setlist, it is very easy to map out a metronome for a multi-meter piece or if you want to have a rhythm change under you, as in Bolero. You can save  a rhythm as a preset as well but since you can’t name those yourself and it doesn’t save all the settings and won’t automatically move to the next rhythm, I find that less helpful than the setlist.

In terms of other helpful ways to practice with this metronome, you can either automatically increase or decrease the BPM by up to 100 every so many bars. You can set this to turn off by either number of bars or by time.

Speed up or slow down by bars or times.

Speed up or slow down by bars or times.

I do wish that you could set this to increase and then automatically decrease back down to your starting point like Dr. Bettotte will but if I want that right now, I’ll use Dr. Bettotte instead. Another technique that I haven’t tried it yet but I can see myself using is a setlist to practice something in all of the Oubradous rhythms one after another. If you want to do this, you need to set a tracker time or measure amount before you save to the setlist. You can overwrite it if you forget though.

There is no iCloud syncing of the settings like there is for some of the other metronome apps that I use. However, sharing setlists is ridiculously easy through e-mail. I don’t usually play concerts that have this type of setlist but if you do, it would be very easy to share with your group. If they have Tempo Advance, they can just open the setlist in app and everything is ready to go. You can also share the setlist as text as well. If your students have the app, you could use it to assign them a rhythm to use to practice

There are also some cool little touches that tell me that Frozen Ape is paying attention. If you have the metronome in portrait view and turn on the proximity sensor, you don’t even have to touch it to get it started. You can set this to toggle playback, go to the previous song or preset or the next song or preset. I’m trying this out right now though I did turn it off while checking some of my facts for this post. Also, you can choose from multiple themes or even make your own. I can see that my 13 year old self would have really loved this and maybe spent more time on it than I should have so let your young students know about this at your peril. Just like the setlists, you can share the themes between devices. Frozen Ape has a lot of video tutorials on their site and if you are a drummer, Mike Mangini, drummer for prog rock group Dream Theater has tutorials as well. There is also a way to sync this app to receive triggers from multiple pedals using airturn. I don’t have one of those yet so I was unable to try that.

I love this metronome. I could replace Cycles with Tempo Advance completely except for one thing. One of the main types of practice that I do which I call doubling, is perfectly setup on Cycles, I can automatically increase the tempo by up to four times with a few taps on that app. For instance, I might practice something at the horribly annoying tempo of 20 BPM. Then, I’ll increase the speed to 40, practice it there, then 60, then at 80 BPM. Then I’ll drop back down and do the same thing starting at 21. Cycles is the only metronome that I’ve found so far that will automatically do this for me. If Tempo Advance did this, I might drop Cycles altogether if it doesn’t get that update.

Tempo Advance is from Frozen Ape.

It is a plus app for $3.99 from the iTunes store and requires iOS 6.0 or later.

I highly recommend this one.