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!

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An Unusual Ear Training Tool

I’m always looking for ways to better my ears for music. Bebot synth app is an unusual and fun way to accomplish that.

Bebot is called a robot synth for the cute little guy on the screen. It is a synth that works a lot like a theremin. The more towards the left of the screen you go, the lower your pitch will go. Move more towards the right and the pitch gets higher. At the same time, the more towards the bottom of the screen you go, the softer your pitch will get. Moving towards the top of the screen makes the sound louder. Using multiple fingers will produce chords.

Bebot on iPad

It’s a neat little app to play around with. You can use it with Audiobus to record to another program or inter-app audio to record to GarageBand and make it part of a mix as well. If you aren’t sure what inter-app audio is Tuts+ has a good tutorial. I hope to cover Audiobus in a later post.

Here’s an older video of Jordan Rudess from prog rock group Dream Theater demoing the app.

 

If you use the default settings, I also think this is a great app for ear training. The default being no lines marked for notes and no pitch correction. If you pick a simple melody that you know, can you play it without straying out of the original key that you started in? Can you play scales? Can you play arpeggios?

By not having any lines or keys to help you know where the pitch is, it forces you to mainly use your ears. I find this to be a great exercise. Trying to play a simple melody by ear on your own instrument is something that I do as well. But I also like being able to concentrate just on the pitches. This is a little like singing something before you play it. A separate way to get at the same idea.

A handy spot to help you randomly pick a melody is on the I Was Doing All Right blog. (This is the same guy that made the Play By Ear App that I have covered before.) If you are using this with students, you can generate a tone in the song key using a tuner and have them play against that. Once they can do that, you can play the tonic for them, let them play through the song on their own and then play the tonic again to let them hear if they stayed in the right key. A really simple app and exercise but one that can be a great tool in your ear training arsenal.

Bebot is a plus app for $1.99 on the app store.

Bebot comes from Normalware.

Dr. Betotte Metronome Is Still My Go-To App

Dr. Betotte is still the metronome that I use the most. The newest additions to this app are a native iPad version and syncing of all settings using iCloud.

The features that are most helpful to me in practicing are:
• Adjustable volume sliders on: quarter, 8th, 16th, triplet and downbeat sounds.
• Tap tempo
• Savable tempo settings.
• Coaching functions to gradually move the tempo up and down.
• Syncing

Features included that I don’t use that often are:
• Halftime feel
• Adjustable swing feel functions
• Multi beat mode (Change where the strong beat occurs.)
• Playlist modes (Practice with multiple time signatures.)
• Quiet count (Drop metronome beats.)
• Creating your own metronome sounds
• Visual metronome choices (Count, Pendulum, or flash the screen.)
• Pitch generator
• Timer

The adjustable volume sliders act just like those on the well known, Dr. Beat metronomes.

Dr. Betotte iPad in Landscape

Dr. Betotte iPad in Landscape

There is no way that this can get as loud as that big old warhorse device, Dr. Beat, no matter what sound you choose to use. However, you can easily use a dock or a wireless speaker setup to get as loud as you’d like.

The savable tempo settings were there from the first edition but now you can use iCloud to sync the settings. (Might want to back up before you turn this on, just in case.) The other thing to note here is that all of the settings are synced. Change the iPhone to a lurid orange which looks fun and you’ll get blinded by it when you turn on the metronome on your iPad.

Volume controls on iPhone

Volume controls on iPhone

An eyeful of orange on the iPad!

An eyeful of orange on the iPad!

I love to be able to quickly get the metronome going and jump right in to some of my standard practice routines. There are a few oddities to the playlists however. First, it acts a bit weird because it feels like you are going out of that setting when you hit the playlist button. You aren’t. You are going back to the choices for that playlist.

Awkward but you get used to it.

Awkward but you get used to it.

Playlist detail on iPhone

Playlist detail on iPhone.
Tapping back brings you back to the Playlist screen.

Second, even though it always seems to change the rhythms correctly, it doesn’t always switch to the tempo. Often, whatever tempo you had going is going to stay the tempo. Even with that, it still allows you to stay in the zone because the tempo will then be the only thing that you need to change.

By far, one of my favorite things to use is the coach functions. There are three. Gradual up/down and the Step up/down (essentially the same thing) and Quiet Count. I don’t tend to use the quiet count that often but it’s a great way to test yourself if you are having any trouble keeping a steady tempo. I love having the Gradual and Step settings. Even though the concept is the same, it’s nice to have two of them so that you don’t have to reset them as often when practicing passages that have different lengths and tempi. Using this, you can set an upper and lower tempo limit. Great to use this when trying to raise the speed of a difficult passage. Or conversely, to work towards a slow tempo. Start at the tempo where you can breathe the phrase that you want to hear and work your way down to the tempo that you want the piece to be at. (Tchaikovsky VI opening for example.) I’ll forever be grateful to the low horn player that shared that practice tip with me.

Coach section on iPad

Coach section on iPad

Halftime is another fun way to practice a difficult passage. I’ll often do something that I call doubles. I will play a passage very slowly, say at 40 bpm and then directly after that play it at 80 bpm and then down to 42, up to 84 etc. Halftime helps me do this with a little less metronome fiddling. (Admittedly, I most often practice doubles using the Cycles metronome app.) Sadly no longer available in the app store.

One of the things that I really like about the iPhone version of this metronome is that when you turn it landscape, you get a nice big face and still have access to various settings. This is great when you only have one hand free. Easy to reach over and use the slider to change the tempo. In this screen, you have access to everything that you need including the various note sliders.

Landscape on iPhone

The metronome view on the iPad always shows playlists. Not a big deal in landscape. A bit awkward in portrait. There are preferences to hide certain looks depending on the orientation but not for the playlist section. I tend to always use landscape if I’m using the iPad version so that doesn’t really bother me.

The playlist doesn't go away.

The playlist doesn’t go away.

Dr. Betotte is now a plus app on version is 3.5.
It’s compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and requires iOS 5.1 or later.
It costs $9.99 from the iTunes store.
Keep in mind that developers need to eat and you can’t buy a Dr. Beat for $10. It’s worth the money for me. I highly recommend this metronome.

If you want to try before buying, there is a free version to try that is an iPhone native. It does not have all the bells and whistles.
Get it here.
There is also a version for your Mac that you can get directly from the developer, Seishu Murakami’s website: S’s Works Software. This version includes a sequencer but you have to practice with your computer.

I first wrote about this app in July of 2012: Dr. Betotte version 3.2.

Three David Mead apps for Guitarists

Though bassoon is my main instrument, like most musicians, I love playing and learning others. One instrument that I’d really like to get better on is guitar. To that end, I bought David Mead’s book 10 Minute Acoustic Guitar Workout. If you are familiar with playing guitar already, this book might be helpful. If you are a beginner like me, having the book in conjunction with his apps will give you the best platform to start getting better at guitar.
There are currently three apps based on Mead’s approach to guitar. The first is Guitar Gym. This app is a new combination from all of his 10 minute book exercises in one spot. The book does come with a CD but I love being able to slow down the exercises easily with the metronome included while at the same time, hearing the exercises that I’m working on in the app. He advocates playing each exercise for two minutes a day and the app will keep the time for you.
There is one thing that I hope they eventually make more like the book. Right now, the app only shows guitar tabs. Since I read music, this is actually harder for me to deal with since instead of symbols that I know, the exercises are presented with fret numbers on a guitar fretboard layout with the fingerings being listed below with whether it should be an upstroke or a downstroke. This is a lot of info to keep track of at first. In the book, the information is presented in both tabs and music staff. I’d love to have that option here as well. There are five exercise sections in Guitar Gym, Warm up, Coordination, Ear Training, Stamina, and Rhythm. The included metronome has a range from 20 BPM to 220. There are a couple of exercises that are incredibly difficult for a beginner. (At least this one. Small hands don’t help here.) The first rhythm exercise has you playing the same note while using different fingerings.

IMG_0545

Ouch! And the first Stamina exercise is suddenly in sixteenth notes where everything else is in eighth notes. The Ear Training exercises are not appreciably different than the Coordination exercises but there are lesson hints included with each exercises.

Next is the Chord Coach app. Chord Coach has lessons on building chords from scales. It includes a Chord Reference section. Nice because you can hear each chord as well as see it’s notes, intervals from the scale and its fingering.

Fingering View in Chord Reference available in both the CAGED and the Chord Coach.

Fingering View in Chord Reference available in both the CAGED and the Chord Coach.

Chord Reference in the Chord Coach app. Also in the CAGED app.

Chord Reference in the Chord Coach app. Also in the CAGED app.

The Chord Constructor helps you build your own version of a chord. This would be more helpful if you could save these somewhere but once you leave this section, the chord you built is gone. Then there is another section with five exercise types and a quiz that randomly picks questions from each of the sections. If you are at all familiar with theory, most of these exercises are not going to be very helpful to you unless you need a review.

Some of the lessons in the Chord Coach app.

Some of the lessons in the Chord Coach app.

You have to create or convert various chords…pick out the notes of a G7 chord or change that G7 into a G Major 7 chord. Some of the exercises use the fretboard and some are just written out.

Chord Spotter from Chord Coach.

Chord Spotter from Chord Coach.

However, even if you are familiar with theory, the Chord Families exercises will probably be helpful. You have to recognize a chord from just the fingering on the fretboard. I’m really slooowwww on this exercise. This same exercise is included in the CAGED app so if you are getting that app, you won’t need this one unless you don’t know chord theory.

The Caged guitar system basically breaks up the chords so that you can recognize them and use them in any key by using them in barre chords. Cool idea but the execution is not really there for me with my wimpy-can’t-hold-down-all-the-notes-with-one-finger hands. However, learning these chord shapes and making the notes on the fretboard come to me instantly is definitely going to be helpful to me.

CAGED Lesson

CAGED Lesson

This app has the same basic approach that the Chord Coach does. Written lessons followed by exercises. There is also a CAGED reference section and you can see the keyboard laid out for you based on various notes. A chord reference just like the one in the Chord Coach app and an additional scale reference section is also included here. The exercises in this app include finding notes on the fretboard,

Finding notes in the CAGED app.

Finding notes in the CAGED app.

recognizing chord shapes, building CAGED chord versions on a fretboard, identifying chords from their shape,

Finding the right chord in the CAGED app.

Finding the right chord in the CAGED app.

identifying chord families (this is the same exercise from the Chord Coach.), and interval finder within chords. There is also a section where you can see your progress on the exercises.

I already feel more comfortable after working through the exercises from the Guitar Gym app on a regular basis. So far, that has been the most helpful for me as the beginner that I am. Once I get good enough, there are other guitar-centric apps from Leaf Cutter Studios that look interesting. Among them, Gypsy Jazz Guitar with Tim Robinson, and David Mead Twelve Bar Blues.

There is no difference between the iPhone and the iPad versions on any of these apps. They are plus apps and so will work on both devices but I’d like to see an option to have the exercises in a landscape view as well as the portrait. All of the apps require at least iOS 4.3 and are $2.99 each on the iTunes store.
Guitar Gym
CAGED
Chord Coach
From Leaf Cutter Studios and David Mead

The iPad as Music Folder

Using the iPad as a sheet music reader is something that I have been flirting with for a while. There are so many cool things about having all of your music in one place and yet I’m not ready to commit to this completely. I actually practiced for an audition with all of my music on the device once but chickened out at the last minute. I know better than that. The audition was not one of my best since I changed things up last minute.

So, my thoughts on using the iPad as your music folder and then my choice of app going forward as I make a transition…or at least a bit of an effort towards using it more often.

First, the iPad on a stand by itself, just looks very elegant and minimal. The audience can see you better. One of the issues with Classical music at times is that audience engagement. We have so many “rules” that people don’t want to break lest the other experts in the audience (or on stage) give dirty looks to the rule breaker. So anything that engages the audience and removes barriers is great.

Look how clearly you can see the Divisi Strings in this article on their going to all iPad music.

The strange thing is that many of these iPad stands are meant to be cobbled onto mic stands. Where are the music stand manufacturers like Manhasset? And what if I’m playing something that just needs more real estate than the iPad can provide? I would love to see some kind of a hybrid or attachment to that standard music stand. Of course, that might ruin the elegance but would help with the transition to digital music.

Convenience versus eyesight? The same piece in paper & iPad.

Convenience versus eyesight?
The same piece in paper & iPad.

Accidentally kicking over a stand just got potentially a lot more expensive than just having to pick sheet music off the floor. Having played multiple concerts where an ill-timed chair shift resulted in a capsized musician as well as stand, there would need to be some extras for those types of situations. A librarian copy that had all of the parts on it? There is also the issue of potentially running out of battery. But to the good, you may never have to burn your hand on a stand light in the third hour of an opera again and you’d have more elbow room onstage or in the pit.

There are foot pedals like the AirTurn that use blue tooth to turn pages so that might be the solution to sheet music that is very large. I wouldn’t miss having to see another new music concert with someone traveling down a row of stands while they played. I can also see the iPad being very handy for getting music. Having the PDF e-mailed to you or available in a drop box from the group that you are playing with would definitely be handy. Or a private app that you would just open and the music would be there along with any notes from the group or conductor…on second thought…?? I could also see using extra iPads/apps for some cool visual effects if it was right for the piece that you were playing. Interesting possibilities and problems when talking about going to all iPad for your music.

In terms of the sheet music apps, I have been playing around with four apps. MusicPodium, forScore, Perform Pro, and PDF Cabinet, which is actually marketed as a PDF annotation app.

The sheet music apps I've been trying.

The sheet music apps I’ve been trying.

After working with all of these, the one that I will be using going forward is forScore. One of the things that I wanted to do in this blog was only talk about those apps that I really liked and was using so, I’m only going to say a few things about the apps that don’t work for me.

MusicPodium $3.99 by Jon Lee: Has a lovely first page. It allows you to take a little screen shot for the title so that you don’t lose that wonderful typography that you often find on music scores.

MusicPodium Music List

MusicPodium Music List

You can annotate scores and there is a handy little bookmark feature so that you can get back to an area that you are working on very quickly. But this won’t be my go-to app because: There are no set-list features and though getting music from the Petrucci library is quite easy through an in-app browser, getting your own music into the app is not. There is no DropBox support and even if you sign into your account, there is not a way to get the music into the app. Neither can you get there going from the DropBox App itself, it looks like it’s working but it doesn’t. Neither does trying to get there from the file transfer in iTunes. You CAN drop it in but you won’t be seeing it again. Going to their website, the support info is scant.

Perform Pro $1.99 from Paragoni Apps: It is very easy to get music into this app. There are set-lists so you can bring up the music that you want to concentrate on and there are two ways to perform your music. You can use Page Turn Mode or Auto Scroll Mode. The Auto Scroll Mode rolls your music by like a teleprompter. I never really used that one. I know that would make me nervous to see it moving during a performance.

Choose how you want to turn pages in Perform Pro

Choose how you want to turn pages in Perform Pro

I like that this app is clean and easy to use but there is no annotation feature at all. I can guarantee you that I will always need to be able to put markings in my music so this app won’t work for me either.

PDF Cabinet is free from Com Tec Co was just something I wanted to try to see how something not geared towards musicians would solve the issues of dealing with an electronic document. It is a good program and has some interesting options. It isn’t geared towards music so there is no support for a page turner like there is in all of the other apps but depending on how you use it, this might be an option for some. I’ll definitely be keeping this one on the device. One of the most intriguing possibilities if you teach lessons, is that you can collaborate on a pdf with someone else running this app on their device.

PDF Cabinet Collaboration view

PDF Cabinet Collaboration view

No need to ask for the student’s device. You could annotate their music from your device. If they don’t have that PDF, it will share it with them first. I could also see this feature being used in a talk for a small class as well. You can also sync with a Dropbox or iCloud folder or import directly from Dropbox. This might be handy in a small ensemble situation. If a member of the group was syncing with this folder as well, I could put a new piece in the Dropbox folder and be assured that everyone would get it automatically. Just like MusicPodium, you can put bookmarks in to easily find your way back to the page that you wanted to work on and you could make versions if you were working on the same piece with multiple people. You can also crop pages in this app if say you needed more screen real estate due to a bad scan. You can also open your document in another app so it would be possible to use this in conjunction with another music reader to get some of these features. It has some very good documentation in the app and videos on the website. This app would definitely be all that some people would need.

But due to superior editing capabilities for music, my standard app for music on my iPad will be forScore.

Just some of the possibilities in forScore's toolbox

Just some of the possibilities in forScore’s toolbox

forScore $6.99 from MGS Development is easy to get music into and easy to make lists for various concerts or auditions.

Preview before you load the music from your list.

Preview before you load the music from your list.

It also has snapshots of annotations which is very cool if you are playing the same piece for more than one person, versions, cropping, keywords, connections to your iTunes music, built-in metronome, built-in keyboard, built-in pitch pipe. You can even make your own annotation sets or install sets from other people.

Using a sharp stamp in forScore.  You can fine tune the placement easily.

Using a sharp stamp in forScore.
You can fine tune the placement easily.

In other words, this is a feature-rich app. ForScore has everything that I need to start to make that switch to the iPad for my sheet music.

Like a Swiss Army Knife for Audio – Audio Tool

Audio Tool is another one of those not used all of the time but so great when you need to have it apps.

It contains 7 tools:

  • Decibel Meter Pro 2
  • Microphone Pro
  • Tone Generator Pro 2
  • Scope Pro
  • Tempo Pro
  • Bit Calc Pro
  • Audio Atlas

The app that I use the most of all of these is the first one, the Decibel Meter. Are you really playing that fortissimo as loudly as you think? Are the trumpets sitting behind you going to cause you hearing damage if you don’t wear earplugs? (Hint: The answer to this one is almost always yes…I have shotgun earplugs I use just for these occasions.) Find some loudness comparisons here. Also note that it only takes exposure at 90db to start causing hearing issues. There are some interesting reports that we may eventually be able to repair some hearing damage but as of now, if you lose it, it’s gone. Scary!

Decibel Meter Pro 2 on the iPad

Decibel Meter Pro 2 on the iPad

Hopping off the scary soapbox now and back to the apps!

Microphone Pro is not one that I use but if you have the right cord, it will allow you to use your device as a talk-back microphone by plugging into the headphone jack and then into powered speakers. It will amplify the input to line level, and then pass it out the headphone jack.

Microphone Pro

Microphone Pro

Tone Generator Pro will give you different types of waves, pink or white noise, or sweeps. You could use these to tune an instrument if you wanted to but they are most often used to test equipment like speakers. Again, not one that I use much but it’s there if I have need of it. (Who really uses that toothpick on a Swiss Army Knife?)

Tone Generator Pro Sawtooth wave on iPhone

Tone Generator Pro: Sawtooth wave on iPhone

Scope Pro looks really cool. Again, a tool that I don’t have much practical use for but it’s very pretty and you can gauge your loudness from looking at the wave form.

Scope Pro on iPhone

Scope Pro on iPhone

Tempo Pro is a basic metronome. The interesting thing here is that it has tempo notations in Italian markings as well.

Tempo Pro on iPad

Tempo Pro on iPad

The Bit Calc Pro is helpful if you are trying to figure out how much space you need to have to make a recording…Or what sample rate you need to use to fit on the space that you have. Very handy.

Bit Calc Pro on iPhone. Changing the Bit Depth

Bit Calc Pro on iPhone. Changing the Bit Depth

The last application that is included as part of Audio Tool is an Audio Atlas that is a nice little audio encyclopedia.

Audio Atlas on iPad

Audio Atlas on iPad

Audio Tool is from Performance Audio.
You could buy any of the apps but the Audio Atlas individually for 99¢ but for $1.99, you can get all of the apps listed and any new apps that they add to the Audio Tool. The apps are well built and in specific instances, they will be exactly what you need. Audio Tool is a plus app so it will work on all of your iOS devices provided that you are running at least iOS 4.0.
Get it here.

Recording Your Practice Sessions with GarageBand

There is nothing to improve your playing like recording and listening to yourself. (Sometimes, you may need chocolate after the fact but you have to do it if you want to get better! Or instead of the chocolate, see this post from The Bulletproof Musician: How to Listen to a Recording of Yourself Without Getting Depressed

There are plenty of apps available to help you record yourself. Including the Voice Memos app that comes on your phone. However, I believe that GarageBand is one of the better tools for the job.

First, you can easily record multiple lines in the same recording. It’s nice to see visually that one recording is a bit faster or louder or softer or whatever it is that you are fundamentally working towards on a particular piece.

I'm faster on the latest recording. (The one above is muted currently)

I’m faster on the latest recording.

Second, it’s great fun and really helpful to record an accompaniment to play against. You could absolutely ask your accompanist if you could record them and use that for practicing but I like to pull the piece apart and record the piano part myself (I usually do this on bassoon, not piano. My piano playing is really great for Hot Cross Buns. Not so much for the Saint-Saëns Sonata. Though, if you are a piano player, you can attach a MIDI keyboard through the camera connection kit or use the on-screen keyboard.)
Recording the accompaniment helps me learn the piece more thoroughly in terms of both chords and what is happening while I’m playing. I definitely listen to others playing the music if it’s available but that extra learning by doing is something that I really like.

Liven up your scales with some Bebop drums.

Liven up your scales with some Bebop drums.

Other reasons to use GarageBand in your practice sessions are:

  • The ability to use drum loops to play scales or improvisations against.
  • iCloud syncing, record your piece on one iOS device but listen to it on another. (I tend to use the iPad to record but I like being able to review the recording anywhere.)
  • Recording composition ideas using live or software instruments.
  • Sharing your song to a variety of places including SoundCloud. (Your students could easily send a recording to you through the mail though it’s not possible to share to someone else’s device through iCloud or to DropBox.
  • Importing and playing against a song from iTunes as long as it is not protected.
iCloud syncing on the iPad

iCloud syncing on the iPad

Limitations of GarageBand especially in the context of Classical Music include:

  • Only major or minor keys in loops.
  • Only 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8 time signatures.
  • Song Sections are only 8 bars by default.
  • These are not deal breakers for me because I turn the metronome off when recording since I’m usually trying to check how I’m doing on a piece and I wouldn’t have that metronome in a performance. When recording, GarageBand does give a lead-in of a measure which you can’t turn completely off but is easily ignored by waiting a silent measure. And for the song sections, you can manually change this but if you forget, it will most definitely stop recording. You could use the automatic setting for the song section as well but it will stop recording if you stop playing. I usually just set the section to a much larger measure number than I need so that I don’t have to worry about it.

    Increasing the bars in a Song Section

    Increasing the bars in a Song Section

    GarageBand is from Apple.
    It is $4.99 for the iOS version.
    This is a plus version so it will work on all of your iOS devices.
    Minimum requirements are iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd-current generation), and iPad. You’ll also need iOS 5.1 or later.

    GarageBand is also available for your Mac for $4.99.
    You can transfer a project from the Mac version to the iOS version through iTunes. However, most things don’t come through well and this is usually an exercise in frustration because the project from the computer is very likely not to open in the iOS version. There are however, some great things for guitar practice in the desktop version.