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.

IMG_2620

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.

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.

Beginner:
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.

Intermediate:
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.

Advanced:
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

Extra:
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.

PolyRhythm a metronome for cross rhythms

PolyRhythm is just about the most straight forward app you can get. It is a metronome to help you get comfortable with cross-rhythms. That’s it. One screen. One sound. Multiple polyrhythms. Done!

It is one of those things that you might not necessarily need much but if you do need it this is a good tool. I have had solos before in cross-rhythm against the basic beat. A conductor is not going to change his pattern for just one person if the rest of the orchestra is using a different time signature so you have to know where your notes fit in.

This is the screen for PolyRhythm:

IMG_1205

A definition from Wikipedia so that we are on the same page rhythmically speaking,

Cross-rhythm refers to systemic polyrhythm. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music states that cross-rhythm is: “A rhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is contradicted by a conflicting pattern and not merely a momentary displacement that leaves the prevailing meter fundamentally unchallenged”

And one from Alex Ross The Rest Is Noise:

polyrhythmpolyrhythmic: Music is said to be polyrhythmic if two or more rhythms or meters are superimposed in a single passage, one pulling against the other(s). Masters of polyrhythm in the twentieth century include Stravinsky, Bartók, Conlon Nancarrow, György Ligeti, and Elliott Carter. In the “Procession of the Sage” from Stravinsky’s Rite, tubas play a sixteen-beat figure three times, horns play an eight-beat phrase six times, a guiro plays eight pulses to the bar, the timpani play twelve pulses to the bar, and so on:

(This is also the name of his book on 20th Century Music which I haven’t gotten to yet but it’s on my reading list.)

Here are some musical examples of cross-rhythm:

The Alex Ross definition refers to this part of the Rite of Spring:

 

Two against three from the opening of the Philip Glass piece Glassworks:

 

Although you can use PolyRhythm as a regular metronome, I wouldn’t use it for this purpose. The speeds are only available by 10’s and how slow and fast the metronome can go depends on the polyrhythm that you choose. Makes sense. Because not even the fastest drummer will be able to get up to 400 BPM with a polyrhythm of 11 against 4. (Before you tell me some inhuman percussionist who can do that, your ear couldn’t physically hear that clearly anyway so…doesn’t really matter.)

The polyrhythms go from 1 against 1, a regular metronome to 13 against 4.

13 against 4

I have been using this metronome just to hear the rhythms and then try to play them using my hands on my legs. There are drummers who can play multiple cross-rhythms at once. That just blows my mind. You can see a video of the developer of this app doing just that on his website.

PolyRhythm is available for 99¢ from the iTunes store for iPhone though it will work on iPad.

The developer is Wolfram Winkel at Five Over Three.

I have enjoyed exploring rhythmic possibilities with this app though it will probably not be in my everyday toolkit. It’s definitely worth giving it a listen and trying the rhythms out for yourself. I’m sure that I’ll be trying to use more of them in some compositions just to see what it can add to the piece.

And how about one more video that does a great job of showing you cross-rhythms:

 

 

 

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.

Suggester Chord Progressions

This is an update to a previous post on the Suggester app.

Suggester is a chord progression tool. It is helpful if you are composing and want to generate some ideas. The app does one thing very well. That is to help you find chords that are in a scale…or a scale that goes with chords that you have chosen.
You can choose to hear your chord progression in one of three instruments: vibraphone, piano, or guitar. Originally there were nine scales to choose a from to make your chord progression. There are now fourteen different scales to choose from including Prometheus Scales from the mystic chord.*****

If you just want to hear the scale that you’ve chosen, you just tap the top bar. Once you have your chosen progression, you can listen to it, choose a tempo for it and also export it. Happily, looping has been added to this version of Suggester. I tend to play against a chord set to help generate ideas and this is very helpful to me.

Suggester - F Jazz Progression - iPad

However, exporting is still not very great. The text export isn’t very useful. You can send someone a list of your chord choices and that’s it. They are going to have to input those into whatever they are using, even if they also have Suggester. I really wish that you could send them in the “suggester format” so that the person you were collaborating with could open them directly in the suggester App. Also helpful would be the ability to sync your progressions through iCloud or Dropbox. As it is now, if you want the progression on both devices, you’ll be inputting that manually on both. It would also be really great if you could pull the MIDI export into another program on your iDevice but that is not currently possible that I have found. The MIDI export is good for pulling the chord progression into your DAW or notation software and I do use this but it’s more of a basic reminder of my original idea than something that I actually use in the piece.

Here is a sample of a G Lydian Chord progression MIDI export pulled into Logic Pro.

 

You can save only one of your progressions unless you upgrade from the free version. You’ll also need to do that to be able to export. Other features that are not yet available, choosing the chord voicing, the inversion of the chord and being able to alter the notes of the chord. The alter button that you see next to the chords in the progression will only let you alter the whole chord. Say you picked Am, you could select alter and then choose a different A chord instead. This doesn’t bother me too much as the UI could probably get pretty cluttered and you can always adjust this later in the program that you are using to compose with.

Suggester - Choosing an altered chord - iPad

It is now possible to choose a different bass note for your chord.

Suggester - Choosing an alternate bass - iPad

And also possible to edit your progression without deleting anything. You can drag and drop the chords into a different order in edit mode. One thing to note, you have to unlock “sharp” scales if you want to work with double sharps & double flats. Even when you unlock this, the chords can have strange spellings. Like an A major chord spelled a, d-flat, e.

One of the interesting and fun things about this app is the ability to start with the chords first and then have the app match those to a scale.

Matching a scale to your chord choices

Matching a scale to your chord choices

You are given an idea of how good the match is by percentages listed. Pretty cool. You can also transpose and rematch something that you’ve done. This is when it gets a little weird. It keeps the same exact chord and just respells them for the new key except they are sometimes spelled awkwardly and not labeled correctly. The f# chord from G Lydian to G major is still going to be a vii chord. In G lydian, it is correctly listed as a vii chord but in G major, it is only listed as an f# chord. It is still a vii chord but altered, minor rather than diminished as it would be in G major.

G Lydian Chord Progression on iPhone

G Lydian Chord Progression on iPhone

G Lydian Progression rematched to G Major

G Lydian Progression rematched to G Major

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If I choose to transpose, I would expect that I would get the exact same chord progression numerals but in the new key. This however, is not the case. Instead of a I chord being a D Major chord if we move to D, It’s still a G major chord but listed as a IV instead of a I. This type of transposition could be helpful but I would prefer to have both options.

G Lydian transposed to D Major

G Lydian transposed to D Major

Despite some of the shortcomings of the Suggester app. I do like the app and would recommend it. It is quite helpful and it can be interesting to listen to the chord possibilities that you may not have considered before. There have been improvements since the last version that I reviewed and the developer seems responsive to requests.

The current version of Suggester is 1.9.9. It is a plus app and is available for free on iTunes. You will need to pay $4.99 to unlock the export and multiple progressions. The developer for Suggester is Mathieu Routier.

 
 
****Mystic chord: What a great name for what turns out to be a hexatonic scale that has a leading tone to the fifth but no fifth. This is now on my list of things to learn more about. Guess I’ll be listening to more Scriabin soon. If you want to listen to something based on that chord and scale, this is some music to go with a collection of essays titled Alexander Scriabin’s Mystic Chord as a Puppet of Heinrich von Kleist.

Technical Ear Training

Auricula is an ear training app that is geared towards recording and production engineers. I am neither of those but I like this app as it helps hone your listening skills in a completely different way from an ear training app in musical skills. I always feel that expanding beyond what is necessary is a great way to make your most needed skill set better. This app definitely does this for me.

auricle [aw´rĭ-k’l]
1. the projecting part of the ear lying outside the head; called also pinna. Auricle is an Anglicization of Latin auricula, from auris “ear” and -cula, a diminutive suffix.

Ear Training choices in Auricula.

Ear Training choices in Auricula.

The skills that Auricula can help you develop are:

    1. Recognizing filters & field (Core)
    1. Recognizing equalizer bands
    1. Recognizing gain amount
    1. Recognizing delay amount
  • These are pretty subtle skills in some cases but they way that the app is set up, you can hone in on any that you are having difficulty with and start getting better pretty quickly.

    Auricula lets you choose what to study in a section.

    Auricula lets you choose what to study.

    So for example, if you were having a hard time recognizing sum, you could choose only none and sum. You can see by the circle at the top right corner whether the filter is on and off and by using the app this way, you can slowly build up your recognition of all of the filters.

    Core ear training on just none and sum.

    Core ear training on just none and sum.

    One of the things that I really like about Auricula, is that you can import music from your library and use that instead of the pink noise.

    Choose your sound.

    Choose your sound.

    Each of the different exercises lets you customize the sound and the difficulty.

    Core settings page.

    Core settings page.

    Auricula is from a company named…Auricula. You can try the app for free and if you like it, and want to get rid of the annoying popups, it’s only $2.99. Or you could choose to unlock each section separately for 99¢ each. Auricula is a plus app though the iPad version is no different, just bigger. They also have AU plugins if you’d prefer to practice using your own DAW and the pieces that you are working on in those.

    If you are looking for something to help you get better as a producer or just a way to refine your listening skills, take a listen to Auricula.

    Better Ears for Better Ears

    The Better Ears app used to be called Karajan Pro. The new version after the name change is even better than before. If you have been using Karajan Pro and haven’t upgraded yet, the changes will be worth the pain to figure out where things are now.

    As I’ve written before, I use multiple ear training programs because I don’t want to get too used to a particular program and want my ears to be as good as possible. Better Ears is one of the first apps that I bought when the app store originally opened. The exercises available include:

    • Interval recognition
    • Scale recognition
    • Chord recognition
    • Chord progressions
    • Pitch recognition – I don’t use this one too much because I’m not sure that I believe that perfect pitch can be trained for and you are essentially asked to pick a pitch out of thin air.
    • Tempo recognition – I don’t use this one either…maybe a percussionist would find this helpful though.
    • Key Signature recognition – Great for students who don’t know this info yet.
    • Interval music reading – Testing whether you can recognize a written interval. Helpful for making score reading on sight quicker.
    • Scale music reading – Helpful to improve your sight reading as well.
    • Chord music reading – Helpful for score reading and sight reading…I do wish that the notation was bunched as a chord and not separated though.

    There are two modes to choose from, Learning and Training. The Learning mode lets you see Wikipedia articles about what you are studying. It also gives you a chance to hear and see the scale, interval or chord in notation. This is a little better in the iPad version since you can see the app and use the keyboard while reading the article but the article is readable on the phone since it opens up to fill the iPhone’s screen. It sure is nice to have the keyboard available though so I prefer this on the iPad. On the iPhone, you can also open the article in Safari to save it to your reading list which is handy to be able to get to it on a bigger screen.

    iPad view of Altered Scale with Wikipedia, notation, and keyboard showing.

    iPad view of Altered Scale with Wikipedia, notation, and keyboard showing.

    On the iPad, you are able to choose which view to concentrate on if you wish.

    Chord Progression Learning on iPad with only the Wikipedia article and keyboard showing.

    Chord Progression Learning on iPad with only the Wikipedia article and keyboard showing.

    Chord Progression Learning on iPad with only the notation showing.

    Chord Progression Learning on iPad

    One of the features that I really like in this app is the ability to customize the exercises. Great to help you when you are having trouble with a particular interval, chord, progression or scale in one of the exercises. You can save your customizations and use Dropbox to sync these across devices including the Mac version of Better Ears. (Be aware that the first sync may cause you to lose the info from one of your devices. I wish that I had had this on the last iOS software update. I chose to do a clean install and lost all of my info.) The statistics available are also tremendously helpful. They show you the truth about what you are missing in each individual exercise and you can use this to make a custom exercise for yourself or your students. For example, I have a customization which just focuses on intervals bigger than an octave since I want to work on getting better with that. Just like instrumental practice, having a plan for training gets you to a higher level more quickly.

    Statistics screen iPhone an update erased my statistics but I shouldn't have to worry about this anymore with DropBox syncing.

    Statistics screen iPhone an update erased my statistics I shouldn’t have to worry about this anymore with DropBox syncing.

    Use the levels that Appsolute made for you or use the custom button to create your own. For example, my More than an Octave interval practice.

    Use the levels that Appsolute made for you or use the custom button to create your own. For example, my More than an Octave interval practice.

    The iPad version of Better Ears works in Landscape. The iPhone works in either landscape or portrait although the keyboard only shows up in landscape. If you are more comfortable on guitar, you can show a fretboard instead. On either app, you can click on the answer to the question or you can play it using the instrument that is showing. If you have a MIDI connector for your iOS devices, you can also answer the questions on a connected MIDI device. The sounds used are customizable as well. There are multiple sound and articulation choices available.

    Fretboard on iPhone. This or the keyboard only shows in landscape view on the iPhone.

    Fretboard on iPhone. This or the keyboard only shows in landscape view on the iPhone.

    So while I do use different apps to train my ears with, this is one of my favorites. If you only want to have one ear training app, this is the one that I’d recommend.

    Better Ears is available in separate versions for iPhone and iPad. It’s also available for Mac and an Android version is coming soon.

    Both iOS versions are currently $14.99 each and require iOS 5.0. Remember if you are on a budget that the iPhone version will work on the iPad but the iPad version can only be used on an iPad.
    The link for iPhone is here. The link for iPad, here. There is also a free version called Better Ears beginner with a one level limitation if you want to try before you buy. Find that here.

    Better Ears is made by Appsolute. The website for Better Ears is here.