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

Keeping Track of your Practice Sessions with Numbers

When I first started the bassoon, there wasn’t much of a need for practice sheets. It was all I could do to remember the fingerings.

Once I got to the point that I had a lot of different pieces, etudes, and excerpts to practice on, I started printing off an Excel Document so that I could keep track of what I was working on and how I was improving. Now that I have an iPad, I don’t print this sheet anymore. I also don’t use Excel anymore since I have access to Numbers. The digital version of my practice sheet is a little more festive even if I don’t get to use bright colored paper anymore. (Bright colors make me happy so…) Also, I don’t have to try and hunt a piece of paper down if I want to see the last way that I practiced something.

Numbers on the iPad in portrait.

Numbers on the iPad in portrait.

One of the nice things is that you can look back on what you’ve been working on for the last month…or year and see how much you’ve accomplished.

Data Entry in the iPad version of Numbers

Data Entry in the iPad version of Numbers

I like to break my practice up into different sections.

  • There are the basics. Double-Tonguing, tuning, note starts, etc. I work on pushing the envelope for these every time that I practice.
  • The jazz section is for fun but also something to take me out of my comfort zone.
  • Sections for études and solos.
  • If I have an audition or a recital, that will get pushed to the top since they’ll be must practice items
  • Lastly, a section at the bottom of each day for notes.

I know that there are apps specifically for tracking the time that you practiced but I think that what you concentrate on is much more important than trying to hit a specific number of minutes practiced. Some great sites for more information on music and mastery include: Musician’s Way , Bulletproof Musician , and The Talent Code. And here’s a very good article on practicing.

I don’t want to get too comfortable so I switch the way that I’m working on scales every week. This week is currently Oubradous but I also use scales studies from Kim Walker and Herzberg. I put a text box of what I want to concentrate on (You can see it off to the right side in the portrait picture above. I am currently reviewing centering.) I may add more text boxes if I’ve listened to a recording of myself and an issue really stood out to me. The reminder tab is a place to put notes on different ways to practice and general things to think about. Some I make up myself, some I get from others. (The notes on the Klickstein are there because I haven’t completely assimilated these exercises in practice yet so I know that I can refer to his book if I need it.)

iPad version of Numbers in Landscape

iPad version of Numbers in Landscape

One of the very nice things about Numbers is that you can sync through iCloud and have your information on your other devices. But be aware, actually editing on an iPhone or iPod Touch is sincerely uncomfortable. (This picture is zoomed in. I know it looks great but trust me…uncomfortable.)

Numbers on the iPhone

Numbers on the iPhone

I usually make or adjust the form on the iPad.
One last issue, I had to come up with a short hand to notate any rhythms that I used for practicing. There are no music note fonts available on iOS devices outside of notation apps. You could take a picture and insert it if you wanted to but that is a extra work and I’d rather use that time to practice.

Numbers is from Apple’s productivity suite, iWork.
It is $9.99 for the iOS version.
This is a plus version so it will work on all of your iOS devices.
Minimum requirements are iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3rd generation. Any of the current iPads will work but you must have at least iOS 5.1.

Numbers is also available for your Mac for $19.99.
You don’t have to have the Mac version though it can make the initial spreadsheet creating easier. Please be aware that not everything from the desktop version will transfer over to the iOS version.