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

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.

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: