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.

Cycles: Metronome

Cycles: Metronome is the one that I’ve been looking for…it has some of the same elements as the Rhythm Programmer that I used to use. But it’s even better. Multiple time signatures, very simple to create different rhythms. Plus a very cool arrangement feature. Easily double, triple or even quadruple the tempo. Yes, please!

As I’ve written about before, I practice the Oubradous scales in various rhythm patterns. It’s great to be able to have a metronome playing those patterns with you. Cycles can do that. It absolutely reminds me of the Rhythm Programmer metronome that I used to have and loved. However, because of the additional possibilities, I don’t miss that metronome anymore.

1 beat of dotted eighth-sixteenth-eighth rhythm.

As written

Cycles can have up to 30 beats and 30 subdivisions. I also love the way that it’s set up. For those students who are more visual, this can help them see the rhythm in a different way than just static notes on a page.

30 beats and 30 subdivisions…You can’t see those because they are so small but they are there.

One of the most helpful features of the Cycles: Metronome is the ability to make “arrangements”. I used to have to put a metronome on eighth notes and try to eliminate the downbeats to have a metronome going with an odd meter piece. Not anymore. It’s also a very different feel in practicing to have the rhythm that you’ll be playing against in performance. I think that it makes a huge difference.

Here’s a big one for us bassoonists.
Bolero in 3 with just sixteenths on the metronome just doesn’t feel as good and helpful as that Bolero rhythm that is a constant in the piece.

First measure of the Bolero rhythm being played from an arrangement.

The second measure of the Bolero rhythm in the arrangement section.

Arrangement Screen first window.

You make the arrangements and then add the segments together. Turn on the arrange mode and you are done.

So helpful! Try it and see what I mean.

It will not, however, help with having to come in after the clarinet. (Visualization will help with that! I once had to play Bolero after waiting about a half hour for two rival Mexican TV stations to duke out who got to film the concert. Uncomfortable much?)

Just for grins, here is the first 8 minutes of the piece. Lovely view of the percussionist starting. The bassoonist is playing a French Bassoon, not the German Bassoon that most of us in the U.S. play.

As you can tell, I like this metronome very much. In the upper left corner, there is a number, 1 means play it at tempo but you can change this up to a 4 to quadruple the tempo. I use this quite a bit. I have a practice technique that I call doubling. I’ll play something very slowly, say at 40 BPM and then I’ll crank up the metronome and play it at 80 BPM, back down to 41 and then up to 82, etc. I used to have to play with the metronome to speed up and slow down the tempo but with the Cycles: Metronome, one click and the horn is back up and you are working again. Love it.

I do have a couple of things that I like to see changed a bit. Even for me, with my small fingers, some of the buttons up at the top are a bit close together. I’d also love to have it sound a bit louder. You can adjust the beats some on the Settings Page but for me, that’s not quite enough. Eventually, I’m going to invest in AirPlay speakers but for now, I can use a stereo dock if I need it.

Settings Screen from the Cycles: Metronome App.

One last thing that you see on this settings screen is pretty interesting though I haven’t played with it much. If you play with the Subtraction sliders, the metronome will randomly drop beats out so you can see if you can stay in tempo with a changing beat. I occasionally find that the regular setting drops a beat (Though the tempo stays steady.) So maybe that comes from this option.

Cycles: Metronome is from Zero Brainz. They have quite a few tutorial videos on the site to help you get started using the app.
It is native for iPhone/iPod Touch, works on the 3GS and up and iOS 4.1 and later.
It’s $1.99. on the iTunes App Store.

I highly recommend it!