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.

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Scale Variator: An I Wish App

When I started this blog, I decided to only cover apps that I really loved and actually used often. I’m breaking that rule a little bit with the Scale Variator. This app could be so good and useful. Alas, it suffers from some real limitations. There are some very good things about this app though so I’ll cover it. It may be just the practice tool that some are looking for. Also, note that this app has not been updated since about 2011 so waiting for it to get better is probably in vain.

Well, why should you even consider this app then?
This app is great for making scale and arpeggio studies on the fly. Especially if you play the guitar, the instrument that the app is actually directed towards. Nothing helps an instrumentalist become more comfortable with the basics of their instrument than scales and arpeggios. I tell my students that these are like pre-practicing. Spend the time now and get a handle on a good portion of most of the music that you will ever play without ever seeing the piece. I always start my practice sessions with some type of scale study.

The great thing about Scale Variator is that you can make yourself a scale study that can emphasize an arpeggio that you are having difficulty with or just practice your scale in a variety of ways.

Scale Variator Scale only on iPad.

Scale Variator Scale only on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-4th-2nd-3rd down on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-4th-2nd-3rd down on iPad.

Scale Variator Root-third-fifth on iPad

Scale Variator Root-third-fifth on iPad

At the bottom of the app, you can choose what scale degrees you want to have in your arpeggio. You can also choose the step from the root. (This can get a little confusing depending on what scale degrees you also choose.) If you tap the right hand side of the app, you can hear what your study sounds like. On the left hand side, you can go to a different page to move to the next scale degree but use the same pattern. You can also choose up or down for your scale by selecting the arrow at the bottom of the screen. A handy metronome is also included.

Help screen on iPad:  Scale Variator

Help screen on iPad: Scale Variator

If you are a guitarist that doesn’t read music, you can show the etude that you’ve made in tab.

Scale Variator screen cut off on iPad

Scale Variator screen cut off on iPad

In the settings, you can choose your highest fret, whether there is an octave displacement and how much of one, and whether the scales should be modal or parallel. Modal lists the mode you are in if you were to start on that particular note. Helpful for learning improvisation. You can also choose your scale here, what root note and one of 9 scale possibilities to work on.

  • Major
  • Minor Pentatonic
  • Natural Minor
  • Japanese Pentatonic
  • Harmonic Major
  • Jazz Melodic Minor
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Whole Tone
  • Diminished

I would use Scale Variator much more often if it was a more universal app and not just geared towards guitar.
My wishes for Scale Variator:

  • An updated screen. It is an iPhone app, not a plus app. It has portions strangely cut off in the iPad 2x mode but it is not easy to see well on the iPhone.
  • A clef option. Even bass guitarists, and bassoonists, need love.
  • Rather than just frets, I’d love to be able to choose by a note range.
  • More of the scale fit onto one screen to avoid having to switch screens so often.

So here’s your warning before you go and get this app. You’ll like it a lot but you’ll wish for more. I’m still on the lookout for something better unless they choose to finally update this app.

Scale Variator is from Berklee College of Music. There is a free version to try that only shows you A Major. Get that here Or you can buy the full version for $4.99 here. I would recommend that you try the free version first due to the frustrations outlined above.