iReal Pro for Jazz and Improvisation

iReal Pro is a great app. It’s from the same people who made Drum School and has the same quality and attention to detail that really helps a practicing musician become better. Despite the fact that I play bassoon, I listen to a lot of jazz and have always wanted to get better at playing it. Maybe even composing in it at some point. I use a couple of apps to try and broaden my jazz horizons. I’ve already covered one, Anytune Pro+. iReal Pro is the other side of that coin for me. I usually choose the same tune to practice in both apps so that I am thinking about the same piece but in different ways. Anytune lets me slow down and play along with a recording. iReal Pro shows me the chord changes and with an extra purchase, the standard chords and scales that go along with those. I can also input the Jamey Aebersold exercises that I work on in iRealPro to enhance practicing those as well.

When you first open up iRealPro, it will have a few exercises in it. To add new charts, you’ll either need to go to the in-app Forum and find some to download or input some yourself. The forum has user-made charts that others have shared. These are usually very good. Occasionally there will be a chord or two that may not sound right to you but that is easily remedied as once you have downloaded a piece, you can duplicate it and edit it as well.

Editing screen of iReal Pro on the iPad

Editing screen of iReal Pro on the iPad

You can make playlists for the pieces that you are working on. (Here is the one nitty-picky gripe that I have about this app. It doesn’t open up to the last thing that you worked on. If it did that, it would be perfect.) Once you have the piece that you want to work on opened, you can change the tempo, the number of times through and the key. You can also change the accompaniment style. There used to be just a few styles given to you but in the last update to iReal Pro, they made everything free except for some new jazz styles. Alas, I really like the Blue Note style especially, so I will probably be buying this pack.

Currently the only extra to buy. They've made everything else free.

Currently the only extra to buy. They’ve made everything else free.

One of my favorite things is the Chord Scales. This used to be an in-app purchase but is now standard. It allows you to see the chord and scale for each chord in the sheet as you play. If you tap and hold on a measure, it will show you a chord and scale that is musically viable in that spot. If you tap on that, it will show you other chords and scales that would also fit and allow you to choose a different one for playback. These then show up from measure to measure while the piece is playing. A big Thank You to the developers for also making these available in bass clef. Some developers seem to forget that there are also bass instrumentalists using their apps. One thing that isn’t there but that I’d love to see is an option to show all of the different chords in a chart at once since I usually start my practice by going one by one individually through all of the chords and scales that the piece might use before I ever start playback.

Chord and scales pack showing on iPad.

Chord and scales pack showing on iPad. Bass clef is available too.

You can also use this screen to make a loop if you just want to practice a small section of your piece.

iReal Pro iOS – Chord Scales for iPhone and iPad from iReal Pro on Vimeo.

Another really handy practice aid is the ability to change the key and the tempo automatically from one repeat to another.

Make practicing more of a challenge by changing the tempo and/or the key

Make practicing more of a challenge by changing the tempo and/or the key

In iReal Pro, there is an option to play the piece from your library while you are looking at the chart. It’s a very nice touch. If the piece isn’t in your library, the app will show you if it’s available in iTunes.

Play along with iReal Pro.

Play along with iReal Pro.

There are quite a few things in this app that can help you as an educator or a collaborator. You can quickly put in the changes to a chart for your own practice or to share with your students. I put some Aebersold studies in because I can change the tempo and change the key that it starts in so I’m not always memorizing the same chord change order from the Aebersold recordings. You can share these charts with your students and others either through the forums or by emailing the charts. The developers have made it so that these can be sent as something that someone else can use regardless of whether or not they have the app. The sheet music or the audio can both be sent. And for the audio, you can send it in an audio format or in MIDI which means that you can pull it into another program on your computer or device. You can also use AudioBus or Inter-App Audio Apps to send the accompaniment to another program. Though you need to be aware if you’ve updated to iOS 8 that there are some audio issues that need to be fixed and this may not work well for you at the moment.(September 2014)

iReal Pro is from Technimo. There is a direct website for iReal Pro and you can also find them on Twitter.

iReal Pro is a plus app for $12.99 in the iTunes Store.
There are in-app purchases available for additional accompaniment styles. The app used to be a little cheaper BUT since they have made most of the old in-app purchases part of the app, the price is quite fair and less than buying the old app and all of the purchases.

It is also available through the Mac App Store for $19.99. This could make life easier if you are making a lot of charts but I find it easy enough to make them on my iPad.

They also have an Android app.

This is one of those apps that I think every musician with an iOS device should have. It’s fun and it’s very helpful for improving your musical capabilities.


Anytune Pro+

Anytune is a stellar application. You can use it to slow down music but keep the pitch which makes it really easy to transcribe music or learn solos. There are other apps that are less expensive for this but with all of the features of Anytune, plus it’s ease of use, this is the one that I recommend.

It is so feature rich that I’m just going to touch on those that I find of most benefit in my practice routine.
To start off with, is the import feature. Instead of having to go to the computer and transfer into the application through iTunes, there are a variety of ways to import the music that you want to work on.

iPhone view of importing

iPhone view of importing

One of the coolest things about the import is that you can record directly into the application. Working on something with a lot of notes? It’s great to be able to slow down what you played and find those little spots where your finger work is not quite as clean as you’d like. Love to have all of the options. (Be aware that you will not be able to open any music with DRM on it but you will get to see all of the music that’s in your iPod app on your device. Those with DRM are greyed out.)

In terms of transcribing, I love that you can find your place visually. This is a big time saver from other apps like this that I have used. Also very easy to set marks so that you can get back to the spots that you want to work on. You can also export what you’ve done so that someone else could import it into their Anytune app.

For practicing, there’s quite a bit built in. Easily loop the section you’re trying to learn or use the step-it-up trainer to gradually increase the speed of a section.

Step Up Trainer in iPad view

Step-It-Up Trainer in iPad view

There is a built in equalizer in the app. Really love this feature to help focus in on the line that you are trying to learn. Also nice to be able to delay the loop. Give you some breathing space rather than trying to scramble to get back to the beginning of the section.

Equalizer View on the iPad
(The equalizer is currently bypassed.)

I find it much easier to use this app on the iPad though I am glad to have access to it on the iPhone as well. There are also a few things like the equalizer that do not appear to be on the iPhone/iPod version. Told you they had good support! Bottom right hand corner on the iPhone the highlighted loop symbol gives you everything on the iPhone that you get on the iPad. Nice!

To give you a look and also let you see all the things that are available in the app. Here’s a look at two screenshots both with the help enabled.

iPhone/iPod version with help enabled.

iPhone/iPod version with help enabled.

iPhone/iPod version with help enabled.

iPhone/iPod version with help enabled.

The most difficult thing to learn about this app is all the different versions, prices, and upgrades. Luckily, this is a well supported app and the developer has a Comparison page to help us all out with this.

Anytune Pro+ is from Anytune.
It is a plus app and works on the 3GS and up and iOS 5.1 and later.

There are three different versions in the store.

    One is just for updates for people who bought an older version. Don’t get that one!
    There is one that is free to try that doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles: iTunes Link for Anytune.
    Anytune Pro+ is $14.99 currently. iTunes Link for Anytune Pro+.

You’ll have to pay an additional $4.99 if you want to be able to export slowed down or pitched songs as stand-alone playable files. This is not something that I currently need but I can see it being really handy for someone that spends a majority of their time teaching jazz to students.

I like this app quite a bit and have been having fun trying to learn various jazz solos on the bassoon. If you are interested in learning pieces by ear or making transcriptions, I highly recommend Anytune.