10 Noteworthy Music Apps for Productive Practicing

For any serious musician, it is common practice to carry around a metronome, a tuner, a recording device, and music. I quickly find my hands and back full of heavy equipment, especially in combination with my large instrument. Since I started my graduate degree in cello performance, I have found that these tried and true supplemental practice devices of my undergraduate days can easily be combined into one handy compact tool — my iPad.

There are a myriad of music related apps out there, but the ones I will go through are my all time favorites that I use consistently on my iPad, and a few that many colleagues have highly recommended. If you have an iPhone but not an iPad you will find most of these useful to you, as they exist for both devices. While these apps do not replace the quality of my Dr. Beat metronome or my Zoom H4 Handy recorder, they have so far served me well in the daily grind of practicing. If you have other ones you want to throw into the mix, please feel free to comment below and share your knowledge.

Practical Application

MUSIC JOURNAL (PRO) by David Charlton — Music Journal is a useful tool for keeping track of how long you practice your pieces each day. This app is available for iPhone and iPad in a limited free version (6 songs total) and an unlimited $6.99 version.

  • Set up folders and song names and organize them accordingly
  • Set the timer for up to 2 hours and open a different app and the timer will keep going; Edit your time after the fact if you forgot to run the timer.
  • The time recorded is shown in a visual chart per day. The chart can show total practice time for all recorded songs, or split up into time per folder or time per song. Color code your songs so they are easier to track on the charts.
  • Set the BPM (beats per minute) for each song, and the app will save the speed you practice each day in its metronome. Set your BPM Goal per song and view your progress each day through the BPM chart

PRACTICE CENTER by Gil Estes — An all-in-one app solution for practicing; video record yourself while simultaneously setting your metronome, stop watch, timer, and tuning drone. This iPad app costs $4.99.

    • Save your audio recording and email it to yourself
    • Includes practice timer for up to 10 hours and a stop watch
    • Tuning drone and metronome within the app
    • Very useful video display that acts like a mirror while you are recording, and when you play back the video it goes full-screen. Export your video to your Camera Roll.
    • Note: This is not the most beautiful user interface I have seen, but for functional purposes I rate it highly. I like being able to utilize the video playback.

AMAZING SLOW DOWNER (LITE) by Roni Music — Listen to musical recordings and slow down or speed up passages to hear it better. This iPhone and iPad app costs $14.99, but the lite version is free and restricts your audio file to the first quarter.

  • You can repeat any section of the music at full speed, slow it down or even speed it up by changing the speed between 25% (1/4 of original speed) and 200% (double speed) without changing the pitch
  • Create playback loops
  • Ability to change the tuning or musical key

PIANO HD by ZongMing Yang — I often wish I had a piano around me to plunk out a few chords or even help with my theory homework. This is the best piano app I have found so far. This iPad app is free, but there is an in-app upgrade available for $2.99. (Honestly, I have not been able to figure out what the upgrade will do.)

  • Play multiple notes at once
  • Change the size of the keyboard notes
  • Adjust the octave range
  • Multiple voices for the piano sound
  • Record your tune and email it
  • Note: My only complaint is that the sustained sound is a bit too long for my liking

Virtual Music

SHEET MUSIC READER “PIASCORE” by plusadd,Inc — A condensed library of downloaded pieces on your device. This is a free iPhone and iPad app. There are in-app upgrades available for additional tools like unlimited photo capturing, keyboard, metronome, tuner, and audio recorder for $2.99.

  • Download free classical pieces off of IMSLP, Dropbox, or your PDF File Sharing and put it into your piaScore library
  • Photo capture your physical scores and upload them to the app
  • Manage your scores via tagging, playlist, sorting and search capabilities
  • Gesture page turning by shaking your head or hands in front of the iPad
  • Write notes and symbols on your scores
  • Tools like keyboard, recorder, tuner, etc. are available via in-app upgrades

FORSCORE by forScore, LLC — Download musical scores onto your library. This iPad app cost $6.99.

  • Download PDF sheet music to your library
  • Half-page turn that allows you to see the bottom half of the current page and the top half of the next one at the same time
  • Play along to an audio track
  • Tag your scores to keep them organized
  • Create, share, and play setlists
  • Note: I don’t currently own this one, but it intrigues me. It seems similar to PiaScore, which I obtained for free (please see above).

Metronomes

CLOCKWORK by Bitcount Ltd. — Great metronome and click track app with the unique feature of saving a click track for you to practice against complex meters (think Bartok). This iPhone and iPad app costs $0.99.

  • Simple and complex time signatures
  • From 20 to 300 BPM
  • Set subdivisions and accents for your tempo
  • Choose between four “voices” for clicking sounds
  • Click track and song editor that lets you set parameters for tempo variations, time signatures, accents, etc.
  • Save and playback songs and customize set lists

PRO METRONOME by Xiao Yixiang — Great metronome with the unique feature of back-playing mode and dual screen mode. This is a free iPhone and iPad app. Pro version is an in-app upgrade and costs $2.99 (or currently costs only a “tweet”).

  • Simple and complex time signatures
  • From 10 to 500 BPM; Tap to calculate BPM; Set accents for your tempo
  • 13 counting tones available, including a voice; enable audio and visual for beats
  • Background playing mode available (keeps working even when returned to Home screen or when you open other apps)
  • Timer available to set for practicing
  • Pro version: Set subdivisions, Polyrhythms, two rhythm tracks at one time, favorite mode for rhythms
  • Pro version: Dual Screen mode, allows your team to AirPlay the beats on devices like HDTV and Projectors. Works via Wireless Airplay Connection(as using AirPlay) but requires iPhone4s/iPad2 at least

Tuners

CLEARTUNE by Bitcount Ltd. — Chromatic instrument tuner and pitch pipe. This iPhone and iPad app costs $3.99.

  • Play pitch pipe chromatic drones in a variety of octave ranges
  • 25 cent range fine tuning display
  • Play into the app and watch the tuner reveal if you are in tune or not (with a display like a needle tuner)
  • Support for custom temperaments, transposition, notations such as solfège, adjustable calibration, etc.
  • Works best for instruments that can sustain a tone. This would probably be particularly useful to harpists, guitarists, and players who tend to tune ensembles and orchestras (oboe, cello, violin).

TUNABLE by AffinityBlue — Tunable is a chromatic tuner, tone/chord generator, metronome, and recorder. This iPhone and iPad app costs $2.99.

  • Sustained pitch history with visual indicator of your pitch
  • Tone and chord generator
  • Tuning history to see how well you’re tuning over time
  • Change between equal, just, pythagorean, and 18 other tuning temperaments
  • Visual metronome with subdivisions available
  • Record, save, and share unlimited recordings
  • AppleTV/AirPlay mirroring to an HDMI projector or TV on iPad2, iPhone4S, iPhone5

What do you think of these music apps or other ones you have experience with? Do you think you will ever retire your daily use of your physical practice tool for an app? Leave a comment below to spread ideas.


A note from cellist Nicole Davis: This list was unsolicited and I was not paid nor given any compensation for promoting these apps. Please consider following my blog by entering your email address where it says “Follow Blog via Email” in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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10 comments

  1. Cadenza is an iPhone and iPad app that makes practicing deeply satisfying. You play your instrument and Cadenza plays the orchestra part. The best thing is, because it listens to you and fits your playing, you are free to play musically … you don’t have to worry about matching it. And it uses real orchestra and piano recordings, and turns the pages of your part for you, too. https://itunes.apple.com/app/id791155298

  2. Hi, great post! I’d like to add my own app to the list. It’s called “Dr. Flegg’s Structured Practice Method” and it’s actually a webapp… so it runs on iphone, ipad, android, windows, and desktops of any type!!

    http://www.drfleggspm.com

    It takes the old paper journals and adds a bunch of features that computers are great at. It tracks what you’ve practiced and helps you balance all the different materials you’re working on, so you don’t accidentally (or not) forget to practice something, or over-practice one piece at the expense of another.

    I created it for my own use, but realized pretty quickly that others could find it helpful as well. Hopefully you will, too!

    Thanks,
    -Dr. Mark Flegg

  3. I would suggest tonal energy! Definitely the best app I’ve found. It includes a metronome, tuner, and tone judged.

  4. Excellent post , For my two cents , if your company are wanting to merge PDF files , my boss saw a service here https://goo.gl/50OSuF.

  5. The best Windows app that I have found for learning songs is RiffStation. I didn’t think I’d ever find something to replace my Transkriber software which became useless abandonware. My two biggest gripes about it are that I wish you could slow the music down further than it allows (I tend toward working on fast, intricate solos) and I wish it had graduated levels for the speed using + and – buttons instead of a knob. Vox’s JamVox abandonware may have better filters for trying to isolate instruments but it is definitely more complicated and confusing to say the least.

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