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Apps for Learning - Music

There's no one way to learn how to play music. Every brain has its own way of most effectively processing information and music is such a diverse, complex medium that everyone is going to have to approach it differently. For me, it's always been a matter of trial and error, when I learn a new piece on bass or piano, I have to work through each section laboriously until I have it absolutely nailed down, then I leave it for a while, go back and see how much I've lost.

I find with piano that visual stimulus is also really useful, I can't read music, so I use a program called Synthesia (get it?) which shows the different notes and chords as colour-coded bars moving towards the corresponding keys. I go over each part like that until I've got the timing down. I probably wouldn't have come anywhere near as far with piano by now without it, and there are many apps out there which have offered people a similarly invaluable leg up. Here are 6 of the best ones.


Music theory is confusing, complicated and gives me a bigger headache than watching Enter the Void in a hall of mirrors after 11 glasses of champagne. Anything that helps to work through it and build up a strong understanding is going to be useful, but Nota is simply brilliant. As well as a reference library for basically every symbol, it has a chord and scale browser, a note quiz, a staff note locator, a 4 octave piano and much more. All of the content is scaled according to your experience level, with more content becoming available as you progress. Every aspect is covered from codas to rests to time signatures, it's basically an educational theory encyclopaedia. The sound quality is also superb.


Can an app really teach you to sing? Perhaps, some of it is always going to be down to personal dedication and talent but you'd be surprised just how much Vox Tools can help. It tailors itself exactly to whatever kind of voice you have, with a litany of recorded examples for you to follow, you can create your own custom vocal workout routines and once again, it's all tied to experience level. The whole thing feels like it was designed by people with a deep, practised understanding of vocal training, and the app links out to the Vox blog, which is brimming with useful advice.


As you might expect, there are plenty of video-based music learning apps online and they're all fairly similar, but Drum Guru is easily the stand out. The app itself is free and comes with a set of basic example videos and from there you can buy packages based on what you're looking at learning. Each video is accompanied by a noted scroller which you can slow down and speed up as you gradually get the hang of it. You can also loop short sections and remove the metronome. The best thing though is that each video is presented by a particularly well known drummer, examples include Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre), Steve Smith (Journey) and Steve Gadd, one of the most famous session drummers of all time, perhaps most well known for his stunning solo on Steely Dan's 'Aja'. 


With advances in technology, you don't necessarily need a set of ones and twos to learn how to scratch, sure it's the more tactile, traditional option, but a more digital approach might suit your needs better. If that's the case, djay 2 is your ideal app for getting started. It integrates with both your iTunes library and Spotify, you can record mixes, sample, beat match and just about everything else besides straight from the screen. It also includes support for DJ MIDI controllers if you have one. You could very easily throw out a live set using this app, but for starting out the interface is easy to understand and you'll never find yourself short of the information you need to keep learning.


There are a lot of tab library apps out there, like a scary amount, but why would you go anywhere other than the single most comprehensive tab library on the internet? Ultimate Guitar has been the Mecca for guitarists, bassists, ukulele players and whoever else seeking out tabs for years and the app is fully integrated with over 800,00 tabs available on the site. The tabs play out interactively at whatever speed you designate, you can set working playlists, there's an adjustable tuner, chord library and a metronome. The tab library is updated practically daily and it's remarkably easy to search through to find exactly what you want. 


Part of me really wanted to put Synthesia here, since it's the one I use, but it simply isn't as comprehensive as Real Piano, and not everyone will get as much out of it as I do. Real Piano offers a full, 88-key digital piano with a crisp, strong sound, customisable tuning and key assignment, and the ability to slide and pinch to manipulate the scale of the piano during practise. You can change the expression controls until the key sensitivity is just so, add audio effects and the app offers a big compliment of skill-based games. Once you've got more of a handle on things, you can start recording your own material and export it to Soundcloud, Facebook or iTunes, enabling you to transition seamlessly from learner to player.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Apps for Learning - Music Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, September 17, 2015 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. You must certify that the piano sounds the means you would like. Sometimes, you'll hear them on-line or watch YouTube videos. i like to recommend planning to AN actual look with headphones.


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