Learning to play an instrument can be pretty hard, but it’s never too late to get started. At these times, the best way to keep going is to facilitate those engagements; make them accessible and fun. One way to do that is to make use of modern technology.
In this article, we’ll be looking at iPad applications that are aimed at starting musicians, or can be used by people who want to brush up on their guitar-playing skills from high school.
Mind you, these apps won’t show you how to learn the instrument, but provide nifty tools that will prove to be incredibly useful to many amateur musicians.
If you want to be more than a one-trick musical pony, memorizing individual songs from YouTube, you’ll have to be able to easily read sheet music. After learning the basic notes and chords, the only thing that will make you more fluent is practice; lots of practice.
That’s where Notable comes in. This beautifully designed iPad app quizzes you about individual notes and chords, sharps and flats, mixing different keys depending on the difficulty setting and chosen exercise categories. Keep a close eye on the timer, and try not to linger on any one question too long. If you’re feeling particularly skilled, you can enable the ‘insane mode’ in the preferences. This makes Notable stop drawing the notes, so you can practice pitch recognition by ear.
Having tried most, if not all of the sheet music applications in the App Store, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two distinct categories. The kind that allows you to read your own PDF sheet music in an over-glorified PDF reader, and the kind with an in-app sheet music store.
To carry your own PDF sheet music library on the go, I’d suggest you to keep using iBooks, the default iPad PDF reader. However, if your instrument of choice is a keyboard or piano, I urge you to take a look at Yamaha NoteStar.
Yamaha NoteStar is a very slick and intuitive musician app for iPad, with an in-app store for cheat music. The cheat music is not cheap, but you can sample (generally the first two pages) of every song. Each of these songs also comes with complete vocals and percussion when applicable, which you can turn on or off. It’s also really easy to change the tempo of the song, or play a transposition of the song; that is, play it in a different key.
Even when you’re still getting the hang of your instrument, it’s important to keep it in tune. For a piano, this might be easier said than done, but most string instruments should be tuned regularly. You can do this by ear, using a special tuning device, but also using your iPad.
Having your iPad around can be really useful to quickly tune an instrument, but you should consider buying a “real” tuner. It will only cost a few bucks, and is likely more accurate than the built-in microphone of your iPad.
n-Track Tuner is very easy to use. Play a long note on your instrument, and the app will tell you what it picked up. Seeing an F-sharp when expecting a G? You’ll have to higher the pitch. At the bottom of the screen, the green bar will show you when the observed note is higher in pitch than the one displayed on the screen, and the red bar indicates when a note is lower than the one displayed.
Considering the size of the App Store, and the number of musician apps for iPad in it, this article is hardly a complete source. Do you know any other iPad apps? Voice your suggestions in the comments below the article!