Best Practice Apps for Musicians
Focus your practice and have more fun
Here you will find apps and tools I’ve found to be incredibly useful for practicing, improving skills and being creative. I also threw in some other apps that have made my musician life a little easier. Some say “technology schmology!”, but I say this is the 21st century and technology is here to stay. Having some of these tools at the palm of my hand have sparked my imagination and consequently expanded my teaching and playing ideas.
Note: Since some apps are not available on Android, I’ve provided the best comparable app with a link to the Google Play Store. However, since I don’t have any Android devices I cannot provide insight on the app.
A very cool app that let’s you slow down music to help with transcribing (learning a piece by ear). Furthermore, it’a quite useful for transcribing beginners and even advanced musicians trying to figure a very fast piece with lots of notes. The best part about the app is that slowing the music down only minimally affects the pitch, which is always a problem when slowing music down.
This app is pretty outdated, but I haven’t been able to find a comparable competitor to replace it. Basically, the app shows you a note and then you press the appropriate valve combination and press submit. It’s functions are basic but very useful to an intermediate-advanced brass player. Beginner players will find it overwhelming since there is no option to filter which notes to leave out.
A simple cloud to store documents, which can be PDFs, audio or video. I’ve always found the sharing feature useful with students. It allows me to create a folder that I share with them in which I can store sheet music, music articles or accompaniment tracks. Absolutely a must-have for every human.
This app has tons of beats and styles to make your practice more fun. You can choose your tempo in 5 beat increments and mark your favorite beats. They also have some tracks that leave out a measure here and there so you can check your rhythmic accuracy. I’ve used this feature with my students and they’re always surprised to find out they’re a little ahead or behind the beat!
This is a great little app! The free version gives you access to 32 exercises, and the paid one takes that number up to 260. Also, the exercises test you ability to identify scales, chords and intervals, which is a very important factor of musicianship. I think the lite version is great for beginners!
I don’t know what I would do without forScore, the app that let’s you store all your PDF sheet music in your iPad, categorize it, add markings to it and much more. It also has a tuner and metronome to aid your practice as well as many more features. It’s probably the best $10 I’ve ever spent on an app.
One of the best recording and music creation apps available. With this app you can create a full song with vocals, recorded instruments or prerecorded sounds. Even beginners can just jump in, explore and start making music. The possibilities are endless.
A must-have app for jazz musicians and basically anyone who loves accompaniment. Unlike other accompaniment apps, this one lets you create your own by using chart symbols. If you’re feeling lazy though simply search the iRealPro database for literally thousands of member-created accompaniment charts. You’ll be playing the famous trumpet solo “I Remember Clifford” with an accompaniment in no time.
Keezy Drummer (iOS FREE)
Ready to make some beats? This app can be used for fun or you can create your own beats and, for example, practice your scales over them. In this app each dot represents whatever percussion instrument you assign to it and can be combined with other dots to make the rhythms more complex. It’s one of those apps you have to try to really understand it. If you’re struggling with rhythm this tool can be a great visual way to understand how beats are divided.
Music Theory (iOS $4.99) – Free version available!
The flashcard app for musicians! You can learn about music theory, history and many more musical topics. The free version has quite a bit of stuff available for you to try out. Overall a great study app to keep you in shape or just have some fun.
A dictionary of musical terms! When you teacher assigns you a new solo, one of the first things you should do is make sure you know what all the musical terms mean. The app has over 500 musical terms, some with pictures for a visual aid!
Ear training is a very important part of a musician’s growth, but unfortunately many teachers don’t spend time teaching this skill. You can use this app to train yourself to hear intervals and identify them by ear. This skill will help you sightread better, understand music on a deeper level and you’ll be able to say things like “that song started with a major 2nd and then went down by a perfect 4th.” Personally, I love it.
With this app you can snap a picture of sheet music and have it turned into a PDF automatically, then email it to yourself and print it out like normal-looking sheet music. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome this app is or how often I use it on a weekly basis. It’s just a necessity. I’m pretty sure my life is better because of it. 😀
SmartMusic (iOS app FREE with subscription which is $40 a year) – Available for PC and MAC
SmartMusic is a well-known software that gives you access to thousands of accompaniments for solo, band, orchestra music and much more. I’ve found it to be very useful for my students, and the ones that have a subscription love it too. The software also gives you access to many method books including the Arban, band methods and sight-reading exercises to name a few. For all the sheet music you get the price is really a total bargain. The app (only available for iPad) is free with a subscription.
Another one of those skills you seriously need to spend time with if you want to be ahead of the game. This app starts with basic theory like what is a staff and the notes in it. Eventually, the mini course takes you into scales, chords, harmonization and a little analysis. Great app!
Spotify or Apple Music (apps FREE) – Monthly subscription available – Free version available
Two of the most famous music streaming apps, both with thousands of songs available. These are listed here because listening to great players is an important aspect of musical growth and it will give you a better idea of what you should or could sound like. For recommendations on who to listen to check out the “Essential Trumpet Albums.”
Here are two albums available on both Spotify and Apple Music that will aid your practice.
- Innovative Practice Tools by Jason Sulliman: Unlike a regular metronome that keeps a steady beat, Jason created metronome tracks that skip beats or full measures to see if you can keep a steady rhythm during the silence. It’s an eye-opening and fun way to practice.
- Cello Drones for Tuning and Improvisation by Musician’s Practice Partner: Drones in all keys played by the soothing sounds of the cello. Use these to tune, play your first notes of the day or even improvise. It’s great for the ear and definitely more fun than playing by yourself.
Programs available on mac and pc
This music notation software is among the most popular for professionals and amateurs alike. If you want to get into composition I recommend beginning with Finale Notepad and seeing if you need more features than that.
- “Finale Notepad” is FREE and has a nice set of features and options for a beginner composer or someone looking for a quick and reliable software for simple sheet music.
- “Finale Printmusic” costs $119.95 and it’s for educators, composers, arrangers and more. It allows up to 24 staves and clearly gives much more than the free version.
- “Finale” has a price tag of $600 and it has absolutely everything a professional composer/arranger needs, including unlimited staves, more fonts, multi-page editing and much more.
Smart Music ($40 a year)
SmartMusic is a well-known software that gives you access to thousands of accompaniments for solo, band, orchestra music and much more. I’ve found it to be very useful for my students, and the ones that have a subscription love it too. The software also gives you access to many method books including the Arban, band methods and sight-reading exercises to name a few. They even have their own set of ear and rhythm training exercises. For all the sheet music you get the price is really a total bargain. An iOS app for iPad only is available for free with the annual subscription ($40), and you can download the software to either PC or Mac.
Another music notation software highly praised in the music world. I use Sibelius myself and I like it better than Finale because, in my opinion, it’s more user friendly. You can get all the features of Sibelius for $19.92 per month or $500 to buy the whole software. If you’re new to music notation I highly recommend doing the monthly subscription for a month, testing it and moving forward from there.
So there you have it! As usual, this list only scratches the surface of what’s available and highlights my and my student’s favorite music apps and softwares. Do you have a music app you just love? Send me a tweet at twitter.com/TrumpetHQ, I will check it out and possibly add it to the list!