These days, there are many devices, apps and tools that can be a great help in fostering confidence and independent learning. Here are five favourites I recommend you have in the practice room to help in, and between, lessons.
For all the non-keyboard players an absolute must! The app versions are so user friendly and enable children to take control of whether their instrument is in tune or not – great for their ear training and great for your ears when listening.
Here’s a trusted favourite:
To be very unromantic about this, the art of playing in time does not lie in talent – it comes from coordination and muscle memory and the easiest way to build muscle memory is by using a metronome. Practice does not have to be difficult. Breaking pieces down into smaller chunks and learning these sections at much slower tempos is often the quickest way to master difficult, new music.
I use this one because it is easy to use and free!
A relative newcomer to the teaching world, Speedshifter is an app that will enable you to play any piece of music in your iTunes library at any tempo you wish. It is a bit like a sophisticated metronome but with the added advantage of being able to include awareness of phrasing and tuning into slow speed practice routines. It is also worth exploring the other apps ABRSM has launched to support aural and sight reading.
There are many different platform versions of this and I am very content with the free iPhone one:
What we think we hear when we are playing and what we actually play can be very different. By recording snippets of practice, it is possible to listen back and analyse your playing. There are many Dictaphone app equivalents these days and mostly all free. The one that ships with iOS is great. And whether you are beginner or accomplished session player, this sort of constructive critique is a hugely useful discipline for any musician.
GarageBand is an incredible desktop, smartphone and tablet app considering the price and all the things it can do. In the last twenty years studios have radically changed – the hardware has been replicated by plethora of digital tools to the point where it is now possible to record a pretty good quality song on your phone! This app probably needs its own article to describe it fully but, to hint at its potential, it is a sequencer, a metronome, has built in instruments and drum loops, and has the ability to change the key of your song…and much more. And best of all it is a lot of fun.
Many of these apps have lite versions that are often free and if there is a charge there would be no need to pay more than a few pounds. There are many more in the iOS and Android marketplace and if you have a favourite, why not share them below.