Apple recently added a page to iTunes that highlights a few dozen apps for learning how to play music. There is a category for virtual instruments, reading and composing music, music theory, and tools for musicians. Since we’ve been writing a column about apps and accessories for musicians for more than a year now, we thought we’d put in our two cents for which of Apple’s favorites stand out as the best in each category.
This fun guitar app lets users play with their own guitar, instead of placing their fingers on a flat, smooth surface to simulate guitar play. If you don’t get those calluses formed, your fingers will never be ready for real guitar playing. Users can record their performance and play it back to note where they need more work. The app features animated games to help you learn finger placement for chords, individual notes, melodies, rhythms, and more. There are more than 300 levels with tutorials, tips, and helpful hints for beginners. To make the drudgery of daily practice more interesting, you can earn badges and unlock new songs by completing achievements. GuitarBots is available on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch for free.
Back in 2011, we took a look at Tonara. The app is particularly interesting because it offers specially coded musical scores that users can follow along with while playing. The app marks your position in the score and turns pages automatically at the precise time you need it to turn. In addition to the dozens of free scores included with the app, you can purchase additional sheet music for fairly reasonable prices. If you have your own sheet music and want to keep all of it in one place, you can upload songs and use the app as your binder. You can record your sessions and send them to your teacher for feedback. Tonara is available on the iPad for free.
This is a funny little music theory game. It helps you learn to play notes by ear by forcing you to memorize the tone. It is a lot like Simon Says, but the game gets much more complex as you learn. The app will play a certain number of tones and show you what notes they are. Then, you will hear a note and must pick it from an option of three. As you progress, the game gets more complex and you will loose the visual aids that were helping you recognize the notes by ear. The notes will also be switched around to ensure that you are not simply memorizing placement. Ear Wizard is available on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch for free.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it is a royal pain in the butt to try to figure out how to play a song without musical notation. In my line of music, we listen to songs, over and over again until we learn how it goes. That is all fine and good when your song has three parts with four chords each. Trying to learn complex songs, or even solos, can make you want to pull your hair out. Capo actually slows down a song without changing the pitch so you can learn every detail of a song without being confused about the note it should be played in. Capo is available on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch for $9.99.
What are your favorite apps for learning how to play music? Do you think Apple got it right? Or would your list look completely different?