rAPPido Review: Apps for the Music Dunce

Which would be me. In an attempt to correct my youthful folly of never practising my piano, I have availed myself of a grouping that gave my 4 piano lessons for cheap. Now the only reasons why I bought this is an unrealistic fit of optimism regarding time and the fact that the music studio was literally five minutes away on foot.

To my surprise though I am enjoying it. Though I don’t have much time to practise, I relish the ties I do. However, I am quickly realizing the large, crater-sized gaps in my knowledge when it comes to, well, anything related to actually understanding how music works. Oh, I can still read notes (though barely) but timing, the niceties of articulation, any music terminology and theory has been wiped out of my brain in the twenty or so odd years of doing other things.

Pro Metronome

You will not be surprised to hear that the iPad has proved invaluable to me during this re-introduction. I use this metronome app to help me keep time. It is free and you have the choice of several time signatures. If you were to use the full version you could also change the tone and the flash, but I don’t care enough. I just want to figure out how to not speed up…

I also use youtube on my iPad so that I can stop and hear someone who knows what they are doing play the song I am massacring. What did people ever do without youtube? The great thing about the iPad is that I can proper it right beside my music and play along… here is the piece I am currently working on (and yes, poor Tchaikovsky writhes in his grave every time my indelicate fingers touch the keyboard):

My music teacher is also trying to feed me a steady diet of music theory with terms  that invoke rings of power and magical geometries such as the Circle of fifths, and relative minors. I nod and try to look as if he isn’t speaking an ancient dialect of Vulcan, but I don’t think I succeed. I am not a very good actor.

So, in order to prepare for my last lesson tonight (I would continue, but it so happens my teacher is moving to Toronto, the Quebec bureaucracy having claimed another victim) I have bought two apps to help me with music theory.

The first, Wolfram Music Theory Course Assistant, will probably help in the future when I know enough to even use the reference. However, because it is neatly arranged in categories, and does not have a search field, it is a little too advanced for me.

Price: $1.99

Terms such as accidentals. interval inversions, and I could go on and on and on, are not explained so I don’t even know where to look. However, I aspire to have this app be useful once I know a little more.

However, there are certain aspects of the app that are useful. For example, in the chords section, they show you a visual of what notes belong to what chords or scale, and you can even listen to how it sounds:

But alas, I have no idea what the four means. You see? It is like attempting to write a speech in Russian…

As well, there is no glossary of symbols. If I see a squiggly line on the page, or a note with a dot to the side and not on the top, I won’t know what that means, or even what section to look in. I don’t know if it for articulation, or tempo or if it is just some insane whim of the composer, the way testers like to use emoticons when clearly one is not needed.

So, given my very beginning level, this app is of limited use to me.

Theory Lessons

So, on went my search for a more basic theory app. I stumbled upon music theory.net’s Theory Lessons.

Price: $1.99

With a very simple interface, where the Table of Contents scrolls down from very basic to more advanced, this is what I am looking for- somebody to explain to me in very clear terms what an accidental is. Oh!!!!

I just figure it out! They are just talking about either a flat or a sharp! Why didn’t they just say so?

I also bought a ukelele for my daughters during the break, and we use the iPad to help us tune it and show us the chords with these two apps:

Chords4Ukes
Price: free

Tuner! Price: Free

Here’s to the iPad helping me get some music in my life- hopefully it will stick this time.

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