Music technology is moving at a lightning pace. These days you can carry the type of software once only available at a professional music studio in your pocket.
Apps are available for musicians of all types, from learning to play, tuning your instrument, to recording and mixing songs. Many of the following examples are free to download, and offer great utility without spending a penny.
Here’s our rundown on the best musician’s apps out there today:
1) Yousician (Free – iOS/Android)
We always recommend finding a teacher (especially when you’re starting out) but if you’re not sure if you want to get started on Piano or Guitar, Yousician might be a good way to test the waters.
It offers a lot of free content to introduce you to these instruments, and starting to learn to read music notation. The app listens to you and gives you feedback based on what you played.
They offer a subscription service if you want to unlock all the content, but at €9.99 a month we’d recommend getting guided instruction over the premium subscription
2) Soundcheck/Match My Sound (Free – iOS/Desktop)
This is a similar program currently in development with several publishers in the UK. The app is only available on iOS or desktop at the moment, with an Android app in development.
The idea is that you can play along to your favourite music on a huge range of instruments:
Piano, Keyboard, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Ukulele, Voice, Clarinet, Flute, Saxophone, Recorder, Oboe, Bassoon, Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Tuba, Violin, Cello, Double Bass and Drums
Hundreds of books are available, including the popular “Really Easy Piano” and “Absolute Beginners” series. The app gives you backing tracks to play along and gives you a star rating for each track, based on your accuracy and timing.
Because the content is included with the books this is a great addition to those wanting a bit of extra feedback in between lessons.
3) iReal Pro ($12.99 – iOS)
If you play chord charts/lead sheets this is the app for you. It’s a bit more expensive than most apps but it has a huge range of features aimed a practice, as well as a library of high quality accompaniments that you can easily customise.
The app comes with over 1300 jazz standards included and can transpose them to any key, and play in dozens of different styles.
As a composing tool it’s easy to create and modify your own charts, as well as features aimed at practicing difficult passages.
For musicians in the Jazz/Pop tradition this app is an invaluable companion.
4) NotateMe Now (Free – iOS/Android)
The NotateMe app takes your handwriting (finger or stylus) and turns it into music.
In the free version you get one stave and you can export as a midi for use in sequencing software like Garageband or Cubase or XML for import into other notation software such as Finale or Sibelius.
There is a full version available for £37.99 so if you really like the interface but would like the full set of features (such as PDF printing, extra staves/instruments and full score photo import) then there is an option to upgrade.
5) Guitar Tuna / Guitar Tuner Free (Free – iOS/Android)
Tuning instruments can be a pain. Especially when you want to do it quickly, so in the shop we use digital tuners to speed up the process. The clip-on ones are really good for noisy environments but you’re in a quiet space there are a plethora of apps out there to help you tune.
Guitar Tuner Free is made by the same people that made Yousician and it features the same clean and simple layout and usability.
Although it’s called Guitar Tuner it’s fully chromatic so it can tune a wide range of instruments, including Bass, Violin, Ukulele, Cello etc.
It also has a handy metronome with a tap tempo function, as well as chord libraries in-built.
6 & 7) Garageband (Free – iOS) and Walk Band (Free -Android)
These little apps pack a lot of punch, working as a basic recording and sequencing studio on your phone.
They both have a range of sampled instruments with easy to use interfaces to play your music on the screen, as well as audio mixing and recording if you’re playing live.
Walk Band has a range of extra plug-in sounds available to download from Google Play to give more variability, however these vary in quality quite a bit.
Garageband is only available on iOS but has a wider range of features and instruments. It includes preset loops for chords on each instrument, and a “live” drummers that play a range of different styles: a great way to streamline your writing.
8) Audipo – Audio Speed Changer (Free – iOS/Android)
If you’re practicing a particularly difficult passage, this app has a range of features to help you . It can slow music down to 0.25 speed (going too much below 0.5 speed does impact the audio quality though.) and you can loop sections to help you perfect those 2 bars.
The interface however is quite compact and it might take a little while to get used to how it works.
It has a pro version for £4.59 which gives you even more features, but the free app does speed shifting and looping quite well once you’ve got used to the controls.
As you can see there is a plethora of free apps (and some fantastic paid ones) available, and we’ve just touched the surface here. If you use a must-have musician app please let us know by leaving a comment.