Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Uber's Favorite Apps!

While we Ubers would love to stay in a world of snail mail and landline phones, the future is gently tugging us along. We haven't given up our 90’s heritage, but we have fully embraced the smartphone and all it has to offer.   There are tons of great practice tools (many FREE!) available for smartphone users that are so easy to get and use. Here are some of our favorites:



Price: Free
Platform: Android

First, the price is right: zero dollars for a metronome that isn't clunky to lug around and doesn't need AA batteries.  It gives plenty of options on meter, beat subdivisions, and beat accents. Since a metronome is indispensable for any musician, you might as well put it on the one thing you carry everywhere anyway! 


Price: 14.99
Platform:  Android & iOS

I have a whole folder full of helpful music apps on my iPhone, but by far the most practice-changing for my students and me is the Amazing Slow Downer app.  It's also the most expensive app I have ever bought, at $14.99, but it's absolutely worth it.  Here's why.

With this app (or desktop application), you start by uploading a song from your music folder or various other sources (such as Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox).  You are then able to manipulate it in a number of different ways:
- Slow down or speed up the song without changing the key.  The tone will sound a bit funny, but this is great for either practicing along with an orchestra or piano accompaniment at a slower tempo, or for figuring out the notes of a fast song by ear.
- Change the key of a song without changing the speed.  Again, it'll sound a bit off, but this is especially useful for singers who need a song pitched properly for their voice to really shine. It could be useful to a horn player, too, if you're trying to play a pop or jazz tune that's out of your range otherwise.
- The "mix" function:  parts of a song are often panned to the left, right, or center of the mix.  For instance, the melody or lead vocals might be stronger in your left speaker than your right, to give the impression of someone standing to the left playing or singing.  A great example of a group that does this a lot is the Beatles.  If you want to play along with a song but not hear the melody, this is a good way to do it (if the song was mixed that way).  If you want to hear only the melody or another specific part, that might be possible too.

You can export your edited version of the song in order to share it with others, among other additional features.  Get this app and explore what it can do!


When the topic of this month’s blog post was batted around I thought, “gee I guess this will be a short one for me” because I don't really use any apps other than a metronome and tuner app on my iPhone.  But then as I was sitting in rehearsal this past weekend I had a terrible page turn.  Instinctively I reached into my purse for my trusty iPad, opened the ForScore app and pulled up the same piece, turning to the next page I needed. Using the ForScore app is so second nature to me that it didn't even cross my mind when the topic of this months blog was brought up! I chuckled to myself as I realized I almost exclusively use this app when performing.  And when combined with my favorite scanner app, Genius Scan, and my trusty web storage, Dropbox, and my Airturn pedal, it's a powerhouse music library, organizing, display system that I can't imagine freelancing without!

DROPBOX  (https://www.dropbox.com)
Price: FREE
Platform: ALL

Most people these days have heard of cloud storage and even Dropbox. You can get a free Dropbox account and by inviting your friends to join or installing the shortcut on your computer or mobile device can earn more storage.  We have opted to pay a yearly fee of $99 for 1TB of storage, which is more space than I know what to do with.  The Uber Quartet also uses Dropbox.  We love the large storage capacity and the ability for all four of us to be able to access all our files, videos, audio, sheet music at the same time wherever we are in the world!

GENIUS SCAN  (http://thegrizzlylabs.com)
Price: $6.99 Full version | FREE version available as well
Platform: Android and iOS

My husband and I use this app daily.  You can scan pictures and documents and save your scanned files as jpegs and most importantly PDF’s.  You can make multiple page files, so those pieces of music that are more than a page can be scanned and combined as you scan it rather than one page at a time.  You can crop your scanned image, with perspective even! Files can be saved to your device, opened directly in other apps on your phone or saved to your cloud storage of choice, in my case, Dropbox.

FORSCORE (http://forscore.com)
Price: iPad $9.99 | iPhone $6.99
Platform: iOS

This is probably the most used/industry standard music reader for Apple products.  Unfortunately, it is not available for any other platform.  I. LOVE. THIS. APP. It basically changed the way I do a lot of my freelancing. Any music that is a PDF can be opened and viewed.  So all the times a church director sends music ahead of time, or when that show you just got hired to play sends you the link to the PDFs in an email, you can open that music in the app with a simple click and start to do work right away.  You can organize your entire library of sheet music by changing the titles, adding composer names, instrumentation, and even setting up tags so you can search your library more quickly.  For example, anything that has to do with horn quartet is tagged with UBER, so when I'm searching for a particular piece that Uber plays I can limit the search by that tag.  You can even add/attach an MP3 file to that piece of music.  Learning an excerpt? You can assign your own sound clip to the file so while practicing you can listen or even play along.  While viewing your music you can add notes, either by writing on the screen with your finger or stylus, or by using the type function.  You can add symbols which include almost every kind of musical symbol, including dynamics, articulations, fermatas, etc. The app has a built in metronome which can play sound, pulse visually or do both at the same time.  One of the best features is that you can email music to another musician directly from the app, and here's the kicker,  you can send the clean copy OR a copy with all your annotations and notes.  How cool is that? The app can display in bright white or sepia, and you can change/edit your page turns to suite your needs.  For those times when it's almost impossible to reach around and touch the screen to turn the page I find my Airtun pedal the next invaluable piece in my technological armory.  More about that below.  I've barely touched on all of the neat features of this app, but I hope I’ve peaked your interest.  It is, in my opinion, well worth the money.  While I use this app most often on my iPad, once I upgraded my 4S to my 6Plus I took advantage of the expansion and downloaded it for my phone as well.

AIRTURN PEDAL (http://store.airturn.com) 
Price: $99 and up
There are several options, but I love my pedal.  I have the base model and have had zero issues.  I sync it to my iPad, my iPhone and my husband has been known to take it to use with ForScore Mini for some of his gigs.  Highly recommend and it's made in the USA which is always a big selling point in our family.  


Price: Free
Platform: Android

The app I use most for my own practicing is called “Soundcorset.” I love Soundcorset for many reasons.  It is free.  It is a tuner/metronome/recording app all in one.  I love that I can turn on the metronome and press record to get some quick feedback on my rhythm.  Once I close the app, it deletes all the recording files, so it doesn’t take up space on my memory.  I like the way the clicking sounds.


Price: Free

Platform: iOS

A student introduced me to this app as her favorite practicing app. Aside from that I am always looking for fun ways to get my students to practice, and this is a very engaging app.   The “Play Along French Horn” allows students to play along to an online song while reading the music one note at a time.  It won’t let you move on until you play the correct pitch, and it unlocks new songs as you successfully perform the easier levels.

Price: Free
Platform: iOS

The other app, which is the most popular among my students is the “French Horn Racer” app.  This is a really cool concept.  Each time they complete a “round” of four sets of accurate notes (within a certain time frame) their race car goes faster, and after so many round of that they get a better car. It’s cute, and a fun way for a young player to put a lot of face time in to the horn. 

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