Not everyone has or wants a smartphone nearby at all times, but if you are interested in turning your device into a practice aid instead of (ok, in addition to) a distraction, read on for some of the latest ideas. Many helpful apps are downloadable versions of tools that musicians already use. Although the app versions don’t work any better than traditional methods or standalone devices, they are often cheaper (sometimes free!), and are conveniently stored on a single, portable device.
Audio Recorder: Most smartphones and tablets come with built-in recording capabilities, so there is no excuse for not recording ourselves regularly. Onboard microphones don’t usually capture the tone of flute’s higher register very well, but are still helpful for reviewing daily practice. For projects that require better recording, external microphones can be attached to smartphones by purchasing a mic that is meant to connect through a headphone jack, or by using an adapter.
Metronome: Even if you have no intention of giving up your Dr. Beat, a metronome app is a great backup for days when you can’t or don’t want to carry around your full-sized metronome. Metronome apps abound, so be sure to read reviews and look for one that meets your specific needs. The most advanced versions include multiple meters, polyrhythms, tapping functions to estimate tempo, and even preprogrammable tempo changes. If the metronome isn't loud enough to hear while you are practicing, you can connect your device to an external speaker or look for a version that has a large visual component. Popular Metronome Apps: Tempo Lite/Tempo/Tempo Advance (free, $2.99, $3.99 for iOS or Android); Metronome Plus (free, iOS only); Time Guru ($1.99 for iOS or Android); Pro Metronome (free for iOS only)
Tuner: As with the metronome apps, tuner apps vary from the most minimalistic versions to feature-rich tuner/metronome/spectrometer/tone generator combinations. Check the reviews to make sure that the app you choose responds to higher frequencies (especially if you are going to use it for piccolo). To get the most out one app, it should be fully chromatic and capable of tone generation. Popular Tuner Apps: Cleartune ($3.99 for iOS or Android); Tonal Energy ($3.99 for iOS only); nTrack Tuner (free with optional in app upgrades for iOS or Android)
YouTube: Most smartphone users already know that this is an excellent way to find instructional videos, live performances, and interviews with famous performers. Unfortunately, it is also a continual source of cat videos and other practice distractions.
For those who love to use their smartphones for everything, there are many more applications to help you get the most out of your practice.
Decibel meters (Decibel 10 th , deciBEL, dB Volume Meter) can help you see your own volume or let you know when a rehearsal warrants ear protection.
With iReal Pro ($12.99 for iOS and Android), flutists interested in jazz can play along to the chords of their favorite tunes performed by simulated accompaniment. Multitrack recording programs such as Apple’s Garage Band ($4.99 iOS only) and FL Studio ($14.99 and $19.99 for iOS or Android) are also now available as downloadable apps, and if you want to notate your latest composition, apps like NotateMe ($39.99 for iOS and Android) and NotateMe Now (free version), will help you get your ideas down no matter where you are.
Theory and Ear Training: There are now several different apps to help hone your music theory and eartraining skills. My personal favorite, Theta Music Trainer (app is free with yearly subscription fee and online registration) turns activities like interval identification and rhythmic dictation into games, complete with a ranking system to track yourself against your friends. Others, such as ReadRhythm ($2.99 for iOS or Android), SingTrue (free for iOS), and InTune ($.99 for iOS), focus on developing a single skill.
Stay Organized: There are many different apps for personal organization on both Apple and Android devices, but some of them are particularly helpful for musicians. Music Journal (free with limited features, $6.99 for Pro Version, iOS only) tracks how you spend your practice time, helps you set goals, and even has a builtin metronome for recording tempo progress. Scanning apps such as TurboScan ($2.99 for iOS and Android) and Scannables (free for use with Evernote account) use your smartphone camera to turn photos into PDFs that can be stored on your phone or sent to someone via text messaging or email.
Originally appeared in the Texas Flute Society 2015 Newsletter http://www.texasflutesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_Spring.pdf