If you’re like me, you’re always working to improve your craft. That means staying on top of new technology and gear, allowing yourself to be influenced by incredible artists, and continuously learning new things. This can translate to large investments, and let’s be honest – as musicians, there isn’t always positive cash flow. I don’t know too many people who can afford $100 per week for private lessons or thousands for online courses.
Instead, many of us have turned to the app store as our one-stop learning hub. From the simplest in theory to polyrhythms, there’s an app for that. Here are my top five choices for iPhone and iPad music-education apps, beginner to expert.
1. Sight Reader (Free)
I’m often surprised by the number of musicians who can’t read music and choose not to learn. Now I know that you’ll argue that many of the greats didn’t read, but why limit yourself? Learning to sight read cuts down on the time it takes to learn songs and makes you more marketable for things like last-minute gigs, pit and studio jobs, and accompanying singers.
2. Bionic Ears ($6.99)
This handy, albeit expensive, little peach is excellent for tuning up the old auditory organs. Here’s how it works: the app plays a random interval. You then try to match it on your instrument of choice. If you do so correctly, it’ll fire another interval your way. Now that’s entertainment.
3. Guitar World Lessons (Free; in-app purchases required)
Guitar has always alluded me. Maybe I’m too weak to muscle through the callus building. Maybe I never found the right teacher. Nevertheless, this app breaks down the guitar and offers a boatload of tabs and video lessons.
4. Piano 3D (Free)
What better way to make learning fun than gamification? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was a huge fan of Guitar Hero when it first came out. I even hosted it at a bar. Guitar Hero had no musical benefits – only finger cramping side effects – but Piano 3D has borrowed the concept and applied it to playing a real piano. Pretty damn cool.
5. PolyRhythym ($0.99)
I assume you already have a metronome installed on your flip phone from 1995, but perhaps you’re in search of more complex rhythms. This beat box of sorts seamlessly overlays rhythmic patters and will have you thinking in all the complexities of Euler or Newton.
I implore you to take your musicianship to the next level. Maybe that means picking up an instrument you’ve never tried before, or learning to pick an augmented seventh out of a crowd. Whatever your poison, you can rest assured that the latest advances in music-ed tech are doing right by you!
Jonathan Hack is a Brooklyn resident, musician, writer, and ping pong aficionado. His career in the theatre has spanned acting, music direction, production, carpentry, and more. As a marketer, he has worked with major brands in music and fashion. He is a proud member of AEA and NATS. Follow him on Twitter @writerninja and on Instagram @jonnyhack.