Learning Music with Technology
Here’s the handout from my Grass Valley Music Camp that has up-to-date info on the software that I covered in my “Learning Music with the Help of Technology” class.
Recording your lesson
I recommend that my students record their lesson, at least the songs we’re working on. Smart phones are the best options for recording lessons if you already have one. Surprisingly good quality on most of them. iPhones come with a voice recorder app, Android phones owners need to download one – many are free. And since we’re talking smart phones, a good metronome app is essential. I use Tempo on my iPhone and it works great. Of course stand alone metronomes are available too.
Other Software for Students
Metronomes: Steady timing is probably the hardest thing to achieve in music. Metronomes have been used for over a hundred years to this end. Once again, if you have a smart phone, you’re in luck – I use an app called Tempo on my iPhone and it works great. Of course, stand alone metronomes are available too – just make sure it’s loud enough! There is also a very cool phone app called liveBPM that will continuously measure the speed you are playing or any recordings you listen to. Kind of a reverse metronome.
iReal Pro: This program is mainly for iPhones or Android phones, and it’s cheap ($7 – $10). It provides chords for practicing along with. You can enter your own songs or dowload from other users at the iReal b forum. Much like the early version of Band-In-A-Box (see below) it lets you change keys and tempos. With piano bass and drums, it’s not exactly a string band, but unlike my accompanists, it never gets tired AND never gets drunk. It does also come in PC and Mac versions, though it’s more like $30 for that.
Band-In-A-Box: This is the original computer program for the Mac or PC that plays chords along with you as you practice your songs. It’s about $80 and has been so overloaded with features through the years, it’s more than you really need. I’ve uploaded about 150 fiddle tunes to save you the typing.
Slow Down software: For learning from recordings, many students like to slow down the music. You can do this from the Windows Media Player 9 or higher. There is a menu item called “enhancements” and a selection “play speed setting” that, when checked, allows slower speeds (up to half speed) to be selected without changing pitch. There is a dedicated program called Transcribe! that will also slow down music with much more control than the Windows Media Player. It also allows you to change the pitch so you can fine tune old recordings for play along, and it has a Karaoke feature that mostly removes the vocals so you can hear backup instruments better. It works on both Windows and Macs and you can save the files with all the changes. $50. Also popular, with the same features is The Amazing Slowdowner.
Audio Capture software: AllMyMusic Wondershare: This captures and makes a sound file from anything your computer plays. You can record a song from YouTube or Spotify onto your computer so you can play it back with any audio or slowdown software. I find this very useful with students that find something on YouTube they need help with.
Listening: Spotify is a streaming music service that legally allows users to play specific songs and has an amazing collection of bluegrass and old-time (and anything else!) It’s free with commercials and $10/month for premium features. If you’re just looking up and listening to specific songs you’ll probably never hear a commercial. One of the first streaming music sites was Pandora. This service basically designs a personal radio station (via your computer or smart phone) just for you, based on what artists and songs you like. It’s not song specific, but it’s a great way to get familiar with any specific genre.
Updated October 5, 2019