This will be an ongoing feature on my blog that I’m really excited about. We are so fortunate to live in an era where there’s so much useful technology that can help make us better musicians. I’ve come across some great stuff over the years, and I know you have, too. I hope this will be more of a collaboration than anything: be sure to add your favorite gear, apps, and websites in the comments below. Here is the first of many articles in this series to come!
Metronomes and tuners
Ah, the lowly metronome. It’s not exciting, thrilling, sexy, or captivating. But a good metronome is essential for any musician. Certainly, we can talk about the Metronome Online website. If you just need something to make clicking sounds and you have a mobile device, it doesn’t get any easier than this. I use this quite frequently, and it works like a charm.
Metronome/tunes combos have always been popular. If you’re looking for a simple metronome/tuner combo, I’d suggest the Korg TM-50. I like how you can tap the tempo you’d like to practice at and the metronome will register it and beat it back to you. It has some basic subdivision options which can be a great help. The other cool thing about this unit is that you can use the tuner and metronome at the same time, which can be very helpful!
If you’re looking for some more serious tuner options, we can certainly talk about strobe tuners. When I’m king of the world, everyone will be issued a strobe tuner! They’re great to work with, and really are the most accurate tuners you could get.
Finally, for those who live on their cell phones, my friend John Nastos has created an absolutely fabulous app called Metronomics. It’s available for iOS and Android devices, and the amount of things this app can do is simply staggering. Metronomics is easy enough for beginners to use, but has some serious capabilities for pro players. Read more about what this app can do for your practicing and pick it up at the iTunes Store and Google Play.
Mouthpiece visualizers for brass
This is a great tool for band teachers as well as private brass teachers. Seeing what a student does when he or she buzzes into a mouthpiece is a gigantic help in diagnosing problems. A mouthpiece visualizer helps with just that. This is especially useful for beginning band to ensure students are starting out with a correct embouchure.
Music notation software
I’d be in trouble with my music engraver friends if I didn’t throw this out there! Here’s the deal: at some point in your life, as a musician, you’re probably going to need to writer down some music. It might be a simple melody, chord changes, or a leadsheet: it doesn’t necessarily have to be something big. Finale has several products that are designed for people who have varying needs in their music notation software. From your professional music engravers to a studio teacher who just need to write out some exercises for their students, Finale offers something for everyone. Take a look at their different products and see what will work best for you.
Sibelius offers another great product that musicians can use, too. Both of these are worthwhile investments, so do your homework and see which one is the best for you!
Stand and folder lights
I wrote about having a stand light in my previous blog post, but it’s worth another mention. These days, there are two main types: battery powered LED stand lights and the classic plug-in stand lights. I prefer the Manhasset 1000 stand light, since it’s the tried and true standard. LED stand lights can be a little bright for certain playing situations: evening church services, pit orchestras where the pit is fairly exposed, etc. If you’re still looking for a battery powered light that isn’t super bright, I recommend this little gem from IKEA. It has a clamp that’ll affix to any music stand, the neck is adjustable, and it doesn’t emit an overpowering blue light like some of the other LED models do. I’ve used these in choir for my choir folder as well as on my stand as an instrumentalist. They’re also very inexpensive (just a few bucks), so it’s definitely worth looking in to.
Now it’s your turn: what sort of gear, apps, and websites do you use in your musician life? Post a comment below!