This week Clare emailed me to tell me about an app she uses on her iPad.
“I wrote last year about the sad day when I had to say goodbye to my piano. I do miss it when I have a few tricky notes to practise on a choir piece we are trying to get ready for a concert. Happily, I recently made a great discovery – an iPad app called Virtual Piano. Here’s a link to it:
I can now transform my iPad into a piano keyboard! The latest version has a volume control so it is a great improvement on the original version. You can choose lots of different styles too such as organ or pan pipes. It’s great fun, very useful, and what is more, it’s free! Have a play!”
I’ve checked the app. It’s great and and it works on my iPhone as well. There are very similar free apps out there for android tablets and phones too.
But really a piano assumes you can read a little music. What about if you don’t read music? How do you learn to sight-sing? Before I frighten anyone, no-one has to be able to
read music in order to join Raunds Community Choir, and even those of us who do read music find choral music with its many parts tricky to decipher. But I’m sure many of us have secretly thought it might be easier on occasion if we could just pick up a piece of music and have some idea of the melody before we start…especially those of us singing the harmony and not the tune!
Inspired by Clare I thought I’d take a look at any apps which might help with sight-singing and pitch-training. There are lots out there…some good and some absolutely dreadful. I roped my musical children in to help test them out.
We had three criteria for the apps we chose: they had to be free, fun and easy to use.
These were the clear winners. The first two are iPhone and iPad only sadly, but the last (which is actually the most powerful and useful) is for android devices too.
This app is very simple. It’s all about pitching (hitting the right note). There are modules to work through and new levels open up as you complete the lower levels. The first levels are easy, the later ones more difficult. The app helps you to learn how to pitch notes and
sustain them. It uses the phone’s built-in microphone to analyse your voice. The section my children liked best was the game where you have to sing a note then hold it for a while, keeping a little dot inside a circle without wavering outside it. The circle becomes progressively smaller the more accurate you are.
It’s a very simple app which helps develop listening and pitching skills.
This app also uses the microphone. This time you progress through levels of true sight-singing.
The app gives you the tonic note ( the main note of the key signature you’re in), so C for C major, D for D major etc. You can listen to the tonic note as often as you like before starting then you hit start and a little bar moves across a short phrase of music. As the bar reaches each note you sing it and the software analyses how accurate you are. The notes light up green if you’re spot on and red if not. You can tap a note to hear its pitch or play the whole line before singing it back. The idea though is to try to sight-sing because it’s a skill which improves with practice.
It has a clean, simple interface and a nice feature which allows tenors and basses to sing an octave lower at the touch of a button.
It’s safe to say that this was our favourite app. We had so much fun with it and laughed our socks off trying to beat each other. I had no idea how competitive my children are until we downloaded it. Competitive sight-singing could catch on I reckon. Highly entertaining, really easy to use and we developed our skills without it feeling like we were working at all.
Voice Training – Learn to Sing
This final one is available for iPhone / iPad and Android devices.
There is a free version where adverts pop up from time to time, but you can upgrade to a no-ad version at any time. It’s a little over £2 so pretty good value I think!
I strongly recommend that you watch the video tutorial first. Tap the ‘Information’ button to access it. It’s very helpful and there’s lots of incidental information in it which is just plain interesting for any singer. The app was developed by Canadian singing teacher Chris Chinchilla, to help his students. In the video he explains clearly how to get the best from it. You can adjust it to your natural range, use it for pitch training, interval training, change the length of time you have to sustain the note etc, and even use it to free-sing and check your pitch for pieces of music you’re currently learning. It’s actually very easy to use but much less so without his clear explanations as to what you are trying to achieve.
The boys and I are still exploring this app because there is a lot to play with but again it’s great fun and you get instant visual feedback as to whether you’ve hit the right notes / sung the correct interval (the jump between notes) etc.
We felt this is probably the most helpful and powerful app long term once you’ve learned to use it.
I really hope these apps help you to improve and enjoy your singing with us even more.
Hope you like them. Let me know if they are useful.