Tap into Apps! – Helpful Apps for Singers

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:

Virtual Piano

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.

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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.

Sing True

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.

Sight Singing

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.

Debra

Banishing the buts!

On Tuesday Raunds Community Choir hosted an open-evening, which anyone who had been thinking about joining a choir could attend. I think it’s safe to say it was a HUGE success. If you didn’t make it on Tuesday it’s not too late. You can come along and try us out at any time. Raunds Community Choir does not require you to audition, anyone is welcome regardless of musical experience…or lack of it!

Whenever I mention I’m in a choir the most common response is, ‘Oh that must be fun. I’d love to be in a choir but…’

This blog post is about ‘banishing the buts!’

‘…but I can’t sing.’

Well maybe you’re not Beyoncé  Knowles, or Arethra Franklin, or Michael Bublé for that matter; there’s a reason they’re international superstars after all. But a lot of people enjoy baking even if they could never win the Bake-Off, and five-aside football leagues thrive, though most blokes will never play at Wembley.

So maybe you can’t sing perfectly but it’s a safe bet that you can probably sing a bit and weekly practice will improve that. Besides, everyone else is singing at the same time. You won’t stand out.

‘…but I can’t read music.’

Neither can most of Raunds Community Choir. If reading music was a prequisite of joining we’d have only a handful of members and a very tiny choir! Mostly we learn songs by ear. Think about the tunes you enjoy singing along to in the car. You didn’t need the music to learn the melody; you just learned it by repeated exposure. Yes we have copies of the music but reading it is really not necessary, though you’d be amazed at the amount of musical knowledge you pick up along the way at practice sessions.

‘…but isn’t it all old people?’

NO! we have members in their thirties and members in their seventies and every age in between! And we all get on well. The glue that binds us is our love of singing. My two best friends are in the choir, yet our paths would probably never have crossed if I hadn’t joined! We’d love some more younger members and definitely some more men. We have a loyal group of terrific basses and tenors but they will always welcome additional support.

‘…but I won’t know the songs.’

Well it’s true that there are some songs we will know because we’ve worked on them in the past and have even performed them in concerts, and we may polish them up and give them another outing from time to time. But every term we learn a lot of new songs too…that’s rather the point of being in a choir, so mostly everyone is in the same boat. I’ve been a member for over three years yet didn’t know one of the songs we performed in the Christmas concert, which lots of the others did know because they learned it the Christmas before I joined. We all went over it line by line to refresh memories and help those who hadn’t sung it before, and if anything I found it easier to pick up because I could listen to the other altos and copy them. Plus if I was a bit unsure at least everyone else knew what notes they should be singing so my voice didn’t matter as much!

‘…but I don’t have the time.’

Modern life mean commitments: work, children, study. It can be difficult to justify time spent doing something just because you enjoy it. But that’s precisely why you should make time. Doing something just for us is important to our mental well-being and tops up our happiness reservoirs, making us more able to deal with life’s daily challenges.

I hope this little blog piece has banished a few of your own buts. If so, maybe we’ll see you next Tuesday.

Debra