Apps for Musicians iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch

I usually hesitate to acquire the latest technological gadgets. The reason for my delayed response is often financial, but I am also the type of person who avoids unnecessary “improvements”. Things that work don’t need replacements! I am still using Windows XP on most of my personal computers (except of course my Apple). On my website, I have limited audio recommendations to software items that support the XP operating system:

In 2011, a few of my family members gave me an iPad as a gift. At first I was very hesitant, as I like to have full control of the behavior of my computer systems. iOS has lots of limitations in that regard. I managed to put that personal requirement aside, and I embraced the iPad for it’s full potential. The iPad and it’s relatives provide musicians with incredible resources at an affordable price. Here is a list of music apps that I use regularly, and I highly recommend to students and other musicians who want to use their devices to enhance their learning experience.

Instrument Tuner
A good tuner for both band instruments and guitar is Pano Tuner. It is FREE and it responds very well to the sound in the room. Many tuners respond to overtones and give false readings, but this one doesn’t have that problem.

Pano Tuner

Change Tempo and Pitch

Slowing down music and changing the pitch of what you are hearing is an essential learning tool for any instrumentalist. Slow Down Music Player (SDMP) is my favorite, but JamUp XT is a close second with extra features for guitarists such as recording capabilities, amp simulation, and sample loading. Both items are FREE, but the display for SDMP is only iPhone/iPod Touch compatible, so it lacks resolution. JamUp XT attempts to up-sell the consumer, but the nag screens and are limited and the free version is quite functional.

Slow Down Music Player

JamUp XT


All musicians should regularly practice with a metronome. There are tons of excellent FREE apps in this department, but one of my favorites is Pro Metronome. It supports odd time signatures and you can change the sound of the click. It can be a hassle because it offers “hidden” up-sells for more wacky options like odd subdivisions,  and visual enhancements, but once you figure out the limitations, it’s easy to avoid those features.

Pro Metronome

Drum Machines

Metronomes can be a monotonous way to improve rhythm skills, so I highly recommend practicing with a drum beat/machine. I have not found a free app that provides a large variety of patterns where the user can control the speeds/tempos, but I have discovered a couple of FREE apps that provide a limited number of drum examples for a musician to play along with, albeit with caveats. Drum Beats has fifty patterns to choose from but it displays flashing advertisements if your device is connected to the outside world and its display has limited resolution in order to keep it compatible with the iPhone/iPod touch. The Sample Player has modern drum/instrumental loops, but no “simple” beats are available, thus making the tracks sound a bit cluttered. Groove Bank provides the musician with a good selection of beats and it offers a large variety of tempos, but the user must sort thru “locked” examples to avoid being up-sold. bleep!Box Player is designed like a traditional drum machine/sequencer (it’s not just a loop player). It gives you editable pre-programmed examples, but the free version does not allow you to save edits, so if you wanted to practice with a basic beat, you would have to do a quick edit every time you open the product.

Drum Beats
Drum Beats Sample Player
Groove Bank
Groove Bank
Box Player!box-player/id331518681?mt=8
Bleep Player

Music Production/Recording Studio

All the apps listed above, in one form or another, are necessary tools for any musician who is aspiring for improvement. Notice they are all free. The one app whose value far outweighs its cost is Garageband. If anything, the recording studio app made by Apple has too many features.  The interface is as intuitive as a piece of software this complicated can be. Excellent sounding tracks can be produced with this app, and for $5 it’s the deal of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Apple recently changed its pricing scheme on this product and made the app free with a $5 charge to unlock all of its features. In-App-Purchase requirements are always less desirable because they prevent the purchaser from installing the full featured version of the app on multiple devices.

Garageband New


There are many other recording and music production apps that are outstanding. A few that I have had positive experiences with are: Synthstation, Djay, Fruit Loops Studio, Thumbjam, Music Studio, Groove Maker, Studio Track, MultiTrack, Tabletop, AudioShare, Wavepad, Traktor DJ, and iSequence. One important app that makes it possible to run multiple production apps together in tandem/unison is Audiobus.

Keep in mind, the apps listed above are current products in good standing as of late 2013, but that can change quickly. App developers often make updates to their software….. for better or for worse. It is important to have the ability to revert to a previous version of an app in order to avoid bad updates. To do this, you must plan in advance. Backup your apps by copying the contents of your “Mobile Applications” folder to a separate location. This folder is usually located in the “My Music/iTunes…..iTunes Media” of a computer with a Windows based operating system. A process of deleting the new version of the app and then dragging a copy of the original version of the app into the iTunes library is required to complete the process. Look online for tutorials on the subject, as this is only a quick description of how it works.


Guitar Finger Exercises

Venice Beach Guitarist

It is important to diversify your practice routine. It might be more fun to improve your skills by learning different songs, but songs usually don’t allow you to really examine a specific technique. It is not a bad idea to spend just as much time working thru tedious exercises on the guitar as you would spend working on songs that are enjoyable to play.

Chromatic Exercises can improve the control you have of your left and right hand. They are basically simple repetitive actions, so you don’t usually have to think much about what comes next. Therefore you can concentrate on your technique.

Click the Link Below to View PDF of Chromatic Exercises:
Chromatic Exercises Outline

Chromatic Exercises have almost no musical value, so you shouldn’t be tempted to play them fast. They are not any more entertaining; no matter how fast you play them. Practice them slowly and on cue with a metronome. Focus on placing your right hand in the correct location (open or closed fist/planted on the bridge-pickguard or free floating).  Hold your pick with the proper method. Keep your fingers on your left hand arched and place them accurately against (not on top of) the actual metal fret closest to the soundhole or pickups on the guitar. Press with your fingertips, not the flat part of your finger. If you carefully practice these exercises on a regular basis your skills will improve and you will have an easier time learning things that are more fun such as songs or soloing.

Technique Merged

Songs that Use Chords on the Guitar

Dog Playing Guitar

When you play more than one string at the same time on your guitar you are playing what is called a “chord”. Simple songs that use riffs are much easier than simple songs that use chords, so a dilemma I often encounter has to do with diagnosing when a student is ready to play chords. Young students often lack the hand strength and coordination to quickly grasp the technique and skills required for playing songs that use chords. Even the easiest songs that use chords are difficult for adults, let alone children. Depending on the student, it can be years before I even begin covering chords with them.It took me lots of trial and error to “discover” the easiest popular songs that use chords. To make these arrangements more fun to play, I encourage my students to obtain and play along with a recording of the material that we are covering. Many songs that use chords are not recognizable, unless a singer accompanies the guitar; so playing along with a recording of the song makes it easier for the student to identify what is being played. I change recordings of songs that are tuned down a half step to normal tuning with the use of software such as Guitar and Drum Trainer 2 – Beta Version. I also have my students buy a capo, considering that many of the artists who have written easy songs that use chords take advantage of the tone that capos provide.

Click the Link Below to get Examples of Easy Chord Songs for the Guitar:
Easy Songs that Use Chords on the Guitar

Most of the Songs Below Are Available at this Link:
Virtual Drive – Popular Songs

Easy Songs that Use Open Chords
America – A Horse with No Name
Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Bob Seeger – Turn the Page
Colbie Caillat – Magic
Four Non-Blondes – What’s Up
Howie Day – Collide
Johhny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
Lynrd Skynryd – Simple Man
Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Tom Petty – Breakdown
Tom Petty – Free Falling

Moderate Songs that Use Open Chords
Adam Sandler – Hanukka Song
Avril Lavigne – Nobody’s Home
Blind Melon – No Rain
Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
Colbie Callait – Bubbly
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Green Day – Time of Your Life
Guns n’ Roses – Patience
Guns n’ Roses – Used to Love Her
Gary Jules – Mad World
Jimmy Buffet – Margaritaville
Jimmy Cliff – Over Rivers of Babylon
Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Oasis – Wonderwall
Pearl Jam – Black
Poison – Every Rose has its Thorn
Sugar Ray – Fly
Steve Miller – Joker
Van Morrison – And it Stoned Me
Wallflowers – Three Marlenas
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

Difficult Songs that Use Open Chords
Beatles – Back in the USSR
Beatles – Rocky Raccoon
Beatles – Twist and Shout
Bob Marley – Redemtion Song
Carly Simon – Anticipation
Cat Stevens – Father and Son
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon
Everlast – What It’s Like
Grateful Dead – Ripple
Green Day – Warning
Led Zeppelin – Tangerine
Lynyrd Skynryd – Sweet Home Alabama
Outkast – Hey Ya
Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying
Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
Tom Petty – Running Down a Dream
Tom Petty – Yer So Bad
Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land


1st Guitar Lesson Easy Songs

Contortionist on Guitar

A typical dilemma that guitar instructors immediately encounter upon entering the teaching profession has to do with the material that should be taught to beginner students during their first few lessons. The initial subject matter that each teacher covers should excite and motivate his or her students. Most people are familiar with popular rock songs and traditional American music so I usually teach them a few of these standards during our first lessons, but before covering songs, I quickly review proper posture and technique with my students.

Basic Concepts, Posture, and Technique:

  • Posture and Placement of the Guitar on the Right or Left Leg
  • Holding the Guitar Pick
  • Placement of the Right Hand Against the Guitar
  • Placement of the Left Fingers on the Fretboard
  • Pressing Hard with the Left Hand
  • Gently Striking the String with the Right Hand
  • Using a Guitar Tuner
  • Reading Guitar Tablature
  • Labeling Each Student’s Guitar with Fret Number Stickers

Keep in mind….. I do not force my students to use the “correct” method when playing their instruments during the first few lessons. I often allow young or disabled students to use their thumb to play notes on the low ‘E’ string. In other words, I remind my students of the proper technique, but I don’t force it on them.

I have computer software in my studio that slows music down and changes it’s pitch. I use the Amazing Slow Downer, but there are many products available that serve this function. With this software, students can play along with recordings that would otherwise be too fast for them to keep up with. They can also play along with songs that are not tuned to standard tuning.

It took me years of trial and error to discover what arrangements students enjoyed and which songs are easy enough for them to learn in only a few lessons. Here is a list of some songs that my students have an easy time understanding.

For the absolutely uncoordinated student (or very young student):

  • The Theme Song from the Movie Jaws
  • Green Day – Brain Stew
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch up a half step with software.
  • Chicago – 25 or 6 to 4
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • The same as Brain Stew, but slightly more difficult.
  • Metallica – Nothing Else Matters (Intro)
    • Uses only open strings.
  • Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
  • Taps
    • Using all open strings except for a ‘D’ note on the 2nd string.

For the student who appears to be more coordinated:

  • Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (Intro)
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch down three half steps with software.
  • The Stray Cats – The Stray Cat Strut
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army (Verses and Choruses)
  • Hot Cross Buns
    • Played only on the high ‘E’ string
Click The Image Below – PDF Transcription of Easy Songs

A typical first guitar lesson with a beginner student will have me review proper posture and technique for the first five minutes. We then review “Jaws” and “Nothing Else Matters” or “Taps” for about ten minutes. In the last ten minutes of our lesson, we cover “Brain Stew” or “25 or 6 to 4” until the student can play along with a slowed down version of the recording. Most students really get into the fact that in one lesson they can play a few popular rock songs. It takes us five minutes to pack up the guitar at the end of our lesson while I explain my payment policy.

There are many things that I do not teach during the first guitar lesson with a beginner student. My students usually take lessons with me for months or years, and I realize that we will have plenty of time to get into more advanced challenges as time goes on. Our first lesson should be fun. Keeping things simple gives my students a chance to see how it really feels to play the guitar.

Guitar Lessons in NH


Slowing Down Audio

In order to transcribe a complicated arrangement it is necessary to be able to slow down the audio of the recording. Slowing down music also allows the listener to really interpret a piece. If you’re working thru a musical passage, it is important to spend some time performing the piece with the original audio track in order to understand the rhythms and phrasing. Slowing down an arrangement also gives the musician a gauge to base his/her progress on.

There are many software applications that can slow down the audio of a track, but this article will explain how to do it on Windows Media Player (WMP). Just in case you are wondering, there is currently no way to slow down audio on Itunes. If you have a Mac, VLC Media Player will allow you to adjust the play speed of your audio tracks.

First open WMP by going to “Start” and “All Programs” then select “Windows Media Player” by clicking this icon.
Media Player Icon

Media player will open. Next right click a blank section of the upper toolbar. You will see this screen.
Media Player 1

Select “View” and these options will show up.
Media Player 2

Select “Enhancements” and then “Play Speed Settings” from these options.
Media Player 3

This slider window will appear at the bottom of the player. Move the slider to the left to slow the music down and move it to the right to speed it up.
Media Player 4