Review & Giveaway of Sonoptic

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The metronome gets an encore” is a very fitting tagline for the app, Sonoptic. I never cease to be amazed by the innovative and ingenious apps produced by developers-and Sonoptic is definitely among that lot of ingenuity.

After trying this app myself, here is how I would describe it:
It’s as if Sonoptic’s developers started with the idea of digitalizing Hanon exercises/a metronome app and then went to a whole new level by not only creating digital Hanon-like exercises, but ones that would cater toward whatever needs you might have! So these exercises include anything from basic scales to Blues & Jazz figures, and then from whatever one of these you select (or one of the other 5 options that I didn’t mention), you can choose subcategories to help you target a specific area in your practice. Sonoptic offers nearly 400 exercises which helps make the $6.99 price tag a little more understandable.

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It also includes customizable features like changing the tempo or key, selecting a specific note value to have the exercise favor, choosing one of the many instruments it has available, selecting a specific cycle for the exercise (repeat, randomly vary the keys) etc…

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However, the feature I like best by far is the real-time visual critique. With this feature, you can see what you played correctly/incorrectly, what you played too late/right on, and what your dynamics/articulation looked like. And then, if you desire to hear how you did, you can listen to yourself by pushing the playback button at the bottom. I can see this being very helpful for the practicing student to see where they need to improve in their scales, chords, arpeggios, and other skill building exercises.

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Overall, I think this app is quite the sophisticated metronome! :) It has beautiful notation that is easy to read, and the developers did a good job with the layout and filling the app with lots of content. Something I do hope to see them update at some point is the ability to do exercises with the left/right hand together in the piano setting.

Sonoptic is available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and if you’d like to enter for a chance to win your own download, express your interest in the comments and you might just be the winner next week!

 To view the Sonoptic website and get more info click here

To purchase Sonoptic click here

To view a Sonoptic demo click here

To see more pictures of what Sonoptic looks like click here (As you’ll be able to tell, the app operates in portrait mode and the iPhone layout is slightly different than the iPad and vice versa.)

Review & Giveaway of Transpos-O-Matic

It’s happened to me and I’m sure it’s happened to you. You were in a position where your teacher asked you to transpose one of your pieces, or you’re playing with a group and for the sake of the vocalist you have to lower a song by two half steps, or someone randomly asks you what a certain note is if they transpose their song to b flat minor…or something along those lines. I can find my new starting note and primary triads with no problem, but figuring out where all the rest of the notes in the song now need to be played is definitely NOT something that comes naturally. Typically my reaction is, “Well……I guess I’ll just figure the whole thing out by ear,” or “Maybe I can find something on Google that can help me?”

In actuality, though, I need a visual reference that can be placed right on the piano, something that aligns the original key with the new key so I can see where the new notes are.

If you also struggle with easily transposing and are in need of a tool to help you remedy this weakness and become more of a master, you should check into purchasing David McCord’s handy/portable transposition slide-rule. :) The Transpos-O-Matic slide-rule comes in two different sizes and is made from 14 pt SBS paper board material, so don’t worry about having to replace it every two weeks from wear and tear because it’s pretty durable. :) (If you check out the video, you’ll be able to see what else this device has to offer on the opposite side! :) )

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If you have more questions about the Transpos-O-Matics check out the website.

Lastly…the giveaway! Because of the generosity of Mr. McCord, if you enter the giveaway-via the comment section-THREE of our MMB participants will win one of his handy dandy Transpos-O-Matic tools. Whether for personal use, your studio, or a friend, I can see this little resource becoming a great asset.

 

Review & Giveaway of SingTrue


One thing I really like about this new app on the market called, SingTrue, is its option to try an activity “just one more time” and see if you can do better. It’s a strange balance between getting you hooked (addicted) and being intrigued (the possibility of improving), that I haven’t experienced in an app before. Sure, plenty of games-especially popular electronic ones-have these elements, but they’re rarely helpful for stimulating one’s mind, voice, and ears.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.46.41 AM

From the creators of the Relative Pitch and Tone Deaf Test apps, SingTrue is designed for singers and non-singers alike who want a fun, portable way to improve-even discover-their singing voice.

Here’s a quick visual summary of SingTrue:

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If you didn’t quite catch how it works, here’s the run down:

  1. Opening SingTrue will take you to the home page. On the home page you can view your profile (your current level, your eXperience Points, your number of lives that are indicated by hearts…). From here, you can also select your module, view other apps, sign up for singing tips, write feedback, and read a little notice that says, “More Modules Coming Soon…” :)IMG_8231IMG_8232
  2. Once you’ve entered a module, you can then choose a sub-module (ears, voice, mind), and then from there, you can do any of the available exercises. Some modules have just a few exercises, while others have ones that are locked until you’ve reached a certain level or passed the requirements for the preceding exercise. And then there are some exercises that can only be accessed if you purchase the “full app” version of SingTrue.IMG_8233
  3. After selecting an exercise, some brief onscreen instructions will appear and then you begin. Most of the exercises require very little time and are quite fun and mostly painless, but really seem to get your brain going-at least it did mine! :) Once you’re finished, it will show the stats of your performance and whether you lost a life or earned a star.IMG_8234IMG_8235IMG_8236IMG_8237

I really liked seeing my personal progress/regression because it motivated me to keep striving for better…and better…and better…:)

Even though I don’t think SingTrue will ever be able to compare to the sound and instruction quality of having an actual voice teacher, or is as thorough as the eMedia Singing Method program, it is incredibly convenient and portable which are perks an actual teacher nor the eMSM can offer. Plus, SingTrue was just released, so I’m sure we can expect many improvements and updates to come!

To find out more about SingTrue and/or download it follow the links below…but wait…SingTrue has offered a “full app” giveaway for MMB readers! All you have to do to enter is comment to let me know you’re in and one lucky participant will receive a special code to receive full app privileges for SingTrue.

SingTrue Website

SingTrue Download (Compatible only with iPhones)

 

Review of Practice+

Lately, there seems to be a surge in mobile apps designed for musicians; or perhaps, music resource apps having been emerging in great numbers for quite some time and I’m just now aware of it because my job is to review the newest, greatest music products-and apps seem to be at the top of that list currently! :) Having this job of reviewing products is pretty fun at times because I get to experience firsthand the new inventions designed to be the next leading resource for various areas of music performance and/or education. It’s just so fascinating and inspiring seeing different individuals or companies recognize a need and then set out to create a product to help fill that need in a unique way. And from what I can tell, that seems to be one of the driving forces behind Practice+.

Practice+ was recently released by DynamicApp Design (creators of Metronome+) and has been featured on bulletproofmusician.com and susanparadis.com.

In the Practice+ app you will find a handy musician toolkit that includes a metronome, a recording mode (for self-evaluation and sharing), a tuner, a practice mode (for drilling a specific set of measures), and a setlist mode. Upon opening the app you will not be taken to a homepage, but rather, the mode you last used before exiting previously. This aspect of the app made it a bit confusing for a first time user because most apps or music programs I use have a homepage that allows you to select where you want to go from there, or if they don’t, when you open it for the first time, the app/program will pop up with introductory pages that help walk you through how it works.

Practice+ also has some special features such as multitasking between modes, hearing a specific pitch within the tuner mode, sharing through email or social media, etc.

I don’t want to sound overly critical of this app because I think that with the capabilities it has any musician would find it very handy; however, I feel like I would not be giving a completely honest review if I left out a few other things about Practice+ that caused me not to be thoroughly impressed with it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be nearly as intuitive as I thought it would be. The interface isn’t super intimidating to navigate, but I found it hard to figure out exactly how each mode or function worked to its full extent. For example, it took quite some time to figure out how to turn on the metronome because nothing had start/stop on it or on/off. You actually push the circular button at the bottom with the rate in it. I also didn’t understand how the practice mode worked and couldn’t figure out how to edit the name of a recording or setlist. The last thing I believe worth mentioning, is that I think I would’ve found it very helpful to have little pop-up “description bubbles” in the settings, to learn what the different settings were for and what they did.

I guess these issues wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if I felt like I were illiterate with apps, but apps are one of the few things I normally can operate pretty well. I honestly feel like if the app was just updated with more labeling of what things are/what they do or have introductory pages or a YouTube demo link it would help tremendously with understanding and being able to use all the features of Practice+.

(Note: Just now, I discovered after going back to the DynamicApp website, if you turn your phone so it’s in landscape mode, a “?” will appear in the bottom and if you push it “description bubbles” will pop up! However, this feature still does not appear to be anywhere when your phone is in the portrait mode. And there’s also nothing like this in the “settings.”.)

 

DynamicApp Design Website

Purchase the App and more info!

Review of eMedia Singing Method

Over the past few years I have worked to improve my singing abilities because…well..let’s just face it, I couldn’t hit pitches worth a hoot! And even if I did “happen” to sing the right note, it still wasn’t a pretty sound coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t figure out how to consistently hit pitches so I would end up straining my voice to reach them. This became increasingly frustrating because I wanted to sing songs, but was horribly afraid of someone hearing me and telling me to stop. So I set out to take voice lessons, and did so for about 3 months-even in that short span of time my understanding of “how” to sing grew exponentially! I’m still not amazing by any means, but I am “better,” and for that, I’m extremely grateful. You see, my voice teacher imparted 2 incredibly helpful things on how to improve my voice that even though I only took lessons from her for a short time I’ve been able to use these 2 things to continue training my voice.
1) Knowledge (breathing, speaking, how the voice works, techniques, musical concepts, etc)
2) Concentrated Effort (taking time to THINK about what you’re doing and how to do the exercise to improve)

After trying out the eMedia Singing Method program, I found that these two aspects of voice training seemed to be the foundation for the self-teaching software: 1) Imparting Knowledge and 2) Concentrated Effort through Exercises. I enjoyed the first ten lessons eMedia Singing Method offers, as well as the musical concepts each lesson introduces on the page preceding the exercise.

Although the program’s face seems outdated, it was easy to use and I liked the self-paced nature of it as well as the laid-back but in-depth feel. I also felt like-at least with the lessons I did- the instructions were very easy to understand and helpful. And you know what’s super cool?! If you prefer “visual” instructions, you can click on the video camera icon in the left sidebar area and voila! Video instructions before your eyes.:)

eMedia Singing Method’s target audience seems to be classroom teachers-or similar occupations-but I can see it being a great self-teaching resource for individual use.

Some other neat perks about eMedia Singing Method are…

…interactive feedback capabilities

…the icon with the face and exclamation point gives you brief facts about the music you’re using for the exercise.

…there’s a feature where you can hook up a guitar to accompany you.

…you can learn from over 230 voice lessons!

 eMedia Singing Method is produced by eMedia, the U.S. distributor for Ear Master Pro. This program is available for Windows or Mac operating systems.

To get more details or to download a free trial hop on over to their website: eMedia Music Corporation-Music Lesson Software for Individuals & Music Teachers

 

Overview of PRACTICIA (prac-TIS-ia)

PRACTICIA is an up-and-coming practice app designed to engage teachers, parents, and students in a new, revolutionary way. This app will not only be able to be used as a resource for private teachers, but also band instructors, choir directors, orchestra teachers, etc. Since I am not a music teacher, I don’t have any students to try the app out with…so I decided to do this review/overview a little differently.
First, take a look at PRACTICIA’S promo video on their site and then come back for a Q&A session with the app’s CEO and Co-Founder, Sam Rao, to find out more about what PRACTICIA is!
Q&A with Sam Rao
MMB: Does the app monitor how long a student practices or is that just based on what the student enters?
Rao: Yes! It actually records all practice and presents a live feed of all practice sessions to the teacher. The teacher can instantly give a “Thumbs Up” acknowledging that they noticed the student had practiced. Or they can even make comments on the practice sessions they choose to review…:)
MMB: Is this supposed to be a substitute for an assignment book?
Rao: Yes. It is meant to completely replace the assignment book. In fact, it will also enable the teacher to give Audio, Video instructions in addition to Text instructions. Also, the teacher can reuse the assignments for other students working on the same piece. The parents and students can elect to get email notifications every time an assignment is created or updated, or marked complete.
MMB: Will it only be able to be accessed through a mobile device?
Rao: In the BETA, the tool will only be through mobile device. Over time we will make more and more features available through the web until the whole tool is fully available on PC’s and Macs as well.
MMB: With this app, is your thinking and hope that many teachers will shift to using this approach with most if not all of their students and parents?
Rao: It is our hope that teachers will use this tool with all their students. The more students are participating, the more exciting the practice dynamics become. With PRACTICIA’s unique “group functionality”, teachers can divide their studios into “Practice Teams” and have the teams compete against one another for best average practice times and number of days practiced.
MMB: Do you believe that most kids will have easy access to a mobile device whenever they’re in need of inputting their data into PRACTICIA?
Rao: 
Yes. Most homes have multiple smart devices that they can use. And the number of smart devices in use is growing exponentially.
MMB: Do you think it will create any inconvenience for teachers if some of their students use PRACTICIA and some don’t?
Rao: It should not be inconvenient. Teachers can keep using the traditional ways for students that do not have access to mobile devices. However, more and more people are getting smart devices and this situation should only be temporary in most cases.
MMB: Does this cost anything?
Rao: 
The Beta version will be completely free. Once the full version comes out, there will be a nominal monthly fee for the student to use it. It will be free for teachers and schools.
MMB: I can see where this app could help improve a student’s quantity of practice, but do you think it will help improve the quality of their practice?
Rao: Because every practice session is recorded and can be heard and commented on by the teacher at any time, EVERY practice session becomes a work product that the student is accountable for. Teachers should see a dramatic increase in the QUALITY of the practice!
MMB: There are many teachers who have a large number of students, with the ability to constantly be in communication/interaction with their teachers, wouldn’t that create a much greater workload for the teachers?
Rao: The teachers are free to be as engaged as they feel like they need to be. There is no ability to message through PRACTICIA. Teachers can decide how much or how little time they want to spend spot checking practice sessions. With the ability to create automated Awards, leaderboards at the click of a button, and the ability to reuse assignments and instructions, teachers might find themselves saving time with PRACTICIA while keeping their students more engaged!
Note: Some teachers are excited about the possibility of offering “Practice Coaching” services to their students for a monthly fee. For a set monthly fee, to be determined on a case by case basis, the teacher can commit to commenting on every practice session submitted by the student. Food for thought..:)
MMB: How did you come up with the name PRACTICIA?
Rao: PRACTICIA was not the first name we thought of! We had many iterations. But we gravitated toward that name as our vision of PRACTICIA is that of a “global practice village” i.e a destination, where students go and practice (inspired by destination names ending in “ia” such as “Valencia”, “Iberia”, “Tanzania”, “Mauritania” etc.) Eventually PRACTICIA will become a global social network for practicing…
MMB: What are your top 3 hopes for this new app?
Rao:
-That it ENGAGES students and parents in practicing like never before.
-That it gives teachers (both private and classroom teachers) unprecedented visibility into what goes on in the practice room
-That practicing becomes as exciting, if not more exciting than anything else the students are involved in…:)
Click this link to check out the website for PRACTICIA: PRACTICIA.com
Thanks Sam for giving us a closer look at the PRACTICIA app!
Here are some screen shots of PRACTICIA–>

Review of How to Become a Confident Performer by Clive Stocker

To visit the book’s site click here

With his experience as a teacher and music practitioner, Clive Stocker offers his  expertise and self-help tips for those looking to improve their performance quality. The suggestions in his book range from simple breathing exercises to step-by-step approaches to becoming more confident on a small or grand stage.

The book is comprised of 31 chapters of illustrations and explanations of methods, and at the end of many of the chapters, it summarizes the explained method into an ordered list of steps. After chapter 31, you will find two chapters with references and acknowledgements.

While I do believe Mr. Stocker has some good, helpful approaches and thoughts to becoming a more confident performer and musician in his book like…

“The real truth is that you will never be like James Brown and nor should you be! We all need to be the best version of ourselves we can be on stage but we can borrow actions and ideas from other performers that we know will work for us.” (Page 111)

…I do take issue with a couple of major things about Mr. Stocker’s work:

1) One of the big things proposed about this book is that it offers quick fix solutions for your lack of performing confidence. While the book does have some easy-to-try exercises, I think it’s a very hard thing to claim that your approaches will provide easy fixes for performers across the board. Yes, they might have proven successful for some, but for many performers – young and old – there are just some things that will take time for them to work through in order to become more comfortable/confident in the spotlight.

2) To me, there ‘s a very strong underlying theme of hypnotic approaches in Mr. Stocker’s book, as well as connecting to your feelings/imagery-that you have the power within your mind to find the confidence you need. This is also very prevalent in his “Guided Meditation“ CD.

I am not a proponent of spiritualistic type approaches to music or life in general, nor have I been successful overcoming obstacles – specifically with learning and performing piano music – believing I can do it through myself. On top of being well prepared, I have only found complete confidence and peace during a performance when I quote these verses to myself from the Bible:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:13

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:10

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:7

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence…”
-Proverbs 14:26

So in conclusion, I do believe Mr. Stocker is quite knowledgeable when it comes to enhancing your performance skills, but I don’t always agree with the avenues he takes or teaches to becoming a “confident performer.”

To learn more about Clive Stocker’s material visit his website: Confident Performer.

Review of Ear Master Pro


I have yet to review a product I liked better or found more musically resourceful than Ear Master Pro, an ear training & sight-singing software! This program is loaded with exercises to help improve students’-even teachers’-ear and sight skills, and I found it to be very nicely laid out, as well as user-friendly and effective.

Upon opening the program, you can first choose a mode and activity from the options pictured below. (Yes, there is even a “Jazz” mode! I’m not super familiar with the jazz style and I didn’t delve into that mode extensively, but I do find it pretty neat they have that as a feature.)

Within each activity, there are different modules you can choose from (some activities have over 20 modules while others have 1), and then you can choose what lesson of the module you’d like to start with. Once you do all that, you are set to begin your activity!

I found the interactive interface of Ear Master Pro to be pretty straight forward and easy to navigate which was really nice considering how many features it has. To be quite honest, I really enjoyed some of the activities myself. Naturally, I have a poor sense of rhythm and am definitely a “by sight” pianist, but I thought I’d give a rhythm dictation activity a try and…I ended up liking it. I believe some contributing factors to me liking this training program so much is 1) the good selection of activities, 2) how much you can customize the activities to fit your needs, 3) it has a fun, educational and techy feel, and 4) the fact that it utilizes so many different aspects on the computer: onscreen piano keyboard and staff, computer keys, the ability to use built-in audio functions or hook up a midi keyboard.

One thing I think is huge about this program is the clear sound quality it has. So often ear training games, sites, or CDs have very tinny or muffled sound, and that can really affect the listener’s ability to distinguish what they hear-especially if they are doing melodic dictation. I can see having Ear Master Pro in your studio as a teaching/training tool for your students being incredibly instrumental in helping them improve in areas from simple rhythmic dictation to chord identification.

Even if you’re not convinced yet to go buy your own downloadable copy, you should definitely download the trial version of Ear Master Pro and try it for yourself! There is also a Teacher Edition you can take a look at on the site.