The iPhone has revolutionized hand held computing. I just love my device and I am careful not to call it a phone. Personally, I can’t say I am very happy with it as a phone. First and foremost (AT&T, I hope you are listening), there is no reason why in 2009 that I can’t drive down I-95 from Stamford, CT to NYC and have an uninterrupted conversation. Not one but SEVERAL dropped calls. We’re talking about a MAJOR route not some back roads. Enough ranting, the phone aside, it’s the computing device that I love. Instant access to my email, Internet, maps with Google locater and directions and a variety of applications, ranging from free to on average $10 to upwards of $50. It’s those applications that I think are particularly interesting to music educators that I’ll focus on in coming articles. Today, here’s a brief overview.
If you don’t know how to view and get apps for the iPhone, see my article iPhone & Music Apps.
Go to the Apps Store, and find the Music category. I wish Apple would come up with subcategories (instruments, sequencers, recorders, etc) but you are stuck sifting through the 23 or so pages of applications in the Music category. In the center/main screen you can then sort them by Name, Most Popular or Release Date. The default is Release date so you’ll be looking at the most recent releases or updates. The sidebars have the most popular Paid and Free. If you click on the arrow in the Paid or Free sidebar, it will list them according to the top 100 in that category to date.
Looking at the number of apps can be a bit daunting at first so here’s a tip to initially sift through them. Sort them according to “Paid” or “FREE”. Free is good so I like to start there. Free programs can be teasers for the paid versions but often enough they are complete programs. The Top 100 downloads doesn’t mean that they are the best-liked programs so you’ll need to look at the reviews and star ratings. It’s actually easier to see the reviews if you are looking at the Apps Store on your iPhone. The reviews are right there. Unfortunately, when you are looking from your computer, you have to click on the app to reveal more details to see the reviews.
My experience has shown me that the Apps Store reviews are much like reviews anywhere, some reviewers know what they are doing and others don’t. Take a look at the number of reviews and the star ratings. Common sense will dictate that the higher number reviews and the high star rating will yield a pretty well liked and used product. If an app has reviews of three or more stars with thousands of people reviewing it, chances are you’ve got a well-liked and tested product you might want to take a closer look at. Unfortunately, the number of reviews in the App Store on my iPhone are different from these on my computer based App Store. I think what’s happening is that every time a company releases an update, the store lists the app as “recent release” and begins the review count all over. For instance, my phone lists the app Chords with 1501 reviews and three stars. The App Store on my computer lists Chords with only 44 reviews.
The product page in the Apps Store has some info and you can click through several screen shots of the application. Don’t forget to go to the companies website for more info. Here’s where they make their money. Hits to there websites get them ads or they might put ads in the actual app that you’ll see when you use the program.
Here are few, not all, “Goodies” (my criteria: over 100 reviews off my phone with three or more stars to date) I created a few subcategories and the apps are listed in no particular order except where noted. My apologies in advance to any companies I may have missed. I’ll be reviewing in detail several of these over the next few months:
Band (I am listing them first because they were the first, even before “legal” apps existed)
Digi Drummer Lite
Ocarina (yes, you can actually blow into the microphone on your phone and play)
Free Drum Pad
Cowbell Plus (who doesn’t need more cowbell?)
Therminator (yes, it’s a Theramin and in the 21st century, that’s a traditional instrument!)
Parranda (OK, only 56 reviews but it’s got Latin Percussion instruments and I’m a percussionist!)
Tools and Info
Metronome – reloaded
Metronome – iTick
Instruments In Reach (Ok, it doesn’t have three stars but it was created by a former music teacher and where else can kids find fingerings for their instruments on an iPhone?)
iTalk (not listed in Music Apps but in Productivity, a nice little recorder)
DrBetotteTC (Like a Dr Beat for your iPhone)
ITM MIDILab (turn your phone into a MIDI controller)
BeatMaker (yes, it’s $20 but it’s a real, full feature sequencer)
iDrum: Ministry of Sound Anthems
iDrum: Hip Hop Edition
iDrum: Club Edition (are you getting the idea that people like to make and remix their own drum beats?)
Pocket Piano Song
Tap Tap Revenge (Guitar Hero for the iPhone)
Tuner Internet Radio
Minnesota Public Radio (there are several “local” and ethnic stations radio stations available)
Songs of Love (they have a limited number of songs but it is to raise awareness for a good cause, not-for-profit)