iPhone Music Apps: Overview

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.

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Turn ANY Computer Lab into a Music Lab Instantly with Korg’s nanoKeys

Korg has started shipping their newest line of potable USB products nanoSeries controllers. They are designed to be no wider than a standard laptop and fit beautifully into a laptop bag so you can make music anywhere, anytime. Click here for tech specs.

Korg's nanoSeries controllers

Korg’s nanoSeries controllers

For those of you who just HAVE to make music where ever you go, these babies were made for you. Grab one for around $50 retail, plug it into the USB port and you are ready to go. I plugged the nanoKey right into my iMac G5 and my Macbook Pro and it was instantly playable in GarageBand and Logic Pro. They are what they are; small, lightweight and portable so don’t try to compare these to any full sized keyboard. They have a decent feel and a good spring back to the pad action keys. At first, I thought they would be flimsy given their plastic construction. I wouldn’t want to drop them off a table (more one that later) but it’s a Korg product and Korg has been making fantastic keyboards for many years. I have used it for a few weeks with Logic Pro, GarageBand and Sibelius and just love it! These babies really hold up under use.


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iPhone 2.0 and Moo Cow’s Band Software

You have all probably heard of iBand, the first band to use the iPhone and software created by Mark Terry of Moo Cow Music back in February 2008.

Unfortunately, you needed to hack or “jailbreak” the phone to get the software loaded. When Apple announced they were opening up iPhone software development to independents, you just knew Moo Cow was going to be in on the deal and a legal versions of what was then called iPiano and other interfaces would be available. Sure enough, Mark Terry unveiled Moo Cow’s Band software at the Apple WWDC a few weeks ago. Here’s the a clip from the Keynote when Mark and friend demonstrated Band:

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Podcasting Mics: BLUE Snowball

I just love how easy this mic is to use and how good it sounds. It comes with a desk top stand and you can get the suspension mount separately or some dealers sell all three as a package. I also use a pop filter that attaches to the shock mount. Plug the USB into the computer, make sure the System Preferences and software preferences (that’s in the Sound menu for each) recognizes the mic and you are good to go. Since this mic does not have any external gain control, you’ll have to set the Input level in the System preferences. A little experimenting and you’ll get the right input for your voice or instrument. Yeah, go ahead and try this bad boy out on an acoustic guitar, piano or any other instrument. I’s really meant to be used up close so you won’t get enough sensitivity for making a good recording of your chorus or band but it might work out really nicely for practice recordings. It depends on the volume of your ensemble and the room you are in. Try it!


BLUE Snowball