Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's a Cello App for That!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to change my cell phone service. I really didn't use my cell phone much. For one thing, I didn't have service at home, so my cell phone number wasn't a reliable communication device. I liked the GPS that I paid $25 extra per month for, and finally came to the realization that I should get a separate GPS device, and cut my cell phone service down to the bare minimum.

Still, I was intrigued by what my son and daughter could do with their cell phones, including connect to Facebook and e-mail. So I asked the helpful young man in Radioshack to show me what other options I had, since I really couldn't made head or tail of the multitudes of different kinds of phones listed on my cell phone provider's website.

He showed me his iPhone, and, after I realized that it was actually cheaper than my old cell phone service, I switched to AT&T. I have only had the phone a short time, so I am no expert, but there are a multitude of apps that are particularly useful for cellists (and other musicians).

I bought a tuner app to have one on hand in case I forgot to bring my tuner to a rehearsal. At $4, this is one of the most expensive apps I have purchased. Most of the ones I use are free. It is an amazing device, and very sensitive. I prefer it to my $60 tuner.

You can also get a metronome. I chose a free one. Last week, we timed our concert pieces with the stop watch app that comes with the iPhone. You can record audio or video with the phone. At my lesson, last week, I recorded my teacher demonstrating how to practice a tricky passage, and I can play it back any time I want, right from my phone. The audio quality is very good.

You keep track of your rehearsals, lessons, concerts, and other events with the built-in calendar, which is very useful for me, because I go to a lot of concerts, plays, and art shows at different locations (I review them for the paper). It is much better than my former system of writing events, times, and addresses down on scraps of paper. There are also GPS systems built in. The free ones are not as fancy as the one I had on my other phone, but such systems are available for purchase. There seem to be a zillion of them, so I haven't figured out which one is best yet, and the free ones are just fine for local use.

You can get apps that turn your iPhone into a cello (at least three, all functioning differently) so you can make music wherever you are. Here is an example of ThumbJam's cello from YouTube. It seems best for New Age, jazz and improvisation, though I have been working on "French Folk Song," and will post it if I can. (You can get different effects on this app, like staccato.) This video shows cello (sound by Zoe Keating) along with several other instruments, including the flute, which has a nice sound quality on ThumbJam.

Here is another amazing app called String Trio that turns your phone into a stringed instrument. I haven't tried this one yet. Looks interesting!

You can buy sheet music apps which display sheet music on your phone. I have not seen any sheet music specifically for cello, but have seen it for flute and piano. I don't know how one is supposed to read the sheet music. It is quite tiny on an iPhone, but I'll bet it looks good on an iPad!

There are music tutorials and learning games, including flashcard-like programs to teach the tenor clef, rhythm, chords, or whatever you need to learn. There are record-keeping and list-making apps that could be used to track your practicing, or your gigs, or your sheet music or CD collection.

The iPhone has a built-in iPod. I had an iPod-type device a few years ago, but could not figure out how to find music on it. It was a little too touch-sensitive for me. This one is great and I am gladdened and amazed by it and by other music services like Pandora Radio (which, if you have not found it on the Internet or your phone, is just wonderful, and you should stop everything and try it out. You type in the name of a favorite artist or composer or composition and it plays an endless stream of music by that artist or composer or like that composition, and related music that you will probably also like).

It reminds me of that day, long, long ago, when I bought my first transistor radio, for $10, I think (which was a lot of money way back then), and suddenly could have music everywhere. But, as I was perhaps the last person on the planet to get an iPod, you probably know how wonderful an iPod can be.

I wondered if there might be a music stand light app, and found flashlight apps. I downloaded a free one, which is kind of dim, but can help you find your way in the dark, and looks like it would be great for those times I have to take notes in a pitch-black theater. I have used a regular cell phone to light my way, but the advantage to these flashlight apps is that they stay on; you don't have to keep closing and opening your phone.

Some of the items that could be replaced by my iPhone: clockwise, camera, tuner, metronome, stopwatch, audio recorder, and video recorder. This photo was take with my iPhone.

About the only thing I haven't found is a music stand app, but the way things are going, I am sure there will be a levitation app before long that will allow your iPhone to float in front of your eyes, hands free.

An extra bonus, for me, is that my new iPhone actually works in my house so I can actually use it as a phone too.