This day and age of technology is amazing. There are so many great websites, apps, and tools out there to help people learn music, and more and more are created every day. You can easily spend a bunch of money on all the latest gadgets and programs to help with your musical studies, but it is certainly not necessary. You can increase your abilities with just a few basic things. Below are our recommendations for the top 3 best practice tools…
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Rhythm is the foundation of most all musical languages. Whether the music you are playing has strict interpretation of the rhythm or is more free flowing, an understanding of rhythmic pulse and timing is needed to be able to play the music accurately.
No matter what instrument you play, the best tool for strengthening rhythm and timing is a metronome. By definition, a metronome is a device that produces an audible click or other sound at a regular interval that can be set by the user, typically in beats per minute. Practicing with a metronome can be tedious and even difficult at first, but it will undoubtedly improve your sense of timing and, therefore, your overall musicianship.
Our favorite metronomes:
For just $3, this app has so many options. Features of the app:
- Subdivides rhythms
- Drum machine function that can do multi-meter and swing. This really gives a strong reference for what it is like to play with a drummer.
- Several traditional metronome sounds as well for the more traditional, classical approach and for those wishing to be challenged to create their own sense of the groove without the aid of the drums
Dr. Beat DB-30 Metronome
For those who prefer a metronome separate from their phone/ipad. Features of the Dr. Beat:
- Subdivides rhythms
- Tap function
The Amazing Slow Downer App
The name says it all – this app really is amazing! It is only $14.99 and is super simple to use. Just download the mp3 of whatever song you’re learning into the app and you’re ready to go. What makes the Amazing Slow Downer so amazing?
- It can slow down and speed up the song to as slow as 25% of the original tempo or up to 200% of the original tempo, without changing the pitch.
- It can change the tuning or key of a song.
- It allows you to create loops of a particular section of the song that you are focused on learning.
We use the ASD for both ourselves and our students. It is an invaluable tool for learning songs, especially if they are too fast. Just slow it down and play along! As you get more comfortable with the song, you can gradually speed it back up to full speed.
A backing track, or play-along track, is a musical accompaniment recording that has an instrument missing from the mix. They are essentially karaoke tracks for various instruments. For example, a guitar backing track will have the drums, bass, and maybe a rhythm guitar and keyboard track, but no lead guitar. A drum backing track will have all the other instruments of the band except the drums.
Playing along with backing tracks is a great way to practice for a few different reasons:
- They strengthen your ability to play in time
- They give you a sense of what it’s like to play in a band
- They allow for you to be creative and improvise or write your own part.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of backing tracks out there, for all styles of music. Some are free and some you have to pay for. Here are a handful of places you can find them:
- jamtrackcentral.com (guitar backing tracks only)
- Turn it Up & Lay it Down CDs (drum backing tracks only)
These three practice tools don’t just build your musicianship skills… they also make the learning process even more fun! So go grab or download yourself a metronome, the Amazing Slow Downer, and a couple of backing tracks, and you will be set up and ready to rock! With the help of these tools and a music teacher, you will be ripping it up in no time 🙂