• I am only Unreasonably Persistent •
Hi everyone! I apologize for disappearing for about a month. March was absolutely crazy! I had my faculty recital (which you can view here!), I played at Carnegie Hall (WHAT?!), I performed in a Bach Around the Clock performance, and presented at the UVA Flute Forum! I'm exhausted!
I wanted to offer my readers a version of my presentation at the UVA Flute Forum. I have been very interested in using technology in my practice sessions to try to become more efficient and find new, creative ways to practice. So I'm going to provide you with a list of my Top 5 Apps and Recording Devices that I found to benefit my practice sessions. I'm going to talk about two apps and 2 recording devices in depth because I use them the most in my own practice.
Top 5 Apps:
My favorite apps are ForScore and Tonal Energy. I understand that ForScore is an expensive app AND it requires investment into an iPad or tablet. So it may not be for everyone, but if you do invest in this equipment, it can wonderfully helpful!
As you can see from the image above, ForScore is an app for reading music. You can "write" on your music in a variety of different colors. It has a metronome built in as well. I've found that this has been a wonderful way to store and read etudes. There are SO MANY flute etudes available in the public domain (on IMSLP) and I did not want to print them out. So I store them in Dropbox, link that folder to ForScore, and I can bring up any etude I want at the touch of my finger! I can mark all over them and when I change my mind about that breath mark, I can erase it like it had never been there to begin with. I have so many pieces of music that are FILLED with pencil marks, so many that sometimes the music may become unreadable. Additionally, this app eliminated my need to make copies and tape pages together in order to avoid awkward page turns. My husband and I share an iPad and a bluetooth foot pedal so that we can just tap a pedal with our foot and the page turns! If you would like to see this in action, do check out my recital recording, as I played the entire recital with the iPad, ForScore, and AirTurn foot pedal. Using the foot pedal was an odd experience, but its such an elegant solution for page turns. I saw a livestream of James Hall, Associate Professor of Flute at the University of Northern Colorado, performing with an iPad and AirTurn pedal last summer, and I was completely enthralled with his performance THROUGH the breaks between movements because he didn't have to come out of the music to turn pages. I was thoroughly entranced through an entire multi-movement piece!
The app I love the most though is Tonal Energy Tuner. This app does so much, its amazing!
The screenshots above show the basic tuner interface on the left and the Analysis interface on the right. In the app, you can change what type of instrument it should be listening for (wind, string, voice, keyboard), how difficult it should be to get to the in-tune smiley face (+/- 5, 3, or 2 cents), and how quickly the damping should work. You can use drones that sustain for as long as you need them to and they can work in any octave you need. My favorite part is the Analysis section. I am more of a scientific and analytical thinker by nature, and I have never understood tone colors by using metaphoric imagery. When I was told that colors are technically the amount of harmonics in our sound, it blew my mind and I finally got it! This section of the app SHOWS you which harmonics are present in your sound and how strong they are AS WELL AS showing you if you are in tune! ITS FANTASTIC! I play my long tones with different levels of harmonics in the sound and have visual confirmation of my tone color and intonation. I LOVE IT!! You can also use the metronome with any other section of this app and adjust it to multiple types of subdivisions. I may do another post in the future about just this app so that I can dig into it a little deeper with you.
The final section of this post deals with recording your practice sessions. Here are my Top 5 Recording Devices:
Again, these are an investment, but it is so worth it. When we practice, we may not be hearing the full picture. Our ears can play tricks on us in the moment. We may think that we are accomplishing a beautiful phrase full of depth and emotion, but when you listen back, it doesn't sound like that at all! Or we may think that we've just played the worst performance of that piece ever, and you listen back and it was actually stunning and beautiful! We need to make sure that we are aware of how our audience is going to perceive our performances, and how we ACTUALLY sound. The easiest way to do this, is to record ourselves on our phones. This is a great first step, but the microphone on your phone is built for the human voice, not for the flute. It tends to compress our upper register pretty badly, and limits our dynamic range. So its not the best for capturing what we have actually played. By investing in one of the above recording devices, you can greatly improve the recording quality. My favorite devices are the Shure MV88 and the Zoom H5. The Shure will plug right into your phone and you can adjust all sorts of options in its app. The iPhone will automatically use that microphone for its video recording when its plugged in and its really good quality for the price! The Zoom is a bigger investment but has really great recording quality. It can also be plugged into a DSLR camera for great audio and video in one place. I recorded a slow practice session of Kohler Romantic Etude #11 with my iPhone, iPhone with a Shure MV88, and the Zoom H5. So take a listen:
So those are my top technology picks for apps and recording devices. If you have a favorite app, let me know in the comments below! Also, if you'd like me to go more in depth into any of these apps, let me know and I'd be happy to make that a blog post in the future. I hope this was helpful! Until next time...